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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highways-- even information superhighways-- have exit ramps.
Perhaps some third thoughts are in order.

Stoll is fascinating to watch and interesting to read. In a way, that's the point of this book: Genuine life experiences-- sights, sounds, tastes, touches-- are always richer than virtual life experiences, represented most obviously by the Internet.

Stoll hammers relentlessly at the absurdities of the...
Published on Feb. 4 1997

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great
Stoll wrote one of the best spy books of the information age before anyone knew that it could even happen. This follow up is very interesting reading, and I agree with most of it. The best part is his feeling to turn off the computers in schools and go back to the personal interaction of learing. That is so true, we are harming our children for the future.
Published on Nov. 8 2001 by Eric G Ensminger


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, well thoughout, Oct. 30 2006
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
If you're getting a little stir crazy with all of the hype surrounding the internet and the information, then give this book a read. Stoll does a good job of debunking a lot of the 'the internet is the greatest thing since sliced bread' thought, and does so in an eloquent manner. These aren't the ravings of a Luddite, but rather someone who has given the matter some serious thought and balanced his arguments with viable arguments.

I found the book to be a good page turned, and didn't really want to put it down. A well written, enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable book about the Internet, Nov. 4 2001
By 
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Silicon Snake Oil is written by Clifford Stoll a Berkeley astronomer with extensive experience in the Internet and its development. It is written in a non-technical style that makes it very easy and enjoyable to read, but contains a tremendous amount of information about the Internet. His comments cover email, computerized education, bulletin boards, user groups and a wide range of computer topics. He provides a comprehensive analysis on why libraries should not be replaced by computer online information services. For those with extensive computer experience the books provides nostalgic memories of our problems we have had with computers and the Internet. For those new to computers it provides a different historical prospective to wonders of the informational super highway. For both it puts computers and the Internet into prospective, that computers and the Internet should not replace original thought, penmanship, letter writing, libraries or card catalogs, but should be just an additional tool. The books 1995 publishing makes its vocabulary a little dated, but the concepts are very relevant to today's computers users. I feel reading this book will increase the value I get out of technology and help me keep it in perspective.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highways-- even information superhighways-- have exit ramps., Feb. 4 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Perhaps some third thoughts are in order.

Stoll is fascinating to watch and interesting to read. In a way, that's the point of this book: Genuine life experiences-- sights, sounds, tastes, touches-- are always richer than virtual life experiences, represented most obviously by the Internet.

Stoll hammers relentlessly at the absurdities of the connected life. He is, of course, right. One pictures the computer geek, alone with his machine, staring at on-line images of great art works, unaware of the museum down the street, or-- even worse-- unwilling to go there to experience the art first hand in the company of other people. So what? We are training a generation of children to do the same, to send e-mail to other students in their own schools rather than simply speaking to them and to paradoxically limit their worlds to the limitless world of the Internet.

This all has a oddly familiar ring: Over a hundred years ago, Emerson's "Self Reliance" warned that the machines of his day had already and irrevocably destroyed mankind's ability to function in the natural world.

Lets face it: Computers are simply machines. We determine their uses. At their best, they make our lives easier; at their worst, as Stoll sees it, they isolate us from our fellow humans and waste enormous amounts of our time.

Read this entertaining and provocative book. Then, before you sit at your keyboard, play with a puppy out in the snow. We can have it both ways.
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4.0 out of 5 stars can we turn our backs on computer network ?, Sept. 23 2002
By 
Jackie I-Ning Chu (University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
The book is about Stoll's perspective on the hidden costs of new information technology, especially on the role of computer networking in our lives. Instead of viewing computers and networks as good components to make a better society, Stoll's commentary actually supposes that computers and networks are frustrating, expensive, and unreliable.
Can we just simply turn our backs on the network? Why? Because according to Stoll, [computer networks] isolate us from one another and cheapen the meaning of actual experience. They work against literacy and creativity. They undercut our schools and libraries(p.3). Although the Internet provides easier life to our society, a society deals with people, not computers. Human interactions and contacts involve with belonging. Of course, computer networks may also establish a community with the interaction, such as cybersex and cyber-relationship. However, this type of community is without church, cafe or theater. Yes, it has plenty of human contact, but no humanity. Then, what is missing from this neighborhood? We chat without speaking, smile without grinning, and hug without touching. We lose the real life experience and the humanity!
Throughout the book, Stoll's basic mode of argument is to compare two functional techniques: a computational technique (ex. email) and a less-computational technique (ex. postal service). Stoll intents to highlight various positive aspects of the latter technique that are missing in the former. For example, the post office allows a variety of style on envelops, signatures, letterheads, checks, and logos. With the email technique, everyone and every business use the same and uniform style to communicate - ASCII text. The only difference between your messages and others' is the contents. Similarly, Stoll applies this style of argument on the comparisons of libraries with and without computer networks, a classroom with and without computers, and typewrites versus word processors.
It is an entertaining and a thought-provoking book. Stoll cares about what happens to our networked neighborhood, and more importantly, what is happening in our larger society while facing the wave of computer networks. "Computers themselves don't bother me; I am vexed by the culture in which they are enshrined(p.3). No one who is interested in such issue will regard reading Stoll's book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great, Nov. 8 2001
By 
Eric G Ensminger (Milwaukee, WI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Stoll wrote one of the best spy books of the information age before anyone knew that it could even happen. This follow up is very interesting reading, and I agree with most of it. The best part is his feeling to turn off the computers in schools and go back to the personal interaction of learing. That is so true, we are harming our children for the future.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Endless tirade without constructive suggestions, March 21 2001
By 
Ralph Janke (Rowlett, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Being absolutely fascinated by the author's book "Cuckoo's Egg", I was extremely disappointed by this book. Even I agree with a lot of opinions the author holds in this book, the author portraits things almost in an apocalyptic way. I disagree with that. I believe a lot of problem in the information superhighway and society can and must be fixed. However, it takes some positivism, and constructive suggestions to do so. To focus on the negatives will definately not change anything. It took me about 9 month to read the book from cover to cover, because it created such a negative mood in me, that I could only read a couple of pages and needed some positive couter balance. I believe this book is not worth the time to read it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Increasingly Dated effort, Feb. 26 2001
By 
T. Stone "tastone99" (E. Falmouth, MA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Stoll's book is showing the effect of time. While much of the info may have been cutting edge when written, it has now been surpassed by events. I found little logical flow in the book and it ends with a disappointing and self serving Usenet discussion about an earlier book he wrote that lends little to the book's thesis.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Let the Buyer Beware, Jan. 16 2001
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Cliff Stoll writes in such an engaging folksy style that you want to spend the evening with him at a cozy neighborhood restaurant. Not a cyber-cafe, mind you, but somewhere in the "real" world.
Stoll likes technology. He is no modern day Luddite. He does, however, dare to ask some hard questions. Why, for instance, are we spending so much money on putting computers in the classrooms when there is no proof that they will magically turn our kids into scholars, but just might turn them into high-tech goof offs? Stoll wants people to do a cost-benefit analysis before computerizing systems that may work just fine the way they are.
You may not agree with all his objections, but it is worth hearing them. One downside is that a lot of the technical information is already very dated after five years, but this does add weight to his argument that there are many hidden costs (maintenance being one of them) when you decide to computerize the classroom.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stoll is right about certain points., Oct. 26 2000
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
This book by Clifford Stoll was intriguing and entertaining. Although a little outdated by today's computer standards, the real message of the book is that while the Internet and the computer is helpful and entertaining, they are not necessities of life. I believe that Stoll thinks that everyone is so pro-computer, that they don't look at the negatives of computers. He believes that the increased use of computers in an individual's life takes away from someone's life. He states that "Life in the real world is far more interesting, far more important, far richer, than anything you'll ever find on a computer screen." I totally agree from where he's coming from. I believe that there's more to life than just using the Internet or computer for work. I am a big fan of face-to-face communication and like to see someone actually smile instead of seeing :) typed on the screen. But I also believe that while believing this way has its advantages, being able to use a computer in this world is becoming a necessity. Everyone is moving towards a technological advancement, that not being able to use the computer and the Internet sets an individual back somewhat, and that's sad to say. I think the world is placing the skill of using the computer and the Internet up there with the skill of reading, writing, and even eating. I agree with Stoll when he implies that using e-mail is impersonal. It very much is, because there is a lack of emotion. In face-to-face communication, it is the emotion that makes the communication personal. Stoll states that the Internet is a false society, that nothing can compare to the real thing.
Stoll believes that the Internet is mainly used for an entertainment purpose. That may have been true in 1996, but the amount that e-commerce has grown since 1996 is an indication that the Internet is not only for entertainment purposes. The Internet has grown so vast that I believe that Stoll's comments are outdated. However, his statements about how secure and private the Internet is still applies today. Although companies have made the Internet a little more secure, I still know of some people who don't send private information over the Internet because of their lack of faith in a site's security. Stoll also goes into the dangers of using computers in the classroom. Having just completed a totally on-line course, I think that having classes on-line is a good idea for probably only college students. I think that having teachers in the classroom with students is necessary to promote learning in lower-level grades of education.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good points - weak arguments, Oct. 20 2000
By 
"mjpatto" (Sydney, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (Paperback)
Clifford is certainly in a good position to debunk the hype of the Internet, and I looked foward to reading this book. In general, he makes good points - computers can not replace human experience, and are not the answer for all our problems.
The book is somewhat dated, which does render some sections less useful, particularly regarding commerce online. The largest problem, however, is the lack of solid evidence and argument. Clifford deliberately writes loosely, in a "personal" fashion. While intentional, it detracts from his points greatly. He continually makes contradictory claims, as pointed out in other reviews. More reasoned, fair discussion and less shallow emotional statements would help to carry his point further.
Probably better for people who have only heard the hype, and are not experienced enough to know for themselves the real benefits and drawbacks of the Internet.
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Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway
Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway by Clifford Stoll (Paperback - March 1 1996)
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