Katherine Losse's purportedly daming Facebook tell-all Boy Kings: A Journey Into the Heart of the Social Network grabbed the Wall Street Journal's attention a few weeks ago for its recounting of Facebook's pre-Sheryl Sandberg days, when buxom comic book heroines adorned its office walls and a few lascivious engineers petitioned the few female employees for threesomes. At least that's the way Losse tells it, but, according to Techcrunch blogger Gregory Ferenstein, Losse's "memoir" amounts to little more than "cheap, gossipy, Facebook criticism," usually churned out by less respectable publishers than the Simon & Schuster imprint, Free Press.
Ferenstein argues that Boy Kings skates by on sensationalism, promising to offer proof of early Facebook's sexist company culture but failing to provide readers with more than "a self-indulgent, half-baked attempt at feminism." Losse, he adds, is burdened by an "inescapable humanities perspective" (which might be a not-so-subtle critique that Losse, a customer service employee during her time at Facebook, doesn't have the technical acumen necessary to properly criticize a Silicon Valley juggernaut), and though her memoir relates some admittedly "inappropriate" moments, Ferentsein finds something demonstrably irresponsible in the way Losse alludes to sexism at Facebook as an injustice on par with colonialism. "Facebook should be criticized," admits Ferenstein, "but we should also hold authors accountable to offering the requisite historical and social science evidence necessary to smash someone else's hard-built dreams."
Though he may have a point about publishers looking to cash in on scandals at high-profile companies like Facebook, Ferenstein doesn't mention those passages from the Boy King that the Journal found most salient, namely, Losse's private meeting with Sheryl Sandberg, who, according to Losse, subsequently (and quietly) disciplined a male engineer notorious for his aggression towards femle employees. Instead, Ferenstein pulls a passage about Losse's engineer friend Thrax, who collapsed on the office floor after apparently overworking himself. Losse wonders if Thrax's prostrated body "maybe was Facebook's primal scene," and Ferenstein has some fun criticizing what is paltry evidence of rampant sexism. In ignoring moments such as the Sandberg passage, Ferenstein seems to be articulating exasperation more than criticism, lamenting the preponderance of Facebook gossip that has been such an irresistible media commodity in the wake of Aaron Sorkin's brotastic account of Mark Zukerberg's early days of dickishness.