(view alumni profile)
Date of Birth
January 14, 1953
Place of Birth
St. Louis MO
BA in English from Amherst, followed by two years in a non-degree program studying painting at the New York Studio School of Drawing Painting and Sculpture. (I no longer paint, but I learned how to see there, and also there met my wife Elena Sisto, who is an extraordinary painter.)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
Liberal arts education, strong English department, beautiful campus. Also it was just far enough away for independence and yet also close enough for easy visits home to my parents, who at the time lived in Greenwich, CT.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst
Bill Pritchard's Modern and Contemporary Poetry
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor
In addition to Pritchard, Jack Cameron and Kim Townsend
The future of the Internet and the role of technology in business and society.
Awards and Prizes
Member of Council on Foreign Relations, member of the World Economic Forum's International Media Council--100 top media leaders from around the world.
This reminds me of how, when my daughter was young, she used to press me to say which color I liked best, which kind of vegetable, etc. I am a lover of books and there is no one I consider my all-time favorite. Ironically I would never mention a business book as among my favorites. When it comes to novels The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles comes to mind. I am a great lover of poetry (that Pritchard influence again) and my favorites include Czeslaw Milosz, John Keats, Robert Lowell, Philip Levine, Hayden Carruth, Frank O'Hara, Nazim Hikmet, Wallace Stevens, and Fernando Pessoa.
Tips for aspiring writers?
Write. Write some more. Rewrite. Find a good editor. Have them tell you what you could do better. Rewrite again.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author
I worked at Fortune Magazine for 25 years, the last 20 writing mostly about technology. It was a wonderful place to practice the process I recommend above for aspiring writers. It was a training ground not without pain, but I was surrounded by great writers and journalists who took their craft with deep seriousness. I had superb colleagues and editors. I should also mention that I learned to write at Amherst, especially from Kim Townsend and from Robert Stone, who at the time was writer in residence.
The path that led me to write this book in particular began with an innocuous public relations person's call inviting me to meet with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, in the summer of 2006. I suggested lunch at a local Italian place in Manhattan. Zuckerberg walked in and was so young (he was then 22) that I could hardly believe he was CEO of a company which at the time had almost 10 million users. But when I listened to him talk I found his ideas profound and his determination astonishing. He deeply impressed me. I wrote a column right away called "Why Facebook Matters." I began following the company closely, and developed a good relationship with Zuckerberg. When I realized about a year later that this company's growth was becoming truly historic, I asked Zuckerberg if he would cooperate were I to write a book. When he said "Go for it!" (his exact words) I knew I had no choice. I am lucky that he chose to open up to me and urge his colleagues and friends to do so as well.
David Kirkpatrick is the author of the definitive book on Facebook, The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World, published by Simon & Schuster in North America and Australia, also in the UK, British Commonwealth, Germany, Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Spain, Latin America and elsewhere. He was for many years senior editor for internet and technology at Fortune, which he joined in 1983.
He wrote numerous cover stories about Microsoft, IBM, Apple, Sun, Intel, and numerous other subjects, features on subjects including Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, the safety of cellphones and Technology in China, plus his weekly "Fast Forward" column. Kirkpatrick is regularly ranked one of the world's top technology journalists.
He created Fortune's Brainstorm brand, beginning with a 2001 conference in Aspen that ran for five years. Now, with a group of former Fortune colleagues, he has organized a conference and media company called Techonomy, focusing on the centrality of technology innovation for all spheres of human activity. The first event took place in August at Lake Tahoe.
He has been a member of the World Economic Forum's International Media Council, consisting of 100 of global media leaders, since 2006, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.