Sunday 9 January 2011

The Social Network

I saw the movie The Social Network recently and I was blown away. A movie where nothing really happens, and it was stunning! In my view, it broke all the rules of storytelling - for example, the hero you feel sorry for, but you don't really relate to him, and he is not likable, and yet, when the film ended, I could have watched another 2 hours of it - I wanted more! Also, there was something very personal for me here - this film reminded me of "Purpose". I knew we were on the right track 10 years ago, we just didn't nail it, but The Social Network hit it out the ballpark!

Over a decade ago we had American Beauty, an award winning movie, which highlighted dysfunction in American families. It touched on the idea of excess and it showed how greed is the new value system. I feel that The Social Network, which I believe will win many awards too, demonstrates dysfunction in America's youth, and once again, it goes to show how greed is the norm.

I asked a friend of mine about this film and he said to me "Don’t you think what Mark Zuckerberg is amazing?" and I responded with "I think what happened is amazing." Mark Zuckerberg, in my limited perspective, sounds like an intense and driven youngster who is a brilliant computer programmer. For the rest of it, he is very very lucky! He was trying to do, what all American youth are aspiring towards, and that is, to do something cool. As for integrity and leadership and character, well, those are old values - it is all about doing something cool online. And, if litigation and backstabbing come into play, well, that is just how the new world works.

Yes, Mark Zuckerberg wrote some software. Lots of people write software, just as lots of people write music and books. What happened with JK Rowling and her Harry Potter books, for example, is also amazing! But I don't see her getting the same kind of attention as Mr. Zuckerberg. I am not taking away from the phenomena known as Facebook, but is Mark Zuckerberg an entrepreneurial genius and a great leader - well, it is way too early to tell.

Time Magazine has billed Mark Zuckerberg as their man of the year. I looked at the cover of Time with his face on it, and it looked like they were actually trying to make fun of the new world order, and of Mr. Zuckerberg. It was the most unflattering, pubescent looking photograph I have ever seen. As the world's youngest billionaire (and there will be more and more in years to come, gunning for this title) I could understand a profile in Fortune Magazine, but to feature as Time's man of the year just doesn't click. I mean, don’t you have to have shaved before making it on to the cover of Time? I really do think they are taking the piss to some extent. This is always something I have admired about America - they don't hide their dysfunction - they embrace it, and celebrate it, highlighted by films like American Beauty and The Social Network. They exploit it!

As for the main premise in the movie, that the idea for Facebook was stolen, it is a bunch of nonsense in my experienced view. Ideas are cheap. Execution is what it is all about. As Einstein once said "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." Sure, Mark Zuckerberg may have got fired up by someone else's ideas, but as for stealing it, I think this line in the film sums it up "A guy who builds a chair doesn’t owe money to everyone who ever built a chair. They came to me with an idea, I had a better one."

I was recently in Eastern Europe, and there, like in China, as another example, they have their own localized clone of Facebook. The old Soviet countries, where the Russian language is prevalent, have - how many users do you thing this thing has? Take a guess. No, you are wrong! When I looked now it had 107 million users and on the site's home page it says "and counting". Now, did they steal the Facebook idea? Absolutely! Are they being sued. No ways. Because, again, ideas are cheap - it is all about execution!

That one stunning scene in film summed this all up, when the Winklevoss twins go and see the president of Harvard, and he says to them "Everyone at Harvard is inventing something or starting a new business in their dorm room. Harvard undergraduates believe that inventing a job is better than getting one so can I suggest again that the two of you come up with a new project."

I found the original screenplay online - I think in the final film they changed the word "project" to "idea". In short, he tells them to go get another idea.

And the part about getting a job sums up the gist of what is damaged in the Western world. Yes, it is all about doing something cool. In my view, no one wants to work anymore. Leadership is not part of the equation - being cool is.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker


Justin Clarke said...

Well put Ronnie.

Not sure how much of the story is fact but somehow you feel that Zuckerberg did not deserve to win so big so you almost want to believe that he stole the idea. But fact is there are thousands of people with great ideas who don't have a clue what it takes to make them work. I like the comment ...quote..Einstein once said "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

kim said...

The point is he made it work, he made it happen, stolen or not. Half the challenge is to start it, to dream that dream. The rest of the challenge is to keep going and keep the momentum.