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The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network [Kindle Edition]

Katherine Losse
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $15.29
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Kate Losse was a grad school refugee when she joined Facebook as employee #51 in 2005. Hired to answer user questions such as “What is a poke?” and “Why can’t I access my ex-girlfriend’s profile?” her early days at the company were characterized by a sense of camaraderie, promise, and ambition: Here was a group of scrappy young upstarts on a mission to rock Silicon Valley and change the world.

Over time, this sense of mission became so intense that working for Facebook felt like more than just a job; it implied a wholehearted dedication to “the cause.” Employees were incentivized to live within one mile of the office, summers were spent carousing at the company pool house, and female employees were told to wear T-shirts with founder Mark Zuckerberg’s profile picture on his birthday. Losse started to wonder what this new medium meant for real-life relationships: Would Facebook improve our social interactions? Or would we all just adapt our behavior to the habits and rules of these brilliant but socially awkward Internet savants who have become today’s youngest power players? Increasingly skeptical, Losse graduated from customer service to the internationalization team—tasked with rolling out Facebook to the rest of the world— finally landing a seat right outside Zuckerberg’s office as his personal ghostwriter, the voice of the boy king.

This book takes us for the first time into the heart of this fast-growing information empire, inviting us to high-level meetings with Zuckerberg; lifting the veil on long nights of relentless hacking and trolling; taking us behind the scenes of raucous company parties; and introducing us to the personalities, values, and secret ambitions of the floppy-haired boy wonders who are redefining the way we live, love, and work. By revealing here what’s really driving both the business and the culture of the social network, Losse answers the biggest question of all: What kind of world is Facebook trying to build, and is it the world we want to live in? 

***

“Logging on to Facebook that first day, in retrospect, was the second, and to date the last, time that any technology has captured my imagination. The first was when Apple advertised the first laptop, the PowerBook, in the 1990s—with the words, ‘What’s on your PowerBook?’

“‘World domination,’ my teenaged self- answered instinctively. That’s what these devices were made for, I thought: so small and yet so powerful, so capable of linking quickly to and between everything else in the world. From the laptop, I could write and distribute information faster than ever before. It was intoxicating to imagine, and Facebook’s sudden, faithful rendering in 2004 of the physical world into the virtual felt the same. What could you do, now that you could see and connect to everyone and everything, instantly?

“But what, also, could be diminished by such quick access? In the realm of ideas, it seemed easy: Who wouldn’t want to distribute and discuss ideas widely? However, in the realm of the personal, it seemed more complicated. What was the benefit of doing everything in public? Is information itself neutral, or do different types of information have different values, different levels of expectation of privacy, different implications for distribution and consumption? Should all information be shared equally quickly and without regard to my relationship to it? And, finally, and most important, as we ask whenever we begin a new relationship with anything, would this be good for me?”

-- From the Introduction

 


Editorial Reviews

Review

“In her dark, hypnotic memoir of working at Facebook during its rising years, Katherine Losse tests Mark Zuckerberg’s dogmatic belief in transparency’s inherent good by removing the privacy controls on his own life. The result is a reluctantly Machiavellian guidebook to Silicon Valley — and a strong endorsement for maintaining a separate social life rather than a fully public “pics or it didn’t happen” one." --The Daily


"The Boy Kings needs a place on your summer reading list. Losse made me think twice about how I socialize with people, and how exactly that came to be--and it just might encourage you to hop offline and appreciate non-virtual reality." --Glamour

About the Author

Katherine Losse was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and holds a master’s degree in English from Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Marfa, Texas.

Product Details

  • File Size: 525 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (June 26, 2012)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007MAXH38
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,909 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the tell-all it's portrayed as, but... July 9, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
The media attempted to show this book as a tell-all about the culture of working for Facebook (which it does, to an extent) and seeing what really drives Mark Zuckerberg and makes him tick (which it doesn't). First and foremost, this book is about the adventures of Kate Losse and her journey up the ladder of Facebook, a story made all the more remarkable considering the male-dominated culture she worked in.

Losse takes us on a ride that begins with a Johns Hopkins graduate joining Facebook's customer-support team, through to her promotion to the Internationalization team, and shooting all the way up to being Zuckerberg's official ghostwriter. The story goes back and forth between reading like a description of her work culture and reading like a lengthy diary entry, as she goes from stories of AIM chats (using AIM at work was a requirement) and long hours into the night (as the engineers were often required when writing algorithms) to parties in Las Vegas and annual trips to the Coachella music festival.

Although the book is extremely well written, it is not particularly memorable and at times Losse's thoughts, although thought-provoking, become repetitive as she constantly questions whether Facebook is really bringing people together or turning the world into one big virtual reality. If you've seen the movie "The Social Network", then very little of the information presented here - about Facebook's work culture as well as Zuckerberg himself - will come as a surprise. That is the main criticism I have for the book - you don't learn much that you didn't already know or could guess at. The culture is very much like a frat house, with the guys often playing games like chess and beer-pong and sometimes sending erotic messages (usually in fun, but not always) to the female workers.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facebook and Philosophy July 2, 2012
Format:Hardcover
This is a thoughtful book about technology, our fetishization of it, and what that can mean in the long run. Clearly written by a person well-grounded in the humanities, this book explores the explosive growth of Facebook with its need for data and more data. The engineers are given free rein to come up with applications, such as photo and video, but never question why they are doing it or what the moral or ethical implications of it are. Users gleefully give over their private data to a company, they live their lives online and in public, but think little of it. Ms. Losse gives an example early on: at a party, she posed covered in a bearskin, doubled over with laughter as Mr. Zuckerberg points to her. The photo is posted on Facebook and the engineers are delighted that they can post the photo, since the app had just been developed; it's the technical achievement that is important, not what the photo is; it could have been a photo of a can of soup for all it mattered. But Ms. Losse considers how the photo could be (mis)interpreted by someone who doesn't know the context. This is not a tell-all; anyone looking for dirt won't find it here. She is grateful for the oppportunities she has had at the company and the financial security it has given her, but she begins to question the direction in which the company is going. The author wants us to consider that just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done. A very worthwhile read.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh March 31, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can't join those who say this wook is exceptionally well written. It's OK, but it needed a good editor, and then it needed a better proofreader before it went to press.

It was a fairly interesting and quick read, however. It did bog down in more than one place, but Katherine Losse does a good job of conveying the atmosphere of institutionalized sexism (and tokenism) that characterizes tech startups.

At the same time, it's never a good sign when the author of a memoir becomes less likable to the reader as the book goes on.

Early in the book, there are many irritating references to the lofty socioeconomic status that Losse came to regard as her due, having been admitted to graduate study in English at the "prestigious" Johns Hopkins University. And even though she spent time nominally living in Baltimore, or discerning its outlines from the hothouse atmosphere of Hopkins, she appears to have learned almost nothing about the actual city, or at least not anything that isn't mediated by the HBO series "The Wire."

I finally lost respect for the author when she wrote about blowing off Mark Zuckerberg's assignment to write a series of blog posts in his voice, all because she didn't share his vision. As Zuckerberg's hired ghostwriter, Losse didn't have to share his vision in order to write in his voice. She doesn't report any consequences for that very unprofessional behavior. If there truly were none, then it seems clear that Losse's "promotion" to the fringes of Zuckerberg's inner circle was nothing but a kick upstairs for an early employee who was going to be trouble one way or another. And I say this as no fan of Zuckerberg, or Facebook.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some truth, but mostly fiction April 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I worked at Facebook with the author during the era "chronicled" in the book. For the most part, I found that she took extreme latitude in her storytelling with a great deal of embellishments and exaggerations; some events actually never occurred or occurred in a very, very different way. For many of her former coworkers this was really disappointing to see.

I would enjoy a less fictionalized story of the early days at Facebook, preferably without the sophomoric meandering writing style and forced "heady" metaphors. If you want sensationalized fiction of the story, read "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich. If you want non-fiction, "The Facebook Effect" by David Kirkpatrick is good. Unfortunately this book's format sits between in a mess of truths and un-truths that are unfair both to the author and all the characters within.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Interesting In This Book
Book is really boring. It tells nothing interesting or new that hasn't been heard before. Seriously, there is not one exciting part in this whole book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Josiah
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
If you wanna know how Facebook was in its early days, this is the book you should read.
Published 2 months ago by Lucas N. Santos
2.0 out of 5 stars Where to begin...
If this book weren't classified as a "memoir" (according to Wikipedia), I would have given this book only 1 star. Read more
Published 7 months ago by II
5.0 out of 5 stars IRL Oedipa Maas
A female in California inherits high-stake responsibilities and plumbs the depths of a network, feeling her way along a journey of curiosity and discovery with major... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jack Waters
5.0 out of 5 stars the philosophy of facebook
The Boy Kings explores all the baggage of Facebook we know exists but haven't been able to articulate for ourselves. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Zach A
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, specially for anyone who's worked at a startup.
Katherine made an interesting and entertaining book. But that maybe because of the many similarities it had with the startup I worked in. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jos Flix Scott Mrquez
5.0 out of 5 stars every privileged engineer should read The Boy Kings
If you think the tech sector is a utopian meritocracy, you're way off. Kate Losse shares her experience as an early Facebook employee outside the sacred grove of the engineering... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sparky the Wonder Bear
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book * The True, Undramatized & Insightful Story Of...
I devoured this book a single day, it was that good :-)

It is hard for any of us who live outside the Bay Area to comprehend fully just what it means to "work at Google"... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ken M. Haggerty
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
Whether or not you doubt the truthiness of the story, this is a delightful read and a great break from the standard tech stories you'd find, if only because it's about people who... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Andrew Simone
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book, inexperienced author
This is a pretty good book but my main criticism is that the author, Katherine Losse, is a bit too ga-ga over big/sudden success in Silicon Valley. Read more
Published 14 months ago by J. Wagner
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