"NetSlaves: True Tales of Working the Web", Bill Lessard/Steve
Baldwin, 2000, 0-07-135243-0, U$19.95
%A Bill Lessard
%A Steve Baldwin
%C 300 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario L1N 9B6
%I McGraw-Hill Ryerson/Osborne
%O U$19.95 800-565-5758 905-430-5134 fax: 905-430-5020
%P 248 p.
%T "NetSlaves: True Tales of Working the Web"
As it happened, while reviewing this book I read most of it in a
public place. As is usual when you are reading in public, I got
asked, a lot, if it was a good book. I don't know if it's a good
book. It certainly isn't a great book. But it is definitely amusing,
fun to read, and, for the experienced technical worker, occasions more
than a few wry mutters of "Oh, how true."
In fact, despite the subtitle, it isn't true. This is not a piece of
social analysis, or even commentary. The authors have created a set
of titles for eleven "castes" of Web or technology workers, mostly
overworked, underpaid, and otherwise preyed upon. The stated purpose
is to take the stars out of the eyes of those who think that by
prepending an "e-" to something they will be well on the way to fame
Each caste is introduced with a brief description of this type of
work, and a set of "General Characteristics." (This section has a few
holes in it: total the "Percentage of NetSlave population" figures and
you get roughly 200 percent.) The bulk of each chapter, though, is
the story of a typical netslave for that caste, complete with very
thinly disguised real companies. There is a pervasive feeling of
looming disaster in all of these stories, but the subjects do tend to
come out the other end pretty much intact, if not better off than when
they started. Although it is easy to see that these stories aren't
all true, they may very well be more realistic than the myriad
articles in the trade magazines about how technical workers are in
short supply, and every available body is being bought up with $100K
contracts and generous stock options.
Although technical workers will be able to recognize caste types
across many fields, it is easy to see that the authors are, primarily,
Web workers. Competent network managers, telecommunications workers,
programmers, and engineers seem to be in short supply in the book.
The company products tend to be heavily involved with entertainment or
advertising, and light on usefulness. The characters all tend to be
rather young: Gen-Xers or N-Geners, depending upon your choice of
Technical workers will probably identify more than one co-worker in
these pages. And, if you have the time to read it in the midst of
your current death march, you may find a vague comfort in the illusion
that you can survive this, and it will end some day.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKNTSLVS.RVW 991214
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