From college dropout to one of the world's youngest self-made billionaires, there is no doubting that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made quite an impression in his 28 years on this planet. But who is he really? You could go watch 'The Social Network' movie I guess, but all that does is tell you who he is through the eyes of a scriptwriter and the Hollywood machine. Better, you could trawl the Internet for biographies about and quotes from the man. The trouble with that approach is putting everything in some kind of context, coupled with filtering through all the half-truths, downright lies and inconsequential nonsense out there, takes both a lot of time and a fair amount of background understanding to start with. Best, then, to let someone else do the hard work and track down the relevant and insightful comments from the man himself, organize them by timeline and topic, put them into that context and top and tail them with biographical analysis. That's what George Beahm has done with his book 'The Boy Billionaire: Mark Zuckerberg In His Own Words'.
Collecting nearly a decade's worth of quotations from Zuckerberg's speeches, interviews and writings on subjects including online social engagement, education, hacking culture, personal business strategies and even his views on that movie, this book is a triumph of the editor's art. I say that as a writer and editor, in the technology sector, with two decades of graft behind me. I know all too well how hard doing this stuff, and doing it well, actually is. And that's precisely what Beahm has accomplished, a job well done. It's no exaggeration to say that he has managed to superbly and succinctly capture the views of the Facebook CEO in an easily readable yet not dumbed down book.
The latest in a series of 'In Their Own Words' books which has seen the words of technology giants such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs get the insightful indexing treatment, The Boy Billionaire is nothing less than an authoritative portrait of the Time magazine 2010 Person of the Year. Whether your interest is the man himself, his business or the changing face of social communication you will not be disappointed by what you find. Sure, you could argue that everything in this book is unoriginal in as far as most of it being discoverable online or elsewhere in print, and that's true to up to a point. Much of the comment is, indeed, out there on the Internet but not all of it. Nor is all of it freely accessible as some will undoubtedly be hiding behind publication paywalls. Some may only be available if you have a print copy of the original publication, although I confess I have not bothered trying to track down every single quote to find out! You could argue that it represents bad value courtesy of the 'go Google' argument above, but I would say you are wrong. The value here lays with the contextualisation, the sorting, the collating of those quotes that together paint a recognisable portrait of Zuckerberg. George Beahm himself describes it as "culling quotations that form a portrait of him unadulterated by bias, second-guessing, and journalists' personal agendas". For less than five dollars you can get all of this in Kindle format for reading on the go, and for ten dollars you have a paperback version if you prefer. How's that bad value again, exactly?
Perhaps my favourite quotation from the book is in the 'starting out' section (reprinted with permission) as it gels with my own thoughts 100%: "There's this culture in the Valley of starting a company before they know what they want to do. You decided you want to start a company, but you don't know what you are passionate about yet... You need to do stuff you are passionate about. The companies that work are the ones that people really care about and have a vision for the world, so do something you like".