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Programmer’s Thoughts about the Facebook movie – The Social Network

November 23rd, 2010

So I was at the Premiere Screening of ‘The Social Network’ aka Facebook movie, courtesy of Shaolin Tiger. :-)

I have watched the trailer before this and was very much excited to know that the Facebook story will be revealed.

Being a programmer, the Facebook story itself is so much greater than what normal people think of Facebook. It’s like hitting a jackpot, although I have never hit one.

Anyway, you probably can read about the movie review by doing a Google search, but here’s some thoughts about the Facebook’s story from a programmer’s perspective(AKA mine).

NOTE: You might want to stop here if you do not like movie spoilers. There are bound to be a few with what follows.

1) Ideas are easy, execution is not

Anyone can come up with a ‘cool’ idea and then say its theirs. Ideas are aplenty, but are you able to execute it, and most importantly to execute it successfully?
What is the most successful fast food chain in the world? McDonald’s?
Do you know McDonald’s brothers were the one started the McDonald’s restaurant, but they are not the one making it what it is now? Ray Kroc did.
Mark Zuckerberg started building Facebook (then called TheFacebook.com) while studying in Harvard.
Harvard students Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra accused and sued Zuckerberg for stealing their ideas and built his own, because they have earlier invited Zuckerberg to be their programmer in building the social network they have in mind.
To me : You can always talk the talk, but are you able to walk the walk?
You can always get a programmer to build a site (people always think so don’t they, programmers are cheap) and then claim it’s theirs.
Come on, if you have a great recipe but you do not know how to prepare it, you hire a chef and then the chef went on to start his own restaurant and be successful. What you gonna do about it? Sue your ex-chef?
There are no guarantee that a piece of software you hired someone to code for you will make you successful. There are many other factors, and your inability to code it by yourself is one of the limiting factor by itself, in my humble opinion.
So do you still think software should be cheap?

2) Software do not come cheap
If you pay cheap for a software, cheap software is what you get. Of course the most expensive will not be the best yet.
Which is why this reaffirm that you should know the ins and outs of your business. If your business is software, you better know what the code does as well, and more often than not, website startups are created by programmers.
The mindset of people that software is cheap is always around, because there are always free software.
Craigslist used to be a famous site, and based on its simple interface, I’ve seen people request freelance programmers to do a same site with the smallest amount of money. That’s ironic to me.
If you want to build a world-class website, how much do you think it’ll cost?

3) Age does not matter
Conventional wisdom tells us that age matters where any experience is to be taken into account.
In certain countries or cultures, the older you are, your chances of success in getting a managerial or leadership role is easier, and merit or your actual experience might not be the first criteria yet.
Although more often than not, experiences do come with age, but Mark Zuckerberg’s self made billionaire at age 23, proves that age is just a number.
Still that doesn’t really save him from being called or depicted as a ‘kid’ in conferences or public events.

4) Competition is tougher than ever
With large internet enterprise like Facebook, Google etc, the benchmark is now set so high that any web startups dreaming of getting success is not easy as it might be anymore.
How many search engines are there on the Internet? Probably you only know the few that you really use, but there actually many more than you can imagine.
I think the key is not to try to build something to compete, but to have something that differentiate yourself from the popular ones.

5) Conflicts among team members
The Facebook story was a display of how difficult it is to have a partnership in a business.
The first was with Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra. On their side, they might think they have Mark Zuckerberg joining them, but without a close relationship, Mark just went his own way.
The second was Mark with his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. Due to conflicts and differences of opinion, they drifted apart and lawsuit followed.
One good thing that the movie shown (I’m not sure how accurately real it is, it’s just a movie) is Mark was a person who treated Eduardo well. He never deliberately kicked Eduardo out, and there’s a sense of regret with the share dilution.
The other thing that I learn or reaffirmed myself is, you need one who knows the ins and outs to be the main guy or the leader, where in Facebook, it is Mark Zuckerberg. Other contributors should only be minor shareholders, depending on how important their contributions are.
Even angel investors only have a small percentage in shares.

6) Environment conducive to startups is important
How great an idea it could be, the idea need a conducive environment for it to grow.
For Facebook, it moved from Harvard to Palo Alto, California which is the headquarters to a number of Silicon Valley high-technology companies.
Having mentors and guidance from venture capitalist will also help, just like how Sean Parker (creator of Napster) helped Mark Zuckerberg.

How the movie fared
Mark has been portrayed to be a nerd, an arrogant geek, a traitor, but in the end it somehow makes you sympathizes the problems he faces.
At the end of the day, I think there isn’t too much issues that are too big for the youngest billionaire in the world to be worried about.

Don’t you think so?

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