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Who Is Fake Steve Jobs?

Silicon Valley is in an uproar over a new blog, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

The guessing game has begun. Who is writing it? Send me your guesses. I’ll gladly buy the most expensive iPod for the first to identify Fake Steve Jobs.

We’ve seen this sort of mad comedy before. Ten years ago, Beltway political watchers were gripped by a bawdy novel called "Primary Colors," the story of a philandering presidential candidate from a Southern state, Jack Stanton, and his icy wife. It was no secret that "Primary Colors" was a satire of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential run. The author of "Primary Colors" was listed as “Anonymous,” yet one thing was for certain. This “Anonymous” had so perfectly caricatured the Clinton campaign that he/she had to be an insider.

As Wikipedia recounts, “Writers for Newsweek and The Washington Post speculated some of the following to be the possible “Anonymous”: George Stephanopoulos, Garry "Doonesbury" Trudeau, Former L.A. Times editor Mary Louise Oates and her husband, Robert Shrum, Mark Halprin  and Sidney Blumenthal.” Also mentioned was Chris Buckley, America’s best political satirist and a former Geroge H.W. Bush speechwriter.

“Anonymous,” of course, turned out to be Joe Klein, the Newsweek columnist. Klein’s outing came about like this, according to Salon’s account: “New York magazine published a piece about how a literary expert had used a computer program to pinpoint tell-tale similarities between Klein's bylined writings and “Primary Colors.” [Jacob] Weisberg had written a sidebar noting that there were other reasons to suspect Klein. The author of the book, Weisberg reported, was knowledgeable about New York politics, a onetime Clintonphile who now felt betrayed, and a man obsessed about the subject of race. All these attributes fit Klein.”

Shortly after New York magazine’s canny guess, The Washington Post got Newsweek's editor, Maynard Parker, to admit that “Anonymous” was Joe Klein. Then Newsweek fired Klein, who now writes a column for Time magazine.

So who is Fake Steve Jobs? I asked my colleagues at Forbes.

Betsy Corcoran, a longtime Silicon Valley observer, thinks it could be David Morgenstern. But Quentin Hardy and I suspect an outsider, perhaps even a hired gun, who is being fed gossip from a high-level source. The writing is just too good, too perfect in detail and pitch. In fact, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs reads as an edgy sitcom, written by a "Simpsons" or "South Park" scriptwriter. Quentin thinks it could be Harry Shearer. Yep – the writer is that good.

Then again, Fake Steve Jobs might not be posting from Silicon Valley or Hollywood at all, but rather from the U.K. or the U.S. East Coast. Why? Because the day’s first blogs are typically posted around 5 a.m., PDT.

Send us your guesses. Win the latest, coolest iPod if you’re the first to identify the author of The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

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» Forbes asks 'Who is Fake Steve Jobs' from Forbes asks 'Who is Fake Steve Jobs'
After the fantastic "Secret Diary of Steve Jobs", Forbes is asking readers to guess who's behind the blog.... [Read More]

» Steve Jobs blog - sort of from think mojo
This is hilariously clever. The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Age 51 1/2 My favourite? Steve on iPods Has anyone ever heard of an iPod lasting four friggin years? Come on. Think about it, people. How are we gonna sell new ones if the old ones don... [Read More]

Comments

I go for a Brit. The title is reminiscent of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, Sue Townsend’s hilarious BBC radio play (later best selling books, TV series, movie, video game) in the early 1980s about the trials and tribulations of teenage angst and life in middle-class middle England in the Thatcher years. The code that gives it away is this blurb for one of the books that describes Adrian Mole thus: Delightfully self-centered, Adrian is the sort of teen who could rule a much better world--if only his crazy relatives and classmates would get out of his way. Isn’t that Jobs to a T?

I went with the Brit, because of the Adrian Mole thing and the timing of the posts, but the tone is just too American. I go with an East Coast humorist anglophile -- Henry Beard, who started the National Lampoon and did a parody O.J. legal pad around the Simpson trial, a DaVinci Code takeoff, is a good bet -- but how does he stay up on so much Valley Info, how can he stand reading all those Mac Insider Websites?
Of course, what if it actually IS Steve? That would be amazing.

Anybody think it could be Mark Stephens, aka: Robert X. Cringely?

Cringe was the premier tech gossip columnist in the 1990s. He's got the larger grasp of Valley life and politics and he's a sharp prose stylist.

Cringe now lives in South Carolina, so the 5am PDT postings would be workable.

Exactly who I thought too- 2 for Cringley.

Cringe just emailed to say:

"Not me, Rich. It's funny, but too crude and too rude, though I have
to admit whoever it is certainly has Jonathan Schwartz's number.
What could McNealy have been thinking (or drinking) when he made that
call?"

The writing is clever, but not so clever that it couldn't be an Apple employee (albeit one willing to take a big risk). There are many smart kids toiling at Cupertino's Infinite Loop...

could it be the owners of this site, who previously had a fake Steve Jobs blog:
http://kebawe.com/
(Scroll to bottom to read the red text)

Sean --

Never saw that one. What makes THIS one funny is the blogger's Bonfire Of The Vanities rip on techland's power structure. It's not about Jobs, or the iPod, or the Mac ... but about the cultures of tech, entertainment and politics.

It satirizes like a good episode of the Simpsons or South Park satirizes. It also reminds me of Spy magazine during its late 1980s peak.

The writer is talented and knowledgeable, with a perfect pitch. If Rachel is right and the writer is a young brat hiding out at Apple, then that brat should take stock of his/her talent and head to Hollywood right now. Fame and riches await.

Rich

Come on are you guys serious? Have you even read the fake blog? It has no insider information and makes SJ sound like a spoild teenager. I understand it's ment to be satirical but it they should at least make it sound like things he'd actually say.

I think it would be funny if it were something Avie Tevanian started one night when he was drunk and couldn't stop doing.

Anybody rememeber the writing on suck.com?

Is Si Valley in an uproar, or just uproarious over this?

--AMD FanBoi

On the off chance of winning something for knowing next to nothing, I'm nominating Charles Jade. A sample:

http://arstechnica.com/wankerdesk/01q1/metreon/metreon-1.html

BTW--and I know it's a question only an outsider could ask--where's the insider gossip? I'm assuming the stuff about the Clintons and Mr. Gore is just an inspired guess.

Any chance those smartibrains at Google Labs could have devised an algorithm that combines a web search of Jobs sayings and doings with an AI writing program?

It's funny but it's nothing on par as what you make it out to be. The humor is simply childish, and there is no insider information whatsoever. It's something on the level of a Saturday Night Live parody, not Primary Colors.

Look at who's having the most fun with this: RK himself....an insider with contacts, irreverent sense of humor, good writer. Could it be you, Ricardo? Why would it not surprise me?

Endo ... I don't think it's anyone at Google, since Brin, Schmidt and other Googlers get hit low and hard by Fake Steve.

John ... Inside scoop on products, no, but there's a definite insider-y feel to the Fake Steve blogs. Consider what Fake Steve, carping about the loss of his iPod today, has to say about WSJ's Apple brown-noser Walt Mossberg: "And it's got everything on it, the keynote, the slides, the product photos and literature, even Walt Mossberg's rave reviews for next week, which I just finished writing." That is funny!

Mike ... As you know, I got into magazines in 1988, co-founding Upside with my pal, Tony Perkins, who runs Always On Networks these days. My model for Upside in '88 was one part Forbes, one part American Spectator, and one part Spy magazine (the naughty, bawdy part). This Fake Steve blog strikes me as coming straight out of the Spy tradition, which itself had the ring of Harvard Lampoon and National Lampoon. So yes, it tickles my fancy. But no, I'm not the author. I bow to a greater a satirical talent, whoever it may be.

I'm sorry I don't care what anyone says. This guy is a Brit, or at least is trying to pretend to be one. The use of the word 'Chav" and the phrase 'Pony up' are absolute giveaways.

Noah Wyle? He's impersonated Steve Jobs in public before ;-)

Can I get that expensive iPod without answering?
I could use one :)

Tony --

More Brit evidence: Today's entry -- "Dude, where's my friggin iPod?" -- was posted at 1:37am PDT.

Rich

Rich

I'm not sure you can take the time it was posted as specific evidence of location. I'm frequently online until 5am. For someone who's taken this much time into making this blog, I'm sure 5am isn't a big deal.

I vote for John Gruber of Daring Fireball. He is supposedly working on another project of some sort.... perhaps. Or maybe it is his Stevieness himself. THAT would be hilarious!

So RK, what's your opinion of the real Steve Jobs?

great site with good look and information...i like it

My take on Jobs?

Short take: Jobs ranks with Henry Ford and Walt Disney as a visionary business hero.

Longer take: Dozens of hard-hitting books, dissecting every known Jobs character flaw, and many more magazine puff jobs, covering up the same, have been written on Jobs … so I can’t add much, either way. I’ve only had a couple of encounters with him.

One occurred soon after we published the premiere issue of Upside, in 1989. In that first issue we announced coming attractions … we had signed up writer David Sheff to do his famous Playboy-style interviews for Upside, this time with Silicon Valley bigwigs. Sheff was known principally for two Playboy interviews: one with Steve Jobs in the mid-1980s, and one with John and Yoko Lennon in the fall of 1980. The Lennon interview was published after Lennon’s murder in December, 1980.

To give Upside readers a taste of the forthcoming Sheff interviews, we ran an excerpt of his old Playboy interview with Jobs. We clearly labeled it as such – an excerpt from an old Playboy interview – but when Jobs saw it, adorned with a new caricature, he fired off an angry letter. As near as we could tell, Jobs had read the old excerpt as a current interview. Since he hadn’t given Upside a new interview, he accused us of printing a fabrication. To this day, I can’t understand how Jobs could have misread our intent. But he did.

In 1992 we threw a hard punch at Jobs. Upside published a big cover story on NeXT, Job’s second company after Apple. The author, Richard Rappaport, surmised that NeXT was failing and would shortly stop making computers and try to survive as a software company. That’s exactly what happened. Jobs, of course, didn’t like our take … as no founder/CEO would. Just as Upside was ready to go to press with the story, Jobs called me at the Upside offices, on a Saturday morning I recall, and tried to talk me into yanking the NeXT story. He alternately pleaded and threatened, and once put me on hold, then came back and forgot whether he was pleading or threatening. Pretty funny, that. I told Jobs we were running the story, but I agreed to take out an important fact that Rappaport had dug up during his reporting. Jobs had a half sister, Mona Simpson, a critically acclaimed novelist. The father of both was (as I recall) an Egyptian national and a visiting professor at the University of California, in Berkeley.

Today, Jobs is comfortable about this fact of his life – after all, it adds a touch of mystery to the guy, doesn’t it? – but at the time he wanted to bury it. So I held it, because it was a personal fact and Upside was a business magazine. Anyway, the rest of the story was a hard hitter, predicting rough days for NeXT. Rappaport caught Jobs in a couple of business fibs about NeXT’s prospects, so we had our cover artist draw Jobs with a Pinocchio nose. The story won a computer journalism award. I’m sure Jobs hated it.

Finally I wrote a May 9, 2005 op-ed for the WSJ called Vladimir Ilyich Jobs. This piece was prompted by a Jobs’s edict to ban certain books at Apple stores. I wrote: “The genius, idealism, charisma, salesmanship, obsession, paranoia and cruelty that come together in Steve Jobs...also combine in history's worst tyrants...Deprived of a capitalistic playing field, where would [Job's] energies have gone? Toward the dark side is one guess...That is the true genius of America: It takes would-be Lenins, redeems them in the crucible of capitalism, and turns out Steve Jobs.”

I still think that about Jobs. In any society Jobs would rise to the top. He’s that clever and charismatic … and he has a NEED to affect history.

Last couple of thoughts: Bill Gates and Larry Ellison may be the smartest guys in tech, but Jobs is an intuitive genius of history’s first rank. Jobs may be at times surly, cruel and unforgiving, but he has given us only the best products: the best personal computers, the best music players, the best animated movies. Jobs has never tried to sell us crap. Think about that. Finally, after the wipeout at Apple and collapse of NeXT, Jobs has remade himself into a top-flight businessman. He knows when to meddle, as he often does at Apple, and when to stand aside, as he does at Pixar. His companies mint money and account for it honestly. He treats shareholders well.

I think it's by Steve Jobs himself, having a good laugh.

Tony Sullivan -- If it is a Brit it is probabaly a relatively young one. Chav came into linguistic fashion late '90s early '00s -- although the word dates back to the 19th century.

Rich:

Sad to say, looks like the blog has disappeared

Too bad, it was pretty good.

Keep up the good work(s)

I'm new to this, and now it's gone. Does anybody know of an archive? And now there's a new mystery to solve... why did the blog disappear? Long knives in the dark? A Carrera for silence? Boredom? Maybe the guy couldn't make his Quest payment on time and lost his Internet connection.

Hi Randall,

I've uploaded the archive for those, who hadn't the chance to read it.

http://shurl.org/FSJ_backup

OK the original fake Steve, Brit or not, seems to have gone offline. Within the last day or so another fake Steve, maybe even a whole team of them, has arrived and established a new url. Personally I am quite sure that the new fake Steve is not the original fake Steve. Nevertheless this whole thing has become interesting and I decided to create a lens on Squidoo (url above) and plan to watch with interest.

Whilst the blog is indeed funny and, at times, very funny, it's not exactly going to set the literary world on fire is it?

You appear to be guilty of that very American of journalistic infections - the hype.

It's not a brit - that much is certain. It's simply not dry enough. Although, the punctuation IS very British as is some of the sentence structure. My guess would be someone that's spent the formative years in Britain (most probably middle to upper middle class and most likely from the south of England - London or Stratford on Avon etc).

However, I think they are not English born. This type of bitting satire is a speciality of the American writer and just is not subtle enough to be English or European.

As for the post times - who cares? The author could post late at night or very early in the morning. What's to stop them?

Finally, can you please stop blabbering on about how marvelous the author is, how they are a paragon of satire etc, etc ad infinitum. They're not. They're a little bit funny and a little bit naughty and that' about it.

Dudes, you're thinking way too much about this... the answer is on the page itself.

Mitchell Aidelbaum

Guys - too much thinking going on here. It's either Mitchell Aidelbaum or his buddy... type in "apple" into his Flickr search bar. Only Apple "frigtards" have pictures of their machines.

The writer must be....Jack Miller, from "As the Apple Turns" fame. The style is similar (but more edgy) and he does live in the Boston area.

> This type of bitting satire is a
> speciality of the American writer
> and just is not subtle enough to be
> English or European.

English not capable of biting satire????? Shurely shum mishtake. I'd say it's the only kind of humo(u)r we're capable of.

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