Regular readers of this blog (all 17 of you) know that I've been, well, somewhat less than charitable to Facebook and the 26-year-old boy wonder at the helm, Mark Zuckerberg, over the last year. What can I say? I've got a few bones to pick with them over user privacy.
Imagine my surprise, then, when an invitation appeared on my doorstep to Facebook's ultra-exclusive, unbelievably swank private holiday party in Palo Alto.
I mean, the invitation literally showed up on my doorstep, delivered by two guys who looked just like Oompa Loompas. As I opened the door the first one bowed at the waist, and the second one hopped neatly on his back, ripped open his shirt, and showed me the invitation, which had been tattooed in gold leaf on his chest.
How could I refuse? Especially considering that the invitation included first-class airfare to and from, as well as accommodations at a five-star hotel.
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The flight was pleasantly uneventful (though I insisted on passing through airport security three times, just to make sure they hit all my special spots). An armored-plated Hummer was waiting for me at baggage claim; the driver, who spoke no English but grunted in perfect Serbo-Croatian, looked suspiciously like Vladimir Putin.
The terms of my invitation forbid me to disclose the location of the party or the full names of attendees, but needless to say everyone who's anyone was there. I saw Biz, Evan, Chad, Kevin, Max, Jason, Jonathon, Nick, Eric, Larry, Sergey, John, Om, Robert, Guy, David, Henry, Chris, Carol, Marissa, Matt, Michael, Mark, Mark, Marc, and Marc, to name just a few.
This party was unlike any I had ever attended. Sword swallowers and human contortionists wandered through the crowd. They were serving emu sushi on the backs of live Bengal tigers. Displayed under glass: The mummified remains of Dr. Carl Sagan.
I hadn't been there five minutes when a Facebook PR person took me gently yet firmly by the arm and steered me toward an alcove in the rear of the immense ballroom, shrouded in silks.
"We just wanted to open a dialogue with you," she said. Then she smiled, revealing more teeth than I had seen at any one time since I watched the Jaws trilogy. "As you know, we strongly believe in sharing."
She lead me into a curtained off room filled with overstuffed pillows. It looked like a set from Aladdin, Prince of Thieves. At the far end of the room sat Zuckerberg. He'd changed out of the usual hoodie and jeans and was wearing a Hefneresque smoking jacket and cravat.
I remembered to pack a poncho, because I wasn't sure if the sweat splatter would come out of my tux (it was a rental). But Zuck was surprisingly calm. In fact, that wasn't the only thing that surprised me.
First, he's taller than you might think. Also, his eyes move independently of each other. That takes a little getting used to -- it's a bit like talking to hyper-intelligent chameleon.
Zuck was drinking some concoction with smoke coming out of it; a mix of Jagermeister, peach schnapps and liquid nitrogen, my nostrils told me. After a few awkward pleasantries he launched into what sounded like a rehearsed speech.
"Sharing is the new social norm," he began. "People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. If we give people control over what they share, they will want to share more."
Yeah, yeah, I've heard all that, I said. But what if they want to share less? Shouldn't that be easier than it is?
"We think about that all the time. That's why we've implemented new privacy controls that make it easier for people to choose with whom they share their personal information."
Still, I pressed on, Facebook members have to jump through some hoops to share information only with their friends and to block nosy apps. Couldn't you make that easier?
"We will always keep Facebook free and will never share your personal information with advertisers."
But you already have, I said, and so have Facebook apps. In fact, you seem to have no idea what's being shared or who has access to it. Isn't this all just a load of hooey designed to lull people into a false sense of security about the information they're giving you for free?
"You look like you need a drink," he said, raising his index finger a fraction of an inch. One of the Oompa Loompas instantly appeared at my side, holding a frosty glass on a silver tray. It smelled like bitter almonds.
Then he launched into a highly technical discussion about new Facebook algorithms that would allow every human being on the planet to automatically read each other's thoughts.
I don't remember much after that. Just a kind of floating sensation, as if my brain had become untethered from my spinal cord just south of the medulla oblongata and was drifting toward a glowing white light in the middle distance. I smelled elderberries; I began to experience repressed memories of being trapped in a meat locker with Greta Van Susteren.
The next thing I knew, I was back in my own home, in my own bed. When I looked at my phone to check the time I saw it was still Christmas morning. How long had I been away? Had it all been just a dream?
But when I logged onto Facebook, which I do every morning before brushing my teeth, I had a new friend request. Yes, that's right. It was him. Still wearing that Playboy After Dark ensemble.
One down, 599 million to go.
ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan is wondering what other kinds of holiday cheer was in those Christmas cookies. Catch more of his surreal snark at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech.