Silicon snake oil : second thoughts on the information highway

by Clifford Stoll

Paperback, 1995




New York : Anchor Books, Doubleday, c1995.


Discusses where the Internet is leading us and what the information highway really was, is, could, and should be.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ecw0647
Goodness, there's a name out of the blue. I had totally forgotten Clifford Stoll. I read the Cuckoo's Egg years ago and then when this book came out it was requested by all the Luddites on campus (many of them good friends) who were terrified by the Internet and computers. Stoll became their god for a while since here was someone on the inside with doubts. Of course, Stoll was mostly wrong, and that's why we don't hear much from him anymore.… (more)
LibraryThing member schteve
Clifford Stoll, a writer with only one book in him. 'The Cuckoo's Egg' was that book.

'Silicon Snake Oil' is a catchy title but thin pickings for a full length book. Stoll hammers his points again and again until he and his readers are blue in the face but ultimately this book is a poorly reasoned rant with barely enough meat to justify a magazine article let alone a book.

The one really good part of the book relates to 'The Cuckoo's Egg' where Stoll responds to online claims that the first book must have been ghost-written since no-one could believe a scientist could write so well. Stoll himself might be forgiven for wanting people to believe that his second book was ghost-written instead.
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LibraryThing member jjmcgaffey
Highly, but unfortunately unintentionally, amusing book. Part of it is that it was written in 1995 and I read it in 2014, but most of it is that Clifford Stoll - who can really write, witness Cuckoo's Egg - is curmudgeoning all over this newfangled network Internet stuff. The funniest parts are when he's pointing out (in 1995) that people are talking about watching movies over the Internet but the networks aren't anywhere near fast enough so the whole idea is ridiculous...and similar. A _lot_ of his complaints are that the network, or the systems, or the standards are not up to what the visionaries want it the point that my response to most of his grumbles was "Not yet, you mean..." - which was interesting when the things he was grumbling about don't work yet in 2014. Hmmm. He complains about how complicated it is to send emails because everyone has their own system, and grumbles about how expensive it is to get anything worthwhile over the Net. And then goes off on how the Internet makes research way too easy and cheap and everyone's using these shortcuts rather than going to a Real! Library! with paper books and encyclopedias...contradicting himself, just a tad, but keeping to his curmudgeonly style (and echoing a lot of contemporary complaints about Wikipedia and the like). I was rather annoyed at the beginning of the book - wincing about Stoll missing the point a lot - but finally decided to be amused instead and finished it in a quick sweep. I'm glad I read it, it was quite amusing, I doubt very much I'll ever reread.… (more)
LibraryThing member codemonkey2841
I read this book over 10 years after it was written. Some things he spoke about, hold true no matter the era or technology involved, others do not. He made some predictions about the future of the internet and computers that were outright laughable, yet some of his insight was thoughtful and thought provoking.
LibraryThing member frannyor
Stoll was getting a big kick out of being contrarian in this book, but circumstances have outpaced its premise, that the promise of the Internet is largely illusory.

He is right in some aspects, that it does distance creators and their creations from the audience, making us all in a way anonymous. But he was writing before phenomena like Twitter and social networking, and he was a bit out of his depth.… (more)
LibraryThing member sgarnell
This was the first book I ever read that made me think technology is not all this it is cracked up to be. It's a good message for our society. Since then, I've continued to realize how IT represents a double edged sword if we're not careful. Still, I'm uncertain if people will enjoy this book as much as Stoll's first book, The Cookoo's Egg. That's because it's a straight non-fiction about technology. True, so was his previous book. But unlike TCE, we miss all the mystery about nameless hackers that are being hunted. That doesn't mean this is a bad book, just not the same as before. Expectations should be adjusted accordingly.… (more)
LibraryThing member terryzman
This book shows what can happen when people venture opinions in areas very far removed from their base of knowledge. Stoll's attack on the internet now seems dated, but some of his underlying concerns have some merit. His approach in this book, however, is poorly organized and poorly supported. He is pretty much saying that you should believe what he says about computers cause he is that famous computer guy from Cuckoo's Egg.… (more)



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