After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s controversial March 10 keynote, the company’s marketing mavens and CEO handlers shifted into damage control. Some critics complained that Zuckerberg wasn’t asked the tough tech questions that the developer-heavy crowd wanted to hear.
The response? A hastily organized second Q&A session by the 23-year-old founder of Facebook that was video-blogged by former Microsoft tech evangelist and blogging celebrity Robert Scoble. “One of the big pieces of feedback that we got yesterday is that we just didn’t open it up to questions early enough,” says Zuckerberg. “It just seemed that people at this conference were more interested in product and technology questions.”
At 4:30pm on Monday at the Pangaea restaurant in downtown Austin, Zuckerberg made an appearance at a previously organized “developer garage”—Facebook-speak for a meeting of Web programmers talking technology and otherwise geeking out. The event drew a decent size crowd, filling most of the restaurant.
Standing on a stage in a dimly-lit room, Zuckerberg did his best to answer any and all questions that the developers threw his way. He spent most of the time talking about the importance of data portability, reducing spam-like applications and privacy protection. He also confirmed speculation that the company was planning a payment system for e-commerce applications on the site.
At one point, Scoble piped up. "I'm Robert Scoble and I got kicked off of Facebook for a day," said the popular blogger who bears a striking resemblance to the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. He asked Zuckerberg what he thought of the ability to take data off Facebook, which partly explained why his account was temporarily banned.
"I think that these are some of the questions that are really important, that need to be answered," Zuckerberg replied. For example, he said, though syndicating the News Feed to sites outside of Facebook would be "pretty interesting," it would mean that users have less control over privacy settings. He added, "I don't think anybody necessarily knows the answer at this point." But at least one local Facebook developer was still unsatisfied. Cody Marx Bailey, who has developed two applications for Facebook, said he still didn't get much out of the "unplugged" Zuckerberg. He told me he learned more from listening to Facebook's Senior Platform Manager Dave Morin, who kicked off the event.
"Dave Morin was better," said Bailey, who runs his own small software consulting and development firm. "He is good on the real nitty gritty stuff. Zuckerberg is more like the CEO." In fact, Zuckerberg is the CEO.