I believe Mark Zuckerberg.
I believe him when he says he’s not running for office. I believe that he’s interested in figuring out what his users—the vast majority of whom don’t live in Silicon Valley—are thinking. I believe above all else that Zuckerberg’s listening tour across American is simultaneously an honest effort to improve his understanding and a Machiavellian effort to put the kibosh on criticism of Facebook before it gets worse.
Reading Mike Isaac’s nicely woven account of Zuckerberg’s travels, I couldn’t help but thinking about Zuckerberg’s extraordinary capacity for growth. I first met him in 2005, when he and Facebook were pups. He was completely without artifice then, full of confidence as well as a heavy dollop of insouciance. (I reported at the time that his business card read, “I’m CEO … bitch.” He quickly threw away those cards and eliminated such “brogrammer” language from his vocabulary.)
I was in the audience in 2010 when Zuckerberg suffered a sweaty meltdown under the withering assault of Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. And I profiled Zuckerberg’s leadership skills late last year in Fortune, an admiring look at a never-would-have-guessed-it able manager.
Along the way, Zuckerberg has steered Facebook in a manner someone with such little preparation for the job never would have been expected to do. Two signal achievements, pivoting Facebook’s product from desktop to mobile and building a portfolio of brands, are management successes for the ages.
And so I believe in the wisdom of what he’s doing now. Every leader from America’s elite institutions is confused about the feelings of a populace with whom they’re clearly out of touch. Most don’t have a private jet and staff to arrange targeted trips to visit with ordinary folks. Fewer still are making the effort that Zuckerberg is making to figure things out.
Is he being self-serving? Sure. Is it a bad idea? No way.
That’s Doctor Zuckerberg, now. Along with Adam’s thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO got an honorary degree and gave Harvard’s commencement address on Thursday. “If I get through this speech today, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something here at Harvard,” the college dropout joked. For more coverage of the speech, NPR has some of the highlights.
Back to square one. Andy Rubin, who helped build Android into the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, is expected to unveil next week his newest creation from his current startup, Essential. Rubin offered a peek at the new phone on Twitter back in March.
Farewell, adieu, auf wiedersehen. Walt Mossberg, one of the original gadget columnist, is leaving the field. In his final column, he looked at the promise and the peril of the spread of artificially intelligent and connected devices. “If ambient technology is to become as integrated into our lives as previous technological revolutions like wood joists, steel beams and engine blocks, we need to subject it to the digital equivalent of enforceable building codes and auto safety standards,” Mossberg wrote for Recode.
You really, really hate me. Cable TV operators and Internet service providers tied for last place in the huge annual survey of 43 industries done by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Cable slipped from second-to-last in 2016 thanks to a lack of competition and rising prices, ACSI said.
He’s in the garage, like a sad bag of potting soil. HBO’s spoof of the tech world, Silicon Valley, was just renewed for a fifth season, but actor T.J. Miller, who plays quip-happy if somewhat crazed investor/entrepreneur Erlich Bachman, will not be back.
Missed it by that much. Space startup Rocket Lab successfully launched its first rocket, but failed to attain orbit. CEO Peter Beck said he’s still on schedule to disrupt the satellite launch industry. “On this first flight, we’re well ahead of where we needed to be.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
The Latest Uber Effect: People Are Ditching Their Cars by Kate Samuelson
New Senate Drone Bill Would Give Power to States and Local Governments by Jonathan Vanian
T-Mobile Cutting Phone Numbers Loose From Phones by Aaron Pressman
Cloudflare’s Quest to Kill a Patent Troll Gains Steam by Jeff John Roberts
Nintendo’s Stock Is Having Its Best Run in Years by Lucinda Shen
Donald Trump Reportedly Has Only One App on His iPhone by Don Reisinger
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Mr. Bubble says it’s a good time to buy, yes that’s right, buy tech stocks. Yale Professor and Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller got the nickname after sounding advance warnings on both the 1990s Internet bubble and the real estate collapse of a decade ago. But in an interview with Fortune this week, Shiller was actually bullish on the tech sector.
“We make an adjustment for the fact that technology stocks have always been highly priced, so recently they’ve been less highly priced overall than on average,” Shiller said.
At the same time, the Yale economist acknowledged that some Silicon Valley companies and certain tech stocks do have excessively lofty valuations. “I think you want to avoid some of them,” Shiller said. Unhelpfully, he declined to specify which ones.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend:
We Are All Kasparov: When Deep Blue beat the world chess champion 20 years ago: “His head hovered over the chessboard as if trying to identify which piece was threatening to betray him. His ankles shook. He was clearly under epic stress. Meanwhile, his putative opponent —a supercomputer housed elsewhere on the 35th floor of this midtown skyscraper — not only did not suffer stress, but did not even know what stress was.”
How Much Does it Cost to Climb Mount Everest? – 2017 Edition: “Getting the money is almost always harder than climbing Everest. Climbers become very creative when finding money. Some take out loans, refinance their home mortgage, others have the infamous ‘rich uncle.’ Then there are those who set up a website to sell t-shirts or ask for ‘donations’ from strangers.”
What Happens When Work Becomes a Nonstop Chat Room: “Office gossip is as old as the office. But the medium made that gossip searchable and public to anyone who knew where to look. It was a very, very stupid way to air grievances. And yet, at the same time, Slack was also the obvious place to do it.”
Samuel R. Delany’s Life of Contradictions:”‘History’ is what we create by the scratching, the annoyance, the irritation of writing, with its aspirations to logic and order, on memory’s uneasy and uncertain discontinuities.”
BEFORE YOU GO
It was Galileo who made the first detailed survey of Jupiter. Now a days we can peer much more closely at the largest planet in our solar system. The Juno explorer has been capturing all kinds of pictures and measurements, leading to some incredible images as well as some puzzling questions. In the words of Juno’s principal investigator Scott Bolton:
We knew, going in, that Jupiter would throw us some curves. But now that we are here we are finding that Jupiter can throw the heat, as well as knuckleballs and sliders. There is so much going on here that we didn’t expect that we have had to take a step back and begin to rethink of this as a whole new Jupiter.