31 Aug 2013

10-Minute Meetings

According to the timer on Mark Zuckerberg’s laptop, the meeting had been going for 43 minutes, which was 33 minutes longer than Mark felt the optimal meeting duration should be — so much so that he had two other laptops set up in the middle of the table (one facing each end) with a full-screen digital readout counting down from ten minutes to zero and into negative time, after which the background would pulse a dull blood-red. The problem with this approach, he had gathered, was that after a handful of meetings went “into the red” without much in the way of reprisal, people seemed to ignore the pulsating laptop timers, which made Mark feel that the process of setting up the laptops and timing the meetings in such an ostentatious way only served to undermine his decree that Facebook’s meetings should not last more than ten minutes. His employees figured that if a topic Mark deemed important was not covered in the allotted ten minutes then it was not so important after all and, as such, would be relegated to the bottom of some digital stack of priorities. But Mark could not very well abandon the ten-minute-meeting principle altogether, which would be an admission of failure. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. This thought reminded him of James Franco in that movie where he cut off his arm. Mark looked down at his own arm.

Francesca was suggesting a new way to test databasing schemas and wanted to run these in parallel over the next month of beta trials, which Mark knew would introduce load problems on the servers, but as it was now 45 minutes into the seemingly endless meeting, he lacked any of the stamina required to explain why such error-prone schemas could not be run in parallel. Instead, he pointed his stapler at her like a gun and fired off a couple of staples. They landed harmlessly on the table but Francesca still flinched and raised a hand in defence.

“Let’s move along,” Trevor Trivinski said. He was guiding this runaway train of a meeting to its eventual derailment. Next up was Sam Henderman, who Mark had planned on firing a month ago but now remembered he had become distracted with a game of Words With Friends. Sam wanted to talk about UX. Mark enjoyed talking about UX (user experience), but on hearing Sam Henderman introduce it as a topic of discussion more than thirty-five minutes past timer-zero inflated a bubble of anger in Mark’s duodenum. The bursting of this rage-bubble was averted when Mark noticed a special notification appear on his own laptop screen: Paul Rankin had posted some more fan fiction about him on Facebook. Sam Henderman’s concerns receded into the usual background hum as Mark read over Paul’s latest post: a short entry about Mark keeping a copy of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho in his desk drawer with Post-It notes on his favourite passages. Mark had never read American Psycho but liked the film version starring James Franco.

Paul’s fan fiction posts about him were becoming worse; lazy and predictable. It hardly even seemed worthwhile; this would probably be the last one. He opened a chat window.

Mark: saw your latest post. great stuff.

Paul: Thanks bro.

Mark: just in a meeting, will transfer $$ when not so many people around.

Paul: Cool. Whatever. Mark: c u.

Sam Henderman was still talking. Without looking at him, Mark raised his stapler and fired off three rounds: a double-tap to the sternum and a killshot to the head. Sam squeezed his eyes shut and turned his face away but again the staples landed harmlessly on the table.

The red pulsating timers now passed negative 48 minutes.