Wednesday, July 13

Facebook hires developers who specialize in coding computer software

"As part of Facebook's recent growth spurt, the company has hired developers to specialize in coding computer software."
-- CNN report, July 7, 2011

I'm really excited to talk to you about some of Facebook's new features. As I've said at previous keynotes, Facebook's mission is to give people the power to make the world more open, more connected, and more awkward. That sensation you got in high school when you stood in the corner of the cafeteria, eating while standing up to make it look like you were still in line-- Facebook will spread that like paste over the entire internet, and then we will put that paste in your pocket through our mobile initiative. We call it awkward pocket paste.

Let's talk about the website. The next step in the evolution of the site and the product is to give people more power and tools to share information and confuse their grandparents. Some of the infrastructure we're developing breaks new ground in the field of computer science, which is why we're hiring coders from across five continents and twelve geological strata to improve Facebook's core usability. Here are a few examples.

The news feed shows you the status updates that your friends have been posting to their Facebook profiles, such as the running tally of their cat's hairball expectorations. Now, in what order do we show these updates? Thanks to our new hires, Facebook can apply the latest and most sophisticated sorting algorithms to present you the specific updates that are most relevant and necessary to your life at the very moment you're checking Facebook, that is, while you're on the toilet with your iPhone. Any old coder can do a bubble sort or insertion sort, whatever those are, and if you ask me, they sound kind of dirty. Our software developers can code one thing extremely well, and that's randomness. I'm just going to call up on the screen here the news stream for a random keynote attendee-- how about you in the front row, Frederick Whipplesmith. You may protest at first, but once I broadcast your stream to the conference and all our online viewers, and also the international press corps that's in attendance, I think you'll be pretty impressed with what we can do.

So, here's Frederick's stream. Lots of updates from his friends about their cats' hairballs, with a few of photos of Frederick sporting a mankini while funnelling wine coolers. Okay, very cool. Now, click "most recent" in the upper right, where it says 373 new posts, and what do you get? 373 most recent posts? No. You get a random number of status updates and photos from an assortment of friends, non-friends, acquaintances, in-laws, and congressmen. Which is pretty neat, because randomness is hard, if not impossible to implement in computer code. Facebook is introducing new frontiers of randomness to privacy, interface settings, news feed selection, and soap warehousing. That last thing? Random.

Think it's easy to be random? Go ahead, try it right now-- think of something random and post it to your Facebook status. Guess what, it's exactly the same thing as you posted yesterday, about how your landlady refuses to replace your broken recycle bin. Very original. That's not random. You clearly don't have what it takes to work at Facebook.

The next issue I want to talk about is data portability. Now, I'm really glad we've hired developers who specialize in coding computer software, because this is something we couldn't have done (or even known about) without them. What is data portability? That's an excellent question, and instead of answering, I'll give you an example. All of the data that you provide to Facebook-- your photos, messages, web surfing habits, and dental records-- all of those things are like little precious gemstones that we hoard in an undisclosed location as part of a policy we call Operation Marketer's Wet Dream. These gemstones belong to Facebook, and we can string them into necklaces that we wear while working nude in our offices. Those offices used to be in Palo Alto, but as you know we've recently moved to Menlo Park, and if your privacy gemstones weren't portable, they would have strangled our necks while we were loading the moving van with hard-copies of your frathouse bender photos. Clearly, data portability is very important, even if it isn't random.

So there you have it-- Facebook's latest changes and updates. Some of them will move the social landscape underneath uncharted waters of creepy awkwardness, which is pretty cool. If you're a software developer, and if your speciality is computer code in particular, then Facebook would be interested in looking at your résumé. Don't bother submitting it, really. Just keep it on your hard drive somewhere, or print it out and leave it on your office desk in view of your webcam. We'll get to it eventually.

Monday, July 11

The cartoon evil genius of newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch

Of course Rupert Murdoch is evil. This shouldn't be surprising. Let's analyze his name.

First, your cartoon evil genius name needs a good suffix. -ock, -ok, and -och are all variant spellings of a classic with long, demonstrable history of Sinistrosity:

Morlock, Gorlock, Doc Oc, Spurlock, and to a lesser extent, Hordak.

Then, you need a stem on which to append that suffix. Evil-sounding nouns are all good candidates. Hate, Death, Hell, Crime, or in a nice self-referential twist, Evil. But to really cap off your evil cartoon genius, you just can't beat an evil-sounding adjective. Maim, kill, rape, belch-- I think we can all agree that those are evil verbs. But across all cultures, times, and places, no evil activity is more universal than murder, which is why I suggest appending the evil suffix "-och" to the evil stem "murd." Murdoch. Now that sounds evil!

How about a first name? Here it gets complicated. Even in the case of cartoon villainy, you don't want your genius to fall victim to overkill. That's why there aren't many badguys named Evilman Killestro or Hatebringer Deathovich. Evil geniuses should have that element of genteel panache to them, like Professor Moriarty, or Dr. Evil, whose first name, "Dr." connotes many long years of study at evil medical school, as he would be quick to point out.

Overkill avoidance is therefore the reason why your evil cartoon genius must have a boring, whitebread, WASPy name. In naming our cartoon evil genius, we must employ Chiaroscuro, the method of the Italian masters, in which bold contrasts between light and dark heighten the impact of the composition. To highlight the patent evil of the surname, the first name should sound elegant and refined, such as James, Winston, Preston, or Huntington. Be careful not to employ the diminutive version of these names, because that will immediately convert your genteel evil genius into a superhero, or worse, a hero's childlike bubbly sidekick. Following the the above examples, no super villain should ever have a first name like Jimmy, Winnie, Presto, or Hunt-Hunt. So forget that. Ignore the diminutive temptation. If you stick with high-falutin' pretentiousness, such as an English adaptation of the German name Hroberahtus which itself is a variant of Robert, you should be set.

Yes. Rupert. Perfect.

And that's why, when it comes to evil cartoon geniuses, Rupert Murdoch takes the cake. Without paying for it. Because that's stealing. And it's what evil geniuses do.