I’ve been doing a lot of research for my Aaron Greenspan story, and along the way I found a lot of funny stuff. Unfortunately there’s so much ridiculous stuff that it’s impossible to fit it all into the story, but some of the stuff is so funny I have to share it in a separate blog post.
Here are some of the funniest book reviews on Amazon for Aaron Greenspan’s autobiography, where he tells the story of how he supposedly invented Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg stole it from him. The autobiography is truly one of the worst books I’ve ever read, which makes it pretty hilarious if you know Greenspan. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t even come in until the last few pages of the book –– most of it is just Aaron complaining about everything.
Here are my favorite reviews from Amazon:
Whiny and Pathetic
The rantings of a pathetic sore loser who is trying to make money off of someone else’s success.Tiny Hands on Amazon
Taking credit where it isn’t due.
Aaron Greenspan may be a lot of things, but what he isn’t is the inventor of any game-changing technologies. This book contains a lot of pontificating without substance and a lot of claims without merit. Not worth one’s time, let alone one’s money.Alex, reviewer of things on Amazon
Whining and nagging
I have NEVER, EVER met a man with such socialization issues like Aaron Greenspan. It seems like every day in his life, from the moment he wakes up until he retires, is a struggle against Orks, Golems and Darth Vader. Most people, when faced with the inevitable rudeness, stupidity and incompetence that we encounter every day, just shrug it off and move on. Not Aaron. Aaron gets mad, his lung collapses, he has shortness of breath and he feels suicidal. His parents seem to scream and yell all the time. He goes on save-the-world crusades, which, as he describes it, he always conducts as a timid, tongue-tied, helpless adolescent. Although he is the writer and he controls the story telling, he comes across as an irritating, insufferable cry baby who cannot deal with the world.
I sat down to read a tale of Harvard hardship and all the details of the Facebook controversy and I ended up mumbling “enough already with the nagging” every other paragraph. No wonder no girlfriend.P. Konstantinidis on Amazon
I was wondering if, like his little brother and like his mother’s mother but on a smaller scale, he could be somewhere on the autism spectrum as well, with the result that in some kinds of social interactions he feels pushed into a corner and doesn’t see some of the openings available through which he would ordinarily be able to interact with those with whom he has conflicts and “negotiate” or compromise with them. I felt like there were openings being offered him and he didn’t see them. It did seem to me that he was sometimes right when he felt that certain individuals were trying to block him, but also that there seemed to be a wealth of communication he didn’t fully get, not because he isn’t bright, but because he keeps pulling in this other direction.Rsrchr on Amazon
A book that should have never been written
“Authoritas” is a nauseating and desperate attempt by Greenspan to assert himself as the “true” visionary behind Facebook. Instead, he cements his place in history as a jealous and imbalanced individual. Each page of the book is dripping with extreme insecurity, regret, and bitterness. Greenspan finds himself in a world in which Mark Zuckerberg’s growing empire is ubiquitous; even casual reminders of the site (e.g., seeing a random girl using Facebook at a public computer terminal) are emotionally devastating to him. He believes that he has been robbed of fame, fortune, and credit, causing him to spiral into an anxious and overwhelming depression. As other reviewers have noted, his resentment toward Zuckerberg (and nearly everyone else, including the president of Harvard, the press, etc.) is palpable. He shares a number of uncomfortable thoughts and inner dialogues, making plain his terrible obsession with the events surrounding the creation of the multi-billion dollar social networking giant. In interviews, Greenspan claims that this book is his crowning achievement. If this is true — and he has decided to define his life by these intense (and probably unfounded) feelings of betrayal — it is the saddest part of all. The reader is left to worry about the author’s overall mental health, and ability to move forward.
If anything, this book serves as a painful reminder of what can happen when one chooses to dwell too deeply on misfortune and lost opportunities. Almost anything else that Greenspan could have done with his time would have been better spent instead of writing this book.Benjamin Burrows on Amazon
Read the prologue and chapter 26; skip the rest
The author of this book created a new website he created called the “houseSYSTEM” (which Harvard tried to shut down). Greenspan describes his battle with the university and then explains why his classmate Mark Zuckerberg “stole” his idea in chapter 26. […]
But beware, Greenspan comes across as an insufferable character throughout most of the book, complaining about most of his professors at Harvard. Note to Greenspan: no one really cares about your childhood education (so you might want to delete the entire first half of your book if you ever publish a second edition), and reverse engineering of a product or website does NOT constitute the theft of a trade secret.F. E. Guerra Pujol on Amazon
Odd. Compelling reading, but the author’s bitterness is pervasive.
I was expecting a book about the “founding of the Facebook era” as the sub-title suggests. This is certainly not a focus. From 335 pages in all, the name “Mark Zuckerberg” first appears on page 287, and any facts relating to Facebook’s rise are within only the last 40 pages and are mostly tainted by disdain.
Initially the author developed a system called CriticalMass that allowed students to rate their satisfaction of different academics at Harvard. Textbook Central, a textbook trading site, followed. Another system called FAStWebmail allowed Harvard students to access their official Harvard e-mail accounts over the Web. These were eventually rolled into a system called houseSYSTEM that included some other features like course preselection and calendars.
For a few chapters after explaining how these systems were developed, the focus is on how the administration and some other students considered houseSYSTEM to be insecure and flawed, due to its pseudo-requirement to have users’ official Harvard passwords and a lack of proper SSL (HTTPS) security.
In dealing with these concerns the author showed a lack of technical knowledge. He protested that only an MD-5 hash of users’ passwords were stored, but if this were the case, how did his system then access the users’ official e-mail accounts? The author doesn’t provide a proper level of detail to make a judgment as an independent reader, and the way he portrays it may just be poor.
The author also says “Brian Wong is telling people that MD-5 generates 16-byte hashes, when it doesn’t! There are 32 characters in all of them! Each ASCII character is one byte!” MD-5 generates a 16 byte hash (128 bits). That a textual hexadecimal representation of that 16 byte hash takes 32 characters does not make it a “32 byte hash.”
The author has a habit of “quoting” his mental monologue, nearly all of which is negative in nature, and assuming whoever he’s talking to is either an idiot or out to get him. The author’s paranoia (warranted or not) permeates the last half of this book enough to make for uneasy reading. He jumps to exaggerated conclusions. Shortly after the initial security concerns, the university decides that Greenspan needs to delete the password hashes he had collected so far and “forward the list of all those whose information you have collected” in order that those students could have their passwords reset. Instead of complying with this reasonable request, the author rants about how the users table has other information like phone numbers in it and asks “What, do they want those, too?” The e-mail he quotes requested a list of people who signed up for his site, not other details. This doesn’t stop the author from eventually sending the whole user table anyway!
On the SSL issue, the text implies that a self-signed certificate was used, but the author appears not to understand the identification issues with this (though those who e-mail him appear to). It’s a common theme that the author, IMHO, quotes well-thought-out e-mails and refutes them poorly. He argues that a wildcard certificate would be necessary – costing some $1000, though InstantSSL had them for under $500 at the time – not realizing he could use a regular SSL certificate (under $50) for the password transfer (the parts where security really counted), and a wildcard cookie for cross sub-domain authentication beyond that.
On Facebook, he seems to feel that Zuckerberg’s developments, though independent, were a rip off of his own even though Zuckerberg is constantly quoted as remaining separate. houseSYSTEM did have a “face book” feature where pictures of students were located along with their names, but this had no social networking aspect. Zuckerberg’s did. Nothing the author relays gives me the impression he “founded” the “Facebook” era.
On page 302, I feel that Greenspan relays a tale of attempting to blackmail Facebook. Despite considering Zuckerburg “inarticulate and naive,” he suggested that he join Facebook. When told they needed an engineer with 15 years’ experience, Greenspan highlighted Facebook’s problems with ConnectU (who were suing Facebook for allegedly copying their idea and stealing code) and suggested that he had “grounds to sue both of you” before suggesting that if Facebook would hire him, he’d be on their side and help the lawsuit go away.
The last 20 pages are dire. The author claims that having a full Facebook profile “would have meant I endorsed intellectual property theft” without realizing that information willingly shared is not “thieved.”
Lastly, the author appears to rub most people in the book up the wrong way. Other than his closest associates and his family, almost every social interaction seems to result in the author antagonizing someone or being ignored. In many cases, he relies on his father to write e-mails and letters on his behalf (mostly unsuccessfully), rather than fight his own battles. “If Mark can get $2 billion for my ideas, I should at least be able to get a couple million!” sums up what I see as a jealous individual who, as it happens, has written a gripping and interesting book.
As good as this book is, I sense Greenspan isn’t the sort of person to get over a slight easily and it saddens me that he appears restricted him from achieving all that someone with his talents could be.Peter Cooper on Amazon
As for my review? Greenspan has blocked me from posting one. It’s amazing how far this guy will go to hide criticism.