LocalOnliner Bookshelf: Chaos Monkey’s Inside View of Facebook

Disgruntled workers are writing the history of Silicon Valley, based on Dan Lyons’ funny and articulate Disrupted (actually, a book about HubSpot in Boston) and now, Antonio Garcia Martinez’s Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley.

The latter, a hefty 496 page tome, goes through Garcia Martinez’ early experience as a quant-grunt at Goldman Sachs, his efforts to launch AdGrok, its sale to Twitter, and then his experience as a quasi-acqui-Hire at Facebook, lasting two years before flaming out in the corporate politics there.

Garcia Martinez’ names names, and the tone of the book is generally ironic and snide – at times, unpleasant to read. Yet it is also compelling, presenting an admiring view of Facebook as a company that has a ton of traffic; a strong commitment to its users and platform; a strong Pied Piper in Mark Zuckberger; and a highly supportive team that loves the company – quirks and all.

The real value of the book is in Garcia Martinez’s discussion of the rousing, successful battle by Facebook to fight back against Google +, and its development of ad sales from a backwater that could only deliver value based on volume to a core strength based on Big Data (and no, it turns out that Facebook does not sell ads based on user content).

Garcia Martinez’s insights into Silicon Valley arcanae are also revealing. Announced sales prices are tremendously inflated by including the cost of staff salaries in acqui-hires; VCs have intense inter-rival politics; employment contract lawyers are a world onto themselves; and of course, there is plenty of evidence presented of S. Valley’s homogenous, non-meritocratic culture.

Did you know Sheryl Sandberg’s conference room is called “Only Good News”?

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