Mar 262014

Book Short: Internet Fiction

Book Short:  Internet Fiction

It’s been a long time since I read Tom Evslin’s, which Tom called a “blook” since he released it serially as a blog, then when it was all done, as a bound book.  Mariquita and I read it together and loved every minute of it.  One post I wrote about it at the time was entitled Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard.

The essence of that post was “I liked it, but the truth of the parts of the Internet bubble that I lived through were painful to read,” applies to two “new” works of Internet fiction that I just plowed through this week, as well.

Uncommon Stock

Eliot Pepper’s brand new startup thriller, Uncommon Stock, was a breezy and quick read that I enjoyed tremendously. It’s got just the right mix of reality and fantasy in it. For anyone in the tech startup world, it’s a must read. But it would be equally fun and enjoyable for anyone who likes a good juicy thriller.

Like my memory of Hackoff, the book has all kinds of startup details in it, like co-founder struggles and a great presentation of the angel investor vs. VC dilemma. But it also has a great crime/murder intrigue that is interrupted with the book’s untimely ending.  I eagerly await the second installment, promised for early 2015.

The Circle

While not quite as new, The Circle  has been on my list since it came out a few months back and since Brad’s enticing review of it noted that:

The Circle  was brilliant. I went back and read a little of the tech criticism and all I could think was things like “wow – hubris” or “that person could benefit from a little reflection on the word irony”… We’ve taken Peter Drucker’s famous quote “‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” to an absurd extreme in the tech business. We believe we’ve mastered operant conditioning through the use of visible metrics associated with actions individual users take. We’ve somehow elevated social media metrics to the same level as money in the context of self-worth.

So here’s the scoop on this book.  Picture Google, Twitter, Facebook, and a few other companies all rolled up into a single company.  Then picture everything that could go wrong with that company in terms of how it measures things, dominates information flow, and promotes social transparency in the name of a new world order.  This is Internet dystopia at its best – and it’s not more than a couple steps removed from where we are.  So fiction…but hardly science fiction.

The Circle  is a lot longer than Uncommon Stock and quite different, but both are enticing reads if you’re up for some internet fiction.


Dec 102005

Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard

Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard

Anyone who worked in the Internet in the early days probably remembers all-too-vividly how silly things got near the end.  Even those who had nothing to do with the industry but who were alive at the time with an extra dollar or two to invest in the stock market probably has some conception of the massive roller coaster companies were on in those years.

The memories/images/perceptions all come crashing down in the latest chapter of Tom Evslin’s blook in a manner that reminds me of the sound of fingernails racing down a chalkboard.  You’ve heard it before, you can’t forget it, you squirm every time you hear it, but you can’t tear yourself away from it.

I think Chapter 9, Episode 6 and Episode 7 lay out every single stereotype of the Internet’s bad old days in two easy tales:

– The CEO who says “The main reason for this meeting is to figure out how to get the stock price up again”

– The blaming of the investment bankers for the bad business model

– The head of sales who doesn’t understand his vanishing pipeline and the CEO who turns a blind eye, sacrificing future sales to make the current quarter’s numbers

– The surprisingly shocking realization that adding 30 new people per quarter costs a lot of money

– The parade of the lawsuits, lawyers, and insurance policies

– The notion that all problems can be solved with a new product, which of course must be built immediately, but with a smaller engineering team

– The struggle about laying off staff and the comment that “you can’t cut your way to growth and greatness”

If you’ve haven’t tried the blook yet, you can start at the beginning with the daily episodes, on the web or by RSS, or you can download chapters in pdf format on the site.  It’s a great piece of daily brain candy.

Nov 082005

Hackoff – The Blook, Part II

Hackoff – The Blook, Part II

A few weeks back, I posted about a new blook (book delivered in single episodes via blog) called – An Historic Murder Mystery Set in the Internet Bubble and Rubble, by Tom Evslin.  A few weeks into it, and I’m hooked.  It’s:

– complete and total brain candy, or mental floss as Brad calls it

– a great 2 minute break in the middle of the day (episodes are delivered once a day during the week)

– a very entertaining reminder about some of the wacky things that went on back in the Internet heyday

– a good look into some of the processes that go on behind the scenes in taking a company public

If you haven’t started the blook yet and want to give it a try, you can catch up on all of the first episodes and subscribe to the new ones here.   You can also preorder a hardcover copy of the book here on

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Sep 182005

Hackoff – The Blook

Hackoff – The Blook

Fred and Brad have already posted some pertinent details as well, but here’s a must-read for you – entrepreneur Tom Evslin, who has a great blog, has just launched an online book, serialized as a blog.  It’s about a fictitious Internet bubble company called (nice name!), and you can subscribe to the episodes of the book, either by RSS feed or by email.  The first episode and various subscription options are all here.

Tom’s a great writer and had front row seats/was a lead actor in the bubble.  The first episode has me hooked.  This is going to be fun!

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Mar 192005

Developer User Guide?

Developer User Guide?

Tom Evslin wrote a two-part series this week called “Managing Programming for CEOs” (links here for Part I and Part II).  The first is pretty funny, and the second has some good thoughts in it, especially around milestone creation.

But if Tom’s had the experice he relays in Part I in real-life over and over, I have a suggestion for him:  get a great head of development he can trust, and work closely with him or her over the years to build a relationship of mutual trust so those issues are no different than they are with functional managers of other departments.  We are fortunate enough at Return Path to have two such individuals in Andy Sautins and Whitney McNamara (a fellow blogger).

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