Even lamer than a busted dot-com

"F'd Companies," Philip Kaplan's obituary for online flameouts, is more pathetic than the companies it skewers.

By Damien Cave
April 11, 2002 4:30AM (UTC)
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"F'd Companies" will soon be just that: FUCKED. Never mind that author Philip Kaplan (AKA "Pud") refers to his dick more often than Ron Jeremy; forget that his writing style and insight never surpass the eighth grade level. Books -- like the dot-coms that Kaplan likes to skewer -- are ultimately businesses. All authors, especially ASSMONKEY, MONEY HUNGRY AUTHORS LIKE KAPLAN, aim to attract customers, dollars or both. And in this case, Kaplan's enterprise will undoubtedly fail, flame out, go belly up, eat its own ass. Whatever you want to call it, "F'd Companies" will soon disappear.

Maybe I'm just another idiot, like Kaplan himself claims to be (he also seems to be a chronic masturbator, judging from the numerous references to spanking the monkey), but I just don't see how this book will ever become anything but yet another dot-com joke.


Here's why:

1) Price: Kaplan's $18 book is nothing more than a compendium of 150 or so companies: their names, how much they got in venture funding and why they failed. But here's a news flash: All of the information is available elsewhere for free. Not only can readers go to one of Kaplan's 17 sources, which he lists at the end of the book, but they can also go to his own site. There, they'll find everything that's in the book, almost all of it for free.

In fact, those with half a brain will go to the site and discover that there's even MORE (AND FREE) dot-com information online than there is in the book. Go on, go to the site, search for Pets.com, the first flameout detailed in the book, and you'll find nine official "fucks," 211 comments and 44 rumors. The description of Pets.com's original failure is similar to the book's version, except for one major difference. Kaplan's original take is actually funny, which is more than can be said for the print version.


But wait, there's more. Not only is Kaplan charging for free content; not only are his regurgitated comments even more bland than the originals, but Kaplan even dares to condemn another dot-com (Steve Brill's Contentville) for doing EXACTLY WHAT THIS BOOK TRIES TO DO -- sell content that's already available elsewhere for free. Brill's venture failed, Kaplan writes, because "that pissed off users."

My point exactly.

2) Competition: "Dot-Con," "dot.bomb," "Dot-Com and Beyond," "Business @ the Speed of the Stupid" -- these are just a few of the books that have appeared on bookstore shelves over the past few months. All of them attempt to explain why the dot-coms failed. All of them purport to be insightful and sometimes humorous takes on the economic fuckfest called the high-tech bubble. In other words, they all tread over Kaplan's ground. In such a crowded field, "F'd Companies" has about as much chance of standing out as a San Francisco dot-com party circa 1999. The boom for books on the dot-com bust is over; "F'd Companies" will be just another casualty.


3) Quality: Let's face it -- the book sucks. I am fully and completely within Kaplan's target audience. I'm a 27-year-old male who enjoys heavy metal. I work for a dot-com that has been featured on Kaplan's site. I like dirty humor. I even, occasionally, find masturbation jokes funny.

But I'm not amused by Kaplan's attempted literary antics. It's not just that he's misogynistic and a terrible writer. It's also that Kaplan's jokes are about as flaccid as an old man's penis, while his big insight -- hey, these guys spent too much money, too fast! -- seems to be, uh, SCREAMINGLY OBVIOUS. Even worse, he has the audacity to dedicate his book to laid-off dot-commers -- his "extended family" -- even as he is attempting to "monetize," as dot-commers used to say, their failures. Does he really think that no one will notice the hypocrisy? Does he really think that his attempt to become a money-sucking parasite distinguishes him from any of the losers whose tales of woe he chronicles?


11 comments in the Happy Fun Slander Corner

HarryParatestes: Whatever. Damien Cave's just jealous because Kaplan is making more money than he is and got a publishing deal. Salon is more fucked than this book will ever be. Go suck some hog, Cave.

DickBeNimbleDickBeQuick: No way, Pud's time has come and gone. I'm tired of his shtick, his whole "if I'm self-deprecating, no one will notice that I'm an asshole" game. He's made a career out of chronicling others' failures while exhibiting the exact characteristics he claims to be fighting against. Try to find a dot-com CEO who's more arrogant and sure of his overimportance; I dare ya. You won't be able to do it.


RumpRoasted: Who cares about whether Kaplan sounds like a frat boy who never gets laid? His main problem is a lack of perspective. He's the same age as all the khaki-clad dot-com CEOs who thought buzz meant more than customers, and it shows. The dot-com bubble, in Kaplan's gaze, looks like the first speculative debacle in economic history. He seems to think the colossal spike-and-dive was unique, but history says otherwise. This kind of thing happens all the time. Tulips, radio, the railroads, television -- just about every time something new comes along, Wall Street pumps the product with hype, sucks out some cash and lets the deflated market tumble.

DingleBerryPie: Exactly. Both Cave and Kaplan shoot shy of the core target. They end up demonizing the dot-com bit players -- a group to which Kaplan belongs, no matter what he says -- while ignoring the real Ponzis of this ridiculous scheme: Wall Street. Never mind the yellow-bellied eunuch CEOs who used e-mail to fire their workers. The game was rigged from the start. Analysts gave clients financial blow jobs, I-bankers brought bogus companies public, institutional investors cashed out. End of story, pass the Playboy. (Anybody know when that "Ladies of Enron" issue comes out?)

AmandaHugginkiss: My gripe has always been with the venture capitalists. Kaplan at least individually identifies how much money these guys gave to specific companies, and at first, their idiocy pissed me off. Who gave these guys the right to be mini-Gatsbys? But then I remembered how much they lost and just the thought of them having to sell their Boxters made me want to pee with laughter. Wee-wee-wee-wee, all the way home.


IvanaGedvasted: I think we should thank the VCs. They indirectly bought me more drinks than any of my friends and gave me the chance to see Elvis Costello in concert, for free, while I ate a nice piece of unagi. In college, I got to drink with my parent's money. But when I moved to San Francisco, I got drunk off the generosity of complete strangers who thought they might want to hire me. Stupid, stupid, stupid for them -- but a lot of fun for me.

BenDover: Yeah, but those parties were so lame. The worst part of the dot-com boom -- the part no one wants to talk about, Kaplan and Cave included -- is that it was boring. In the '20s, people drank bathtub gin and ran the risk of getting arrested for boozing it up. The '50s boom had the sex-and-martini-loving Rat Pack on one hand, and the mad-jazz Beats on the other. Even the '70s had pills, disco and casual sex and the '80s had cocaine high-rollers who never slept. What did we get? Mediocre parties with bad D.J.s, blocks of cheese and crowds that thought they were CRAZY for actually dancing to techno in their button-down shirts. Blech.

PlatoTheMasses: Let's bring this back to the topic at hand: dot-com flameouts and assholes who think they have the right to pontificate about their demise. I'm counting you all in that crowd because this has begun to feel like a giant circle-jerk. Hindsight's 20/20 and it's easy to kick anything that's falling down, but listen up, Jackasses, the dot-com boom was about more than money and parties. There were a lot of people who justifiably believed that they were taking part in something bigger than themselves. Sure, most of them were deluded, but not all. Do a search for "Middle East" on Google and tell me that the world isn't more informed because of the Web and the dot-com boom that helped it grow. Wander around at eBay and tell me that brick-and-mortar companies will always beat Internet competitors. Or look at the digital entertainment that's now available -- the music, the movies, even the porn -- then tell me that the world of creativity won't be changed forever by the addition of online distribution. And that's because all the money, all the energy and all the bullshit managed to at least create new levels of innovation and new products that are valuable. You can't have the good without the bad; widespread Internet adoption wouldn't exist without the dot-com boom. In other words, the same tools that companies like Boo used to make fools of themselves allow the rest of us to live better lives.

HarryParatestes: Fuck you, you fucking fuck. Do you even have a penis?


IvanaGedVasted: If Pud was here, he'd tear you a new asshole.

HarryParatestes: Exactly. And I wish he was here, you fudgepacking teabagger. Pud's a hero, a real man, the only one who makes sense of the dot-com world, the only one worth listening to. Me and Pud will keep fighting the good fight!

Damien Cave

Damien Cave is an associate editor at Rolling Stone and a contributing writer at Salon.

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