Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:17
For perspective on heroism, I offer a quote from the "Carl" section of the book. It is as straightforward explanation as I felt I could make. For reference, Jaap van der Meer was Louis' boss at the time he started his first magazine, Language Technology, in Amsterdam. Language Technology became Electric Word, and some of Electric Word went into the original plan for Wired. _____ <quote> To Carl, Louis seemed to be trying to make his company into a model of the Darwinian system that he envisioned as the ultimate means of social progress. Business solutions at Wired emerged from the natural selection of a few successful projects from many failures. Conventional management, which requires careful planning and top-down authority, might have inhibited the process of extravagant risk out of which real economic value would grow. Carl took this lesson, which was hidden in plain sight, as the solution to the problem of his ambition. He had long been in a fury of resentment over not being invited to what he thought of as the high-level meetings where the company's major decisions were made. [...] Carl had been stewing for months... but [finally] he figured out a new way to look at it. If the world was a Darwinian game, then the managers who attempted to get Carl to work on their ridiculous projects were predators, and Carl's task was the evade the predators and evolve. After all, what would have happened to Louis had he listened to Jaap van der Meer's ideas about Language Technology? Carl saw that within every business plan lay a hidden opportunity for subversive success, just as there is a seed of parody buried in every romance. The new economy turned the corporate pyramid upside down. The purpose of Wired was not to exploit Carl's talent; rather, the purpose of Carl's talent was to transform the company into an instrument of personal expression. The young man's face was a study in innocence as he expounded his new philosophy to anybody he guessed would be irritated by it. "Louis is my hero," he said. <end quote>
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:23
Now that's interesting.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:24
Just to try and prevent mistakes: my point is that heroism is a product of a point-of-view, and that by altering the point-of-view heroes become fools. And fools, heroes. If you think you have control of this process (i.e., that your own point of view resolves the matter decisively), then you are a hero - at least in from your own point of view. As for how you may look to others (say, in the future), well -! I suspect that trying to expose this level of reality (the reality of the unresolvable shifts of historical point-of-view) in a business book is a fool's errand. It creates genre confusion: is this a business book or is there a confusing layer of irony messing things up?!! Submitting to this risk, as a writer, is my own form of entrepreneurial speculation.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 3 Sep 03 11:46
I think that gets at Mike's confusion about why Louis would have stiff-armed Andy Lack from NBC when he came to inspect Wired TV. There are numerous scenes in the book showing how Louis had succeeded in the past with such behavior, at least from his own POV. The incident where Suhler of the investment bank Veronis Suhler talks to Jane on the phone, for example, with Louis repeating over and over again, "tell him to go fuck himself," or words to that effect, when Suhler tries to get them to talk to Si Newhouse. In the end Louis got Newhouse as an investor, but a very passive minority one. Louis, in his own mind, had retained control despite being an asshole - or in fact, because he was one.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 3 Sep 03 12:32
Brilliant writing, Gary!
Seahorses of the Liver (mnemonic) Wed 3 Sep 03 18:10
I think I get that Louis's personality was the primary reason for his assholiness to Andy Lack (I know more about how Louis works now than I did then, partly through life experience and partly through Gary's book). I think the thing that's harder to explain is why people who had more sense didn't protect Louis from his worst impulses, especially when it involved something as important as the MSNBC relationship. You don't have to know much about Louis, or Wired, or Lack, or NBC, to know that when a network exec flies across the country and is stiff-armed by the director of a project he's investing in, things are not going to go well. And I don't just mean there's going to be a tiff -- I mean the whole relationship is likely to go sour Real Soon Now. (As in fact it did.) One of the earliest impressions I had of the Wired TV division (and this may reflect hiring decisions made by folks other than Louis) was that *no one* seemed willing to tell Louis in any way that this whole thing was being fucked up. When I wrote an evaluation of the first show, I was (I think) comical in the extent to which I bent over backward to communicate to Louis that the show sucked big-time, while saying there was something there that could be fixed. I remember thinking, I'm already on the outs, so I've got nothing to lose by telling Louis the truth, but I have to couch it in a way that might lead to Louis's actually listening to what I was saying. It was quite an exercise -- especially since I was doing this to give Louis ideas about what to say when he met Lack next in, I think, Chicago. That memo is still posted in the Media conference on the WELL, I think, somewhere. I know I kept a copy, and gave one to Gary when he was researching the book. To the last, I wanted the show to succeed, but once the first segment aired it was doomed. I wish some of the pugnacious people on the magazine side or the Hotwired side had been at the TV division -- it seemed to me that the TV people were constantly shivering with trepidation about Louis's likely criticism as to this or that minor thing.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 3 Sep 03 20:45
I think you overestimate what pugnaciousness at Wired and Hotwired got you. Gary and I were each, at separate times, cut off at the knees when we challenged Louis, for example. And Battelle and Plunkett at the magazine were usually flattened, or just got out of the way, when conflict arose because they knew most if not all battles with Louis were unwinnable.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 4 Sep 03 12:31
Time flies! We're near the end of the third week of what was announced as a two-week stint in the Inkwell for Gary Wolf (sing along: "a three-hour tour"). Everyone is welcome to stay, of course, and continue the discussion. Still, I wanted to step in briefly to thank everyone who has contributed here, but especially to express our appreciation to Gary and Kevin for their time and efforts in the topic.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Thu 4 Sep 03 21:59
Thanks, Gary and Kevin!
Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Tue 9 Sep 03 10:11
I second that. A nice bit of a book all around. I note that, in the end, Louis and Jane are sitting around on a tiny pile of millions, so I guess -- given what they had before -- they came out ahead. Don't you wish all romances had as happy an ending?
Kevin Kelly (kk) Tue 9 Sep 03 13:31
And, BTW, they ARE happy. Two kids, two houses, and a marriage that survived the worst (an achievement I never expected). I hope this glimpse of Wired's ability to ignite passion will convince those have not yet read Gary's book to hurry to Amazon and order it. Gary, thanks for writing the book, and for extending it via this conference.
an oceanic sofa of bliss (sd) Fri 12 Sep 03 13:03
just got mine (a day or two late) and i'm enjoying it. thanks gary.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Fri 12 Sep 03 15:14
Thanks to all of you for piping up here. You are a much more sympathetic group that the reviewers on Amazon, the most recent of which accused me of talking about the character's pets and flowerpots rather than the interesting things that went on the company, adding that I didn't give much information that readers wouldn't already know. Jeez! Some people are so ungrateful. This is payback for all the mean restaurant reviews I wrote when I was a reckless, unfeeling young man.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Sat 13 Sep 03 06:22
Didn't give much information readers didn't already know?! That/those reviewer/s is/are on drugs! Gary, I followed the "Wired story" from afar in those halcyon days, enough that most of the characters are familiar, but I learned loads reading your book. SOmeone's posting reviews without looking at the book. Just last night, I was telling someone about the Wall-Street-Journal-endorses-the-mania moment, about which you pointed out that then the last cynic was in the market and it *had* to come crashing down. A fine observation at the end of a well drawn scene. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.
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