Oakland Book Festival: You Should Check This Out

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 1.08.34 PM

The Oakland Book Festival takes place later this month, on Sunday, May 22. The information is all here. I’m going to be participating on two panels. The first is called “The New Company Town,” which will “examine the troubling legacy of the new company town and its effect on workers.” The second is called “Working in Silicon Valley,” looking at issues of diversity, worker exploitation, and “skewed distribution of financial rewards.” On the panel will be Brad Stone, Ellen Pao, and Y-Vonne Hutchinson, with moderator Anastasia Edel. Not to be missed.

Today’s highlight: Live Twitter chat with Amy Cuddy

Just spent a half hour on phone with Wharton school radio program, and at 1 p.m. will be getting a visit from a journalist from a French newsweekly, Le Nouvel Observateur, aka L’Obs. Then, at 3 p.m., I’ll be doing a live chat with Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School professor and author of “Presence,” a huge best-seller, which I just finished last night. Brilliant work by a fascinating, multi-faceted person.

twitter chat with amy cuddy

Into the “Disrupted” whirlwind

Disrupted coverThe last few weeks have been crazy and a bit surreal. “Disrupted” came out, and after that everything went into a blur. In the past month I’ve been in LA for 10 days, New York for media around the book, Boston for parties and readings, then a week of events in San Francisco. I thought when I got home things would slow down, and they have, a little bit, but life is still pretty crazy. Along the way, the book hit the New York Times best sellers list, something I had not expected. Since then it has made best sellers lists at the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

I’ve decided to post some links to articles about the book, if only so I’ll be able to remember them and refer to them later. For the past few weeks my inbox has been filling up every day with people writing to me to say that they’ve read the book and can relate to it, or that they saw one of the articles I’ve published recently and want to share their own bad experiences confronting age bias or dealing with crazy “culture” at tech companies. It’s immensely gratifying to know that I have written something that connected with so many people and maybe even helped them out a little bit.

On April 4, the day before launch, I did an interview with Terry Gross for Fresh Air. We talked for 90 minutes, and I was thrilled to “meet” her as she is one of my longtime heroes, and a masterful interviewer. NPR titled the piece, “Laid-Off Tech Journalist Joins A Startup, Finds It’s Part Frat, Part Cult.” (That link takes you to a page where you can hear the whole interview.)

The next few days were a blur: a podcast with Recode, an appearance on CNBC, an interview with WBUR in Boston, a visit to WGBH to tape an interview with Barbara Howard for All Things Considered, a corporate event at Google, a Harvard bookstore event in Cambridge, an event at Bookends in Winchester, and a spectacular big book party at Empire in Boston, hosted by Maura Fitzgerald and Version 2.0 Communications. The Boston Globe ran a story about the party.

San Francisco events went well. One, hosted by Litquake at the Alamo Draft House movie theater, sold out. Another, at Kepler’s in Mountain View, drew more than 200 people. A third, at Book Passage in Marin County, drew a great turnout and went over well.

Here’s a chronicle of write-ups. I’ll add more as I think of them or as they come out.

A few days before the book came out, Fortune ran a big excerpt which now, a few weeks later, has drawn about 280,000 unique views. They made some great artwork:

Fortune excerpt

On April 3, the Sunday before launch, the New York Post (aka the world’s greatest newspaper) ran a two-page spread about the book, headlined, “Millennials are being dot.conned by cult-like tech companies.”

On April 5, launch day, I published an article on LinkedIn, headlined, “When It Comes to Age Bias, Tech Companies Don’t Even Bother to Lie.” That article has drawn more than 700,000 views and 2,500 comments, and was republished in the New York Observer. When the LinkedIn article started taking off I began to think that “Disrupted” might strike a nerve.

That sense was confirmed five days later, on Sunday, April 9, when I published an op-ed in the New York Times, headlined, “Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired.” That article was at or near the top of the Times list of most-read stories for several days, and a week later the Times published an entire column of letters to the editor about what I’d written.

On April 5, Dwight Garner of the New York Times published a great review of the book done in second person — an allusion to one of my favorite books of all time, and a book that influenced every writer of my generation: “Bright Lights, Big City,” by Jay McInerney. Cooler still, McInerney saw the review and called it out on Twitter. Garner’s review is really funny and worth reading. He really got into it.

Nancy Franklin, former TV writer for the New Yorker, wrote a review for the New York Times Book Review, which was mixed, but did include a fantastic piece of art:


Tom Peters, legendary author of “In Search of Excellence,” somehow discovered “Disrupted” and started tweeting about it, calling it a “fine and important work.” Then he invited me to lunch. Pinch me.


Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 11.18.59 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 11.18.40 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 11.16.18 AM

Fareed Zakaria, host of  CNN’s GPS, named “Disrupted” his “Book of the Week” and called it a “must read” on his Sunday show.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, another management legend and professor at Stanford Business School, wrote an essay in Fortune about “Disrupted,” headlined, “Why `Modern’ Work Culture Makes People So Miserable.”

The Financial Times ran a glowing review, which is unfortunately behind a paywall. Therese Poletti at Marketwatch wrote that the book “shows tech hasn’t learned from the dot-com bust.” Ilan Mochari at Inc. magazine appreciated that the book was trying to make some larger points about the tech industry.

Seth Fiegerman of Mashable called the book “eye-opening and gut-busting.” Dan Primack at Fortune raved that everyone in tech and investing should read “Disrupted.” Boston Magazine ran a good review.

Josh Bernoff, a former Forrester analyst, liked the book. Rick Chapman of Softletter did not. David Meerman Scott, a HubSpot advisor, was not a fan. Nor was Dan Woods, a marketing consultant. My favorite negative response came from Lauren Holliday, a former HubSpot employee, who published an article in Fortune headlined, “Working For This Startup Wasn’t Hell — You’re Just Old.” Nice! That last one kind of made my point for me.

In late April, an artist in Boston, Iris Amelia Febres, created an “illustrated interview” with me, and dubbed me “Diversity Advocate Man.”

On Monday, April 25, I did a live Twitter conversation with Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author Amy Cuddy.

Emmett Rensin, book editor of Vox, raved that “The lunacy of Silicon Valley is no secret. But Disrupted goes deeper than foosball tables and free beer.” Quote from Rensin:

Disrupted begins to chip away, a bit, at the superficial gawking I’d grown bored with and to argue that the trouble with Silicon Valley isn’t the excesses of companies-as-adult-frat-houses — not really. It’s the excess of capitalism, shredding a century of labor security and calling it a cutting-edge disruption…. It is the funniest and most relentless iteration of the form, madcap and darker than I’d expected.

Pulitzer-winning LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote that Disrupted “is the best book about Silicon Valley today.”

Mashable named Disrupted its “Geek book of the week.”

Metro, an alt weekly in Silicon Valley, ran an excerpt and put Disrupted on its cover, with the headline: Hoodiewinked.




My events for “Disrupted”

Disrupted coverFriends: Hachette Book Group has lined up a few things for me around the launch of my terribly exciting and not-at-all controversial new book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble. Here are some events you might want to attend:

Wednesday April 6, WorkBar, Cambridge, 7 p.m., with Harvard Bookstore

Thursday April 7, Google Boston, 2 p.m., with Harvard Bookstore.

Thursday April 7, Launch Party, Empire Boston, Seaport District, hosted by Version 2.0 Communications.

Sunday April 10, Bookends, Winchester, Mass., 2 p.m.

Tuesday April 12, Litquake event, Alamo Drafthouse, San Francisco, 7 p.m.

Wednesday April 13, Kepler’s, Menlo Park, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday April 14, Microsoft in Mountain View, noon.

Friday April 15, Book Passage, Corte Madera, 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 22, Oakland Book Festival — a panel with Brad Stone of BusinessWeek, Ellen Pao, and Y-vonne Hutchinson. This one you won’t want to miss, I promise.

Be there or be square: my San Francisco appearances

Disrupted cover

You may have heard that I have a new book coming out.

The nice people at Hachette Book Group are sending me on a mini book tour. The smoke-filled party bus will swing through San Francisco the week of April 11, reeking of patchouli oil and festooned with peace signs. Here’s where I’ll be:

Tuesday April 12, Litquake event, Alamo Drafthouse, San Francisco, 7 p.m.

Wednesday April 13, Kepler’s, Menlo Park, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday April 14, Microsoft in Mountain View, noon.

Friday April 15, Book Passage, Corte Madera, 7 p.m.

Also there might be a party or two. I’ll post more info soon. Meanwhile I am looking for breakfast, lunch and dinner pals, so keep me in mind! Reach out via email and let’s make some plans. There are lots of old friends that I’m dying to see.

2015 Prediction Scorecard: Wow Was I Wrong

Saturday Night Live

One year ago I was starting a new job at Gawker, where I was going to write the Valleywag blog. That adventure was cut short when I ruptured disk while skiing, but not before I made a bunch of incredibly bad predictions for 2015, in an post headlined, Predictions For 2015: There Will Be Blood. I hate making predictions because I suck at it and my predictions are almost always wrong. Someone on Twitter just this week pointed out to me this article from 2010 where I predicted that a tech crash was imminent, in part because Facebook was then valued at a mind-blowing $65 billion. I don’t remember writing that article, but it occurs to me that I have now spent five years believing that the tech bubble is about to burst. Meanwhile, Facebook is now valued at just under $300 billion. I hate myself so much.

Since it’s New Year’s Day, and I’m bored, and maybe also because I grew up Catholic, I took a look back at my predictions from a year ago. Good grief. I said Uber would have a big IPO, that Jack Dorsey would be booted from Square, that Box would get acquired, and that Marissa Mayer would leave Yahoo. I said hackers would do something really serious, something way beyond Sony and possibly state-sponsored; so far, thank goodness, that’s not true. I said Andy Rubin would announce a new product.

On the other hand, I predicted that Dick Costolo would get booted from Twitter, which was not entirely wrong, because Dick is  no longer at Twitter but I believe he left under his own steam rather than getting “booted.” I spent the summer working with Dick on Silicon Valley. He flew down to LA every week and worked as a consultant on the show. He’s a shockingly good guy, and it will be fun watching people in the real Silicon Valley try to guess which tidbits in the upcoming season came from him.

I predicted that Carly Fiorina would run for president, and that Larry Page would step aside at Google. I said that Apple Watch would be a dud. I also said Oculus Rift would suck too, which hasn’t happened yet.

My big prediction was that the tech bubble would pop, and we would see “paper fortunes wiped out overnight, (and) the smug bratty tech pricks going back to work as baristas.” Yes, some formerly high-flying companies have been crammed down, but from what I can tell here in my comfy office in a suburb of Boston, there isn’t much blood in the water.

This year I will not be making any predictions, except that my book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, will be published in April, and that board members at HubSpot, who fired the company’s CMO and sanctioned the CEO and reported their activities to “appropriate legal authorities” for trying to obtain an advance copy of the manuscript, will enjoy it immensely.

The following is now my new theme song. I’m also going to name an award after Delbert McClinton. I’m calling it “The Full Delbert.” It’s an award for being completely, absolutely, ridiculously, dead wrong. I’m the first recipient.


I can’t get excited about the Apple Watch

It’s been out for a while now, long enough for everyone to write their day-one reviews, and then write their “What it’s like to live with Apple Watch for a week” reviews, and then to do the long-form essays about the implications of Apple Watch (I worked with a guy who used to call that kind of story a “thumb-sucker”) — and after all that I still have no desire to own one, or even any desire to go to the Apple store and look at one or hold one in my hand.

I’ve seen exactly one in the wild — one of the moms at soccer. She loves it. She can check text messages and her calendar on it. But, she points out, “I’m a huge Apple fan.”

Apple fans keep trying to say that this is like the rollout of the iPhone back in 2007. But it doesn’t feel that way to me at all. When the iPhone came out, it was beyond anything I had ever seen. I remember going to a doctor’s appointment while carrying a review unit of the original iPhone. The doctor walked in and saw it and got all excited. “Is that the iPhone? Can I check it out?”

I suppose people are curious about the Apple Watch, but not in the same way. Meanwhile, analysts have been lowering their projections. The product doesn’t seem to have any lift. I suspect in a few months the analysts will be lowering projections again.

The only question, it seems to me, is this: At what point can Apple Watch be declared a swing and a miss?

Dick Costolo on the hot seat at Twitter

Wall Street wants him out, says Business Insider. The problem is they can’t figure out who can replace him.

As I wrote in January, on Valleywag (There Will Be Blood):

The problem is I’m not sure anyone can do better. Twitter is a money pit, a company that costs more to run than it can generate in revenues. Last quarter Twitter lost about $180 million on sales of about $360 million, meaning they are spending a dollar fifty to make a dollar. Is there some magician of a CEO who has some huge idea that will transform Twitter into a money-printing machine? Doubtful. But hey, bring in Ross Levinsohn and let him take a crack at it, and two years from now you Wall Street assholes can drive him out too and find someone else. It’s what you do.

Nexus 5: I’ve Now Retired My Other Android Phones

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 11.11.17 AMA lot of the early reactions to the new Nexus 5 from Google have been of the “solid performer, good value for money” variety.

I actually feel more enthusiastic than that. The best praise I can give the new Nexus 5 smartphone from Google is simply this: Within hours after first turning it on, I put all of my other Android phones away in a drawer.

I tend to use a few different phones at any given time. Lately the rotation has included an HTC One Google Edition (it was my favorite), a Samsung Galaxy S3, and a Nexus 4. Mostly it’s been the HTC One. It runs pure Android, works well and is really nice-looking, with an aluminum body; people would notice it and ask about it.

But they’re all packed away now. Maybe I’ll pull them back out at some point, but for now I’m committed to the Nexus 5.

Before I go on I should stop and offer a few caveats.

1. I’m an Android fan, and have used only Android phones for the past few years. I like Android. I prefer it. Not everyone does. Let’s not argue.

2. There is no point comparing the Nexus 5 to the iPhone 5s. If you’re an Apple fan, you’re not going to consider an Android phone, and that’s fine. Your iPhone 5s is a beautiful device. I know because my wife has one. I recommended it to her, and bought it for her. Same for Windows Phone. If you like that ecosystem, you’ll find some great phones.

But this post is aimed at people who like Android phones.

On to the Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 is the new flagship phone from Google, successor to the Nexus 4. The main reason to buy a Nexus phone is that you want to live in Google-Land, relying on Google services — Gmail, Maps, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and so on. Really what you’re buying into is the Google Cloud.

The phone has a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a nice big 5-inch screen with a mind-blowing 445-ppi pixel density, and the new version of Android, version 4.4, code-named KitKat.

It costs $349, unlocked, off contract. That’s a lot of phone for not much money. That’s for the 16-GB version. If want 32-GB it’s $399.

You can buy it on the Google Play store and pop in your SIM card. I took the AT&T pre-paid SIM out of my HTC One and just stuck it into the Nexus 5. Easy.

You can also buy the Nexus 5 through carriers, subsidized on a plan. But with a list price of $349, who needs a subsidy? It’s not worth getting locked in.

At $349, you can use the Nexus 5 for a while, and if next year you get bored or something better comes along, ditch this phone (or sell it) and get the next one.

The other benefit, of course, is that if you stop liking your carrier, you can get a SIM card from someone else, and use that network instead. You choose the phone you like and the carrier you like.

So in a way this is about the “free as in freedom” thing, which some people care about and some people don’t.

Google makes Nexus phones to show off new versions of Android. Nexus models run pure Android, without a skin from a handset maker. You’re always using the latest and greatest version of the OS.

The Nexus 5 is made by LG and has a lot in common with LG’s flagship phone, the G2, except the Nexus 5 has a smaller battery (23000 mAh v. 3000 mAh) and an 8-MP camera instead of 13-MP on the LG phone.

It’s too soon to tell if the smaller battery will be a problem. So far it’s been good.

As for the camera, I’m not fussed by having fewer megapixels. The shots I’ve taken with the Nexus 5 look good. I’m not intending to blow them up to poster size, so I think the camera will do. The Nexus 5 camera has optical image stabilization, which is nice. The thing is, when I’m shooting snaps with my phone I’m not really trying to create fine art. I’m taking snapshots that I’m going to put on Facebook or email to a friend. If I really want to make good-looking photos, I use a recently purchased Sony NEX-6, a MILC with a 16-megapixel sensor and nice lenses.

The Nexus 5 is lighter than the HTC One, and feels really light in the hand. It’s thin, and sleek, but it’s not an eye-catcher like the HTC One. It’s just a black rectangle with a glass front. People aren’t going to notice it and ask you about it.

Google has employed the “OK Google” voice command that is used on the Moto X. The difference is that on the Moto X the command works from the lock screen, but on the Nexus 5 you need to be on the home screen. You just say “OK Google” and Search pops up and is ready to make a call, get directions, or search for something on the Web.

Basically, it’s all Google, all the time. Google Search is on every screen, and Google Now, the predictive search feature, takes up the far-left pane of the home screen. Google doesn’t go a great job of advertising how brilliant Google Now actually is, but it should. Same goes for the voice recognition, which in KitKat has been improved by 25 percent, Google says.

My sense is Google’s culture is still built around engineers, and they figure if you put a good product out into the world, people will find their way to it.

The UI on KitKat is fresh and clean. New icons. A different typeface. It works. Web browsing is fast and smooth.

The Nexus 5 has wireless charging and works on the charger that I bought last year for my Nexus 4. That was a pleasant surprise. When I come home I just pop the phone onto the charger in the kitchen, and grab it when I’m heading out.

The Revolution

Mat Honan in Wired says the Nexus 5 “feels an awfully lot like the early stage of a new revolution.” I think it’s just the latest step in a revolution that began 10 years ago when Andy Rubin, Rich Miner and the others set out to create a new kind of smart mobile device that would understand its owner’s preferences, that would know where it was at any given moment, that would have a sense of context.

What first excited me about Android was that Google was taking the power of the open-source model and applying it to mobile devices. It all seemed like a grand experiment, one where hundreds or thousands of different models could be created, both cheap and expensive, big and small, good and bad — it was the big frothy chaotic bazaar rather than the cathedral, where a frenzy of competition and creativity would lead to innovation.

Three years ago I wrote a cover story for Newsweek about Android. At the time the predictions were that by 2014 Android would have 25% market share in smartphones. Instead, in 2013, Android hit 80%.

Android is exciting because it has the potential to radically drive down the cost of mobile computing. Here now is a really well built world-class smartphone, with all the latest and greatest bells and whistles plus a slew of  compelling Google services, selling for $349.

If you’d like you can also buy a world-class Nexus 7 tablet, for $229.

That’s a phone and a tablet for less than $600. That alone is pretty amazing. But the ultimate goal is for Android to usher in a new world of context-aware computing. That’s why Google is selling these things at such low prices. And that’s why, if you’re an Android fan, you should get one.