One chapter in, and I am afraid I do not yet find this book enlightening, enriching or enthralling. The sleeve notes should have given my some idea. Martin Wold at the Financial Times says “It will make hundreds of thousands of readers understand a little better at least some of the forces in our world”. A little better? At least some? Sheesh. Noel Malcolm at the Sunday Telegraph describes it as “Colorful anecdotes and wisdom served in bite-sized pieces… He ranges widely, offering vivid accounts of all the new ways things are being done.”. Anecdotes do indeed seem to be the default way for businss books to serve up whatever message they are trying to deliver. ‘Well’ I thought, turning from the back cover to the first page, ‘I’ll try it’.
I reached the end of chapter one and was completely cold. I fear there is little connecting each fresh example of flatness, other than Friedman’s relentless surprise (“But my jaw *really* dropped when…”). Considering that it was only written in 2005, I was surprised to consistently find myself unsurprised. Maybe it’s written for the sort of people who have not noticed globalisation and outsourcing before?
Some choice quotes:
- “‘What is Apache?’ I ask. And he says it’s a shareware program for web server technology. He said it was produced for free by a bunch of geeks just working online in some kind of open-source chat room. … And I said ‘Well, who supports it if something goes wrong?’ And he says ‘I don’t know – it just works!'” That was Ian Cohen, a senior manager at IBM during the 90s, learning about Apache from his development director. Sigh.
- “BitTorrent is a Web site that allows users to upload their own online music libraries and download other people’s at the same time”. Wrong in at least two very important ways. Sigh.
- “It is impossible to imagine what it’s going to be like in ten years when virtually everyone you know has a blog”. Hang on, virtually everyone I know *now* has a blog, including lots of only-just-geeky people.
- “‘I am positive without Google’s services, I never would have found my brother, my husband, or the surprisingly lucrative nature of the male stripping industry in Mexico! Thank you, Google!’ – Testimonial from Google user.” Best. Testimonial. Ever.
I’ve quickly flicked through the rest of the book to see whether a structure emerges later in the book (and was relieved to find that one indeed does). I will probably see it through, and partly because I promised someone I’d read a rebuttal of it too.