A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Posts Tagged ‘disappointment’

Book Review: Dot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 23, 2020

Dot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet EraDot.Con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era by John Cassidy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a relatively interesting book and not poorly written. Indeed, for those who don’t remember or didn’t live through this period, I would likely be recommending it and giving it a higher rating. So my rating might be viewed as both subjective and somewhat unfair. However I feel I have a different take on the subject that gives me a different and possibly more comprehensive understanding with greater overall context that I have neither the time or energy to delve deeply into, which makes this content a little…basic and lacking a more complete historical insider perspective that I feel I posses.

I don’t want to write my own book here, but a little personal background info. I acquired my first computer in 1982, took my first programming class in 1984 and “got on the (pre-Web) Internet” in 1985 when beginning to send and receive personal email. I quickly migrated to BBS’s and used other Internet protocols (email is one, actually) such as ftp, telnet (especially), the primary search tool, Gopher, and what kind of served as a pre-Web before the Web was invented by TBL — Usenet. I also got on the legendary and influential WELL, where I resided and interacted with many movers and shakers for close to 15 years. (One of my biggest regrets is giving up my longtime WELL email address.) With the introduction of the Web, I quickly learned HTML, opened my own consulting company in Beverly Hills and created small basic websites for companies using HTML 1.0 (and VRML, as well as other forgotten markup languages and scripts) with the text-only Lynx browser, charging $350 per web PAGE because with 100 international web servers then, back then there was no one to provide such services and you could just name your price. When the GUI Mosaic browser soon came out, things just exploded. I was already doing work with many ISPs and other Internet companies and got involved with the IETF to help create Internet protocols. I turned down awesome offers from companies like Oracle, Sun, Nike, Adobe, Apple and more to take much less to join a growing ISP I was betting would go big time, which turned out to be a good bet. During my time there, I helped grow the company into the 2nd largest ISP in the world, built my own Engineering department, worked in the largest data center on the west coast, traveled the country as the company’s sole rep for RFP bidder meetings and much more, as well as collaborating with NASA, Cal Tech and various national research labs (LBL was one) on several major projects and again, much more. Early on, we were idealistically (and naively) scaling the Internet, investing in massive redundancy, educating consumers and businesses, and trying to theoretically even the playing field by providing free access to education, information, technology, and social improvement efforts and opportunities for everyone in the world. I also spent a lot of time researching new technologies, such as the then-unnamed cloud technology that a decade later would become all the rage, as well as researching competitors and potentially interesting new tech/Internet companies to (personally) invest in.

Yet before the end of the century, many of we “old timers” were starting to feel nervous about the future and where things could lead, especially as the Web became more commercial with tons of new companies having IPOs, creating tons of overnight millionaires with companies that Wall Street had decided were somehow valued at many millions while virtually none were making ANY revenue, let alone profits, and while “experts” assumed there would somehow be ways to make big money, only the porn industry (and offshore gambling) were successful in doing so while people in the industry had no concrete ideas of their own on what to sell (everything had been free) and how to make real money. As the government gave up domain management (to begin with) and commercial entities moved in, I started to develop a queasy feeling in my stomach over what *could* happen in the future.

Soon many of we “veterans” starting worrying the public valuations were insane, it would take awhile as well as major changes for anyone to actually succeed, and concerns about things possibly getting “darker” as our ideals faded. Of course there had always been hackers, but old school hackers did it to 1) learn (and “free” information) and 2) for bragging rights. Even though the government threw the book at infamous hackers like Poulson and Mitnick, none were *truly* criminals in the sense that “hackers/crackers” would later become. Security became a major headache since TCP/IP packet switching had not been invented to support major financial transactions securely. As the number of viruses being created and released daily started to beat Moore’s Law exponentially, as more commercial companies got online, as more tech companies started up with nothing to sell, financial analysts, shareholders, and certain geeks in the tech/Internet industry started saying “No” and “I told you so” while VC money started drying up – the bust became predictably inevitable. Many of us in the industry unloaded our stock options while they still had value and started bailing on companies (I left less than a year before the Bust started demolishing the industry) and then it happened and everyone who had invested heavily in Internet stocks (like my parents years before on my advice) lost entire fortunes while company after company became forgotten historical footnotes.

A final observation. None of the original inventors of the ARPANET (like at Xerox PARC) and my 2nd generation who made this happen ever imagined in their/our worst nightmares what would become of their idealistically great inventions and efforts. Back in early Web days, spam was the outrage of the tech world and considered by some to act as viruses. Today, identity theft, kiddie porn, human trafficking, cyber warfare??? No. For several years I’ve become more and more concerned and regretful of what became of my efforts and when talking with other old friends and colleagues around the world, many share the same disappointment, disillusionment and regrets as me and I’ve spent much of the past three years trying to get myself and my digital footprints offline as much as possible. I’ve closed hundreds of online accounts and closed virtually all of my social network accounts and I hope to soon be almost entirely off the Net, aside from an email address and a couple of other things – and now here I went and wrote way too much, so I apologize. I could actually write infinitely more. But as for this Dot.Con book, like I said, it’s not bad and addresses a short but major part of our recent history. I should give it a higher rating. It’s just that I know this stuff, predicted this stuff, could go far further in depth if I had the time and energy, and feel like this offered me, personally, little. However, as I previously implied, if you didn’t live through this or don’t know the history, it’s probably a valuable book and worth 4 stars. Thus recommended for people who don’t know this (but if you do, I wouldn’t recommend it)…

View all my reviews

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Penguins have to get rid of Fleury

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 13, 2013

What We Learned: Pittsburgh Penguins have to get rid of Marc-Andre Fleury | Puck Daddy – Yahoo! Sports.

This is sad. I’ve loved Fleury for years and he does have excellent regular season stats. But he melts down in the postseason, as we’ve seen the past two years. It’s a pity. I might have to take his jersey off my Amazon Wish List….

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Worst Interview Ever!

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 18, 2012

Two weeks ago today I had the absolute worst job interview I’ve ever had in my entire life! Let me back up. I saw this job advertised back in mid-September and applied. It was for a mid to high-level technical writer job. The job seemed perfect. I had done everything they wanted. I seemed like a good fit. I didn’t know who with though; it was through a recruiter. Well, I heard from them and they wanted some additional information, which I sent in. Then I didn’t hear from them again. For two months. Then out of the blue, a different recruiter with the same agency called me to tell me this government agency wanted to interview me for the position. I was surprised, pleased, and nervous. I haven’t done too many interviews for awhile now, so I’m rusty. Still, I went to my interview and had an excellent experience. I really felt like I connected with the man who interviewed me. He liked my writing samples and liked me and told me I was pretty much at the top of his list. I then heard from the recruiter in a couple of days. She told me I was one of the two final candidates and had a very good chance of getting the job. I was elated! It wasn’t a perfect job. It was a two year contract job, and I would prefer something permanent with benefits, but it paid well and I need the income, so I was excited. I was then told another person wanted to interview me over the phone — a second interview. I prepped and felt ready. Then, two weeks ago after lunch, I got a call from this person. He jumped right in and wanted to know about my experience with all sorts of things that … I’d never heard of. WTF? Was this the right interview? He wanted to know about my process, and as I tried to describe how I design, write, proof, and edit user manuals and other technical documents, he interrupted me and said that’s nice, but I want to know how you extract code and about your data modeling methods. Excuse me? Extract code? I’m not a developer, I’m a tech writer! However, he kept using the term “tech writer” even while he talked about things like Agile and Scrum and logical and physical design and UML, and I’m sorry, but we weren’t even on the same page — not even close! I’ve been vice president of a chapter of the Society of Technical Communication, the tech writer’s organization, and I’ve been writing for two decades and have known many tech writers and I’ve never heard of this stuff in my industry. I tried to talk about interviewing SMEs, about writing policies and procedures (per the ad), about user manual design and writing, about intranet design and maintenance, about database design and maintenance, about using Visio and Adobe CreativeSuite and he would have none of it. He didn’t want to hear it. He just wanted to hear about my experience extracting code and data modeling, etc., et al. It was humiliating! He wanted a developer, not a tech writer. Had he even conferred with the first person who interviewed me? Who wrote the ad? This guy was the one who would be managing the position, but he sure didn’t put together the ad.

I ended up doing the unthinkable — I tried to talk him out of considering me. I realized after about 20 minutes of going back and forth in frustration and never connecting that it was a lost battle and that I wasn’t the person for him, so I told him that. I told him I’d still love to be considered and that I can learn — although he said he didn’t want to train; he wanted the person to “come in and hit the ground running.” I said I’d love a chance, but I just didn’t have the experience he was seeking and he might want to move on. Then he tried to argue with me, and it just disintegrated. He wasn’t very friendly and I didn’t feel very friendly after 20 minutes of talking with him.

After I got off the phone, I emailed the recruiter with the news. She called me right away. She was dumbfounded! She couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t either. She wanted details and wondered if he was interviewing for another position without realizing it, but I didn’t think so. She said she’d get to “the bottom of it” and get back to me. We hung up. That was two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve emailed her several times, only to be told she’d call me. She hasn’t. Clearly she’s blowing me off. Why? I have no idea. I’d love to know where the disconnect occurred. What happened? I clearly couldn’t have been the one to mess up! I fit all of the criteria for the ad. The first guy loved me. Then this guy wants someone completely different and now no one will talk to me? Great. I need a job. I’ve been unemployed for awhile now. I do some contract work out of my home, but it doesn’t pay much and I need a permanent job. I also do some volunteer work, which is good, but it doesn’t pay the bills obviously. Back when I lived in Los Angeles, I could get a job in my field virtually any day of the week, but here in Chattanooga, there just aren’t too many tech writer/editor jobs at all. It’s quite frustrating. So, I guess I’ll just keep plugging away. I’m glad to know I can never face an interview as unpleasant, hostile and screwed up as that one again. That took the cake. I’m glad to have it behind me. Now, just get me an interview for a job I’m qualified for and get me that job — please!

Posted in Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

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