Having a daughter that lives in a city located almost 1,000 miles away is sometimes frustrating. I miss her and wish I could see her and spend time with her more often. And I know I am in good company since many people have family members that live far away.
The recent Facebook ads for its new Portal device are compelling and have captured my interest because for the first time I can visualize the utility of having a device that has a 140 degree field of view and follows you around the room in a way that until now, hasn’t been commercially available. I can see myself using it and enhancing my ability to stay connected with my daughter and other family members and friends. I mean eventually there will be full-fledged video calling like in Sci-Fi movies and TV shows and it has to start somewhere right?
Interestingly Facebook has never before tried developing and selling hardware. So the timing isn’t an accident. There are other options. Google has its Home device and Amazon has its Echo Show, but the reported high quality of the video combined with the camera tracking makes (by many reviewers), the Portal device the early leader.
Full disclosure – I maintain a small financial position in Facebook mostly because I believe it has the ability to connect family (and friends to a lesser degree) and make their human interaction and connection better. I readily acknowledge that this may seen naive given Facebook’s history in both the short and long term. I think it’s possible to be both an optimist, “Facebook can connect family members and friends in amazing way”, AND a cynic, “but Facebook will continue to sell my personal data to possibly nefarious entities because it’s all about the money.” When it comes to Mark Zuckerberg I have allowed my hope that he’s a decent human being to triumph over my knowledge that power and money often change people inexorably. The jury is out on Zuckerberg as far as I am concerned.
The mission of Facebook began with far less than noble intentions. When Zuckerberg created the ‘Hot or Not’ rating system at Harvard it was both crude and popular. It was more of a harbinger of what was to come than people talk about. Yet along the way it seemed that Mark Zuckerberg grew to understand the incredible responsibility that he undertook when trying to help engineer changes in human interactions. Clearly that was not planned, but it is what ended up happening. While it should be much more scary than emboldening, being 30 and leading a society changing juggernaut hasn’t been done before. Mistakes have been made. LOTS of mistakes.
My son challenged me that I’ve been giving Zuckerberg a pass and I’ve thought long and hard about that and to a degree he’s right. Sheryl Sandberg who was brought in to be the adult in the room (which apparently did not work out so well), is also deserving of criticism since a lot of bad things have happened on her watch. But it’s still Zuckerberg’s fault.
Racial discrimination was just reported by a former Facebook employee in the form of reputed suppression of posts from people of color. This too is Zuckerberg’s fault.
The truth is that There’s more and more reason for people to NOT trust Facebook. If that continues for anything more than the near future Facebook will be in a fight for its survival. The release of the Facebook Portal device is timed for the holidays or perhaps a more tactical reason like staving off a declining share price or simply taking the focus of its business practices.
Since I don’t actually spend much daily time on the Facebook platform anyway, I think I am going to wait a bit before buying a Facebook Portal. In the meantime I will continue to hope that the leadership at Facebook gets its act together, comes clean about what’s been going and what’s going to be done to fix it. The cynic in me is laughing out loud.