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Saving Face: The Network Effect

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Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2011 5:29 pm    Post subject: Saving Face: The Network Effect Reply with quote

Since I've come so late to the show, I find myself the last to laugh, or rather, in this case, the last to wince.

The music is the biggest surprise in the latest great American business movie. We've heard it played heroically, as a crime story, even for laughs, a thousand times before, but Trent Reznor's soundtrack reveals that what we are seeing this time is more tragedy, verging into horror.

I've not researched the actual story, so I judge the particulars of the situation only from the movie.

While the differences between the characters' backgrounds and experiences and mine are significant, there are enough similarities for me to feel a connection to the story that might not be felt by many other audience members. For one thing, though the story mystifies the technical aspects of thefacebook, to me, having a technical background, and perhaps with the benefit of 5+ years of hindsight, Facebook seems like a fairly minor technical achievement, so far as web design goes. Subsequently, it's success seems largely arbitrary.

"The Social Network" is bound to have triggered a million mid-life crises amongst people like me, who've made a living building ideas into software and into websites. Millions of people are questioning, "why wasn't it me that made it so big?" and trying to find an answer that leaves their dignity and self-worth intact. It isn't easy.

One can try it on, like a fairy tale; it'd be a fair stretch, but I might've found myself in the same position as a young Bill Gates. I was a little late to that show, and I probably would've made a hundred fatal errors that Bill Gates managed to avoid, so I can face the comparison with at least a little dignity.

In the case of the character of Mark Zuckerberg in the movie, I was early (to that show). Theoretically, I might've created a website like it while he was still in elementary school. How can it be that I didn't see this great opportunity, and have the drive and skills and luck and personality to pursue it, and to parlay it into such a stunning business success? Again, I'd like an answer that leaves me some sense of self-worth remaining.

I don't have an answer to share right now, but I can note something. I get the feeling that this one business success story has distorted the environment around us. Only the home run that catches a thermal to the wake of the space shuttle, catches a fluke fly-by, and lands on Mars is good enough to be a home run now. My own small successes aren't good enough unless they are amplified somehow to affect millions of people.

The tragedy that this movie shows has a personal side, as a story about Zuckerman's betrayal of his partner, and only friend, but I sense that there is a distinct strain of horror that Reznor was also capturing in his soundtrack. There is a kind of horror in the idea that only the highest level of success is worthwhile, and that ultimately, that this kind of success, despite the good qualities of the "hero", is largely arbitrary. A lottery. A fluke. It corrodes the value of merit that drive our society's mindset. For all the wealth and power associated with winning the ultimate lottery, the winner is still as empty, his motives no nobler than when he started. Meanwhile the rest of us are forced to denigrate our own small attempts at merit and success.

I recognize something of myself in the Zuckerberg character's casual, cutting clarity, if not to say, seemingly offhand cruelty. I'll never have seven billion dollars available to counter the bad effects from this side of my personality. Ultimately, I count myself lucky for this.

Last edited by brian-hansen on Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
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Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is quite a brilliant essay, and contains a lot of themes, some of which rattle through my brain when I am not bicyling or figuring out the best way to cook a frozen pot pie. So forgive me if I ignore some threads and poke around the edge of what you're saying.

I recently encountered the phrase "nuke the fridge". Some take it to mean the same as "jump the shark" and in effect, maybe, but not in what it is. Nuke The Fridge comes from one of the Indiana Jones movies where he jumps into a refrigerator to escape a nuclear explosion, gets blasted up in the air and then emerges unscathed. This happens early in the film and then he goes on to get involved in knife fights and so on.

But the point of "Nuking the Fridge" is that the first event is so over the top and out of scale that it makes everything else seem trivial.

So I absolutely agree with your statements on "winning"...what point is it to make a million dollars in a world where people can make a million dollars in a week based on some actions they took decades ago. Another example is a story I just read about CEOs who make a years pay in a single hour.
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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

These guys "nuked the fridge" :

<b>20 NY Costco workers share $202M Powerball jackpot</b>

A group of 20 Long Island Costco employees calling themselves the "1937 Flatbush Avenue Dodgers" stepped forward Thursday in the parking lot of the big box store where they work to claim first prize in a June 1 Powerball jackpot.

The winners, who opted to take a lump sum payout, will share $70.2 million after taxes, New York state Lottery officials said.

70/20 = 3.5 million each
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