Techie autopsy casts a too-familiar Net.
AND OTHER TALES OF THE MILLENNIAL GOLD RUSH LORI GOTTTIEB AND JESSE JACOBS
(PERSEUS; 256 PGS.; $26)
As the dot-com boom came to a close, publications were rife with tales of free-spending twentysomething executives who bestowed Porsche Boxsters on employees and insisted upon six-figure launch parties. Given the backing of financiers who didn't fully understand the Internet, these executives with no business experience but a tremendous amount of money gave America a brief taste of what the workplace would be like if every office operated like a trust-fund kid in FAO Schwartz. It was truly a time when the blind led the blind. But at Kibu.com, a Web site with content aimed at young women, it was more of the blind leading the blond, as this disappointing book demonstrates.
Lori Gottlieb worked at Kibu as editor-in-chief for three months during the height of the dot-com heyday. Her desires to create something of an online Ms. Magazine for the teen set were continually thwarted, be it by a CEO who eloped to Bali or a gum-smacking staff who didn't take her editorial suggestions seriously until she straightened her hair.
Her recollections of her short tenure at Kibu were first published in the now-closed Industry Standard, a magazine that covered the dot-com scene (and whose own book-length obit is soon be published).
It caused an immediate stir, and Gottlieb was swamped with e-mails of fellow Netco employees who saw numerous similarities between their mismanaged workplaces and hers. Gottlieb and Jesse Jacobs, the former head of content at iFilm.com, set out to interview other movers and shakers and create a "memoir of the New Economy."
The resulting book is a letdown, mainly because the transcripts of interviews with Netizens ranging from former NBC Studios chief-turned-Nibblebox.com founder Dave Bartis to publishing honcho-turned-Inside.com founder Kurt Andersen, don't pop with the same kind of invective snottiness contained in Gottlieb's passages about Kibu.com that open each chapter. Her writing style manages to show both the dark humor and pathos of her situation at Kibu.com without making her come off as a crushed individual who was once a wide-eyed ingenue with dreams of stock options.
"I gushed to friends about how I couldn't wait to start my new job. I can only explain these sentiments with two words: Jim Jones," Gottlieb writes.
At this stage of the post-mortem, many, many books and articles have been written about the dot-com disaster that include first-hand accounts told by the players in the industry--so many that the people featured in "Kibu" have told their stories in the same first-person narrative in other materials on the same subject. The temptation becomes overwhelming to skip through the talking heads and just read Gottlieb's narratives.
That's not to say Gottlieb and Jacobs don't dig up some new, amusing details surrounding the desperation of the dot-com endgame.
From a former producer at Go.com, who remains unnamed, comes this tidbit: "One of the last-ditch efforts to make money was so anti-Disney, but we did it anyway. In the last few weeks, Disney sold all of the search results for words that would be considered profanity to a porn site. If you searched for the word `fuck' or `cunt,' you would get a page that said, `We don't host these sorts of pages, but if you want to go to this porn site, click here.' They didn't tell anyone about it, but all of a sudden it just happened."
Unfortunately, details like this are few and far between the retread of information that has all been dissected before. It is admirable that Gottlieb expanded her original glib-yet-powerful article from the Standard, but this was the wrong format in which to incorporate the material as the originality of her voice is lost among the repetitive clamor.