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3.6 out of 5 stars
Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway
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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(2 star)show all reviews
on April 6, 2000
Clifford Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway, raises some legitimate concerns about the Internet for 1995-and I stress for 1995. Most of his warnings about the Internet were rather outdated, and seemed foolish in today's computer age. With computer technology advancing so quickly, books about the Internet can become dated quite quickly, and that is exactly what I found in this case. Stoll discusses some of the major concerns that people had in the mid-90s about the emerging Internet phenomenon, including issues centering around efficiency and security. Perhaps these arguments were realistic for computer users about five years ago, but developing technologies quickly remedied these, and made the Internet a much more efficient resource for business, communication, entertainment--you name it. I hate to criticize a book merely for the fact that it is far outdated, but I just can't give a great review to a book full of statements and suggestions that no longer hold any weight!
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on December 27, 1999
As an Internet junkie, let me say that I'm glad I read this book, and I encourage all computer and net-obsessed people to read this book.
He does bring up some very good arguements -- like his theory that networked systems are ruining public libraries -- but many of them are unsubstantiated and full of holes. He has complaints about everything computer-related, from how slow they are to how they look to the lack of noises they make. (He complains that his computer, unlike his trusty typewriter, doesn't make noises when he types some characters or advances to a new line... but I couldn't help thinking that if the computer *did* make these noises, he'd just complain about how loud it was.)
The most irritating thing about this book is that he paints himself (perhaps unknowingly) as a hypocrite. For example, he writes how the usenet is basically a waste of time and how you hardly ever find anything useful there, yet he keeps bringing up things he learned while reading the usenet and talking about how much time he spent there. He seems to love the Postal Service, yet when he wants to see newly discovered pictures of Saturn, he logs in online to get them, then complains about how he has to wait, rather than perhaps mailing away for them, as a snail-mail supporter would do. And I found it especially disturbing that for a man who uses computers every day for his job and pleasure, who owns five different machines, and who has obviously been a computer user since before many of us knew what computer were, he offers exactly ZERO suggestions on how to improve them. I realized this about 100 pages in and wanted to stop reading the book right then and there, but the only thing that kept me reading was my interest in seeing if he ever presented any suggestions for improvement. (He didn't.)
Since this was written about 5 years ago, I would be interested to hear if any of his feelings have changed. Most of his arguements center around gopher, FTP, usenet, BBS systems, etc., and most Internet users never use these. He only mentions Mosaic offhand a few times, but what it has evolved into (IE/Netscape and the WWW) is the most important part of the Internet today. My guess is he would find problems with it as well, and he would have similarly-flawed arguements to back them up.
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on August 23, 1997
...or at best, a good thesis dragged on much too long. Stoll's world view is valid - there really is a real world out there and it's darn interesting. Certainly, computers are at times frustrating, isolating money holes. But like everything else, the cyberworld is cheapened by hype, commercialization and the over use of the prefix "cyber-". Most of us are able to figure this out, so must it be regurgitated over and over for 236 pages? Stoll's writing is the book's strongest point, but the serial reminiscences do get taxing, and are more than a bit narcissistic. Stoll's arguments, on the other hand, suffer from a lack of consistency -- he complains that access to networks is too slow, but criticizes e-mail as being too fast for proper savoring as communication. Come on, aren't at least some of us smart enough to see these pitfalls on our own? I give this book a "4" only for the delicious irony that I ordered it ... over the Internet
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on September 5, 1997
In this book Clifford Stoll makes an important point or two about the Internet but as usual, Stoll sounds more like an unhappy child who would prefer not to share any of his toy's with the World. Clifford Stoll has found gainful employment as a main stream media goon who's sole purpose is to Bash the Internet while managing to appear credible, Clifford Stoll is truly an academic elitist who is unhappy with the Internet being open to the public wear it can act as an alternative press to the more conservative corporate main stream media outlets like MS-NBC, clearly the establishment is Internet phobic and Clifford Stoll is a spokes Man on the payroll of a media & softwear giant.. I think it's no ascedant that the NY Times, Washinton post & Chicago Tribuneno all wasted no time manufactur good revues to this 2ed rate book as a way to promote this peace of pro-establishment propaganda.................:-
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on April 13, 1997
It pains me to write this review, since I loved
the Cuckoo's Egg, but this book just isn't very good. Stoll's main point is that people are spending too much time on computers and on the Internet, and it is a valid point. He says that they should live real life, which is a good suggestion. This would have made a good magazine article.

The problem is that the book is full of criticism of every minutia of the computer world. After a while Stoll justs looks petty. For example, he says that when parents encourage their children to use computers, they are telling them not to be interactive. What about the old days, when kids were told to practice the piano? The book is full of criticisms provided without context.

I made it to page 150, but couldn't take any more.
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on November 6, 1998
This book contrasts "The Cuckoo's Egg" (by the same author) in many ways, but most of all the disorganised style of writing which makes it impossible to find serious arguments to support the author's point of view. His opinions are indeed worth considering when submitting whole nations to electronic infrastructure nobody really needs.
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on February 26, 2001
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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