Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network: reviewing a review

The Social Network movie is getting a lot of attention and in my initial positive review a few days ago, I said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg needs to give his side of the story.

If Gates (r.) sets standard for nerdy looks, Zuckerberg is a heart throb!

Well, apparently he has. A book The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World got Zuckerberg’s “full cooperation.” It was written by David Kirkpatrick, a former Fortune reporter who I know a bit from the professional trail.

Reportedly, the book, out since June 8, is a somewhat breathless account of Facebook’s impact on the world of Zuckerberg’s grand creation. I have only read two sections: the freebie pages on Amazon, which includes a prologue describing how a Columbian used Facebook to rally his countrymen against the violent insurgent group FARC and an excerpt about Facebook’s early wild and woolly days from the book’s Facebook fan page.

Indeed, the book appears promising in assessing Facebook’s huge social impact. And it’s captures the drama of a 20-year-old creating something that’s changing the world.  It’s a good read for sure. Kirkpatrick always has been a solid reporter in that he pursues and verifies facts instead of viewing them as obstacles.

The book has earned decent reviews (4.5 stars with Amazon customers), but was criticized for being too positive in a New York Times assessment by business columnist Joe Nocera that appeared Saturday. Nocera scores some points that inches us closer to knowing the enigmatic Mark Zuckerberg. Is he an immoral hacker as in the movie or a super bright guy who simply executed upon his grand vision for Facebook?

Nocera somewhat excuses Zuckerberg’s bad behavior (if true) by observing that anyone building something that big steps on toes. Kirkpatrick’s book, he charges, fails to recognize that.

In that vein, Zuckerberg is no different than Bill Gates, Marc Andreessen or Steve Jobs….

“As a human being, Steve Jobs is a very definition of the word “jerk;” yet he’s also the greatest chief executive alive. Bill Gates could be obnoxious in the extreme. At the age of 24, Marc Andreessen was so arrogant that he allowed Time magazine to photograph him on its cover sitting on a throne barefoot,” writes Nocera.

So Zuckerberg joins that club whose member you can define any way you want – great, jerky, ruthless and so on.

Nocera seems to be saying in a roundabout way don’t feel bad for Zuckerberg classmate and buddy Eduardo Savarin and the Winklevoss twins, who in the movie get screwed by Zuckerberg. Having settled with Zuckerberg, they’re all rich beyond belief because of Zuckerberg. The Winklevoss twins’ despite a $65 million payoff are still battling with him.

Nocera is also critical of author Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires upon which the movie is based. Mezrich apparently makes no bones about fictionalizing the facts given Zuckerberg did not participate in this account of the birth of Facebook. That said, the movie is well done and entertaining. So much for getting to the truth, but I didn’t plunk down $9 to get a boring account of Zuckerberg’s life.

The real Mark  Zuckerberg as we all suspected lies somewhere between Kirkpatrick’s alleged encomium and Mezrich’s fictional tale. After that, it’s up to you make an assessment if you wish. What I’d like to see is a book authored by Zuckerberg and I suspect we will…. perhaps after he nabs the next billion or so Facebook users.

One other aside: from all the photos, Jesse Eisenberg who plays Zuckerberg in the movie looks much more than the nerd than Z himself. While Zuckerberg may behave like a nerd, he looks quite normal and even handsome in some shots.

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One Comment

  1. Adrian Allmon says:

    Whether you are familiar with Mark Zuckerberg depends to a considerable extent on your age and Internet savvy. The greater the one, the less the other, the more this soon to be iconic name will be unknown… and that, of course, means you’re the oldest of fogies… and must instantly make amends. I intend to make that very easy for you.Zuckerberg was born on May 14, 1984 in a “Leave It to Beaver” town with the quintessential name of Dobbs Ferry, New York. His life consisted of the very best and most appealing of what suburban life in the Great Republic offers; his father a dentist, his mother (before the birth of her four children), a psychiatrist. His was a loving, close-knit family that valued the most important thing of all: education, and made sure Mark got the best.’

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