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Heads Full of Lightning

A Look at Some Bright Ideas Lit by Sun Valley’s Young People

(page 4 of 6)

Is There a There There?

Andrew McCollum

The Internet is one of those things that is many different things to many different people all at once. But more than anything, it has revolutionized the way people communicate. It’s a tool that allows people to gather together and spread their ideas faster and more powerfully than ever before. Its politics lean right and left, but mostly populist.

During the longest presidential campaign ever recorded, pundits frequently referred to one of now-President Barack Obama’s most successful fundraising tools: his Facebook page. As nearly everyone knows, Facebook is a social networking site engineered in a way similar to Myspace, except Facebook is the newest hot spot for cool kids and even their parents to set up shop and swap photos, stories, causes and fan clubs.

Noticeably different is the site’s look, which is, compared to the black-and-neon look of so many Myspace pages, simple, sober and economical. An unfussy blue and white for the most part. The colorful content is left to its users.

One of the very young men behind that look is Ketchum-shaped Andrew McCollum, 25, who now lives in Austin, Texas.

McCollum was born in Pasadena, California, but spent his formative years in the Valley, attending Wood River High School, where he was on the debate team.

He went on to Harvard, studying computer science, where he met Mark Zuckerberg, who envisioned and built Facebook in his dorm room and asked McCollum for some assistance with the graphic design.

“Back in the early days, we all lived together in the same house, and we all discussed the proposed features for both projects together. We had things each of us focused on, but everything was very collaborative,” he recalls. “Working at Facebook was a great experience. I learned a lot about how startups work and how to take a project from idea to completion. It was also a ton of fun.”

Although not formally recognized today as a founder, McCollum explains his role in the design.

“I designed the logo and icons for the original version of the site. At the time, we were also working on a project called Wirehog, which was a new concept for personalized file sharing, where everything was only shared among your friends . . . Later I contributed to several architectural projects such as a redesign of the search system.”

Using computers to communicate individually with a larger audience is a natural step, considering, as McCollum says, how people feel about their computers.

“Increasingly, we tend to see them as conscious beings with their own motives and desires. When our computers freeze or lose a file, we yell at them as if they can hear us and change their behavior.

“One positive consequence is that when we are using sites like Facebook, we feel a real emotional connection to what our friends are doing and saying, even if we are receiving it indirectly. Seeing some exciting story in your News Feed feels almost like hearing a juicy piece of gossip from a close friend.”

He adds, “I think the Internet age warrants more caution than previous times. When your actions can instantly be transmitted across the globe, copied and repeated a thousand times over, one should tread carefully in what they do and say.”

The bottom line is, “I think social networking is similar to IM and email, in that the genie is out of the bottle now. No matter whether your opinion on social networking is good or bad, I think Facebook is undoubtedly a tool that lets us manage our lives more efficiently than we could before.” >>>




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