kottke.org posts about Ken Auletta

Mark Zuckerberg's adult supervisionJul 05 2011

In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Ken Auletta has a profile of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. A lot of the article focuses on gender issues in business and technology.

Early this spring, Sandberg gathered twelve female Facebook executives in a bare, white-walled conference room to review the agenda for the company's Women's Leadership Day, which was scheduled for the following week. Each of them was expected to lead sessions encouraging all the female executives there to step up "into leadership" roles. "What I believe, and that doesn't mean everyone believes it, is that there are still institutional problems and we need more flexibility in all of this stuff," Sandberg told them. "But much too much of the conversation is on blaming others, and not enough is on taking responsibility ourselves."

Yes, she continued, we could swap anecdotes about sexist acts. But doing so diverts women from self-improvement. She opposes all forms of affirmative action for women. "If you don't believe there is a glass ceiling, there is no need," she told me. She doesn't even like voluntary efforts to keep positions open for qualified women. There's a cost, she explained, in lost time, and a cost for women, because "people will think she's not the best person and that job was held open for a woman."

Why is Schmidt stepping down at Google?Jan 21 2011

Over at the New Yorker, Ken Auletta has some insight into why Eric Schmidt is stepping down as Google's CEO.

Schmidt, according to associates, lost some energy and focus after losing the China decision. At the same time, Google was becoming defensive. All of their social-network efforts had faltered. Facebook had replaced them as the hot tech company, the place vital engineers wanted to work. Complaints about Google bureaucracy intensified. Governments around the world were lobbing grenades at Google over privacy, copyright, and size issues. The "don't be evil" brand was getting tarnished, and the founders were restive. Schmidt started to think of departing. Nudged by a board-member friend and an outside advisor that he had to re-energize himself, he decided after Labor Day that he could reboot.

He couldn't. By the end of the year, he was ready to jump on his own.

Why can't all "tech" journalism be like this? A single article on the topic, three paragraphs, all fact, properly sourced, no opinion, little speculation, no quotes from useless analysts. Reading something this spare and straightforward makes you realize how shitty TC, Mashable, SAI, and rest are.

The iPad, the Kindle, and the future of booksApr 19 2010

Writing for the New Yorker, Ken Auletta surveys the ebook landscape: it's Apple, Amazon, Google, and the book publishers engaged in a poker game for the hearts, minds, and wallets of book buyers. Kindle editions of books are selling well:

There are now an estimated three million Kindles in use, and Amazon lists more than four hundred and fifty thousand e-books. If the same book is available in paper and paperless form, Amazon says, forty per cent of its customers order the electronic version. Russ Grandinetti, the Amazon vice-president, says the Kindle has boosted book sales over all. "On average," he says, Kindle users "buy 3.1 times as many books as they did twelve months ago."

Many compare ebook-selling to what iTunes was able to do with music albums. But Auletta notes:

The analogy of the music business goes only so far. What iTunes did was to replace the CD as the basic unit of commerce; rather than being forced to buy an entire album to get the song you really wanted, you could buy just the single track. But no one, with the possible exception of students, will want to buy a single chapter of most books.

I've touched on this before, but while people may not want to buy single chapters of books, they do want to read things that aren't book length. I think we'll see more literature in the novella/short-story/long magazine article range as publishers and authors attempt to fill that gap.

But mostly, I couldn't stop thinking of something that Clay Shirky recently said:

Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

When an industry changes dramatically, the future belongs to the nimble.

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