Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dot Complicated

Title: Dot Complicated
Author: Randi Zuckerberg
Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2013
Rating: 5/10

Review: I received a signed copy of Dot Complicated as a Christmas gift from an acquaintance. (I feel like all my reviews start this way in Dec/Jan and I gotta say, it's awesome). It's not the sort of book I would typically pick up by myself, but once it was sitting on my coffee table, I got curious and decided to read it.

I enjoyed the first couple of chapters in the book, which are essentially Randi Zuckerberg's autobiography. She talks about growing up and how she ended up working with her brother Mark Zuckerberg of the Facebook fame. Her writing is entertaining and she tells a number of cool stories about the early days of the company, which I liked. She is about the same age as me, and working in the Silicon Valley, there were aspects to her story I could really relate to.

The other eight or nine chapters in the book are her views on the impact of social technology on everyday life and her advice on dealing with it. Instead of reading those chapters, let me sum it up for you. Use your fucking common sense when you post online and spend time with your friends and family. On one hand, she is tackling a bunch of trendy topics along the lines of technology-life balance, on the other hand, I didn't really feel she provided much insight into those topics beyond what common sense might suggest to any reasonable person.

I am, perhaps, the wrong audience for Dot Complicated, being somewhat immersed in the tech life of the Silicon Valley. But I also don't necessarily see her book gaining traction with a reader in a rural town in Mississippi. I imagine such a reader wouldn't care for a lot of her "inside view of big techie events" type stories which actually kept me reading this book.

I am especially ambivalent on the advice Randi provides in her book because it's often middle-of-the-road and not all that persuasive or consistent. For example, early in the book she says:
I started to believe that I could just let my hair down and be my true outside-of-work self way too early on. In reality, though, I was still making my first professional impression on everyone and should have held my cards a bit closer to my chest.
If I had to do it all over again, I'd have kept my head down and focused on work those first few years and let people get to know the work I was capable of before they got to know my "creative side."
However, when she gets to the chapter on Career-technology balance, she encourages the reader to "friend" their boss and share those baby pictures with the colleagues and let them know what your life outside work is like. Though she obviously cautions you to leave posts on #sex, #drugs, and #moredrugs out of your stream, this is pretty much in contradiction of the advice she would give herself in early chapters.

In general, I found there was too much beating around the bush and examining various aspects of the topic without making a whole lot of meaningful conclusions when it came down to it. She re-iterates constantly the importance of being authentic self on the web without any discussion of topics like discrimination a person might face for doing so. When she does address the issue partly, it's with an example where someone else ends up defending them. Seems like a rare occurrence to me and hardly something to rely on.

On the high level, there's nothing wrong with Dot Complicated. Randi doesn't give bad advice or really say much that's controversial in my opinion. But I would imagine it'd be a pretty boring read for most people I know because they already know better than talk about something illegal or illicit they did on a public twitter stream. The only part I found worthwhile were the personal stories. Those I enjoyed and I imagine some of those stories took courage to tell as some of them show her vulnerable or not in a flattering light. Props to her for that.

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