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Inside Facebook: What's Mark Zuckerberg like?

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Charles Miller Charles Miller | 10:22 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

Everyone's first question when they heard I was working on a programme about Facebook for BBC Two, was "Are you going to meet Mark Zuckerberg?"

The truth was, I didn't know. But I knew it would be seen as a failure if we didn't get an interview.

As a director and producer, I have made documentaries about some big businesses - like Google and Microsoft - and some big characters - like Donald Trump and Lord Sugar.

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An interview with Mark Zuckerberg

But Facebook is different. Mark Zuckerberg is only 27, and he's already had a movie made about him.

The Social Network told of his rise from Harvard dorm room to world domination. What more could we say in a documentary?

Well, for a start, the movie is out of date. It's based on a book published two years ago - and in the world of Facebook, that's ancient history.

And as Facebook prepares to float on the stock market, perhaps next year, the big question is whether it could possibly be worth the $100 billion that's being talked about.

That was our starting point: as a Money Programme production, Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook looks at whether Facebook deserves those amazing valuations.

Of course, we also wanted to have a bit of fun, comparing reality with the movie.

We filmed at the real house that Zuckerberg and his friends rented in Silicon Valley: the one with the zip wire over the swimming pool (if you've seen the movie).

You'll see the New York journalist Jessi Hempel confirm in the programme that the poolside parties weren't pure Hollywood mythology.

The first she heard of Zuckerberg was when she got a call from a young guy with a lot of shouting and splashing in the background.

Today, it's journalists like me trying to reach Zuckerberg, not the other way round.

It's hard to make a film about a moving target, and Facebook doesn't decide what it's doing - in public at least - more than a couple of weeks ahead.

That makes planning filming trips rather tricky - especially when we needed to fit in with the busy schedule of our presenter, Emily Maitlis.

Emily Maitlis by the pool

Emily Maitlis at the house once rented by Mark Zuckerberg and friends

But after endless changes, delays and rearrangements, Emily, my assistant producer Jo Hicks and I found ourselves with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook HQ in Palo Alto, California for the interview we'd spent months negotiating for.

So how was he?

Well, he was polite, cheerful, sweaty (by his own admission, as he was fighting off a fever), and he talked fast, very fast. Which was good, as we had so much we wanted to ask him.

What struck me was that he talks just like any normal twenty-something.

Almost every answer seemed to head toward the conclusion "... so that's really cool" combined with a winning smile. It's not what you expect from someone running a business the size of Facebook - but the absence of the usual corporate clichés was very welcome.

Jo and I were filming the interview ourselves on three cameras.

Setting up was a huge rush as our PR minders only found a suitable room to film in a few minutes before he was ready to see us.

When it was over and he was whisked away by minders, I was almost too anxious to look back at the footage.

Had I done something hideous, like switching the camera off instead of on at the vital moment (it has been known)? Had we plugged in the microphones?

Back at the hotel, I gingerly played back the interview. There he was, in full colour, with sound.

Anything more seemed like a bonus. And actually there was more: Zuckerberg has given us a really good interview, which we use throughout the film.

So, yes, I have met Mark Zuckerberg.

Charles Miller is the producer of Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook is on BBC Two on Sunday, 4 December at 9pm.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    This programme needs a BBC disclaimer. There are other computers apart from Apple products you know.

  • Comment number 2.

    The show was ultimately very disappointing. A lot of stock footage, a lot of known history, very little of Zuckerberg. If you use FB, you know a faor bit about it. These show seemed made for those who didn't.

  • Comment number 3.

    Extremely poor programme.
    More obsessed with showing presenter Emily than the subject.
    And the attention seeking outfits she wore was embarrassing.

  • Comment number 4.

    What a great show, at least the second half (the bit I caught) was. The timing could not have been better as I am doing a third year university assignment on Facebook.

  • Comment number 5.

    Wished you would have asked him what his thought are on the recent Facebook infiltrations by the police, resulting in (failed) prosecutions following the UK 'riots' (I use that term very loosely). Is his company complicit in this..?

  • Comment number 6.

    It was a little bit like the cbeebies guide to facebook not BBC 2!

  • Comment number 7.

    the show was brilliant, omg.
    love zuckerburg, he is gorg yeaaaah

  • Comment number 8.

    Exactly Tel-X!
    Very lightweight display

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    An excellent programme with a clear balance that explores the social impact of Facebook on society - Like!

    I think that Sir Martin Sorrell is wrong in terms of advertising though, adverts are all around us in every day life and have an impact even when we are not in 'buying mode' - they do exist when we are socialising and can spark thought with consideration of 'I did not know about that, what do you think?' type thinking.

    A superb question on the advertising where it says 'XXXX likes XXX companies products' - I did not know that was happening and am uncomfortable about FB doing it.

    I think I will share this page on my FB :).

  • Comment number 11.

    She didnt ask the main question. Is it really socially useful for kids and adults to be spending so many hours a day on sharing such trivia.

  • Comment number 12.

    The program was sensational and well produced by Charles Miller. The question about using users for social advertising really raised doubts on Facebook's Privacy Management. I do believe most of the ideas of FB, but still i will not agree to be an free advertiser for other brands when FB makes money out of me.

  • Comment number 13.

    Some old footage on fb however I'm always interested to listen and learning more about this amazing platform... 3 years ago I didn't have anything to do with fb but now I love it!!!

    Facebook doesn't have any problems with google+ because it'll never be FACEBOOK!!!!

  • Comment number 14.

    Possibly the best Facebook exposure the british public has seen since the launch of " Facebook " the movie. As a Online Marketing Consultant i cant agree more with the concept, the vision and the future of Facebook especially for marketing start up, SME and blue chip corporations. I look forward to other informative documentaries about Facebook and Social Media in general. If business's dont jump on board now they really will miss the boat. Myk Baxter

  • Comment number 15.

    Agree with comment re it was a great vehicle for Emily to show off her good looks, hip clothes and all round cool. But she did look genuinely concerned when pointing out that 'I like' should not be taken as a licence to be used in publicity. Can someone kindly give us the exact words the guy from facebook used in the reply (after counting to ten without saying a word)? I want to record them for posterity!

  • Comment number 16.

    I was really looking forward to this, but was ultimately disappointed. Approximately 15 mins of this valuable documentary time was wasted on Emily Maitlis - E M floating about with her fingers hooked into her belt loops, E M sat on a bench people watching, E M tapping away on her computer, E M lounging on a diving board etc. I've nothing against the woman, but was this supposed to be a documentary about one of the most intriguing & visionary businessmen in the world, or the Emily Maitlis fashion show??

  • Comment number 17.

    This was a missed opportunity and really worrying that a public service broadcaster did not ask the question about under age children on Facebook http://www.amazon.co.uk/your-child-safe-online-internet/dp/1905410948

  • Comment number 18.

    First things first, well done on making a very interesting program. As a business, we advertise on the major search engines, but like one chap said in his interview, Facebook tends to be a social network, its not really for businesses. We have never really seen much in the way of return for our efforts on FB! Twitter on the other hand, that seems to be more geared towards businesses and as Wikipedia reports it has over over 300 million users as of 2011. Surely Twitter is a force to be reckoned with?

  • Comment number 19.

    The fellow on the show did a poor job of 'selling' the idea of advertising by displaying "Coke: Your friend likes this" messages.

    The facts are that nothing in life is free and people who find Facebook useful should realize that someone has to pay the salaries of the engineers and the hardware hosting costs and the question is do you as a user want to pay it personally or are you happy to have third party companies pay for it?

    When you express that you 'like' Coke by clicking the like button and the message says "you like this" it's factual. If it said "Coke: Your friend endorses this," it would be a different story.

    I do wish Facebook had a I don't like this though instead of just liking or unliking something.

  • Comment number 20.

    The content of the programme was good, but what on earth was going on with the presenter? Either she's obsessed with herself or the cameraman is. Too often, odd looking shots of her walking awkwardly in her high heels and low cut tops, or needless shots of her nodding at the camera as Zuckerbeg was talking. She lacked authority ands clout needed for such a subject.

  • Comment number 21.

    Nice to see I am greeted with this blog's "House Rules" upon registering, and I can only assume these rules ARE actually enforced. Now lets turn our attentions towards facebook who also have their "House Rules", but only enforce them according to how the staff at FBHQ are feeling that day. Hate groups are infesting facebook and documentaries like this should have been exposing it. Incitement to hatred for minorities with certain sexual orientations, certain mental illnesses and certain racial groups. Facebook is now the biggest controlled cyber bullying community in the world, and those who claim to moderate it have no need of proper training or qualifications to do so.
    Stay Away From The Place, is the advice i would give to everyone especially children. I shouldn't need to spell it out, so do your investigations into the sordid disgusting world of facebook properly next time!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Robert17c

    He said quite a number of interesting things. An interesting programme.

    This is my contribution to the 'discussion':

    http://fairpay.org.uk/111/Facebook_and_Twitter_are_Damaging_the_Internet111_1.html

    I hate advertising myself, I really do. I just think this stuff needs to be said, and it's not like I'm making any money off it.

  • Comment number 23.

    Does anyone know what the music is that is playing when they show the You need to get off Facebook YouTube video ?

  • Comment number 24.

    It was a good documentary. I don't know about F'book (I'm one of the 50% of people in the UK who aren't on it). However, I now feel informed ! The programme was also good in respect of marking what this new social phenomenon has brought us. Potentially, some deep shifts in social behaviour. The girl violinist who said that she used to spend the week reading the New Yorker magazine. But not now, her time is spent playing her F'book game. I thought that was very telling.

    Facebook users- if you don't want to be associated with a product then don't press the "LIKE" button ! Learn some self-control.

    But, hey, what a babe Emily Maitlis is !

  • Comment number 25.

    What a dissapointment. I realise the remit of this was within the confines of the money programme theme, but even at that, it didnt fufil that objective - oh except that we all now know that if and when Facebook floats it could be worth $100 billion. Great. Unfortunately, what could have been an incisive, probing, investigation into the people and culture behind the company who choreopgraphs the social and communicative behaviour of almost 800 million people in this world, all we got was a skimming of the surface interview with a 27-year old nerd-ish youth who wants us all to "share"..... interspliced with shots of E Maitlis tottering around LA in her summer collection. Interesting use of prime time tv.

    Furthermore, as one commenatator already posted, no-one asked - or dared to ask - the question, Is it ok that children (from aged 13) and adults spend up to 3 hours Every Day Online, 'sharing' with a bunch of people most of whom they've never even met?

  • Comment number 26.

    Most people I know don't read the small print of the FB 'Terms and Conditions' and it was a slight shock to discover that when they 'Like' something on Facebook, they are in-fact 'endorsing' it for use as advertising to their friends. If anything, Emily's questioning of this will make people I know think twice before 'Liking' something. Maybe now they will realise why brands encourage you so hard to 'Like' them and exposing the fact in this documentary has probably raised the currency of a 'Like' even further.

  • Comment number 27.

    Next time on such a vital assignment the BBC might like to consider splashing out on an experienced professional cameraman. I have worked with such people and found they switch the camera on and record the sound on a fairly reliable basis; and check they have done so before leaving the location.

  • Comment number 28.

    The obvious question, but Emily didn't ask it, is why somebody whose company is already worth billions when it's 'cool' should be willing to risk killing the goose that laid the golden egg by trying to make it worth hundreds of billions? I was left with a feeling that Zuck may be just a little bit bogus. If everything he says is true, why doesn't he just concentrate on making Facebook more cool to use? Why is he constantly trying to find ways for it to be more valuable to big business? OK, the company might never be worth a hundred billion if it had billions of users but not so much commercialisation, but isn't a fortune of a couple of billion enough for the type of guy that Zuck portrays himself to be? I couldn't understand why Emily didn't ask that question, but she did seem to be a bit awestruck I felt.

    And personally I could have done without the 'babe' shots Mr Producer. She is very nice looking, but a serious documentary shouldn't make a big thing of that aspect.

  • Comment number 29.

    This producer was totally out of his depth.
    The blog reflects that, with his admittance of nervous camera work and his anxiety to look back at the footage.
    He was was awestruck by the interview and the presenter.
    To allow so many shots of the presenter lacks authority and judgement.
    It angers me that BBC 2 is reduced to such an amateur hour.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    Sir Martin Sorrell's comments seemed to sneak under the radar on the comments here - but his contrary view to Zuckerberg's on the future of 'open source' media networks are very interesting. This is at the heart of privacy issues as well as at the heart of how end-users related to social media platforms in our view. http://bit.ly/sHlqnf

  • Comment number 32.

    This programme did appear to be more of a promotional show for the presenter with lots of scenes of her just walking around for no reason, but to pad out the show I guess.

    Would it not have been better just to do it as 30min programme if you did not have enough footage and just do a voice over instead!

  • Comment number 33.

    I was surprised that the legal climate Facebook is operating in wasn't really covered. In this context coverage could and should of been given to potential violations of EU data protection law ('Like' button and facial recogition technology), these could impact any potential valuation of the business.

    I would of expected more grounded assessment of the much hyped $100 billion worth, which as any sane observer would realise is only being socialised to help justify the initial price for a stock market floatation...

    Also lacking from this program was coverage of Facebook fundamentals, namely their user account policy, and rights to use any content their users post. This would of enabled bringing in how Facebook assesses accounts to ensure they are bona fida and issues such as the arbitary re-assignment of the Merck KGaA (DE) account to Merck & Co (US).

    Finally, I also found the constant camera shot framing to ensure Apple product placement (particularly of Emily's laptop) throughout both amusing and irritating. Particularly as the subject matter was about a web company who's service is accessible across a wide range of user devices.

  • Comment number 34.

    What interested me was the contrast between the real Mark Zuckerberg and how he was portrayed in 'The Social Network'. In that movie he came across as borderline Asperger Syndrome - but then again the movie wouldn't have been half as interesting if Mark had been portrayed as "normal".

  • Comment number 35.

    What's the reason for the current BBC obsession of showing endless shots of the presenter? Every other shot seemed to be Emily walking or driving somewhere. Documentaries should be about the subject, not the presenter.

  • Comment number 36.

    Great programme. But surely someone should have spotted the "Silicone Valley" spelling mistake in the subtitles. And it wasn't just once!

  • Comment number 37.

    I made the effort to watch this programme on on Iplayer and much enjoyed it. Some commenters here seem to have watched it with the pure intention of finding fault rather than true objectivity.

    As a Facebook user, there are features I like and features that drive me crazy. For instance, I have the possibility to ban chosen companies from the advertising space on my page. It doesn't work properly though. I have tried to prevent ads for Tesco appearing, but they keep changing the subdomain linked to the ad, so every so often I have to go and ban a new one. Other than that, I take little notice of the ads and rarely follow those links.

    Parents with children under 16 are responsible for their offspring. If you let them use Facebook and they come to some harm, it's the parents to blame for negligence, not FB. There is software available that will allow you to block access altogether if that's what you prefer. Don't blame the messenger for the message.

    Adults are free to make up their minds about how they spend their leisure time. I don't play games on FB, but I do use it to keep in touch with friends I can't often see face to face due to their busy schedules and mine, or because they don't live close. I participate in a few groups, maybe spend up to 2 hours a day on FB, but in multiple quick visits rather than one continuous session.

    The presenter was casually dressed throughout the programme, reflecting the ethos of FB itself and the way it works with its employees. I didn't find her outfits intrusive or inappropriate.

    Some comments simply miss the whole point. Zuckerberg started FB as a social network. It was OTHER companies outside that realised that it had potential for them to sell goods and services. FB could have sold out a lot more quickly, and not protected their users at all, for instance by saying unless we pay to use it and opt out of ads, they will advertise much more intrusively.

    To an individual, the difference between 1 billion and many billions in the bank is negligible. Zuckerberg can already have whatever he wants for the rest of his life. I think he has shown a level of integrity in NOT choosing to sell out to Microsoft and Yahoo because he knows that they would change FB for the worse for their own commercial purposes.

    I didn't even notice the Apple 'product placement'. Honestly, I didn't. And I'm not sure I care anyway. Had it been a PC running Microsoft with no badge on the laptop lid, would that have been Microsoft product placement?

    I haven't seen the movie, may do so if it is shown over the holiday period.

    'Fair Pay', please, grow up and don't comment on things you clearly don't understand. I read the post on your own site. It showed a startling ignorance of Facebook, of the web development software and processes used by FB and advertisers, and even internet technology in general.

  • Comment number 38.

    Thanks for all the comments. Bernard, all the music details will be posted on the programme page (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017ywty) this week. Deepipe, thanks for the spelling point, we’ll get it corrected.

    As to whether the programme was pitched at the right level or included the right subjects, we wanted to make sure it was of interest to people who aren’t on Facebook, so most people who are will have seen things they already knew.

    It’s a big subject, and we were looking at it from a business perspective, so I accept that there were areas, like use of Facebook by children, that we didn’t go into. But it was great to see, for instance, Vidmeup’s comments about now understanding why brands “encourage you so hard to ‘Like’ them” – that’s exactly the kind of point I was wanting to get across.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi

    I enjoyed the programme but it did seem to document information already quite familiar to Facebook (FB) users. It was interesting to hear Mark Zukcerberg declare his intentions for FB users to be able to "share better experiences with friends" if they know what they are doing.

    Are these really the true intentions of Facebook or is the overall Value of the business, trying to reach $100 Biilion, taken over the focus and motivation for Mark Zuckerberg?

    The reality of FB is more people are devoting time, often more time, to FB Friends than to their real life friends - citing the New York journalist and comments from various FB users and to many youngsters I know from my daughter's generation and adult friends. This seems to leave them in a fictitious parallel universe without any support to balance themselves in real life and this seems to be greatly affecting young people in their lives.

    Yes, FB is a social platform but it gives limited privacy privileges to its users. And I wonder just how many people have actually read,if any, the terms & conditions from FB (that everyone agrees to click to as default, come on, you know you didn't read them either!) to see how and what privacy and endorsing rights consumers have. And if anyone has tried to shut down an account they will know how it is virtually impossible to do so.

    The REAL question, I can see and my wife agreed with, IS it really making people feel more connected or is it making people feel more isolated, particularly in their real lives? And is this making them happier or more depressed in their real life because of them being Socially connected online?

    And as one young man commented on the documentary, his FB profile was really 70% of himself but the rest was made up to what he wanted to appear online or be perceived to be like on FB. And, are people hiding their true personalities, true feelings, simply pretending to be of a particular persona online for status or peer group reasons?

    From a Social interaction perspective, I have only come across very negative experiences of young people and adults using Facebook. From awful teenage arguments and nasty comments, to having parents see their children behaving in some degenerative way auspiciously captured on photo and shared with all of the son's/daughter's 700 FB friends and adult friends - including family! You just do not have control of pictures where they go and who they are shown to. I'm sure they could fix this if they tried but this really isn't the point.

    From a business perspective, (I am having to add my own business onto FB but feel compelled to do so because so much coverage is given to FB and more and more businesses expect you to have one), after using it quite extensively for property investments geographically, FB has proven to be more of a research tool and not converted campaigns to produce a positive ROI for the investment made.

    From a brand perspective, the question of "Like"ing a brand and giving it an automatic right to use the individuals to promote the brand is questionable but I suspect this may have been covered by FB's terms and conditions when people sign up. I haven't seen any evidence to prove the correlation of a Sponsored brand on FB reflects real life brand impact across industries. I have seen impulse (relatively low value items) products perform very well on FB but higher product/services but not perform as anticipated. And this is reflected in the overall demographic of FB users predominantly being of a certain age with buying behaviour to match.

    Interestingly, I think FB's Business revenue possibilities are still in their infancy compared to Google's established Search model (which, I may be mistaken whereI was told, did take over 15 years to realise) as briefly touched upon in the documentary and this will only change as the Business model is crystallised further and Businesses, across all industries and all levels of product/service, get used to buying online using the FB platform in either a dedicated market research service or other financial model developed.

    Yes the FB phenomenon is a massive subject and has larger issues of security, children use, online abuse etc which the programme couldn't possibly address lightly but I think it was a good programme for people not so aware of Facebook and it's global reach into everyone's daily lives.

    Zahid Adil

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm sorry Charles, I really dont understand how you can find yourself in a situation where you,have your key interview, and you are worrying about wether you have pictures and sound on the camera after you leave. Is this what the BBC has come to now ? You can afford to fly 3 of you to the US but can't afford a little extra to hire a local,professional crew. It's nuts. What if you did have a problem with the sound ?
    Your programme would be lost. This just can't make sense. And please don't plead poverty of budgets. A small outlay for a crew would have made a lot of difference to the look of this rather amateurish programme.

  • Comment number 41.

    An interview with probably the highest profile Dot Com start up of the last 10 years and you shot it yourself! Bet Zuckerberg thinks the BBC are some tin pot bunch of students!

    Surely far better to take you as Producer/Director and a researcher and then employ local crew. At least if you employed a craft cameraman and possibly a recordist to shoot this then you wouldnt have to worry about the sound and pictures?

    I cant believe that you didn't have the budget for this as you must have spent hours in post sifting through the footage from three cameras to find the bits that were actually usable, not to mention getting the pictures from three different cameras to actually match.

    Coming at it from an industry perspective, I have to say that I was terribly disappointed with the technical quality. Some self shot programmes are excellent but what you seemed to end up with here was a selection of wobbly jump cuts that your editors have managed to assemble into something resembling a documentary.

    I fully understand that the philosophy within the BBC is now that crews are evil, expensive things but ultimately the public are your employers and it would seem that the public are starting to notice how some shows have high production values and some dont.

 

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