January 16, 2015

Facebook’s first book club meeting doesn’t quite reach Oprah levels


Facebook's book club didn't have a great start. New Oprah, where are you?  Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

Facebook’s book club didn’t have a great start. New Oprah, where are you?
Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com

What if Mark Zuckerberg threw a party, and nobody showed up? The first meeting of Facebook’s much heralded book club went off with more of a whimper than a bang.

As we reported last week, Zuckerberg’s New Year’s resolution was to read a book every two weeks, and he invited his 31 million Facebook followers to take part in discussions with the authors on, of course, Facebook. For his first book, he chose The End of Power by Moisés Naím, which started selling like crazy; this prompted much speculation that we’d finally found the Oprah replacement we’d been looking for.

So, how did the first meeting go? According to Caitlin Dewey at The Washington Post, Zuckerberg’s post garnered 137 comments and 240 questions. Not exactly setting the world on fire, especially when you consider the content of some of the comments.

I tried to read this book and only got through the first 2 chapters, can’t read anymore, what is the next book so that I can try to read that one please
Is there a link for this?
My question is…what time R U planning on having UR Q&A?? N What day…I live in a small town….my Library did not have the book….R It was out….when I call…they did have it on my Kindle…but U have 2 use UR credit card….I’m having problems with that NOW…once U give them it they can take money off It card without UR permission….once burn NOT ME…anyway also give us a week to find the book…then two weeks to READ!! I DON’T HAVE EASY ACCESS…I’M SURE I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!!
Angela Watkins-Hanna's photo.
Why this author?
Quick question for Mark; where to go on Facebook when I have a question or an issue???? Thanks, and sorry to intrude!
Any free link PDF ?
Sigh. Anyone who’s tried to organize an online discussion can sympathize. But Dewey brings up an interesting point – did Facebook’s own algorithm sink the book club?

Simply put, thanks to its ranking and filtering algorithms, Facebook just doesn’t make a good place for this type of Q&A. For starters, those algorithms guarantee that the transcript is hopelessly jumbled by default, ordered not chronologically (as it would be on Twitter) or by community votes (as it would be on Reddit), but by some more abstract and randomized measure of quality.

The algorithms also mean that — though Zuckerberg advertised the book club to his 30 million followers, and though a quarter of a million people signed up for it — many of those people probably never saw the news of the Q&A with Naím in their feeds. Facebook had, in essence, hid its own news algorithmically.

And so the search for our new Oprah continues.


Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.