Facebook’s best face

Facebook held a holiday party Monday night for journalists at its headquarters in rainy, cold Palo Alto. The conversations there were strictly off the record, so I can’t quote what people told me over egg nog and finger food.

I’ll share a few thoughts anyway because Facebook’s an interesting company that’s in the news a lot. First, it has acquired interesting DNA. Much has been made of how young and inexperienced CEO Mark Zuckerberg is. (The young-and-inexperienced one has become totally adequate at making small talk at cocktail parties, by the way.) I can’t tell you what Zuckerberg said to me, but I can tell you he’s pleased that Facebook is getting easier to use; he’s jazzed by the company’s new deal with IAC’s (IACI) CitySearch that makes it easy for people to share info with their “friends” about places to go and things to do; and he talks about the news biz with pal/mentor/new board member Don Graham of Washington Post Co. (WPO).

But I digress. Facebook has pulled in nearly grey-haired talent from places like Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and eBay (EBAY). They’re the kinds of people who’ve seen what works and what doesn’t in the tech business. Without saying which exiles from those companies I talked to, I’ll mention one I didn’t: Gideon Yu, the former YouTube/Google executive who’s currently Facebook’s chief financial officer. Where were you Gideon?

What else? Various Facebookers pooh-poohed the recent ruckus over its inability to sell employee shares at their anticipated valuation. Whose stock hasn’t gotten hammered, after all, goes the argument.  (A more effective way of downplaying such stories would be to discuss it with me on the record. I’m just saying.)

Someone familiar with her thinking reports that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the former chief of staff to incoming Obama economic advisor (and former Treasury secretary) Larry Summers, isn’t sorry she’s not going to Washington. Sandberg isn’t a banking expert anyway, and that’s the kind of expertise that’s called for right now.

Facebook also is smart about its journalist schwag. It distributed two party favors to journos on their way out the door: A $100 gift card from DonorsChoose.org that allows its holder to donate the money to any school of their choice. I love that. The second is a little bag that looks like a compact-disc holder that unzips and unfolds into one of those crunchy granola bags people bring with them to the supermarket. Also smart. My wife will LOVE that.

Oh, one last thing. I’m beginning to crumble on my well-documented aversion to Facebook. It’s probably all my old pals from Kroehler YMCA Camp who have friended me lately that have caused me to reconsider. But that’s a story for another day.

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