The Meaning of Facebook

Facebook SucksAs regular users know, I read Ezra Klein regularly, but I have problems with him. He is too intent on seeing both sides of every conflict, even when he has to strain credulity to do so. Thirty years ago, the truth was somewhere between left and right in this country—more to the left, but the right had actual ideas and some of them were good. Since then, both parties have taken a brisk walk along the loony pier. But in recent years, the right has looked more like Usain Bolt[1] than mom’s power walk group. If the truth is anywhere in the left-right Overton Window of American politics, it is in the Democratic Party camp. It is quite simply not true that the truth lies between left and right in this country. The right have jumped off the loony pier and are now swimming in the fascist ocean.

All of this is not to say that Ezra Klein isn’t a smart and insightful guy. There’s a reason I read him every day. And that reason was on display last Friday when he hosted The Rachel Maddow Show. He really gets to the core of income inequality and why it is a problem in this video that should not be controversial:

I’ll let the video speak for itself, because I think it does. But I do what to say something about Facebook.

Facebook is not that great, but if you like it, well, a rich life is its own reward. But the main thing is that Facebook is not innovative. There is nothing important in Facebook that wasn’t in lots of other social networking sites before. Facebook had two things that were critical: plenty of start-up cash because the founders were well connected (mostly to their wealthy parents) and luck. Sometimes the best plan is to have a little luck. But it continues to annoy me that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and now, I can hardly believe this, Mark Zuckerberg are considered technological messiahs. Steve Jobs was a marketing genius. Bill Gates was a ruthless businessman. And Mark Zuckerberg was a nerd with a banal idea, like millions of others who don’t have his connections. There are actual geniuses in the computer world—Linus Torvalds and Mitch Kapor come immediately to mind—but they aren’t the guys you see on the cover of Time Magazine.

Update (21 May 2012 10:28)

Silicon Valley likes to think it operates as a pure meritocracy, e.g., it’s the best teams and ideas which get funded. In practice, as luminaries from John Doerr to Ron Conway acknowledge, key decisions are often guided by a combination of pattern-matching based on superficial characteristics and the network of people you already know.Mitch Kapor on why there aren’t more minorities in Silicon Valley

[1] Usain Bolt is a world record holding Jamaican sprinter. Here he is one of the times he set the world record for the 100 meter dash (he has since beat this time by 0.18 seconds):

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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