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Open Source as a Social Phenomenon  NetSlaves Burn Rate Overload and Boredom Slackerism Sociology and Social Psychology of Organizations

For all of the media blabber about Net commerce and hi-tech startups, life in this fast lane can be:

In the The Neurotic Organization by Manfred F. R. Kets De Vries and Danny Miller ( Jan 1991)  did not address the sociopathic organization, though the first author deals with this type of threatening executive in subsequent work (i.e., Kets de Vries, 1994).  The executive with sociopathic traits don't typically wind up in prison -- in fact, many wind up in the cushioned leather chairs of the executive office of high-tech startups.

According to Westen and Shedler (1999), sociopaths tend to lie and mislead, taking advantages of others.  They are impulsive, immoral, manipulative, and hostile.  Sociopathic leaders have little empathy for others and no remorse when causing harm or injury.  They tend to be reckless, abusive, sadistic, aggressive, and have little concern about the consequences of their actions.  These sociopathic executives are fearless, guiltless, and repentless; they are uncaring, dishonest, and uncommitted; and they are insincere, irresponsible, and eventually unendurable.  One telltale characteristic of the sociopath is a slick and superficial mask.  They will use their charm and wit to disarm and deceive others.

Most individuals are caught up in the perpetual struggle of striking a balance between pursuing their own interests and respecting others' rights.  When their own pursuits take precedent over others, individuals typically feel some guilt about their greed.  But there is no such conflict inside sociopath leaders.  They rationalize their exploitations, simply claiming that to which they feel they are entitled.  When in power, they will often use their animosity to keep others in line.  In order to survive, employees must identify with their aggressor or become one of the leader's victims.


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[Nov. 5, 1999] NetSlaves

Bill Lessard, Steve Baldwin / Hardcover / Published 1999

Our Price: $13.97 ~ You Save: $5.98 (30%)

Average Customer Review:

Internet is like the rest Economy on crack. We have this gold-rush mentality where people will say and do anything to get ahead, even if it means screwing them over
Steve Baldwin

Authors Bill Lessard and Steve Baldwin neatly summarize the operating principle behind NetSlaves:

"People are nuts, no matter what profession they're in, but people forced to work like dogs with the carrot stick of stock options and 'untold' wealth dangling under their noses are especially nuts."

Far from the glamorous world painted by the few Internet winners, the authors contend, the business of technology is largely strapped to the four million or so backs of carpal-tunnel-prone freelancers and real-life Dilberts. To illustrate their point, they provide a guide to the new media caste system, which converts standard industry roles into a hierarchy of:

Case studies of disgruntled tech support operators and HTML code writers make for bitterly funny reading.

...These are the startups that never finish up, companies that hire hundreds of programmers and Web-site designers and techies of all stripes, then merge or downsize or go out of business before anyone can cash in.

The authors take the reader on an anthropological expedition through what they call the New Media Caste System.

For each level, the authors tell an instructive, cautionary tale of life in the new economy. They focus on the realities if the cyber-sweatshop culture of e-commerce, showing that most Internet careers are nasty, brutish, and short

Prudloe Vensigian from Deep Run Mobile Home Park, Maryland , November 1, 1999 These guys are nuts, and that's great!

Oh yeah! From reading Netslaves it's easy to tell that these guys have been on the front lines of the new media wars for a long, long time.

Not in the Generals' tents, but out where the layoff bullets fly and talented employees are more often rewarded by watching their kiss-ass co-workers get promoted over their heads than by anything else. If you are in, or want to get into, the fast-paced Internet go-go economy, you must read this book. No, you're not the only one who has found (or will find) that the pot of gold at the end of the Internet rainbow has already been emptied by investment bankers and other leeches, and that your share is just big enough to rent a studio apartmen, pay your ISP bills, and buy takeout pan pizzas every few days.

I create Web site content for a living, so I live what these guys write, and dammit, I still love my work as much as ever despite the fact that doing the scut work behind the Internet is just as horrid as Steve and Bill say it is. As the late songwriter and newspaper humorist Sylvia Miller put it, "If misery loves company, then you're the one for me. You like to cry into your beer, wine always makes me shed a tear."

[Lessard&Baldwin1999] NetSlaves ~ Usually ships in 2-3 days

Bill Lessard, Steve Baldwin / Hardcover / Published 1999 Our Price: $13.97 ~ You Save: $5.98 (30%) Average Customer Review:

Prudloe Vensigian from Deep Run Mobile Home Park, Maryland , November 1, 1999

5 out of 5 stars These guys are nuts, and that's great!

Oh yeah!

From reading Netslaves it's easy to tell that these guys have been on the front lines of the new media wars for a long, long time.

Not in the Generals' tents, but out where the layoff bullets fly and talented employees are more often rewarded by watching their kiss-ass co-workers get promoted over their heads than by anything else. If you are in, or want to get into, the fast-paced Internet go-go economy, you must read this book.

No, you're not the only one who has found (or will find) that the pot of gold at the end of the Internet rainbow has already been emptied by investment bankers and other leeches, and that your share is just big enough to rent a studio apartmen, pay your ISP bills, and buy takeout pan pizzas every few days.

I create Web site content for a living, so I live what these guys write, and dammit, I still love my work as much as ever despite the fact that doing the scut work behind the Internet is just as horrid as Steve and Bill say it is.

As the late songwriter and newspaper humorist Sylvia Miller put it, "If misery loves company, then you're the one for me. You like to cry into your beer, wine always makes me shed a tear."

Slashdot Book Reviews NetSlaves -- pretty naive review, but good discussion

If you read newspapers, books, or follow Net-business coverage on TV, you might well think work on the Net is mostly about the billionaires who found Hotmail or Yahoo or Netscape, or the clean, benefit-laced, campus-like work environments they provide. You'd have no way of knowing the much more pervasive and unnerving reality: for every one of those there's a zillion companies that come into the world still-born, fail miserably, make and sell crummy stuff, and hire countless miserable, exploited, harassed and burned-out programmers, techies, geeks and nerds.

Baldwin and Lessard are combat veterans of the Net, both in terms of writing and personal experience. They are also long-standing Truth Tellers.

In addition to writing about computing for a number of magazines and websites, they also run the guerilla website NetSlaves, a running testimonial to real life for many in the hi-tech workplace.

"NetSlaves" is a terrific extension of the site, one of the few books to come off of a website that really works as a book. Lessard and Baldwin have a powerful story to tell, and they do it with a lot of punch. "NetSlaves" ought to be handed out to every graduate of every tech school, and given to every new employee of every Net company.

Baldwin and Lessard say their grand "pre-alpha" statement about the Nature of Net-Slavery is this:

"Technology has changed, but human nature hasn't. Whether it's the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Web Rush of l999, people are people. More often than not, they're miserable, nasty, selfish creatures, driven by vanity and greed, doing whatever they can to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the person next to them, crushing the weak, and destroying themselves in the process."

The authors don't have a particularly high regard for many forms of Net work, which they lambaste as the New Media Caste System, but they care about Net workers, and the book is curiously affectionate, even loving about them, as well as a hoot to read.

Both concede that one of their purposes in writing "NetSlaves" is to have the book serve as a quasi-historical, quasi-anthropological reflection of a particular moment in the culture.

Although the tone of "NetSlaves" is informal and funny, the point is pretty serious. "NetSlaves" has done what legions of reporters and authors have so far failed to do: paint a truthful picture of about the new nature of work in the techno-centered world.

For all of the media blabber about Net commerce and hi-tech startups, life in this fast lane can be brutal - insane hours, almost no employee-employer loyalty, greed and moral cowardice, help-desk geeks driven mad by enraged customers, back-stabbing, savage pressure, competiveness and the many resultant neuroses from all of the above.

Baldwin and Lessard make no pretense of objectivity. They write with almost ferocious authority and persuasiveness. They describe themselves as "two angry, cranky bastards out for blood" on behalf of their exhausted selves and the countless burnouts, geniuses, thieves, opportunists, workaholics and losers they've encountered along the way.

"NetSlaves" gives us a whole new language for the villains and back-stabbers who make up the hi-tech workplace. Particular venom is reserved for the "Fry Cooks," the "get it done at all costs" project people of the New Media Caste System. (There's also the "Garbagemen," the workers who have to get servers up and running when they crash).

My favorite chapter is about the "Cab Drivers," the haunted and hunted itinerant Web freelancers who design sites, followed closely by "Gold Diggers and Gigolos," a scathing portrait of the ambitious, night-crawling, hard-partying, butt-kissing movers and shakers and wannabees of hi-tech work world.

"Most Web sites are designed by itinerant, restless young people who have given up the constraints of working for one company in particular, in exchange for the self-determination of pursuing their own path. The rationale is that they can earn a higher hourly rate and pick and choose their projects.

"The reality, however," write Lessard and Baldwin, "is that these Cab Drivers have to constantly hustle for work and their passengers, or clients, who are also cash-crunched, are notorious for skipping out on their fares. Added to this is the lack of health benefits that Cab Drivers face - a plight which has forced many to simply neglect themselves." This is a world in which workers are terrified or despondent when forced to take a few weeks off, convinced they'll fall behind forever.

"NetSlaves" succeeds wonderfully in its goal to tell the truth about a particular culture at a critical juncture in time. It is, in fact one of the few telling looks inside the new kinds of workplaces springing up in the hi-tech, global economy. Workers beware.

NetSlaves

Pretty naive review, but good discussion
Slashdot

If you read newspapers, books, or follow Net-business coverage on TV, you might well think work on the Net is mostly about the billionaires who found Hotmail or Yahoo or Netscape, or the clean, benefit-laced, campus-like work environments they provide. You'd have no way of knowing the much more pervasive and unnerving reality: for every one of those there's a zillion companies that come into the world still-born, fail miserably, make and sell crummy stuff, and hire countless miserable, exploited, harassed and burned-out programmers, techies, geeks and nerds.

Baldwin and Lessard are combat veterans of the Net, both in terms of writing and personal experience. They are also long-standing Truth Tellers.

In addition to writing about computing for a number of magazines and websites, they also run the guerilla website NetSlaves, a running testimonial to real life for many in the hi-tech workplace.

"NetSlaves" is a terrific extension of the site, one of the few books to come off of a website that really works as a book. Lessard and Baldwin have a powerful story to tell, and they do it with a lot of punch. "NetSlaves" ought to be handed out to every graduate of every tech school, and given to every new employee of every Net company.

Baldwin and Lessard say their grand "pre-alpha" statement about the Nature of Net-Slavery is this:

"Technology has changed, but human nature hasn't. Whether it's the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Web Rush of l999, people are people. More often than not, they're miserable, nasty, selfish creatures, driven by vanity and greed, doing whatever they can to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the person next to them, crushing the weak, and destroying themselves in the process."

The authors don't have a particularly high regard for many forms of Net work, which they lambaste as the New Media Caste System, but they care about Net workers, and the book is curiously affectionate, even loving about them, as well as a hoot to read.

Both concede that one of their purposes in writing "NetSlaves" is to have the book serve as a quasi-historical, quasi-anthropological reflection of a particular moment in the culture.

Although the tone of "NetSlaves" is informal and funny, the point is pretty serious. "NetSlaves" has done what legions of reporters and authors have so far failed to do: paint a truthful picture of about the new nature of work in the techno-centered world.

For all of the media blabber about Net commerce and hi-tech startups, life in this fast lane can be:

Baldwin and Lessard make no pretense of objectivity. They write with almost ferocious authority and persuasiveness. They describe themselves as "two angry, cranky bastards out for blood" on behalf of their exhausted selves and the countless burnouts, geniuses, thieves, opportunists, workaholics and losers they've encountered along the way.

"NetSlaves" gives us a whole new language for the villains and back-stabbers who make up the hi-tech workplace. Particular venom is reserved for the "Fry Cooks," the "get it done at all costs" project people of the New Media Caste System. (There's also the "Garbagemen," the workers who have to get servers up and running when they crash).

My favorite chapter is about the "Cab Drivers," the haunted and hunted itinerant Web freelancers who design sites, followed closely by "Gold Diggers and Gigolos," a scathing portrait of the ambitious, night-crawling, hard-partying, butt-kissing movers and shakers and wannabees of hi-tech work world.

"Most Web sites are designed by itinerant, restless young people who have given up the constraints of working for one company in particular, in exchange for the self-determination of pursuing their own path. The rationale is that they can earn a higher hourly rate and pick and choose their projects.

"The reality, however," write Lessard and Baldwin,

"is that these Cab Drivers have to constantly hustle for work and their passengers, or clients, who are also cash-crunched, are notorious for skipping out on their fares. Added to this is the lack of health benefits that Cab Drivers face - a plight which has forced many to simply neglect themselves."

This is a world in which workers are terrified or despondent when forced to take a few weeks off, convinced they'll fall behind forever.

"NetSlaves" succeeds wonderfully in its goal to tell the truth about a particular culture at a critical juncture in time. It is, in fact one of the few telling looks inside the new kinds of workplaces springing up in the hi-tech, global economy. Workers beware.

High Stakes, No Prisoners : A Winner's Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars

Charles H. Ferguson / Hardcover / Published 1999
Our Price: $19.25 ~ You Save: $8.25 (30%)
Average Customer Review:

Hardcover - 392 pages (October 18, 1999)
Times Books; ISBN: 0812931432 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.26 x 9.57 x 6.50
Avg. Customer Review: Number of Reviews: 23 Not just for those who 'like to watch'

petej from Washington, DC February 12, 2000

I am sure there are many who read these books and will never go near such deals or people. Being smack in the IT industry, and having built and sold a company, I was spellbound by the detail and sheer volume of info on how VC's, top tier vendors, and deal structures actually work. If you have been involved in the sale of an IT company, or will be, or even have significant stock options to dream on, this is as much a how-to book as it is a detailed chronical.

Every time you finish a sitting with this book, you will find your teeth clenched, and you will be asking yourself if you're truly up for the fight...You will glimpse a world that both beckons and intimidates.

Ken Kappel ken@webglobal.com from San Francisco February 5, 2000

Charles H. Ferguson has written an astonishing book, which operates on many levels. As Bob Metcalf, Ethernet inventor and founder of 3COM noted in his book jacket blurb, "…. Every would-be Silicon Valley entrepreneur should read this book." Amen.

With interest it is noted that Metcalf appears to be the only individual "brave enough" to contribute a book jacket blurb to this superb book. Hats off to Metcalf, and Ferguson, of course.

Mr. Ferguson exposes the dirty dancing that takes place between many Venture Capital firms and their prey – unsophisticated Entrepreneurs with good ideas. If you're writing a Business Plan … or about to … if you're intrigued by the New Economy … if you want to understand what really happened to Netscape … if you want to stand back in awe and understand how Microsoft does it … BUY THIS BOOK, and read it before you do anything else.

Beyond merely brilliant, penetrating and scholarly analysis, Ferguson bravely exposes his deeper and darker nature, and by doing so allows the reader to believe … certainly want to believe … in the validity of the shocking material regarding sharp business practice. Ferguson is un-relenting in self-criticism. Beyond his self-reported arrogance, and without crocodile tears he strongly implies to the reader that his passion, arrogance, tenacity, whatever one wants to call it, is required for an Entrepreneur to succeed against sophisticated players. Yet, this reader became convinced that he cares deeply about people and society at large.

Finally, his PhD in Political Science from MIT, and obvious continuing deep interest and research in all matters relating to telecommunications comes through powerfully in the final chapter. He goes directly to the heart of a systemic US and International problem as no one has done before in print. Ferguson clearly and carefully documents the fact that the local telecommunications companies – telephone and cable -- are not only denying all of us the power of high bandwidth in the digital age, but, in so doing are literally damaging the overall economy.

Here again Mr. Ferguson names names, and shocking as it may be in terms of recent political events, Presidential candidate John McCain is shown to be a water carrier and clear beneficiary of the extraordinary, if not unprecedented Cartel that blocks all of us from having high bandwidth. Buy the book for this chapter alone – if you want your bandwidth.

Arguably, the only thing missing from Mr. Ferguson's extremely well written book is a copy of the Business Plan he wrote to raise the original VC funding for Vermeer Technologies. On the other hand, if you allow Charles to invest in your startup, he'll probably share that work. "Six Stars"

Ken Kappel ken@webglobal.com

Gregg D. Miller from Marshalltown, Iowa January 31, 2000
Informative , Entertaining and Thought-Provoking!

I think I've read every single 'Tell-All' book about Silicon Valley/Alley and it's various characters...this one is a 'must-read'. I learned more here about how the system works and got more insight into it than from all the others combined. I especially appreciated Ferguson's glaringly open self-assessments. His appraisal of the current regulatory environment is well researched and quite good. I found this very enjoyable.

Alain Dominique Marie Gabriel vaillancourt from Montreal, Canada January 18, 2000

Zen Confessions of young Werther

Reading this book I had sometimes the impression I was rereading the "Confessions" of Saint Augustine or "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Goethe.

Upon further reflection I have to conclude that the book is a cross between "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig" and "My Years With Xerox" by John H. Dessauer. It is very much marked by the fact that the author is a complete and total US citizen, despite his origins in California and his international outlook.

His care for good writing, his humanism, and his non libertarian political stance place him in an interesting and completely different world when compared with others who have chronicled Silicon Valley events in the last 10 years. He has many faults. Sometimes he appears as a short-tempered pedant, blinded by the Internet and oblivious to other radical changes in Science and Technology. These failings however are trivial, compared to those of most authors covering the Valley.

*** The Nudist on the Late Shift

by Po Bronson

Our Price: $13.45

Paperback - 256 pages Reprint edition (May 2, 2000)
Broadway Books; ISBN: 0767906039 ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.76 x 7.95 x 5.20
Other Editions: Hardcover

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2,042
Popular in: Los Gatos, CA (#17) J.P. Morgan & Co., Inc (#19) . See more

Not very interesting true tales of Silicon Valley, August 10, 2000
Reviewer: Travis A. Wise (see more about me) from San Jose, CA USA
Sorry, but I had a hard time enjoying this book. The book consists of stories about various people in the Valley, some of whom might be described as movers-and-shakers, but most are people who were almost movers-and-shakers of the technological era. It is difficult to follow the stories, because the first half is not really broken up into chapters, but rather sections, which I found incredibly difficult to understand what the meaning was. This book was recommended to me as a way of learning about the behind-the-scenes of IPO's and corporate financing, and I will say that this book DOES satisfy that need - clearly the author was privy to some significant behind-the-scenes meetings and goings-on which are very interesting to learn about in terms of how start up companies get their funding and go public. But I can't help but think that there was a better way to present that information. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

He understands the essence of the high-tech startup

Reviewer: Jay Heiser from Vienna, VA USA February 21, 2000

This is a droll and perceptive look at the current state of high-tech startups. I thought it was both a terrific read and an accurate portrayal of the late 20th century tulip-bulb investment phenomenon. Bronson kept close tabs on several startups, following the whole wacky process from start to beginning. Observing the attorneys from multiple competing backers hash out the final details of a prospectus, he observes "..getting eight attorneys to agree on language is sort of like getting eight children to agree on pizza toppings…" He has a real feel for the humor and insanity of VC-backed firms, but I think that Bronson is on to something deeper. He has captured a significant transition from the glory-bound visionaries to a short-sighted greed-driven model, musing that "..if it stops being fun, our creativity will become formulaic and hackneyed." Perhaps we won't recognize our loss until after nudists are no longer tolerated on the late shift.

After living through too many startups, I recognized a lot of reality here. Bronson is right on with both the details and the spirit. There is a cultural change happening in the nature of startups that won't be completely apparent until it is complete. Then, maybe, we'll look back and recognize the importance of this book.

If that's too profound, then think of it as just a fun book from an engrossing story teller.

[Wolff1999] Burn Rate : How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet

Michael Wolff / Paperback / Published 1999 Our Price: $11.20 ~

You Save: $2.80 (20%) Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars

A reader from Pune, India , August 20, 1999 5 out of 5 stars Excellent narravative of startups and VC-Owner relationship

Among the various books available on the topic of startups, etc, this book most closely and frankly puts across the relationship between the Founder of a startup and the VCs who finance it.

Also recorded the life and death of a internet startup. At times, the author seems almost aplogogetic, but that is always better than cockiness.

A very good buy!

A reader from Indianapolis , August 11, 1999 2 out of 5 stars Business Blinders

Michael Wolff's attack on the the Internet Business world is interesting, but he makes the one mistake every business person seems to make: there is more to the world than making money. There is more to the Internet than how it is commercialized. If there are NO businesses on the Internet in the future, it still is going to be important.

Since Wolff never get's beyond Television asumptions, he overlooks some of the most interesting things that Internet has to offer in Many to Many communication: the regular guy is just as accessable as the huge corporation.

The regular guy can probably make money EASIER than the big corporation. There is more to life than being the organization man...



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The Last but not Least Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand ~Archibald Putt. Ph.D


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