About five feet above the hardwood floors in Facebook's Washington office, a picture of Mark Zuckerberg's disembodied head is taped to a robotic camera. Look up at the camera, operated by unseen minions hundreds of miles away, and you catch the gaze of the world's youngest billionaire.
And then you wonder: Why is he laughing?
The answer may lie five feet below the camera, which is used to stream a public-affairs show called Facebook DC Live. There, perched on a rolling chair, is the face of Facebook in Washington: not Zuckerberg but a 26-year-old George Washington University graduate named Adam Conner.
There's not a digital-media strategist in the city who doesn't know Conner, who has been promoting Facebook as a political tool since 2006, when he worked for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat. Conner became Facebook's first Washington employee in 2007. Back then, Zuckerberg was 23 and Facebook had fewer than 100 million users. Lots of people in Washington hadn't heard of Facebook. And the company had neither the resources to put a robotic camera in a lofty Washington office and stream its content around the world nor any interest in having an office here at all.
"Facebook's first DC office was the living room of my apartment," Conner says, rolling his chair around beneath the camera. "If I had meetings, I'd have to go to a Starbucks."
Nearly two years' worth of grande Americanos later, with Facebook surpassing 100 million users, Conner packed up his living room and rode an antique, collapsible-gate lift he calls "the elevator of death" up to this office--a narrow, makeshift space above the Ann Taylor Loft on Connecticut Avenue near Dupont Circle.
A few months later, with Facebook under siege for a disastrous change in its privacy policies--the company, in effect, declared that all those pictures of your dog and your kids and you in that ridiculous Halloween costume belong to Facebook--Conner was joined by Tim Sparapani, who had left his post as the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative counsel to work as a public-policy director for a company run by a kid 11 years his junior.
Facebook next hired a Washington communications director. Last year, the company hired two more people, including Marne Levine, who had served in the Obama administration and is now Facebook's vice president of global public policy. This year, the office gained a ninth employee when Catherine Martin, who was a deputy assistant to the President in the George W. Bush administration, joined Sparapani as a public-policy director.
Next: Facebook's 8,500-square-foot DC office