Brad Feld

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Book Review: The Washingtonienne

Jun 06, 2005
Category Books

I’ve been working my way through Eric von Hippel’s newest book Democratizing Innovation (Eric was my doctoral advisor at MIT – I didn’t get my Ph.D.)  I needed a break (I’m reading it carefully because I’m worried that Eric will call me up and ask me hard questions about the book.)  Amy and I went into Boulder yesterday for massages (the power was out at the hotel – so no massages) so we swung by The Boulder Bookstore to pick up some reading material for the time between ~massage and dinner.

Amy picked up the Sunday NY Times (great NY Times Magazine this weekend, BTW) and I picked up The Washingtonienne.  I’d seen a review somewhere that it was titillating, provocative, enlightening, and a fast fun read.  I found it titillating, provocative, depressing, and useful for anyone that’s thinking about blog privacy issues.

  • Titillating: The story of The Washingtonienne was reasonably widespread in Washington DC and across the blogosphere in 2004.  The author – Jessica Cutler – was fired from her job as an low level staffer in Sen. Mike DeWine’s (R-Ohio) office for blogging at work about her personal life.  And – it was a pretty raunchy, hard partying, high sex life.
  • Provocative: See titillating.  Then – as you watch everything fall apart in the second half of the book, think about what was really going on.
  • Depressing: Near the end of the book, Jessica gets introspective in a useful way.  It’s powerful in a similar way as A Million Little Pieces and – while not as deep or intense – it’s emotionally revealing and pretty brave stuff.  However, when you step back and think about it – and then think about the DC life that Jessica is describing – you can’t help but feel down about a subset of the human condition in our nation’s capital.
  • Useful: As an active blogger, I spend plenty of time thinking about what is “appropriate” to write about.  Companies are now coming out with blogging policies.  There have been plenty of high profile firings of bloggers, along with some celebrity work bloggers.  While Jessica’s story is an edge-case, it’s a useful one.

Jessica’s being a great American and turning her story into her 15 minutes of fame.  If you are into blogging, privacy, or sex, there’s enough here to keep you interested for a couple of hours.