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Too-Big-To-Fail Goldman Buys Facebook Share

As a former founder and CEO of a public company, I understand why Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wants to raise money without taking his company public. During the dot.com bubble ten years ago, many companies, including mine, went public too soon – most before they were profitable, some before they even had revenue. Nevertheless, the announced deal between Goldman Sachs, Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies, and Facebook is disturbing both because Goldman was one of the banks considered too big to fail by the Federal Reserve and because the federal regulations on how many investors a company can have before going public is being used, as regulation often is, to favor big banks and big companies.

The details of the deal as described in a New York Times article by Susanne Craig and Andrew Ross Sorkin: "Facebook has raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor in a transaction that values the company at $50 billion, according to people involved in the transaction. As part of its deal with Facebook, Goldman is expected to raise as much as $1.5 billion from investors for Facebook."

Further according to The Times article: "On Sunday night, a number of Goldman clients received an email from their Goldman broker, offering them the opportunity to invest in an unnamed 'private company that is considering a transaction to raise additional capital.' Another person briefed on the deal said that Goldman clients would have to pony up a minimum of $2 million to invest and would be prohibited from selling their shares until 2013."

So what's not to like about the deal? Don't we want private sector investment? Risk taking?

Too Big To Fail

The deal reportedly values Facebook at $50 billion. Could be too much; but that's certainly a risk that Goldman and its wealthier clients are equipped to take, isn't it? Sure… except if we are expected to bail them out again if their investments go sour. Nothing substantive has changed since the last bailout , when the Federal Reserve gave Goldman 52 separate infusions with a high balance owed of $18 billion (all of which has been paid back). Goldman is, if anything, an even bigger and more important part of the entire financial structure. It's not that this one deal could even dent Goldman; still, they are playing a heads we win, tails you bail us out game. They get a privileged seat at the investment table; and, if they don't play their cards right, they get lent new table stakes by the Fed at concessionary rates, while the smaller players are forced to fold for lack of capital.

We don't want the government regulating what risks Goldman and its clients take; that a sure way to freeze and politicize the risk taking and private investment we need. That means we either have to change the law so that the Fed cannot repeat the kind of bailout it did last time around – and investors know this and can act accordingly – or we need a preemptive round of financial trust busting leaving no entities standing that are too big to fail.

Access to Public Markets

In an over-reaction to the dot.com bust, a law known as Sarbanes-Oxley was passed requiring much greater disclosure by publicly-traded companies. A consequence of this, whether intended or not, is that small companies can no longer afford the accounting required to be public. It is also true that the transparency required of a public company may be a bad idea for a startup which has good reason to keep its successes and failures secret from competitors and imitators. Moreover, quarterly reporting with an emphasis on short term results is not a great way to run any company and can easily be a fatal distraction to a company which needs to focus on long term value.

The SEC allows a company to have up to 499 investors without being public (state law varies). A secondary market in the shares of private companies has grown up including online exchanges like SecondMarket, which says it has "More than 30,000 participants, including global financial institutions, hedge funds, private equity firms, corporations and high net worth individuals". This is a largely unregulated market in which participants invest at their own risk. An investor can decide whether she wants to invest in a company which is not making public disclosure of its results and is not regulated by the SEC.

But the restriction that company have less than 500 investors is leading to the formation of investor pools which act as a single investor. Certainly this is legit when the investment pool, a VC firm or a pension fund, has many investments; but what if the pool was formed just to skirt the rule on having too many investors in a single private company? According to Bloomberg, the SEC is investigating this practice. It seems from the little information available, that this is exactly what Goldman is doing in the case of Facebook to allow its favored accounts to buy shares.

I'm not convinced more regulation by the SEC is a help to anyone; the illusion of oversight is dangerous to investors. Remember Enron and Bernie Madoff – remember the underreporting of underfunded pension plans, particularly in the public sector, and all those publicly-traded banks which were suddenly insolvent. An honest caveat emptor might be more helpful. The simplest thing may just be to lift the arbitrary limit on the number of investors a company can have without being forced to be "public".

There certainly shouldn't be one rule for Goldman and its clients and another rule for everyone else. Small companies need access to risk equity (not a guarantee of funding, just access) to allow them to compete with companies big enough to make their own deal with Goldman.

See Socialist Senator Sanders Saves Capitalism for more on the bailout of Goldman.

See Public Company – Deciding To Do It for the price a small company makes pays to go public.

See AT&T: Lesson From the Crypt #1: Don't Manage for Quarterly Results for why neither large nor small companies should manage for quarterly results.

My novel, hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble has plenty of hair-raising stories about investment banks during the dot.com era as well as the story of a fictional company that went public too soon.

Kindle for Authors

Kindle ought to be the answer to an author's dream But, for now, it is an almost insurmountable marketing challenge. Read on to learn what I'm trying

No expensive software or hardware is needed to create a Kindle book. Assuming you can write to begin with, you can create a book with Microsoft Word or similar tools (HTML is best but .doc works) and easily upload it for Kindle publication; the details are here on Amazon. Two or three days later your book's in the Kindle store. Amazon pays you a 35% royalty on the suggested retail price (which you set).

You can get a book out fast. You can address topics as timely as last week's installment of TARP. And no publisher or agent is going to tell you "no" or "rewrite and I'll think about it".

What's not to like? Well, for starters, no one is going to know that your book is there.

Amazon does some marketing to Kindle owners and highlights new books on Kindle – but, understandably, these seem to be books which already are hits or are from hit authors. If you're already a hit author, your publisher is worrying about all of this and not you. So, as is almost always the case for unfamous authors, you've got to do your own marketing.

Unfortunately for authors, readers, and even Amazon, there doesn't seem to be a practical way to market Kindle titles which are not on the best-seller list. You can be found by a diligent searcher; your title can certainly be located by someone who is looking for it or for books by you; but you don't have any good way to snare new readers.

Physical books can be advertised and promoted in various ways; all of which are expensive for new authors but some at least verge on the practical. Display and clickthrough advertising can both work because anyone who can read is a prospect for a physical book. But so far there are only an estimated half million Kindles out in the world so, even if you do a very good job of reaching people who are interested specifically in the art of tulip growing as you've explained it in your book, most of your tulip growing readers aren't prospects for a book on Kindle and won't be for some time to come. So you can't sell Kindle-only books through vertical marketing.

What you really want to do is reach those people who own Kindles. After all, there only 230,000 titles available for Kindle; the categories are thin; Kindle fans have to be content starved. They can instantly download a free preview of your book and fall in love with your prose – if they only knew your book existed. That's where it would be good to have help from Amazon – even if you have to pay for it; but none seems to be available. So far I haven't gotten any responses from Amazon to questions on how to market a Kindle title even though my book hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble was an early Kindle title and is also carried in hardcover by Amazon.

One opportunity, of course, is to promote your book on your own blog (see example in the paragraph above in case you missed it). Probably all your readers don't have Kindles but at least the ad is free. But you can do better than that. If you write interesting posts about Kindle, then Google will send Kindle owners to your blog to read your posts (and the promotion for your book).

I stumbled into this by accident, not by thinking. Since Kindle 2 was released, there's been a surge of traffic to Fractals of Change from people doing searches for "Kindle web browsing" and "Kindle Internet". I posted on both of these topics over a year ago but the posts still appear near the top of the first page of search results for these terms. Clearly these readers are interested in Kindle and presumably its content. It took me a week to realize that I ought to put an ad for the Kindle edition of hackoff.com at the top of the right sidebar of this blog even though I was already thinking about how to promote the Kindle edition. Duh! Too soon to know how effective it is.

The second self-help marketing attempt I'm making is through an Amazon marketing program called BXGY (Buy X Get Y). You can attempt to buy placement for your title with some other presumably better-selling title so people who look at that one will also see yours and get a two-fer offer with some savings. This one isn't for the faint of heart. The minimum cost is $1000 for a month long promotion. So what I tried is pairing my book with best-selling Kindle titles that I think appeal to the same readers. It doesn't say anywhere I can find on the Amazon site whether you can actually do this pairing with Kindle titles and I'm only interested in a Kindle-pairing because I only want to pay to reach Kindle owners. Even if it works, you don't get back direct results from Amazon and have to guess how much the pairing affected sales during the month you paid for.

Will let you aspiring e-authors know if Amazon actually accepts the pairing request and, if so, how it seems to have done. Also would be glad for any hints from readers on how to promote a Kindle title.

Kindle’ll Win Because Content is King

Stephen King's novella UR will be available exclusively on Kindle for at least a while as part of the introduction of Kindle 2. Mainstream content by famous authors is unlikely to stay exclusive to the device, but this marketing approach gives a hint of what's to come. Many of us will "need" Kindles either because the content we want is available on them first or because Kindle – and perhaps a set of Kindle-compatible readers – are the only place we can get certain content. Physical books won't die away – especially because they can produced without huge inventory cost using print on demand (POD).

This is partly wishful thinking on my part. I'm hoping that Kindle and devices like it will become an alternate road to publication for new authors and will diminish the gatekeeper function of mainstream publishers. Hits, in most cases, will still require clever marketing, celebrity, and/or luck. Chris Anderson has written famously about how Amazon's "endless shelf" supports the long tail of books which would otherwise be out of print and out of distribution because they didn't make the sales cut for brick and mortar book stores. It makes sense that Kindle and the like will support an even longer tail – books which never would have been published at all except that they can be published and distributed at almost no cost (except the writing!) because they're only published electronically.

Some reference books will simply change to a subscription model so they can be kept ever-current. Cruising guides come to mind because we need to be able to access them even when we're not online but also would like them to be up-to-date.

Extremely topical books will come out first or perhaps exclusively for e-readers since they're need in a hurry but quickly become obsolete.

And books like UR which are lunched with hit power will trade short-term exclusivity for launch publicity. You gotta have a Kindle if you want to be first on your block to read UR.

Perhaps because of production and cost bottlenecks, Amazon is not now aiming the Kindle at the long tail of book publishing. There are many less books, just 230,000, available in the Kindle store than there are in Amazon's marketplace for traditional books. My blog Fractals of Change and my book hackoff.com: an historical murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble are both available on Kindle. I could only make the novel available for Kindle because it already was carried on Amazon as a "real" book; I'm not quite sure how the blog was chosen. Amazon solicits me for marketing and co-promotion opportunities for the traditional book but I haven't yet found out how to do direct marketing to Kindle owners (just asked Amazon). My short story "The Interpreter's Tale" is available as an e-book for downloading from Amazon to a computer but not for Kindle. At some point Amazon'll make this all come together but it hasn't happened yet.

Amazon will eventually have to decide whether it is a device provider or a content reseller. As a device provider, it makes sense to keep the price of the now scarce Kindle high at $359. But a content reseller would want to take razor and blades approach and make the reader cheap or even license the technology liberally to increase the audience for downloads. Tough decision because success would then depend on being the place where author's "publish" and readers search. There isn't much cost to publishing in multiple places. In the physical book world, Amazon has managed to create and expand a position as THE place to find the book you want. For authors today, if your book is going to be carried in only one place, you want that to be Amazon.

My bet is that Amazon will eventually decide to expand the market and take the price of the reader down – especially if it sells in high enough quantities at today's price to lower the cost of manufacture. But this is NOT what Amazon elected to do in yesterday's announcement; they followed the practice of the electronics industry by using lower component costs to increase capability rather than to lower price.    

Author’s Nightmare

 

12,000 pounds of books; six tons; eight pallets with three layers each containing 14 boxes; each box weighs 37 pounds and has 14 books in it. If you're doing the math you know that one pallet wasn't full.

Bad enough that the hardcover edition of hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble isn't selling enough to justify keeping inventory at the printer/distributor. When the truck delivered them to our rented storage shed it couldn't back up to the door (you can't see the other row of sheds just off camera to the left). It had a manual trolley for rolling pallets off the elevator gate of the truck but the trolley couldn't roll through the snow even with the driver and me pushing it. So the pallets ended up where you see them just outside the shed.

It took Mary and me a couple of hours to carry all the books in and restack them. Mary chided me for being so wordy but kindly didn't mention my real sin of printing so many copies without any real marketing plan for selling them all.

The lesson is NOT don't self-publish. Readership on the web (free) – although hard to determine precisely – was apparently in the tens of thousands. The Kindle edition now outsells the hard cover edition and someday we'll figure out how to promote a Kindle title.

The real lessons are:

  • Books, like anything else, have to be marketed.
  • If you're self-publishing and you're not famous, use a print on demand publisher and don't get stuck with inventory.

We are giving free copies to libraries and are glad for other suggestions on how to move the inventory out of the shed. Ways to give away some copies to promote possible sales of others would be good if you have any ideas.

Kindle – Book Reader’s Review

Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader came and got buried among the holiday packages. But it emerged from post-holiday pile of cardboard, wrapping paper, and ribbons. Since we were planning a three day trip, it was a good time for a road test.

Not surprisingly, there is no access to the Sprint network – the network which underlies Amazon’ WhisperNet - in ruralVermont so couldn’t download any books before leaving home. Contented myself with reading the introduction already loaded onto Kindle and with practice page-turning.

The electronic ink IS amazing. As you “turn” each page by pressing a next page bar on the side of the unit, there’s a flicker as the ink drops rush from their old positions to their new ones. Reminds me of the Harvard University Marching Band which, in my day, eschewed marching; a pistol was fired and each player ran from his current location to wherever he was supposed to be in the next formation.

Once the ink drops reassemble, the look is much more like good ink on good paper than dots on a screen. You read by reflected light; no light comes from the screen – just like a “real” book.  Better in some ways because you can change the font size on Kindle to suit your eyes. Black ink on a white screen is the only option – just like the first Macintosh.

This architecture not only makes Kindle pages very readable, it also prolongs battery life since there is no backlight and energy is only required to move the dots, not to keep them in position.

Kindle travels in a felt covered case about the size of a paperback and clearly designed to say “book”. Only quibble is that there’s nowhere for the Kindle charger in the case so it goes with the rest of the tangle of wires in your computer bag.

At Burlington airport Sprint was four bars and, immediately, my novel hackoff.com:an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble and Fractals of Changeboth of which I’d ordered when I ordered Kindle – downloaded. Whole download took no more than a minute or so. Note excellent Amazon customer experience: didn’t have to register because Amazon knew I’d bought the unit; didn’t have to register for the Sprint service because it comes with the unit; didn’t have to ask for what I’d already ordered to be downloaded. Got a nice thank you letter from Jeff Bezos, too. Device can hold 200 books BEFORE you add expansion memory AND everything you buy is archived forever at Amazon for redownload in case you lose or have to delete some.

I looked for books for the trip in the Kindle Store, which is never more than a click away. Naturally Amazon’s suggestions based on my past orders and promotional fees paid my publishers were there just as if I’d been on my computer. I downloaded Weak Links: Stabilizers of Complex Systems from Proteins to Social Networks and, once I noticed that I had the option to do this free, the first chapter of No Country for Old Men.

Weak Links appears not to have been formatted correctly for an electronic edition (more on this when I post on implications for authors). Some of the letters are incomplete; there are spaces in the middle of words and hyphenation in the middle of lines. I wrote Amazon and asked for a refund (book content seems interesting though). Update: Amazon responded to my email to customer service within 24 hours, verified what I saw, apologized, and gave me a credit

No Country formatted well and was a pleasant reading experience except that the pages are a little smaller than those of a paperback, the lines a little short for the way I read, and the flicker at page turn a little distracting. My guess is these are all things readers’ll get over quickly and we’ll retrain ourselves. Decided not to order the book based on its style but that’s a plus for the first chapter free policy.

Noticed that all three books on my Kindle opened in strange places when first accessed although it’s easy enough to get back to the cover or table of contents. I suspect this is a problem in book prep seeing how much trouble I had with this when preparing the e-book edition of hackoff.com. Still annoying.

Reading Fractals of Change as a paid subscription ($.99/month) was a good experience on Kindle. Formatting was right; color pictures rendered well into black, white, and grey; links were live. However, reading Fractals and other things in the browser (which provides FREE Internet access), is problematic. See this post for a review of Kindle’s browser for more on that and even more in an upcoming author’s post.

The flight attendants say “the cabin door is closed. Please turn off all devices with an on-off switch. We will tell you when it’s safe to turn on approved electronics.” Of course this means that you have to carry at least a magazine to read during taxi, takeoffs, and landings. Else you might find yourself talking to the person next to you.

Kindle does have a simple switch to turn off its radio for use aloft where radios are forbidden.

I give it a B+ as a book reader based on initial experience.

Nice Review

Steve Rucinski, executive producer of Small Business Trends Radio posted a very nice review of the podcast edition of my novel hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble.

“This novel turned podcast takes you through the fun, games and hysteria of the turn of the century Internet bubble and blowup.

“With all the best features of a true mystery novel, sexually charged players and of course technology, this novel set to podcast will pull you in and not let go.

“The sound is great, the narration and character play terrific. Before you know it hours will have passed while you listen to the story…”

[music to an author’s ears]

He also writes:

Pluses: I love this whole idea of a relevant fictional story set in recent times, revolving around technology in both print and podcasted format (complete with stock charts). The site is great, the graphics are effective and the visitor choice is maximized. You can even bookmark your place if you stop part of the way through the story. I even learned a new term ‘Blooks’ blogs as books or books as blogs, whichever you prefer.

“Minuses: Occasionally the sound is a little echoey but I can find no other fault with this great and creative podcast.

Recommendation: If you like great stories you need to try out the Hackoff.com Podcast.”

The hackoff.com podcast is free and you can subscribe to it by email or RSS or get it from iTunes. You can also read the online edition free. However, if you prefer to pay for books [nb. not a bad thing], you can buy the handsome hardcover from Amazon [great holiday gift] or download to the new Kindle you just got.

Kindle – Free Internet Browsing for Just $400

Both this blog, Fractals of Change, and my novel hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble are available for Kindle, Amazon’s new e-book reader. These two reasons are enough for me to buy one even at the $400 (in 2010, $139) pre-Christmas price; but there’s a third reason that might convince even non-authors: free Internet browsing.

Update: I should’ve been clear. You have to pay to subscribe to FOC ($.99/month) or to buy hackoff.com ($4.76) on Kindle in Kindle format although both are free on the web and even through the Kindle browser (see below). Fred Wilson hates this but it doesn’t bother me because the connectivity is free (once you buy the device). Usually you pay connect to the Internet and get the content free. This is another choice for readers.


In a New York Times article this morning, Saul Hansell quotes Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: “If you go back in time, the landscape is littered with the bodies of dead e-book readers.” Presumably Jeff means the devices and not the people who used them.

Obviously, Amazon means to succeed with this device despite the fact that other e-book devices have hardly taken the world by storm. It is different in at least one important way from its predecessors: it comes with a free wireless Internet connection via Sprint EVDO service (which Amazon calls Whispernet). Clearly, this connectivity is meant to make the device easy to use and written material easy to purchase. For comparison, an unlimited EVDO plan from Sprint costs $60/month but you don’t have to have an account with Sprint to use EVDO.

You can do more than just buy e-books or order from Amazon over this connection. Kindle includes a web browser. Unlimited use of this browser over Whispernet is free. Note: This isn’t absolutely clear from the Kindle documentation so I called Kindle support. “Yes,” the CSR said, “free,” and “yes, unlimited.”

From an author’s point of view, the inclusion of a browser is a breakthrough. My blog as well as the online editions of hackoff.com and The Interpreter’s Tale all include links which I think added to the stories but get lost in the paper editions. People already read blogs online, both because of timeliness and links. I’ll start reading books online when they are richer than paper books – that means links that work!

This isn’t full Internet access. There is limited e-mail available through which you can receive attachments which Amazon converts to Kindle format at $.10 for each conversion (or free if you email them to your non-Kindle email account). Other people you authorize (remember, you’re paying for the conversion) can also send you attachments. But this isn’t a Blackberry; you can’t do your regular email through it you can only do email in the browser.

Other than downloading Kindle-compatible content and products from Audible.com, it doesn’t appear that you can do any other kinds of file transfer over the Internet connection. You can use the included USB cable, however, to transfer photos and music from your PC directly.

Even the browser isn’t fully featured. According to the User’s Guide: “Your Kindle comes with an Experimental application called Basic Web which is a Web browser that is optimized to read text-centric Web sites. It supports JavaScript, SSL and cookies but does not support media plug-ins (Flash, Shockwave, etc.) or Java applets.” That means no YouTube on your Kindle. Note: TechCrunch says that Kindle DOESN’T support JavaScript. I’m assuming they mean Java since web access these days is almost useless without JavaScript but don’t have a device so can’t be sure.

Depending on Sprint EVDO has its plusses and minuses: there is no searching for a hotspot as there would have been with WiFi and no worry about signing on to a WiFi service. On the other hand, Sprint EVDO isn’t everywhere in the US and is hardly anywhere outside the US. Amazon marketing says: “With Whispernet, you can be anywhere, think of a book, and get it in one minute. Similarly, your content automatically comes to you, wherever you are. Newspaper subscriptions are delivered wirelessly each morning. Most magazines arrive before they hit newsstands.” I buy the one minute; but “anywhere” is quite a stretch.

My bet, WiFi will be added soon. If people are going to use the live links, it won’t be satisfying to download where you have EVDO connectivity and then read offline. But WiFi is becoming pervasive in homes and hotels and’ll soon be in planes (I hope).

Maybe Kindle is the wave of the future for free web access. See this post.

 

update 2010: Kindle – Does It Provide Free International Internet Access?

 

BookTour.com and Amazon

BookTour.com, the site which links touring authors with readers, has a cool new feature which takes advantage of the fact that many readers are also customers of Amazon.com. If you give BookTour your Amazon credentials, it logs into Amazon, finds out what authors’ books you’ve been buying, and then lets you know by email or RSS when these authors are touring near you.

This supplements a feature which BookTour has had since the beginning: you can tell BookTour explicitly which authors you’re interested in meeting if they should be nearby and have it alert you to their upcoming appearances. You can also use BookTour to invite your favorite authors to your book club, library, or store.

Only those authors who have currently signed up with BookTour.com will get added to your profile. There is this chicken and egg thing with new web services that match providers and consumers. Providers don’t have much incentive to sign up until consumers do; consumers don’t have much incentive until there are providers. But, full disclosure, I’m signed up as an author with BookTour.com so; if you bought hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble or “The Interpreter’s Tale” (an Amazon short) from Amazon, you’ll find me on your author list automagically if you use this new feature.

Once your Amazon authors have been added, you can manually delete the ones you DON’T want to hear from or about.

Chris Anderson, cofounder of BookTour and author of The Long Tail, says that BookTour protects your privacy by promptly forgetting your Amazon credentials. You need to give them again in order to refresh your author list. I’d like to see this polite behavior be the default option with an override allowing the site to remember my Amazon credentials but this is just a quibble.

BookTour is free for both authors and readers although authors can buy ads. I haven’t tried that yet.

Chat Groups

Any exCEO understands the temptation to participate in Yahoo chat groups which Whole Foods CEO John Mackey now apologizes for giving in to. Despite being cesspools of foul language, misinformation, stock pumping and pummeling, and adolescent fantasies, the chat groups which formed around every public company were an integral and influential part of the last Internet bubble and rubble.

No sane CEO should have spent much time looking at the garbage posted anonymously; almost every one of us CEOs kept a browser window open on the chat group formed around our stock symbol – but this wasn’t a time of sanity. We had two excuses for doing this:

  1. Our stockholders ranging from rank amateurs to sophisticated mutual fund managers were watching the same chat groups (you can tell by their questions). Surely we had to know what they were reading.
  2. The chat groups provide instant feedback. If a press release is unclear, you can tell by the chat group. You can even gauge in real time your performance during a live webcast earnings conference and clarify on the fly (but you lose your concentration so this isn’t really a good idea).

Mary and I resisted the temptation to join in the discussions(?) either anonymously or under our own names; but it was difficult. It was company policy that any employee participating in the ITXC chat group might be fired. The risk was simply too great of running afoul of the Security and Exchange Commissions’ Reg FD regarding non-public disclosure of data about a public company (no one wanted to be the test case for whether a chat group is public enough or not), disclosing data which shouldn’t have been disclosed, or making a misstatement.

On a couple of occasions we corrected a gross error of fact officially as the company when we felt that we had, in some way, contributed to misunderstanding. Lawyers didn’t even like that because it might have implied that we now had a responsibility to correct every bit of incorrect information or analysis which appeared on the chat group. I also remember sending a lawyer letter to Yahoo because a poster was pretending to be my son. Yahoo didn’t reply substantively but that poster disappeared from the board.

If blogs had existed then, I probably would have blogged at least partly as a counterpoint to the chat groups, not that lawyers would have liked that any better.

There is, of course, a chat group in my novel hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble. When you read the excerpt below – carefully keeping it from your children, you’ll have a hard time believing that I actually toned the language down but that’s the case. This chat takes place as the news reaches the market of the death of hackoff.com CEO Larry Lazard by bullet wound to the head and the accession of ex-swimsuit model and CFO Donna Langhorne to the CEOship.

Oh-Oh
by: thewatcher02 (38/M/New Rochelle, NY)                           04/01/03 9:40 am
Msg: 99020 of 99034
hackoff’s not trading!

Re: Oh-Oh
by: ChorusLine (25/F/Paramus, NJ)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:41 am
Msg: 99021 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99020 by thewatcher02
Got to be an april fools joke:-}

Re: Oh-Oh
by: pooper
Long-Term Sentiment: Sell                                                    04/01/03 9:43 am
Msg: 99022 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99021 by ChorusLine
The real April Fool’s joke is George Bush

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Jumbo10 (46/M/New York, NY)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:45 am
Msg: 99023 of 99034
There is a press advisory out for an announcement expected at 10AM explaining the halt in trading. Whatever it is, you can bet it’ll be good for the crooks on wall street and bad for everyone stupid enough to be holding the stock.

Re: Oh-Oh
by: scooper
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:48 am
Msg: 99024 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99022 by pooper
pooper, your just as much an asshole as your buddy clinton and this is not a political board

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Alaska60-60
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Sell                                       04/01/03 9:52 am
Msg: 99025 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99023 by jumbo10
I’ve been telling you idiots allalong that lizard would have to sell jerkoff to antihack. he probly just didn’t get his own parachute big enuf b4 but I heard from insider that the deal is definitly on now. of coarse they stopped trading so only insiders can benfit but thats how lizards are

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: scooper
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 9:56 am
Msg: 99026 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99025 by Alaska60-60
alaska, your as much an asshole as your friend pooper and this is not the antihack board. why dont you stay there where you belong so you can pump and dump that and not bother us here on this board

Press Release Out
by: Alaska60-60
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Sell                                       04/01/03 10:01 am
Msg: 99027 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99025 by Alaska60-60
The press release is on Yahoo.  The lizard is out and the cunt is in…  this stock is in the crapper if it ever starts trading again

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Jumbo10 (46/M/New York, NY)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 10:05 am
Msg: 99028 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99023 by jumbo10
This may not be bad for the stock. I’ve changed my sentiment to buy and will buy after it settles down after trading resumes. Donna may be smarter than Larry was about selling the company or making it profitable. She always did a better job than he did at the quarterly webcasts. Often regime change makes a company go up even when it is unexpected.

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: PacPhil (25/M/New York, NY)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 10:07 am
Msg: 99029 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99028 by jumbo10
Jumbo, you always have good analysis. I hope you’ll write more later in the day. Why do you think Larry shot himself?  Does that matter to the stock?  Is the new CFO any good?  What will The Street think?

Re: Press Advisory Out
by: Alaska60-60
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Sell                                       04/01/03 10:10 am
Msg: 99030 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99028 by jumbo10
Your an idiot or just getting reddy to dump your stock. The cunt cant run the company. the lizard couldnt run the company. The company sucks. it doesn’t have anything. They should have sold to antihack… now noone will pay a penny for this piece of shit

Whats Happening
by: CLess                                                                                04/01/03 10:15 am
Msg: 99031 of 99034
Does anyone know why the stock isn’t trading???

Donna
by: TestTost (35/M/San Francisco, CA)
Long-Term Sentiment: Strong Buy                                       04/01/03 10:15 am
Msg: 99032 of 99034
Donna’s a peace of ass.  She was in the SI Swimsuit addition in the early 90s.  She’s still hot.

Re: Oh-Oh
by: ChorusLine (25/F/Paramus, NJ)
Long-Term Sentiment: Buy                                                    04/01/03 10:16 am
Msg: 99033 of 99034
Posted as a reply to: Msg 99021 by ChorusLine
It wasn’t an april fools joke.  what will the street think?

Stock Opened
by: thewatcher02 (38/M/New Rochelle, NY)                           04/01/03 10:16 am
Msg: 99034 of 99034
hackoff’s trading again! 1k shares at 1.26 unchanged. bid 1.24; ask 1.26.

BookTour.com

BookTour.com debuted last week as a web solution to a real world problem: book tours don’t work well (in fact, hardly work at all) except for very famous authors who probably don’t need them anyway. Appropriately, one of BookTour.com’s founders is Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine and author of the Long Tail book and blog. Although his own book is at the head of the power curve, Chris understands the needs of the rest of us out on the long tail of the curve and the opportunities in serving those needs – that’s what his book and blog are all about.

From the about page of BookTour.com: “For authors, BookTour.com serves as a one-stop tool for book promotion, allowing authors at all levels of their careers to locate receptive live audiences. For readers and audiences, BookTour.com makes finding when a favorite author is coming to your town as easy as checking the weather.”

Full disclosure:  I was a pre-release author on BookTour.com and have a vested interest in seeing it succeed in its promotional aspirations.

Back in my father’s day, publishers arranged book tours for their authors. They didn’t do a great job of this except for their stars. Later authors turned to their own publicists to help with tours (I did that). Independent publicists seem to be able to get bookings but not to be able to drive enough local publicity or get the book stores to do enough promotion to draw crowds. If you have friends or relatives in a town, you can get turnout; if not, not. I sat in a coffee shop attached to a bookstore in Connecticut for an hour and a half making conversation with a very nice lady from the store and looking sadly at the pile of hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble stacked nicely waiting to be signed. In my home town of Stowe, on the other hand, there was a very nice turnout at the library (Mary promoted that one).

Book tours can’t be justified by the number of books you sell while you’re there although selling signed books is an incidental benefit and helps cover the expenses. The purpose of book tours is to create buzz about your book a city at a time; ideally a stop in a city involves a couple of appearances and readings as well as some newspaper publicity and a stop at a couple of radio and/or TV stations. A single appearance at a single book store in a large town is likely wasted effort.

Since each author’s schedule appears on BookTour.com, readers can find out who’s coming when to their town; libraries and other venues can ask to be added when they know the author is going to be nearby; and we authors can fill our dance card and all those empty seats in front of the lectern. You can go to my page on the site (where you’ll find that I’m not currently touring) and invite me to come talk to your group or at your store. I won’t be able to honor all invitations but chances are I can come to some.

Computers, communication, and eventually the Internet created the long tail – the opportunity for niche products and non-hits to be available to those who want them; Chris Anderson calls this the endless shelf because there is no limit to shelf space in a virtual store while brick and mortar stores have to remove slow sellers from their finite shelves. What’s not so clear is how consumers find out about the niche products or even those that are not immediate hits; if it succeeds, BookTour.com’ll be part of the answer. It will succeed, ironically, if it becomes a hit and is THE marketplace where readers find touring authors and vice versa.

Now on Kindle!

hackoff.com: An historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble

CEO Tom Evslin's insider account of the Internet bubble and its aftermath. "This novel is a surveillance video of the seeds of the current economic collapse."

The Interpreter's Tale

Hacker Dom Montain is in Barcelona in Evslin's Kindle-edition long short story. Why? and why are the pickpockets stealing mobile phones?

Need A Kindle?

Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device

Not quite as good as a real book IMHO but a lot lighter than a trip worth of books. Also better than a cell phone for mobile web access - and that's free!

Recent Reads - Click title to order from Amazon


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