Mark Zuckerberg is in a crisis of leadership. Will he grasp its opportunity?
It seems like an eternity, but about one year ago this Fall, Uber had kicked its iconic founding CEO to the curb, and he responded by attempting a board room coup. Meanwhile, Facebook was at least a year into crisis mode, clumsily dealing with a spreading contagion that culminated in a Yom Kippur apology from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he posted. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better.”
More than one year after that work reputedly began, what lesson from Facebook’s still rolling catastrophe? I think it’s pretty clear: Mark Zuckerberg needs to do a lot more than publish blog posts someone else has written for him.
Social conversations about difficult and complex topics have arcs – they tend to start scattered, with many threads and potential paths, then resolve over time toward consensus. This consensus differs based on groups within society – Fox News aficionados will cluster one way, NPR devotees another. Regardless of the group, such consensus then becomes presumption – and once a group of people presume, they fail to explore potentially difficult or presumably impossible alternative solutions.
The last 24 hours have not been kind to Facebook’s already bruised image. Above are four headlines, all of which clogged my inbox as I cleared email after a day full of meetings.
Let’s review: Any number of Facebook’s core customers – advertisers – are feeling duped and cheated (and have felt this way for years). A respected reporter who was told by Facebook executives that the company would not use data collected by its new Portal product, is now accusing the company of misrepresenting the truth (others would call that lying, but the word lost its meaning this year). The executive formerly in charge of Facebook’s security is…on an apology tour, convinced the place he worked for has damaged our society (and he’s got a lotofcompany).
The past week or so has seen a surge in commentary on the role of corporations in society, a theme familiar to readers of this site. While it might be convenient to peg the trend to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s newly minted Accountable Capitalism Act (more on that in a second), I think it’s more likely that – finally – our collective will is turning to our most logical and obvious instrument of social change, namely, the instrument of business.
We humans like to organize ourselves into social units. They range from the informal (pickup basketball games) to the elaborately structured (Senate hearings). Our ability to harness collective will is unsurpassed in the animal kingdom, it’s one of our key evolutionary adaptations, driving the success of our species across the globe.
As I’ve arguedelsewhere, one of our most sophisticated social structures is the corporation, which has co-evolved with our various systems of government over the past half millennium or so. The very first corporations were in fact formed (or chartered) by governments – the Dutch East India Company is the most common example of this. In the past century, however, corporations have largely sought to shake the yoke of government regulation – and nowhere have corporations won more freedoms than in the United States, where firms are now considered legal persons with an unrestrained right to “free speech” (IE, the ability to fund political positions).
So many predictions from so many smart people these days. When I started doing these posts fifteen years ago, prognostication wasn’t much in the air. But a host of way-smarter-than-me folks are doing it now, and I have to admit I read them all before I sat down to do my own. So in advance, thanks to Fred, to Azeem, to Scott, and Alexis, among many others.
So let’s get into it. Regular readers know that while I think about these predictions in the back of my mind for months, I usually just sit down and write them at one sitting. That’s what happened a year ago, when I predicted that 2017 would see the tech industry lose its charmed status. It certainly did, and nearly everyone is predicting more of the same for 2018. So I won’t focus on the entire industry this year, as much as on specific companies and trends. Here we go….
In meetings with several colleagues over the past few days, many did not know about the column I write each week – I’ve been remiss and not cross posting my writings from NewCo Shift here.
It’s been interesting to move my main focus of writing from a personal blog to a publication in-the-making. I’ll have more thoughts about that this weekend here. But in the meantime, if you’re wondering what I’m thinking and writing about, well, most of that work is here. Here are my latest columns:
I noticed an interesting comment on my previous post on the launch of Google's AdPlanner, from Gian Fulgoni, Founder and Chairman of Comscore, a company that has gotten hammered in the aftermath of Google's launch. I asked if he'd elaborate, and here's the interview: In your comment on the…
In your comment on the Searchblog post noting Google’s Ad Planner, you noted discrepancies between publisher’s server logs and Google’s numbers. Can you say more? Why is this?
I suspect the main reason is that traffic numbers from server log data are inflated because of cookie deletion whereas panel metrics don’t rely on cookies and so aren’t affected by cookie deletion. As an example, Google Ad Planner shows mlb.com as having 9 million UVs in a month. comScore shows mlb.com as having 11.9 million UVs and mlb.com themselves have claimed they get 19 million UVs based on their server logs.
Separately, I’ve noted comments on the blogosphere from several site operators saying that their Google Analytic UVs are twice as high as their Google Trends UV numbers.
Are you concerned about Google’s new product? What are you telling your apparently startled investors?
We think that Google’s products and ours are designed for very different purposes. Theirs appear to represent a point solution aimed primarily at driving ad dollars to Google sites or sites in the Google Ad Network. In contrast, comScore’s products are designed to be used for media planning and analysis on a Web wide basis. We believe that ad agencies, advertisers and publishers (especially any publisher that competes with Google) will continue to insist on the use of objective, third party sources of data such as comScore’s. Nobody wants to see the fox guarding the chicken coop.
I've enjoyed my professional relationship with Chris Sacca, who is leaving Google to pursue a career in investing. When I heard of his move, I pinged him in email, and the resulting dialog can be found below, verbatim, despite the fact that Google PR was cc'd on the thread….
I’ve enjoyed my professional relationship with Chris Sacca, who is leaving Google to pursue a career in investing. When I heard of his move, I pinged him in email, and the resulting dialog can be found below, verbatim, despite the fact that Google PR was cc’d on the thread. Thanks for your time, Chris, and good luck!
Why leave, and why why now?
A few reasons. First, I feel like the wireless team I built is in great shape and poised for some amazing achievements. I am proud of what the team accomplished this year and it makes me smile to see Verizon and AT&T fighting over which is more open than the other. Hard to say more about that without triggering the anti-collusion rules of the FCC around the 700MHz auction. That said, though I love Google and my colleagues here, I vested this Fall and it occurred to me how much I miss working in small, entrepreneurial environments.
Last week saw the launch of Mahalo, the new human powered search index from Jason Calacanis (that's his dog, at left, one of his favorite online images). Jason has a flair for getting attention, and you all gave him some in the comments on my post noting the launch,…
Last week saw the launch of Mahalo, the new human powered search index from Jason Calacanis (that’s his dog, at left, one of his favorite online images). Jason has a flair for getting attention, and you all gave him some in the comments on my post noting the launch, all right. I emailed Jason for his response and we did the classic Searchblog back and forth. One thing I can say for Jason: He speaks his mind (see his comments on Squidoo, below). The interview:
What do you make of the response so far to Mahalo?
First off, I’m thrilled with the amount of attention and feedback the project has gotten. It’s a very contrarian idea, so I think some folks are rightfully exited and/or skeptical. Launching at the D conference certainly contributed to the excitement.
Of course, we’ve heard and developed a strategy to resolve the issues that people first think of when you say “human search” months ago. As you can imagine, when we spoke to our investors they brought up the same issues: how does it scale, how do you deal with human bias, how do you keep the search results up to date, why would people switch from google, how many search results do you need to reach scale, how is it defensible, etc.
When news of Google's acquisition of Feedburner broke last week, those of us who have known Dick Costolo for a while were all smiles – Dick is a great guy, and we all love his service, which has a very publisher friendly approach and provides real benefit to us…
When news of Google’s acquisition of Feedburner broke last week, those of us who have known Dick Costolo for a while were all smiles – Dick is a great guy, and we all love his service, which has a very publisher friendly approach and provides real benefit to us all. I shot a congratulatory email to Dick and asked him a few questions over the course of the week. Here’s the exchange:
Why did you sell to Google?
We help publishers manage distributed media by providing a suite of services for analytics, distribution/promotion, and monetization. On the media call yesterday, I said that we thought there was tremendous overlap between our competencies and the depth and breadth of Google’s offerings. Susan Wojcicki commented on this point during the call and used the term complementary instead of overlap, and I think that’s a much better word choice for a few reasons. We both offer detailed publisher analytics, but Google is extremely strong on site and marketing analytics while we are light on site analytics but very deep on feed and distribution analytics. Further, while our customer base is a critical mass of publishers (over 400k) that grows at an amazing rate, we have select advertiser relationships. It goes without saying that Google’s depth and breadth of advertiser relationships well complement the critical mass of publishers we serve. I could go on with a number of other examples like this. So, I like the term complementary as a defining theme for the reasoning behind this relationship.