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Movie Review: The Social Network

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I was looking forward to seeing the movie The Social Network.  I read Accidental Billionaires: The founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich.  I have seen Mark Zuckerberg in various interviews and have read his blog.  I was halfway through reading The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick when I saw The Social Network.

I was entertained and disappointed by the movie.  I realize that Hollywood makes movies to make money and to make money the movie has to have those elements that make it compelling, entertaining, provocative, and everything else that sells movie tickets – no matter how much those aspects depart from the truth or the real history of Facebook.

The nature of movies

So, there is the truth and there is the story telling.  There is the fact and the fiction.  Ben Mezrich says that the story of Facebook in his book is a construction from hundreds of interviews with people close to the story of the founding of Facebook.  The Social Network is based on the book.  Neither the Ben Mezrick book nor the movie was made with any consultation from Mark Zuckerberg.  Sean Parker, short time  president of Facebook said the movie was a work of fiction. (more)

Picking and choosing

However, The Facebook Effect written by David Kirkpatrick was done from the inside.  David Kirkpatrick is a respected journalist who writes for Fortune magazine.  Mark Zuckerberg invited Kirkpatrick to write the story of Facebook.  Kirkpatrick travelled with Zuckerberg and was given inside access to the employees of Facebook.  So, if there is access to any semblance to the truth about the story of Facebook it’s in The Facebook Effect.

The running time of a typical movie is 2 hours.  So, the story of Facebook told in movie form had to be dissected and compressed to fill this 2 hr duration.  What do you pick and choose?  What part of the story do you tell and what do you leave out?  This is the challenge of any movie based on historical events.

Books generally so not have this challenge.  Books can be as long as they need to be to tell the story.  The “running time” of The Facebook Effect is 15 hours – if you listen to the unabridged audio version.  (There will soon be a movie of Atlas Shrugged.  The audio book running time of this work is 55 hours.  What sort of devestation will the movie industry make of this book?)

What you are missing

The Social Network picks and chooses the worst of Zuckerberg and perhaps Sean Parker and leaves out some of the entrepreneurial genius of both Zuckerberg and Parker that made Facebook a successful company in the real world.

The significant role of Sean Parker

What I told Mark was that I would try to be for him what no one had been for me – a person who sort of shepherds his rear and puts him in a position of power so he’d have the opportunity to make his own mistakes and learn from them.  – Sean Parker

It was really beneficial for us that Sean had been a founder who had been burned.  We didn’t know anything about how to incorporate a company or take financing, but we had one of the most conservative people figuring it out for us and trying to protect us – Moskovitz

In the Social Network you will not hear about the significant role that Sean Parker (co-founder of Napster and founder of Plaxo) played in the success of Facebook.  Not only did Sean have extensive experience dealing with Venture Capital firms but also ensured that, through the complex negotiations with VC’s, Mark did not lose control of the company.  Sean kept Marks vision on the long view against others trying to persuade Mark to monetize (generate revenue through advertising) the company early or sell it.  Sean’s vision was that Facebook was not a 10 million dollar company, or a 100 million dollar company but a billion dollar company.  With Sean Parker, the young Zuckerberg had an experienced advisor and mentor at his side.  Parker was Facebook’s first President and held a 7% stake in the company. (more on Sean Parker here )

Zuckerbergs judgements on technolgy and product direction

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Written by frrl

March 27, 2011 at 4:01 am

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