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A summary of Mark Zuckerberg’s interviews at SXSW

Posted by March 11, 2008
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The most interesting conversation to come out of SXSW for me was Sarah Lacy’s unfortunate interview with Mark Zuckerberg. Paul Carr (by the way, welcome to Twitter Paul!) captured the moment succinctly

Sarah Lacy (SL): “Thank you – thank you all so much. Now let’s hear it for this guy – Mark Zuckerberg everyone! So, I wanna start by asking – as I did in my book – why do you think Facebook… which I use like all the time – is so great?”

Mark Zuckerberg (MZ): “Well…”

SL: “What I mean is – what is it about Facebook that has attracted not just me but millions of other people like me to sign up?”

MZ: “Terrorism.”

SL: “I totally agree. Can you say more?”

MZ: “Sure…”

SL: “Can you believe this guy? Wow – I mean his answers are so short – seriously I think he’s the biggest loser I’ve ever interviewed. Hey Mark, can I tell the story about the first time I allowed you to be interviewed?”

MZ: “Sure… I guess.”

SL: “Ok, so, like, I’m interviewing Mark – and we’ve been talking for like twenty hours and Mark was like ‘I need to pee’ and I was like ‘that’s so interesting and sexy’, tell me more and he’s like ‘no I really need to pee’ and I’m like talking about my book and like the next thing I know he’s peed all over the floor and it’s like so cute and hilarious.”

MZ: “Thanks for sharing that.”

(Audience break into spontaneous standing ovation, in awe at Zuckerberg’s razor sharp retort. Fat guy at the front screams and faints. Twitter crashes.)

SL: “Ok, so getting back to Facebook, I wanna ask you about privacy and Facebook Beacon.”

MZ: “Ok, well, let me say that Beacon isn’t something we’re really focussed on as a company right now – I mean it’s like not something I’ve even really heard of. What people don’t understand is that it was developed by our platform team and not our advertising team – so really it’s not advertising at all. I mean, in the Lebanon, kids are actually using it to interact with Coca Cola which – and this is unbelievable – makes them realise what they’re missing by not being in America and that’s why there will never be another nine eleven. But we’re not the only company delivering world peace through invasive advertising, we’re just one of the people in the space. We want to focus on building the platform for world peace and let others build on that.”

SL: “Ok, stop talking now. Jeez! It seems to me anyway, that Beacon is not really the issue. In fact, I shouldn’t have even mentioned it. The big issue is the news feed, what can you say about that?”

MZ: “Well, it’s just something we’re not really focussed on having to explain right now.”

SL: “Ok, that’s fine. Now – last night you told me you were gay and like to fuck squirrels – can I tell that story?”

MZ: “Er…”

SL: “Ok, well, I guess I should have let you make that announcement, gosh darn I’m so ditzy (giggles). So what’s it like to be rich and to have journalists, like, really want to sleep with you?”

MZ: “It’s just not something I’m focussed on right now.”

SL: “How about if I do this?”

(Lacey begins to fellate Zuckerberg but, remarkably, is able to keep talking….)

SL: “Well, sure, that makes it so much easier.”

(Three rows of fat guys at the front of the room orgasm as one at the incredible comedic timing of Mark ‘Bill Hicks’ Zuckerberg as Lacey switches position for a reach around.)

SL: “Ok, well, that’s all we have time for – if you want to know more about how awesome – but dorky – this rich guy is, I guess you’ll all have to read my book. It also has the story about how I famously poured water into Serge Brin’s laptop on my show at Yahoo.com. That was sooo funny. And when I hyped Kevin Rose on the front cover of Business Week and then sold a book to Penguin on the back of it about overhyped web 2.0 companies. Don’t worry, Mark, I’ll give you a discount. And I’ll even throw in a copy for your girlfriend. What’s her name?”

MZ: “Uh…”

SL: “Ok, great! Well thank you very much Mark – it’s been a really insightful conversation on one point five billion levels. And, to the audience, I just wanna say thank you both for staying.”

Session ends.

Paul’s original post from which I stole all of his content can be found here. Please subscribe to his blog. He’s hilarious!

As a result of the poor interview, Mark called for a second interview which Jemima Kiss articulates very well.

To his credit. Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged that a lot of people were frustrated by the wasted opportunity of yesterday’s keynote interview with Sarah Lacy. He did the interview on the condition that she was the interviewer, so whose to blame there?

In the rather more tropical surroundings of a safari-themed bar, Zuckerberg announces that he thought he’d drop by “because yesterday’s keynote just wasn’t enough fun”. That media training has really been paying off.

“One of the big pieces of feedback from yesterday was that people didn’t get a chance to ask enough questions. People were more interesting in product development and technical questions – I’m really interested in those issues like scalability but we thought we’d open up for another 20-30 minutes today.”

So in the midst of the developer garage, what did his home crowd really want to know?

Data portability is a big issue. Zuckerberg said that he wouldn’t necessarily commit to signing up to the same open standards as the other big social networks. “Beacon is a first iteration of that approach to help people share information. We are philosophically aligned with this openness and efficiency in the community but, at the same time, we don’t know what other people are doing and whether our policties are aligned.”

Robert Scoble got kicked off the site (albeit for just one day) because he appeared to be scraping data, rather than ‘sharing it’.

Balancing the advantges of data portability with people’s privacy concerns is tricky: “We think sharing information is good, which is why we started this whole platform thing. But these are some of the questions that need to be worked out.”

Music: Is music a focus for the site? Not especially. The site didn’t predict how causal games like Scrabulous would take off (Zuckerberg plays it with this grandparents, aw). The great thing about having a platform is we don’t need to be editorial.

“We don’t need to say what will be the right applications because the market will sort that out for us, and the people that build the great products and applicatiosns will be able to build the great companies.”

It’s a very clever business model, because it lets the users determine the trends and leaves all the R&D to external companies. Nice.

Spam: Facebook will be cutting down on application spam, as he said yesterday: applications will be encouraged to focus on the level of proper engagement they have with their users rather than the number of installs, and the more popular apps will be able to send more invites.

China: He also said that he doesn’t look at time spent on the site as an important metric: Zuckerberg thinks that, like Google, the site should make communication more efficient and help people do what they need to do.

Facebook is looking at the issues of moving the business into China, said a very confident and relaxed Zuckerberg. He’s very open about it forom the start: “Making sure that people’s private information is private is a really important thing for us to do,” he said, explaining that there are only really two options in China; either have the government censor your site and impair the performance of traffic to it inside the country if it doesn’t like you, or have servers inside the country which will be shut down if you don’t follow their policies.

“There are ways to position these things make decisions and set them up to create minimal exposure,” he said. Now that China is on the verge of overtaking the US as the world’s biggest internet market, this strategy is increasingly important.

And has it been a strain for you, Mark, being under such scrutiny because of the success of Facebook? He’s now the world’s youngest billionaire, according to Forbes.

“That’s an interesting topic for a develop garage! I have a small group of really good friends and going through this whole experience of building the company has often been a strain but has helped build interesting friendships.”

Jemima’s original post from which I mercilessly stole her content can be found here. Jemima is also one of the few bloggers that I’m subscribed to, so make sure you’re tuned in. She has her finger well placed on the UK digital pulse.

I’m not sure I like either of Mark’s two options to expand into China. I don’t like the idea of filtering content on behalf of the government, full stop. But what’s the alternative?

Also, check out Rebecca Caroes post on the BIMA blog about panel put together to discuss online advertising for newbies.

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