You Shouldn't Hate Facebook Like You Do Enron

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Writing for TheStreet makes me feel like I am part of a club. Or a dysfunctional family that somehow manages to function. That's how it was at most of the radio stations I worked at.

When you pull together a group of reasonably smart people with strong personalities, opinions and some quirks, you naturally end up with such an assemblage.

The best radio stations and digital platforms that specialize in news and opinion have the feel of a barroom. There's plenty of great conversation -- often serious, sometimes even deep. You learn from the bartender or the stranger sitting on the stool next to you. And there are characters. They add value, but they also entertain.

That's what we have here at TheStreet, particularly around battleground stocks. A club that hosts a whole slew of diverse personas and points of view, including those of the reader.

Consider Facebook ( FB).

Tuesday on TheStreet, we had quite a mix of excellent articles on the stock, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Featured on the front page, you've got one guy (me) praising Mark Zuckerberg with a prediction that FB hits $100 by 2014, if not sooner. Going in pretty much the opposite direction, Eric Jackson (we never agree!) labeled Zuckerberg's conference appearance "lackluster". Meantime, Chris Ciaccia wondered why Facebook made scant mention of search in its S-1 filing.

Elsewhere on the site, there was TheStreet's Richard Saintvilus telling readers: Like It or Not, Facebook is Here to Stay. Just over a month ago, Saintvilus wrote the epic It's Not Enron, It's Facebook where he compared what Enron did to accounting to what Facebook did to IPOs.

Back in July, Robert Weinstein trotted out the one that always makes me want to order a mixed drink, Zuckerberg lacks the experience to be an effective CEO.

If we charged admission, that coverage would be more than worth the price of it.

Bullish. Bearish. Cynical. Indifferent. An expression of outrage.

Even before a few beers, I would argue loudly that Jackson, Ciaccia, Saintvilus and Weinstein are all crazy.

Facebook is not Enron. Zuckerberg and Facebook are not pathetically inept like Mark Pincus and Zynga ( ZNGA). And the purpose of an S-1 filing is not to provide the competition with a blueprint of every single strategic intention ever brought up in a meeting.

I closed my eyes Wednesday and thought about all of the Facebook coverage on TheStreet. All of the scrutiny from here and elsewhere. I imagined being Mark Zuckerberg. Not the billionaire entrepreneur, but the 28-year old kid who leads one of the world's most scrutinized companies.

Then, I watched, for the second time, his interview at Tuesday's Tech Crunch Disrupt conference. As I listened to Zuckerberg speak, I wondered how anybody could have any doubt whatsoever about Facebook.

In the article I wrote Wednesday, I riffed about the company's position in the rapidly growing mobile advertising market. There's a sound fundamental case to be made not only for Facebook's future, but for its continued success. I say it that way because there's this media-perpetuated misnomer that Facebook is somehow not successful.

That brings me back to Zuckerberg. I'm not sure a human being can be more successful than Zuckerberg. And, as companies go, Facebook could close up shop tomorrow and stake claim to a greater level of accomplishment than most companies.

When he spoke the other day, Zuckerberg performed a lot like former Apple ( AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs.

Zuckerberg mixed humility ("We burned two years") with clarity ("A phone just doesn't make any sense") with a bit of cockiness:
It's really hard for people to wrap their heads around it, but what resonates with a lot of people is I'm building something that I'm gonna show my friends and family. I'm really proud of that.

I call that "cocky" because Zuckerberg was nicely telling people "you don't get it." And he's right, loads of people do not understand what motivates people who comprise the culture at a perpetual startup.

Our society requires an attitude adjustment. Facebook's biggest bears hate change. I think I know why: It represents time passing them by.

How many times do you hear people whine about the loss of American manufacturing jobs? They bemoan the supposed lack of pride people have in their work.

That sounds great. You'll hear few people disagree with such gripes. As groupthink, it takes on a life of its own.


Manufacturing jobs just became something else. A good union gig paying $50,000 a year morphed into the high-tech job in Silicon Valley that supports a recent college graduate's $3,000-a-month rent in San Francisco and habit of eating out every night. You might not see prosperity and vibrancy all across the country, but it exists. It's very regional.

And just because it doesn't involve manual labor that makes you sweat doesn't mean it's a pride-less endeavor. I don't think I've met people who care more about what they do and why they do it than employees at startups, new and perpetual. Right from founder and CEO on "down."

A great deal of the scrutiny the media lobs at Facebook the company and FB the stock is misplaced. These cynics criticize using an old framework. To appreciate a company like Facebook and a leader like Zuckerberg, you must situate your understanding in the proper context.

Until you accept the new world order in tech and, as a result, on Wall Street, you'll have a difficult time extracting yourself from outdated mindsets. That failure could mean less-than-average results for stock pickers over the next several decades.

At the time of publication, the author was long FB.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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