Daniel Lyons, aka Fake Steve Jobs, talks about his book Options and blog "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs" written by his alter ego.
The New York Times recently outed Forbes reporter Dan Lyons as Fake Steve Jobs. Who is Fake Steve Jobs, you ask? He's the guy who started the blog "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs", which has been the subject of water cooler talk from Silicon Valley to Washington DC for the past year. But Lyons is also a fiction writer who has gotten the papal blessing (i.e., a best young novelist nod) from Granta, and in his new book OPTION$ he uses the persons and voice that he created on the blog to bring us into a world where an iPod-loving, T'ai Chi-practicing, Reed College dropout who just happens to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company gets a little, you know, creative when it comes to "dating".
Fake Steve is, in his off-hours, a senior editor at Forbes and the author of a novel, Dog Days and a collection of stories, The Last Good Man. The recipient of both a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts Literary Fellowship and the somewhat notorious Playboy College Fiction Prize, he was names one of the "Fabulous 52" in the 1996 Best Young American Novelists competition sponsored by Granta. Among the readers of Dan's blog, fakesteve.blogspot.com, is Real Steve Jobs, who has called it "pretty funny"- Cody's Books
Daniel Lyons is an American writer. He is a senior editor at Forbes magazine. He has written a book of short stories, The Last Good Man (1993), a novel, Dog Days (1998), and a fictional biography, Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, a Parody (2007). He also writes The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, a popular blog and parody of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, under the pseudonym Fake Steve Jobs.
(born Feb. 24, 1955, San Francisco, Cal., U.S.) U.S. businessman. Adopted in infancy, he grew up in Los Altos. He dropped out of Reed College and went to work for Atari Corp. designing video games. In 1976 he cofounded (with Stephen Wozniak) Apple Computer (incorporated in 1977; now Apple Inc.). The first Apple computer, created when Jobs was only 21, changed the public's idea of a computer from a huge machine for scientific use to a home appliance that could be used by anyone. Apple's Macintosh computer, which appeared in 1984, introduced a graphical user interface and mouse technology that became the standard for all applications interfaces. In 1980 Apple became a public corporation, and Jobs became the company's chairman. Management conflicts led him to leave Apple in 1985 to form NeXT Computer Inc., but he returned to Apple in 1996 and became CEO in 1997. The striking new iMac computer (1998) revived the company's flagging fortunes.
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Codys. As a Courtesy, if you would please shut off your cellphone and pagers that would be wonderful. Well we are so pleased to have with us today Daniel Lyonshere to read and discuss his third book "Options". Options is sort of a response of what becomesalleged most and that's blogging these days and here he has Steve Jobs blog for us and he started this in2006 and it became a great big hit and now without further ado, here is Mr. Lyons.Hi. Thank you I bring you greetings from Cambridge and the weather isn't as nice there this weekend.So I will talk to you a little bit about my blog I guess and then how it became a book and then just haveQ&A okay because it's I would rather just have a conversation than yap a lot but so Iam a print journalist, I work at Forbes magazine and I cover business and I have been doing print forlike 25 years my whole life and one of the big stories that print the business reporter is telling, Ihave written over and over and now we have like five stories we just tell all the time and one of themis "Disruption" and you know somebody some new thing is coming along and it's disrupting theincumbent players and so Linux disrupts Unix etc etc and a few years ago I recognized or realizedthat my own business was being disruptive, so the business I was actually in was facing this hugeupheaval and and change and turmoil so all the things that I would write about and you know wouldmock people who didn't embrace change or you know like anything now it's happening to me and itwas it was really scary, it's really really terrifying to be you know not old enough to retireand and not even close even old enough to retire, I have two year old twins, like I am never goingto be able to retire or like barely and and then having to change in this profound way like I Ireally think media is is changing I mean if you look at the revenues of newspapers and printmagazines, it's it's really not a very pretty picture and all of us print journalists for the most as wewe are sitting as though so funny because we like the first guys to seize on it when it's a company wecover and we are all alert just to embrace the change but when it was us, we all sat there paralyzed likefrozen, terrified, we didn't know what to do and we you know just wringing our hands and talkingabout this, it was terrible and this sucked and the internet was an awful thing we all were terrified at it.And then at some point I realized like I have to do what we were always telling people to do which isyou know figure out this technology and try to embrace it and so I thought I should learn aboutblogging, I tried to get a transfer to the online division of Forbes and what I found was that and Ithink it's really most media companies, the online guys don't like the print guys just like the print guysdon't like the online guys. Its political and they don't want to bring refugees over from print at all andthey oh they bring a few over but but it wasn't you know and they don't pay nearly as well he isprint, tell like he has to take a big pay cut to go to it wasn't really a good good strategy. So Ithought well do it on my on, at least learn about blogging software.So the whole thing that's really ridiculous about this this whole like you know book tour and bookitself and the blog itself to me is that it all began entirely as a joke just as a lark, like entirely as afling you know and so I I started a whole bunch of blogs on WordPress and TightPad and Bloggerand it was really just to learn how the software work, how the actual blog software you know learnhow to do HTML embedded code and how to do photos, I mean really really nuts and bolts like I hadto figure that out.So I did one of my on that was just you know the danlyons blog and nobody read it and then there wasthe I wrote a family blog with photos and then I got to Blogger and I thought what should I do and itwas just about the time when all these CEOs where starting to blog and there were always stories abouttransparency and openness and honesty and how companies were going to like naked conversationsas scalable book if you are familiar with that or so and a few CEOs actually were writing these blogsand sort of pretending to be like open and honest and transparent but they weren't, I think that therewas all spin and bull right there was absolute just lie, they were just just as fake as as a pressrelease which I thought was really hysterically funny just in and of itself.Right I really thought was funny and then I thought what if a CEO started a blog but like went off therails, like like lost it and y not I started really writing the truth, I really really wanted to say andyou know anyone somebody got a bad story, but it's company, he would make fun of them backand just really being like as angry as he probably was right and and now I started to think whichone would be I tried a bunch of different ones and it kind of seized on Jobs because I am a big applefan myself, I I like apple products a lot and my central frustration as an apple user is that and I wasa long term windows user too but when I finally started using OSX, I I could not understand how 95percent of the world you know looks at OSX and then looks at Windows and says well I am going togo with that Windows with the Spyware and the McAfee all of those sounds like and I was just itdrove me nuts I thought if it drives me nuts, Jobs must go out of his mind I think must makehim crazy, I mean he has been 20 years of his life, the roots of that I think go back to the Next days in 80'sright. So 20 years of your life working really hard. You produce something really beautiful and theworld goes it's okay you know no big deal.So I thought that must be that central anger of a character like kind of was the seed of what overthe joke and my beginning was really sort of two dimensional jokes about Steve Jobs and hangingaround in gravity boots and having meetings upside down or drinking smoothies and they were kind ofdumb but then I started realizing as news would happen, things would happen that like I should becovering for Forbes but because we came out every we came out twice a month, so we had 20editions here and we have huge lead time that right now we are already working on the Decembereditions and so if something happens today and I really want to write about if Forbes like who isgoing to care about it in December so you have this out lead with a blog that you can do you knowbreaking stuff like that the minute it's announced. So I started writing like news, doing what I would doat Forbes only through the voice of Steve Jobs, right it was like a little bit Wacky but and it kind ofworked right it kind of was like you know it was actually more interesting than anything I wouldever say about some event because you could imagine what he would think and project that and sopeople actually started reading unlike my own blog which nobody read and I could have written thesame thing than I swear no body would have read it. But because I had this conceit of you know thisis supposed to be Steve Jobs, people started reading it.I did it for about six weeks and so I though that was fine, I learnt how it work and I shut it down. I saidoh this is okay and then somebody else put it back up and they put the thing saying what happened tothis blog, who is this guy, what happened you know and I and then all people started commentingand I wasn't aware they they were reading it. I knew I had sent it to two friends of mine, I sentthem links and I just said I found this blog ha ha ha you know I didn't tell them it was me and oneof them blogged about it and they sort of spread but I never owned that to it, so even my friendsdidn't know it was me and they they they would then sent it to me saying did you see this one todayha ha and I would be like yeah I think wow that's pretty good you know so I was just playingdumb and doing so I shut it down.So I started I back up because there were so many people reading and I didn't even know, this is notclueless, I was about blogs. I didn't know about site meter. We could put something on and it will tellyou how many people are on at any given time and who they are I mean you so somebodyactually he wrote to me saying dude you got to this is a thing called you put it on so I did, Istarted a backup and it was like oh like a hundred people there today that was like I told my wifethis is weird like this people from England and you know all over the United States and I don't knowwho they are, it's not my friends, like I know the two people I told but I don't know any of thesepeople right and some of them started commenting, you are just like like blogs take off like peoplestart becoming regular commentators, they they became little characters in their own, there was a guycalled Macgeekguy who would comment on every post, he lived in San Francisco, I don't know who he isor who he was but so I remember going for a walk with my wife and I was saying "you know this isreally weird like I have been writing about the internet for you know since the internet began asa tech reporter, but like it's different when you put your hand on the third rail and you feel it and youare like wow like suddenly yeah this stuff it's so real like this is a a global network rightwhere you would put some out there and it spreads I mean you know people all over the world werereading this in small numbers but and then I started realizing I could do something like a comic stripwhere these character sort of in my mind became like fictional characters, so Bono and Larry Ellisonand Bill Gates and Al Gore in my mind started becoming I started reading about Jobs you knowlearning about him because at first I didn't really know much about him so I figured if I am going to dothis I'd better learn it so I read a bunch of biographies, I learnt who the characters where at Apple and Istarted developing this world and it was like you could introduce a story on Tuesday like Al Gore getdriven out of his house by his wife and he moved in with us, he is kind of driving us nuts leave italone. Then you go back to covering the news and then Thursday go it's really getting bad. Al is likeeating meat, he is leaving food wrappers around the house, he cranks the air-conditioning, he ispain in the ass you know my wife wants him out and then go back to covering the news, so and thenlike on Saturday is like okay we figure it out how we are going to get rid of him, we are going to turn off theair-conditioning in the guest house, we are going to tell him that you know we're going green andwe can't afford air-conditioning now and that will get rid of him. And sure enough it does you know then Al leaves.So I I started realizing that you could do like Doonesbury kind of thing that was fun and then itbecame this hybrid of like sort of Doonesbury and then sort of news right and then kind of commentaryso that was then it was actually interesting in worthwhile - it wasn't all jokes right. So and I wasreally just playing with the form and figure out what you could do and it of course are really powerfulform because this this online diary and it's very easy to use, it's very automated and the blogs offer -even a blogger has become an - advanced enough that you can really kind of customize and do somecool stuff with it. So I started adding things like archives and this and that.Meanwhile, I think a fiction writer - I wrote two books before I started at Forbes at 1998 then I waswriting two others that never could get done and I started getting really guilty thinking like I wastingall the time I should be working on my book, I am doing this instead and then I realized but this is kindof becoming like a book, you know it's - and I didn't know how to - what to do with it and then theSEC thing happened and the Apple came under fire and this options backdating thing and to methat seemed really compelling in the sense that I have this character who is really powerful andinvincible in my mind like Steve Jobs is like this man god, son of Zeus and born to mortal woman and you know hecan do no wrong right but suddenly now he is in a situation where we can't get out of it no matter howmuch money you have, you can't get out from out of this and the feds are after him. So at that that'senough of a things because I knew the story of that book wouldn't really have big - you know wasn'tgoing to be really plot driven. I could have enough to give a motor to get through a narrative.So the book I wrote is not the blog between two covers and it actually is very little of the materialcomes from the blog itself, it's actually a whole new thing that sort of popped up from the world that Icreated in this blog, it was like I had spent a year doing - you know the exercise you do to write a novelor writing the back story for all the characters and developing there there - making a threedimensional. I had already done that but I had done it online and I could just draw on that, so I did liftsomething from the blog like some of the some of the things are really like that's like this one wherethey go - he and Bono go out and Bono smashes into a guy and then they make up on the side of thehighway and so they it's some thing I like so I used that but basically it's a whole new thing. I alsothink that anybody who is reading the blog, I kind of think that I had a blog audience, if they are goingto read the book they don't want to just read the same stuff they already read online so so I puttogether a proposal in - over a Christmas break very quickly I wrote may be 50 or 100 pages and soldin January and then then I realized I had to write it which is like oh man you know like that waswas a wakeup call.So I had a really rough winter because I was doing that and trying to keep the blog going and like I saidwith these little kids and so it was a bad winter. At the same time part two of of the story is that youknow I didn't tell anybody at Forbes I was doing this right and my our west coast bureau chief justwalked in Quentin and he and I by the way another this is Quentin Hardy. Another aspect of this pointanother aspect of it is that Quentin and I had this idea to do like a daily show for business forForbes.com on video. Every Friday with your little three minute video he'd be Jon Stewart, I'd beColbert - or the other way around, what all we do like business news but funny but they didn't want itso it was - but we had that talk right - we had a meeting about it, we had some ideas, so we had thisidea that you could make business funny which I don't think anybody had ever done - well you know Iguess a little bit but like - that was another thing like to I think to ask to people who cover business,like it's incredibly funny. Right even though it doesn't seem like it because it's so boring, it's alwaysthe most boring part of newspaper, you read - you just - even I just skip over the business section attimes but but yet if you cover it, it's amazingly funny because - and if we work in business youknow how funny it is and how bizarre it is and how twisted a lot of stuff is and so that was thebackground for that so I never told anybody at force including Quentin but mean while the publisher ofForbes who is based out here started blogging about the fake Steve blog saying all of Silicon Valley isin an up roar and we want to know who this is, who could it be and I am like- it's a guy I know right -this guy Rich and he is you know he is like my boss's boss's boss but - and then he offered a rewardand he and Quentin started to having guesses online who could it be, they are arguing back and forthyou know I think it's this guy, I think it's that guy and they never guess me.Even when even when it came out that somebody spoke my - my my IP, trick me into something on- sending email and they said the IP address originates in Boston, I thought oh now I am dead becauseit's just like not many tech writers in Boston. They still didn't get it right which is like how invisible Iam as a business reporter like how how like how little impact I have as a journalist, I was like wowI am like the invisible man here you know. I mean I saw these guys at a conference last October, afterthey had announced the reward and everything we had dinner, we had breakfast oh gosh I don't knowthe guy must be in Boston, I don't know - I am like how can you not guess so it was almost offendingright, it was like it was like when HP pre-testing thing had and I think the only reporters who arereally pissed with the ones who didn't get spied on you know like the guys who are like the HP didn'teven bother, they looked like we don't care who you are calling right but so this went on for a whileand then in January right after I sold the book, somebody asked me or I I saw some legal advisebecause I started really getting worried about my job right and you were like no I serious I was reallyI was it hadn't occurred to me and by this time had like 90,000 unique visitors some of get inaudience like so I thought 90,000 peoples like biggest than the first newspaper I worked out at thecollege, that's like a real audience.So I I hired this lawyer for an hour so that she would be my lawyer and she couldn't tell anybodyright like it would be an attorney client privilege thing. So it's like some stupid right - and meanwhilelike you know I was - and she told me - I told her I am fake Steve Jobs and she was like - are you crazyyou are a nut you can't do that, you are going to get fired, you cannot do that blog you have to shutit down shut it down now before anybody else knows and you know may be it will go away andpeople won't notice and just they will forget about it. Do the book and you know whatever - so Iposted this thing as Steve Job saying well I have been told by Apple, PR that - Apple legal - Applelegal just told me I got to shut down this crazier blog because I can't be making fun of the SEC evenwhen they try to put me in jail because I have these items where Steve Jobs would fun of the lawyersfor the SEC like call them names and stuff - right which would be really not a good move right if itreally work basing SEC investigations.So so I wrote this thing saying you know they told me to shut it down and it was misinterpreted tomean that Apple was going after another blogger right and suddenly like all these newspapers weredoing stories about Apple going after the blogger they were calling Apple for comment, Apple sayingno comments so then they think it's true. Right my site you know was just going like off the map likeoh my traffic just exploded right and there are stories in New York Times, everywhere lookingcrazier but now I really I made a much worse right much worse right like I got like a five Xjumping traffic like that blog have intense to go, you hit a plateau and then something wacky happensand you jump, then you hang under that - something like that happens in your jump. So I had this hugejob like a big break through moment, by accident was trying to shut it down. Then everybody startswriting to me. "Is it true apple is after you bla-bla ? and then you know their - all the blogs are writingabout it Apple is after the blogger - you know some like holy crap. So I start getting email fromother magazines like Wired writes to me, we would like to host your blog, we think this is great andand they would love to have a little fight with Apple like that will be great right and then you knowfortune magazine and all those started writing to me wanting to like you know we know who you arebut may be you know bla bla blaSo in this stack of mail I mean while I am in New York asking Forbes imprint for like a change in jobwith a little bit higher profile and this is like what a looser I am at Forbes right. Can I have a little bitbetter job, little more money? No, go away, you are an idiot go away - right so I go back to my hotellike heart broken I went like honey I cant get a - and I open up my email and I swear to god this anemail form the publisher of Forbes, the guy who is - to fake Steve - to the guy - the guy who has get thereward out from me. Thus in email from him saying, dear Fake Steve my name is Richard Karlgaardand I am the publisher of Forbes magazine and I think you are a genius. I don't know who you are but Iwonder would you like to come work for Forbes magazine and write a column for us right.So I am like - I can't believe it and I thought like at least I am not going to get fired because I am goingto save this email for sure right. So - and I waited like a day and that was like I wrote back askinghow much would you pay me you know they told well I don't know about the money bla bla blawhich is classic Forbes also right oh yeah right now sun shined but money so we both back andforth and I collect all these emails and I am thinking like you bastard, if you try to fire me now I getlike a paper trial right so - worse is that company that owns Forbes. They don't have the Forbes, it's aprivate equity company in the valley. They start writing to me saying we love your blog too and wewant to invest in you and build the company around us. So I am like wow this is great right, sosomething like kaching kaching right? Because it is always dump money writing around likeFacebooks at 15 billion I think if they worth 15 billion I will worth 1 billion right, half a billion right Ishould be able to get some of that money.So I am ready to cash in. So I have an agent who sold the book and tell how this guys with real moneyare here. So she sets up a meeting and I finally said, I got to tell them so I told Forbes last winter okaylook at me and then the reaction of course, the reaction is like oh yeah yeah it's just you alrightjack ass we don't want - you know so like - done but then we we decided we will start trying dosomething on Forbes, you need to be fake Steve or something like Fake Steve or some kind of columnbut we try to incorporate it into Forbes.com but that dragged on for months and months and monthsand finally in the summer we were just getting it together and working out terms and how would workit out and then the New York Times pick it out why it was and they were very crafty and the otherpeople were trying to figure it out Valleywag out here. This blog was was really trying to make figureout where it was and and they kept guessing wrong and they would guess like people I knew, and youknow when they do this big thing like you know we are best investigative journalists in the worldwe will announce it tomorrow who it is and I was like scared, I wrote to someone saying please don'tdo it, don't do that. You know you'll ruin the blog for everybody and like "Sorry pal!" they quotedmy email like they were such bad asses you know and then they ran the wrong guy. I was like right. I was likeI had like so much fun with that for months taunting them and they would e-mail me, I e-mail themback and give them wrong hints, I told them I lived in San Francisco. I told one guy that I I saw himevery morning on the way to work you know, I saw you today in I was in -you know, I eat at PanchoVilla's on 16th street all the time. And he is like oh you were there too I was like, I know, Ilove seeing you there. And he is like you know, totally lying - but finally the guy from the Times, what hedid was just so brilliant, or just he realized that if he sold the book, he used to work at random houseand if he sold the book, you had to have shopped it. So he called around the people who didn't buy thebook. He went to random house where his friends still work and he said, did you guys ever see thisproposal for this fake Steve Jobs? Yeah you know he had he had read the book too, he read theGallo ways and he liked it and he wanted to do a story about me and I said no, and then he calledrandom house. Anyway he figured it out.August so finally in August after these months of like really working hard and drafting andredrafting, he had to write a lot of it fast. I told my wife like I promise you we are going to go toMaine for a week and I swear I am not going to work, I am not going to use a black berry, I am notgoing to do any blogging. I had a friend lined up to fill in as fake Larry Ellison for a week and shewas doing like it was really funny right - but - so I had it all set up and I am literally half way to Maineand Quentin calls me and said, I just got a call from Brad Stone at New York Times and dude I thinkyou are dead, he has your name, he knows who you are and I am like oh no, soon after I get to Maine, Itook - opened up the black berry which I didn't for very long and then you know, and there is an e-mailfrom Brad Stone to my Forbes accounts saying, pretty sure it's you, we got to talk and I was like whatyou mean, but then I I thought like, I can't do that because he is going to he has got me cold.So I just fell on the grenade, I did an interview with him and - and he ended up doing a good story and he wasfine everything worked out okay. Except that our vacation was ruined, right my wife was so madright. And I just met Brad Stone finally yesterday, I had breakfast with him here he lives outhere and his wife is pregnant with twins and we have twins. His wife is like just about to deliver and Itold them I I am going to make two little voodoo dolls of your twins and I am going to wake them upin the middle of the night now I am going to torture you with your kids.But basically he is a good guy. I don't care. He worked out okay. and ended all ended up, so that'sthat and the the long story short of it is that the for me the ultimate part of the journey has beenthat I started out being this print guy, was kind of like hating the bloggers here and now I havebecome now by the way, now I have like million readers, it's not like 90,000, it's like a millionreaders. Like in august I had almost two million, it was crazy right insane - saying thanks to the NewYork Times. But I have actually started thinking like that media is changing and the old stuff isbeing, just like we always write about, old stuff is kind of not being destroyed but it's being threatened andreduced. But the new stuff, this is going to come out of this this is going to be amazing. And Iactually think media is changing in many ways for the better and for one easy example is that, I don'treally have readers, I have like a community of people and they know each other and they know meand they can communicate very fast and on the road, I mean going these events were in Toronto, therewas no book store. But I posted some of these I am going to be in Toronto, some guys said, I will rentout a bar you know we are in a bar. 30 people who read the blog came that all want to meet each otherand it's a much more immediate world and I don't know, I don't know where it's going to go with thenext 10 or 20 years but like I am extremely now kind of excited about the next 10 or 20 years with mycareer in media. I think it's going to be I think it's going to be much better. I think we are going toinvolve into it. It's going to be much better than what we have had in the past and much richer andmore diversified. So that's that's the end of my talk and I would like to take some Q&A if you havequestions.