Yeah, I know: My PR people got busted trying to plant bad stories about Google in the press, in places like Politico (I don’t read it, either) where big-government types would see them. The idea was to get Washington to turn up the heat on the Googlers over privacy, an issue we’ve managed to avoid at Facebook by completely ignoring it.
The problem isn’t that my flacks tried to smear a so-called competitor. Everyone does it. The problem is they got caught. I told them: Start a fake company called, oh, Privacy Foundation. Don’t tell the schmucks who run it where their funding comes from. Then stay out of the picture while the sock puppets passionately pitch USA Today that Google is an Orwellian nightmare. Make it a non-profit, I said. Reporters won’t bother to fact-check a word.
I’ve learned an important lesson: Never hire a publicist over thirty. Thank god she’s gone.
The backlash to what should have been an awesome prank is ruining my week. Not like anyone’s quitting Facebook. Good luck with that. But I’m stuck in emergency meetings with investors who need me to personally assure them that no, I’m not scared that Google Social Circle, formerly Google Buzz, formerly Google Wave, formerly Orkut (look it up) is a threat to Facebook.
Normally, I like meetings. They’re the only time I get any coding done. But instead I’ve had to explain over and over this week that I don’t prank Google because I’m afraid of them. I prank Google because it’s fun. I already got what I wanted: I kept hiring away Google’s engineers until the CEO — Eric Schmidt, I’ll wait while you check Wikipedia —cracked and quit. He installed the guy who first created Google’s PageRank search algorithm a jillion years ago, Larry Page, in the corner office. (You guys still have offices? Jesus Christ, just die already. I work at an open desk, where no one ever dares to interrupt.)
Now Google claims that, like Facebook, they’re run by a geek who invented the whole thing. It’s a good story, except Larry PageRank is pushing forty. Not really worried.
Still, I found that even though I’d won, I couldn’t give up the game. It beat the fuck out of Farmville. I stole Schmidt’s best programmers. That left him with a shrinking team of guys who get things done and a still growing, unstolen-by-Facebook marketing department. I’d have quit, too.
Once Larry took over, I decided to keep it up just for lulz. But I’ve changed the game. Instead of hand-picking the best techs, I hire random coders chosen by an emacs function I wrote in a meeting. One day I steal the second-best guy in Google Maps, the next I make a million-dollar offer to some putz who joined YouTube last week. The Google geeks are totally demoralized, because Facebook passed them over for a not-so-bright kid from UC Davis. Larry is tearing his rapidly-graying hair out trying to reverse-engineer my algorithm. Best. Job. Ever.
Photo by Robert Scoble on Flickr