Mark Zuckerberg Gives Awkward, Sweaty Interview at D8: Touches on Privacy and Scandal

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Unlike his D8 predecessor Steve Jobs, who spoke eloquently, frankly, and insightfully during his interview, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg seemed to have trouble answering questions concisely, and his on-stage sweating has made for a few pun headlines ("Great Perspirations," remarked Forbes). Zuckerberg is embroiled in a scandal, yes, but so is Jobs—the problem is that while Jobs spoke of the stolen iPhone drama with force and conviction, Zuckerberg seemed to stumble his way through questions about privacy.

All Things D's liveblog captures the rambling, buzzwordy nature of the interview pretty well. In response to the question "Why are you making me take steps to protect my information," he responded with a long soliloquy on "serendipitous connections." When asked why certain public features force users to opt-out, rather than choosing to opt-in, he responded that Facebook tries to find a balance, that making everything opt-in would "create more friction."

Repeatedly, it seems, Zuckerberg either ignored or talked his way around a question. When asked what instant personalization really means, he "fumbles" (in the words of All Things D) and speaks abstractly about "the people-centric Web." Several references are made to his excessive sweating—I don't want to draw any particular conclusions, but his perspiration was even mentioned on stage when moderator Walt Mossberg asked if he'd like to remove his sweatshirt. All Things D says he's "literally dissolving in a lake of his own sweat."

But he did deliver an answer, or at least a response, to those college-era instant messages that have cropped up in relation to his early years as a hacker:

When I was in college I did a lot of stupid things and I don’t want to make an excuse for that. Some of the things that people accuse me of are true, some of them aren’t. There are pranks, IMs. I started building this when I was around 19 years old, and along the way, a lot of stuff changed. We went from building a service in a dorm room to running a service that 500 million people use.

I'd love to hear what you all think about that point. There are different perspectives on his teenage shenanigans. Some think that those IMs represent a disregard for privacy that can be traced to the present day. Others remember that we all said and did things at that age that we regret, that we wouldn't do today, and that don't necessarily reflect the beliefs or inclinations of our adult selves.

But it's clear that Zuckerberg is a novice interviewee, possibly shaken by the recent scandal his company's undergone. I'm not sure why he didn't just plan out his answers beforehand—none of them are curveballs, and he could have had somebody write him out some nice, clean answers. At least next time he'll know to wear a short-sleeve shirt.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one—you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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  • JeffersonRFO

    What Schmuckerberg really needs to work on is retirement. The world doesn't need a peevish puke like him.

  • Jesse Monroe

    I understand having social anxiety, heck I have it a lot of the time, but as the face, founder, CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world, Zuck should find a way to overcome this obstacle. He will always have to do interviews and keynote speeches so might as well face that fear head on. It's not like this one time at D8 was the only awkward Zuck moment, heck, here's a bunch of others He certainly has the cash to hire someone to work with him on this. Why doesn't he better himself?

  • Olamide O.

    I just saw this and could NOT believe what I was watching. And the audience was laughing? This young lad has created job opportunities, an avenue for reconciliation, reuniting lost friendships, pledged philanthropy et cetera. What else do people want....aren't people asking for world peace? Yes he has his faults and fb came with it cons, nevertheless, the pros far outweigh the cons and for that I agree with Paul that Mark Zuckerberg deserves some credit!!!

  • Mark Zuckerberg

    Hey guys, It's Mark. It's true. I have no public speaking skills... But I'm richer than any of you will ever be! SO SUCK ON IT! :P

  • Mark Zuckerberg

    Hey guys its Mark, I have no public speaking skills and I'm richer than any of you will ever be! How does that taste!?

  • Matthew Cummings

    Umm, I think I missed a memo; when did membership on facebook become mandatory? How is it a necessity for people to be able to communicate privately in an open online arena. FB should simply be treated and percieved as a public place. Marshall Kirkpatrick on Read, Write, Web makes the argument that many people want to "limit visibility of their personal information from the web but still want to be able to share that information with trusted contacts." And there is nothing preventing them from doinig that. You just don't share all that personal information in a forum like FB. There are many other communications channels available across the web that are more private.

  • Olamide O.

    you are soo on point Matthew. No one says its compulsory to be on the site and if you want to be there prepare to go public. Thumbs up

  • David Molden

    Mark really needs some training in public speaking, but above this the perspiration implies he is holding an inner conflict - when the public voice is raised good leaders learn to listen and respond - the sweat shows an inner defensiveness. What was hatched in a dorm without human contact is unsustainable with it.

    David Molden

  • Justin Haslett

    Maybe it's time for Mark to grow up and leave the hoodie in the dorm room?

  • Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Dan --

    You make a very strong point that Mark Zuckerberg needs to work with a speaking coach to learn how to handle onstage interviews -- and he also needs some assertiveness training coaching based on Manuel J. Smith's seminal book WHEN I SAY NO I FEEL GUILTY so that Zuckerberg can learn when to use "broken record" or "blocking" for questions he doesn't want to answer rather than stumbling around.

    That said, we have to remember how young he is. He's not Steve Jobs' age nor has he been on the media stage for nearly as long as Steve Jobs has.

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller

  • Paul Chaney

    One thing that has escaped this criticism of Mark, especially in comparing him to Steve Jobs, is that he is all of, what, 26 years old? Jobs is more than twice his age and seen his fair share of interviews and scandals. On top of still being a kid, Mark is a geek, not a people person. Being put in the limelight like this has never been his strong suit as best I can tell.

    By no means am I excusing the privacy guffaw, but Mark is famous for saying he puts little stock in the notion of online privacy.

    Before we run him out of town on a rail, let's remember that something that was created in a dorm room by someone barely 19 years of age is now the #1 most visited site in the world, surpassing Google, is used by over 500 million people, 50% of whom check in each and every day, and is growing at a rate of nearly a million people a day. How many 26 year olds can lay claim to that? Only one that I know of.

    Despite his inability to handle a tough interview (something he has to get better at) and his heretofore lackadaisical attitude toward privacy, Mark Zuckerberg deserves a lot of credit.

  • Olamide O.

    Hear hear Paul. He DOES deserve a lot of credit. Yes he needs to work on his interview skills but those interviewers need to learn that an interviewing opportunity should not be used as an avenue for BULLYING

  • Harry Urban

    The problem is not Zuckerberg. The problem is everybody's blind trust of products created by immature nerds. The "cool" aspects of Facebook disappear when your privacy has been breached or you are contacted by people you really don't want to reacquaint yourself with.

    Just learn how to use Facebook properly and remember, it was created by a 19-year-old!

  • Aly-Khan Satchu

    At Least the Chinese Government were Straight Shooters.

    Facebook I feel is committing a massive Strategic and Tactical Error in adopting such a Cavalier Attitude to something as central as Privacy. They are both an Infomediary and an Intermediary. They occupy a Pivotal Position as the Preeminent Market Maker of the New Information century. However, they also are the Preeminent Custodian of that Information. They owe each and everyone of us a Fiduciary Duty.

    This College Dorm attitude has already created a Phenomenal and Negative Feed Back Loop.

    Its the Time Facebook grew up and dealt with it and got ahead of this Curve instead of being so far behind it they are over the Horizon.

    Aly-Khan Satchu