I saw the movie The Social Network this past week. I saw it because I like technology and I love Aaron Sorkin's writing and because someone whose opinion I respect told me it was a "must see" movie. Well, it certainly is a long movie, and I certainly did check my analog watch several times to see how much Sturm und Drang was left to go in this little teapot. Toward the end, I was tired of watch the wrangling and hoped Zuckerberg could blow a big, wet raspberry at the Winklevoss twins and the tiny sprite who hung around them and not give them a dime. I have no idea how close to reality the film is (something tells me not very), but how the twins were portrayed in the film made me want to steal their idea. Plus, I would have really liked to have learned more about the programming challenges Zuckerberg faced and how that algorithm was used and why it was needed, etc. Guess I will have to wait for the Techie Guide to Facebook or some such.
So, I left the theater feeling glad it was over, but unsettled. I felt sorry for Sorkin, too, because he must have struggled to hold back his lyrical impulses while trying to craft reasonable facsimilies for these characters in this story. Perhaps trying to mirror reality to any significant degree is not for Sorkin. Maybe he is better at crafting the kind of President millions of us wanted to have.
But, finally something clicked in my head, and I realized I had been wondering what would have happened if Zuckerberg had not succumbed to the siren call of Sean Parker and if Saverin had been able to sell more ad contracts sooner. Would Zuckerberg have had time to get a few nights of solid sleep? Would he have been able to create a better company, a better Facebook if he had more time to study what was really happening? Earlier in the film, he said at least once, when objecting to trying to make money from the site, that they did not even know what "it" was--yet.
Fast forward six years and Zuckerberg is, in the real world, the youngest billionaire. It would be cool if he took some of those billions and invested them in researching the social psychology of social networks. He could turn Facebook into an invaluable research tool and, without losing a bit of the value in the company, use the information inherent it it to help answer questions about the "why" of Facebook. Programmers handle the "how" of Facebook, but the really fascinating mechanics lie in the "why" of Facebook.
By the way, it was a convenient plot device to have the impetus for Zuckerberg's falling in with Parker to be that he never gave up wanting the girl he did not get because most people would get that. But, I do not buy it. Zuckerberg, whom I have never met, must be a solid core programmer to have done what he did to get Facebook running. I know that much, and I do know about solid core programmers. I bet what he really was trying to do was to watch what the social algorithm he created with Facebook play itself out. He wanted to follow the code and see what result this open ended programming sequence produced. That is something a code head would do--not pine away hoping the girl who got away would "friend" him.