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Read the Bad Facebook Book
May 26, 2010 - 9:55pm

This recommendation is only for people who work in higher education. Civilians should stay away.

I have 3 reasons why you should read The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, by Ben Mezrich. (None of these reasons have anything to do with the book helping you figure out your Facebook privacy settings).

But before I jump into my 3 reasons to read the book, I'd like give you 3 reasons as to why this is not a good book:

Bad Book Reason 1 - Accuracy: You can pretty well assume that many (if not most) of the details in the book are inaccurate. Zuckerberg did not agree to be interviewed, so therefore all of the first person accounts that the narrative is based on will be largely self-serving and one-sided.

Bad Book Reason 2 - History: This would have been a much better book if Mezrich had done his homework better about the history of Internet startups and the technologies and companies that preceded Facebook. We learn little about either, although both are critical in understanding the rise and impact of Facebook.

Bad Book Reason 3 - Sociology: Mezrich's description of both campus and start-up life resemble neither reality that I'm familiar with. It is as if he telling the story of someone else telling a story of college and company life, as opposed to actually going and spending time in either environment.

Now that I've told you the 3 reasons why this is a bad book - I want you to forget them all and read the book anyway. Here are my reasons to read:

Reason to Read 1 - Lessons: Despite every shortcoming, I was left with a powerful feeling that we (people who work in higher education) should be doing everything we can to catalyze (fertilize?) the next Facebook. The Accidental Billionaires is really the story of a bunch of college kids who spent most of their time doing non-college type things (classes, studying, etc.), while devoting the bulk of their attention to their start-up ideas. This is not an original thought, but what if we could harness "the propensity to truck, barter and exchange" (Adam Smith) directly in our curriculum?

Reason to Read 2 - Therapy: As a survivor of the original dot-com bubble (1999 to 2001 with Education), this book helped me work through my own deep-seated psychological issues. Okay, maybe this is a slight exaggeration. But it was fantastic to revisit again the pure excitement of taking an idea, starting up a new business, and having people throw money at you.

Reason to Read 3 - Fun Factor: This bad book is a blast to read. Fast paced, absorbing, and often funny. If you keep your expectations low (the secret to happiness in all things), you will enjoy spending time with the Accidental Billionaires.

Have any of you read the book?


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