Zuckerberg visits CMU on tour
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, spoke to and answered questions from approximately 900 Carnegie Mellon students on Tuesday in Wiegand Gym at the University Center.
The students in attendance were mostly from the School of Computer Science and the department of electrical and computer engineering; however, his talk was later uploaded to the internet via an unauthorized live-stream video for all to see.
Carnegie Mellon was one of three universities that Zuckerberg chose to visit on this trip. The other two were Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“When we organized this trip to go see a few colleges, Carnegie Mellon was at the top of the list,” Zuckerberg explained at his talk. “The students at Carnegie Mellon who have come to Facebook are among our most productive people.... I don’t know what you do to them.”
“We beat them,” joked Associate Dean of the School of Computer Science Mark Stehlik, who moderated Zuckerberg’s talk.
Although Facebook employees had requested that the event be held behind closed doors, a member of the audience posted a video recording of the event on the now-offline website ipaytuition.com.
“You and I both pay Carnegie Mellon tens of thousands of dollars each year. Yet, over 90 percent of the campus doesn’t have any chance to hear Mark Zuckerberg speak while he’s on our campus,” read the website’s description. “Not offering all members of the campus community the opportunity to watch the talk isn’t right.”
At the event, Stehlik first asked Zuckerberg some questions about Facebook’s history with Carnegie Mellon and recruiting, and then he opened the floor to pre-selected student questions from the audience.
“Most of the questions were about Facebook, and if a question vaguely touched on Zuckerberg’s personal life, he would bring it back to Facebook somehow,” said junior electrical and computer engineering major Alex Klarfeld, who was in the audience during the speech, after the event.
“When Zuckerberg was asked what his favorite website other than Facebook was, and his favorite internet meme, his responses were along the lines of, ‘I don’t really know any internet memes ... and I just really like Facebook,’ ” he explained.
During the event, Zuckerberg frequently stated that the future of Facebook and social media would be the application of the consumer knowledge gathered by social media to other industries.
“We’re just starting to get to a place where everyone has these advanced smartphones, and we recently just got to a place where you can assume that everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account with all of these social connections,” Zuckerberg explained during his speech. “I tell the company all the time that the last five years have been mostly about ramping up this graph of connections ... and the next five years will [be] about all the things we can build on top of that.”
However, junior physics major Joel Lu surprised everyone at the event when he described how he had hidden a device underneath the stage.
“At the end of all the questions, a crazed Zuckerberg fanboy stood up and started shouting that he had a question for ‘Mr. Zuckerberg,’ ” Klarfeld recalled.
“Stehlik reluctantly allowed him to ask him his question, since he was acting strangely during the entirety of Zuckerberg’s talk,” Klarfeld explained, describing the situation. “He stood up and told us all that he had ‘something’ for ‘Mr. Zuckerberg’ hidden under the stage, and went on a long detailed explanation about how he snuck into Wiegand. I know that most of us were pretty terrified that there was a bomb under the stage.”
“The night before ... I duct taped together a wireless router to my iPod and then hooked it up to some speakers,” Lu explained at the end of the event’s Q & A session. “I then snuck into the UC at night and hid under the stage for a while to set up the device.”
According to Lu, he had intended to remotely activate the device, which would then play his question to Zuckerberg. However, he explained that the device did not work because someone unplugged the power cable before the event.
When his equipment failed, Lu had to ask his question in person: “A lot of communications are moving towards mobile devices where Facebook is sort of a third party application, and I know third party applications usually retain only 5 percent usage after a month. Does that in any way threaten Facebook, and are you looking for electrical engineering and computing and computer science majors to find a Facebook-centric device as a solution?”
Zuckerberg replied, “We’re a pretty small company relative to the companies that are building these phones.... Building whole operating systems and devices is challenging for us, and we think we can get a lot more leverage by focusing on API ... and building great apps that everyone can use everywhere.”
Although Lu later admitted that what he did was “not the most intelligent thing to do,” he explained that he wanted to stand out to Zuckerberg from among the nearly 1,000 students at the event.
“I thought in order to [ask him my question] I would have to impress him enough to show that somebody has his vision,” Lu said when he explained the idea behind using the device. “The device I thought that he would be making was a communications device that pushes content to help people talk to each other, so I made a device that pushes content that also helps people communicate.”
“On the whole, it was a fairly entertaining talk, and I think it really got people pumped up about working at Facebook,” Klarfeld remarked. “Though, after the whole fanboy incident, I do not think Zuckerberg will be returning to Carnegie Mellon anytime soon.”