Monday, August 22, 2016

"Chaos Monkeys", a mixed opinion

This informative yet strange book is subtitled "Obscene Fortune And Random Failure In Silicon Valley" and the writer is Antonio Garcia Martinez, a former product manager at Facebook and the co-founder of a venture capital start-up that was sold to Twitter.

The book is an at times insightful look at various aspects of Silicon Valley business.  It looks at the challenge of creating and managing a start-up.  It details the demands of a growing internet business that is basically constant seat of the pants change, lots of new competing ideas, and plenty of driven personalities, some attractive and some not.  It focuses on the huge challenge of monetizing businesses that have been designed with the primary purpose, sometimes sole purpose, of attracting users.  All of this is detailed well, and was educational from a technology point of view.  From a finance point of view it at times seems at bit plodding but that may depend on one's background.

So what is wrong with this book?  It is absolutely filled with sophomoric attempts at humor.  Michael Lewis is someone Martinez is not, ditto not Robin Williams or Jay Mcinerney.  Much of the humor attempted belongs in the bathroom, the bedroom, or the back seat of a car, and it almost uniformly feels forced.  Once the writer gets in this mode he must feel required to get on an obscenity laced rant.  It's all too glib and cute.  It is beyond annoying and it is almost constant.

On top of that, this is one of the most self adulatory books that has ever been read here.  Martinez creates himself as a Silicon Valley free spirit, living on a boat in the bay, riding his bike, drinking til dawn, fathering children that he rarely sees, and having sex in a closet at a company party.  Why do we need to know all of this.  Why do we care about this man?

All of that said, the book was finished here, because the morsels of interesting information were worth wading through the muck.  It was, however, a relief to finish with the book and the writer.


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