For years, people on Facebook have wanted something more than the Like button to express their feelings about the posts they see on the social network. Despite the clamoring, though, all you see to click on below posts is a thumbs up.
That could change before long, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his second public town hall meeting at company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., which was also webcast live.
But the one thing Facebook likely won’t do is provide a Dislike button, he said in answer to the first question at the meeting. “We’re thinking about it,” he said, before putting the kibosh on any intention to provide a thumbs-down button.
But he said there are other emotions he knows people want to share, such as sadness about a post of a loved one who passed, for which a Like button is clearly inappropriate. “But we need to figure out a good way to do it. We don’t have anything that’s coming soon but it is an area of discussion.”
Here’s what else he had to say, lightly paraphrased at times:
Q 1: Advice on starting a company?
A: Don’t worry about making mistakes too much. Mistakes are how you learn. The real question is how you learn from them. You gotta keep on powering ahead and not stress too much about it.
Q 2: How can Facebook be a more productive medium, not just wasting time.
A: I’m not sure I agree with the thrust of the question. Facebook is giving people a tool to stay connected with more people that they may not be able to do. I don’t really think it’s a waste of time at all. It’s sad that it’s considered a waste of time to cultivate relationships.
Q 3: Why can’t I change my username?
A: I have the username Zuck. We limit each person to having just one username so they can be found more easily. The username is less important than the fact that on Facebook, people use their real names. Asking everyone to use their real name grounds everything in reality. There’s more accountability if you’re connected to your real name. It’s all part of building a safe community that’s tied into the world.
Q 4: What is the role of social media in bridging the divide that is now more obvious after events in Ferguson and other communities?
A: We’ve been spending a lot of time discussing this internally. We take our role in this civic debate really seriously. There are two things we want to do. The first is we want to give everyone a voice. We’re trying to make it so every single person in the world has a voice. The second thing that’s really important is diversity of opinion. If you’re a Republican or a Democrat, you probably have friends who are in the other party on Facebook. Your network of friends, or friends of friends, is going to bring you more diverse opinions than you would have gotten from any other media.
Q5: Any New Year’s resolutions?
A: It’s too early! I could use some suggestions. I’ve taken them pretty seriously the past five years. I had one resolution that led me to cooking a lot. Another led me to learn Mandarin. I’m bad at languages. My resolution this year was to write one thank-you note to someone every day.
Q 6: How can your vision on Facebook be applied effectively in the public sector?
A: It’s only at the beginning of what we hope to see happen. One example recently is we launched Safety Check, which gives people a chance to tell friends and family they’re safe when there’s a disaster. We turned it on in the Philippines this week. Another is just enabling elected officials to communicate with the people they serve. I recently went on a trip to India and Indonesia to work on Internet.org Internet access. Both countries’ leaders used Facebook in their election. We’re just at the beginning here.
Q 7: There are so many privacy updates that I can barely keep up with them. Why so many?
Q 8: Have you thought of addressing challenges such as economic disparity?
A: We spend a lot of time helping especially small businesses build their business up. We have Pages people can use for free to build up their audience.
Q 9: (From a resident down the street.) Thank you for upping the price of my house. I’m loving it. What kind of community outreach do people in the company plan to do?
A: That’s the first time anyone has thanked me for raising housing prices. I taught an entrepreneurship program at a local school. There are always going to be more things we want to do. We want to make the community more healthy. We would love feedback on what else we can do. Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s VP of communications, public policy and platform marketing, adds: We take this idea of community outreach seriously not just in Menlo Park but around the world.
Q 10: Share personal habits that contributed to your success?
A: On a day to day basis, one of the most important things is focus my time proactively rather than reactively on whatever comes up. There are enough things that happen during the day that you could spend all your time on whatever comes up during the day. So I try to spend the majority of my time on things that I proactively want to be working on. The most important is to put time into things you want to see happen rather than what other folks want you to do. You do need to be open to the outside, which is why I’m doing these town halls.
Q 11: What advice would you give your younger self?
A: You’re going to make mistakes no matter what you do. A lot of people focus on avoiding mistakes. Most of what we do is mistakes. You’re successful because of only a few things you did well. Albert Einstein had this really pure idea of how the universe worked. His aesthetic view of the world led him to believe that black holes couldn’t exist. He got that wrong. But nobody remembers he got that wrong, except me, now.
Q 12: What do you like on your pizza?
A: My view on this important issue… is that as long as you’re eating pizza, you might as well have fried chicken on top of the pizza.
Q 13: How does coding fit into Facebook’s mission statement?
A: Growing up, one of the things that made me excited about coding is you can sit through and accomplish something in the end. What I do now is quite soft–seeing other people do the [coding.] It’s a very valuable outlet for young people to express their creativity. Also, you can have an impact without being high up in management. So it’s massively empowering. Understanding the discipline of coding gives you the skills you need for other work.
Q 14: Will Graph Search be released in other languages like Spanish?
A: Yes. But we want to get it right first. People always ask us for the ability to find stuff on Facebook. There’s a big opportunity here, such as recommendations on products and businesses people have tried. The ability to learn from the wisdom of all your friends is valuable, but it’s really not easy to do on Facebook. It’s a lot of work, because there are more than a trillion posts on Facebook. It’s taken a little longer than we all want to fully roll out search to everyone in the world. Please hang in there and we hope to deliver this sometime soon.
Q15: How does Facebook run experiments to improve its products while avoiding ethical concerns?
A: There was this report that a Facebook data scientist that raised a lot of questions. We tightened things up a bit after that. We think the only way we can make our services better for the world is to try out new things and get feedback from the community. We want to make sure changes have positive impacts. My wife is a doctor and there’s a philosophy in medicine that there’s a cost to running a test, so you need an internal process to ensure the service is worthwhile before you potentially do any hard. Things on privacy we’re just not going to test. Anything around emotions that we made sure our people don’t have the ability to test. On the incident last summer, we wanted to see if lots of posts by friends on things they’re doing made people sad. We don’t want to make people sad. But the way we did it, we could have done it a lot better.
Q 16: Have you thought about helping people make connections in real life too?
A: A lot of what Facebook tries to do is help people stay connected to people you know rather than help you make new friends. I wear contact lenses or glasses. Computers are the bicycle for your mind, Steve Jobs once said. What we’re trying to do with Facebook is extend this fundamental human capacity for maintaining social relationships. Through Facebook, we help people maintain relationships with many more than the 150 social scientists say we can. When I have the opportunity to see my wife or my mother in person, I’ll take that. But people don’t always have the opportunity to do that with everyone they’d like to.
Q 17: If you and I were married, how would we handle Facebook with our daughter?
A: I try to put myself in the shoes of having a child. On the one hand, I remember being real young and using technology and having a good sense of this stuff. I thought that was pretty positive. I think children are much more capable than we think. Bullying is really important and we try to make sure it doesn’t happen on the platform. Having real names helps. I would want my children to use technology because it’s one of the ways you become literate and acquire the tools of the modern world.