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Saturday, September 20, 2003
NetSlaves: True Tales of Working The Web 

NetSlaves: True Tales of
Working The Web
Bill Lessard & Steve Baldwin
McGraw Hill
Digital Economy,
New Media, Internet Culture
If you've worked for a dot-com company before and have had the unfortunate experience of being retrenched earlier than you can say 'oh no I made a mistake', or worst, get your first paycheck, this book may bring back some painful memory. Or you may start out reading it with vengeance and end up counting your lucky stars that somebody out there has had it much worst than you.

NetSlaves starts off with writer Bill Lessard narrating his experience of being ticked off by a headhunter for having had, on average, one job per year for the past seven years.

"You don't understand. I'm in the Internet business. Everything's very unstable. The last place I worked merged and laid everybody off; the place before that went out of business and place before that..."

"You can say whatever you want but facts are facts. No reasonable company would hire you with such a spotty resume..."

Like most people, this headhunter had simply bought into the hype then that if you work in the Internet business, you're a 20-something year old with at least a million dollar IPO. Anything less means you're an abject loser.

So, determined to set the record straight, Lessard and co-author Steve Baldwin, set out on a year-long journey to interview as many people as they could find who were willing to share their personal experiences of working in the Net industry. The culmination of the journey is this book, which is best described as a collection of real-life accounts of the gruelling hours, chaotic management, insurmountable pressures, and paranoia-inducing stresses faced by the women and men on the e-business frontiers. In the authors' own words, this book is a living proof that the Internet is not your conventional employer.

The material is easy to read as both authors come from a media background and know how to play around with words. Instead of using techie jargons, they use interesting terms such as The New Media Caste System to describe the hierarchy present in a typical Internet company. At the bottom of the rung are the "garbagemen" -- the guys who have to get the server up and running when it crashes, who have to rush to help the digital morons who can't figure out how to open their e-mail. At the other extreme end are the "robber barons" -- the guys who get the mind-blowing wealth and are depicted as a greedy bunch of executives incapable of running the show. In between, there are the Fry Cooks, CyberCops, porno spammers, code-packers and moles, among others. The manner in which the material is written borders on the satirical with mentions of many of the leading companies and people in the industry. Pseudonyms are used however but more for humour than for disguise. See if you can guess which character is Bill Gates and which companies represent Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Netscape, IBM, AOL, and Yahoo!

I'll give this 6/10. If you've always been wondering what it was like to be working for a dot-com during the height of the Internet Gold Rush, this book is for you. Might also be useful for fresh graduates contemplating on what to do next, though be warned: you may end up more discouraged than motivated.

Enia  # 11:42 AM