Enough is enough, Mr Lyons. Stop the pretense already.

by Aayush Arya Feb 08, 2008

I love The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs and have been reading it religiously for the past year. When Forbes’ Senior Editor Dan Lyons was ousted as the author behind the satirical blog, many people had felt that the blog would either cease to exist from then on or wouldn’t be as funny as it used to be. Common sense dictated that any senior employee of a respected magazine like Forbes wouldn’t jeopardize his relationship with the people and companies he wrote about or put his job on the line to entertain a (huge) bunch of blog readers.

All these doubts were put to rest, however, when Forbes announced that they were thrilled to know that Fake Steve was none other than one of their own editors and took the blog into their fold. They gave Mr Lyons complete license to continue writing for the parody blog uninterrupted and unrestricted. Mr Lyons returned to blogging after a week long break, “badder than ever” and it seemed that apart from the several Forbes links and advertisements in the sidebar on the right, nothing much had changed. Fake Steve was just as loud and rude as he used to be, the same self centered fake CEO who thought the world revolved around him. Fans loved it, and so did I.

But did he get a little too much freedom?

As much as I love reading the Fake Steve Jobs blog, I have one major beef with it and its author. When I read The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, I make a semiconscious assumption in my mind that I’m reading the thoughts of the Apple CEO. Yes, I know they are not from the actual CEO of Apple (some day that would be!) but after having read the ramblings of Fake Steve for around one year now, the personality displayed on that blog has become like a second identity for the real Steve. To my mind, this is the side of him that he doesn’t show to the public. Wasn’t that the whole purpose behind the blog in the first place?

Mr Lyons, however, is taking far too many liberties these days and using the blog as a vehicle to push his own personal agenda, which is defeating the purpose of the blog and, at least in the opinion of this reader, making it lose some of its charm. The best example of this is Mr Lyons’ constant stream of posts castigating the OLPC project and its founder, Nicholas Negroponte. Mr Lyons does not approve of the project, the product and the questionable intentions behind the whole thing. So be it. He is entitled to his own opinion and also has the full right to blog about it.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that this is not his blog and anything posted on it is not his opinion. It is the opinion of Fake Steve Jobs - and, by extension, the real Steve Jobs - that we wish to read. Fake Steve Jobs is just supposed to be an extremely extrovert version of the highly reserved Apple CEO. He is not supposed to have opinions entirely his own that aren’t even faintly reflective of the man he’s pretending to imitate. When Mr Lyons refers to Microsoft as “the borg” and Linux enthusiasts as a bunch of “freetards”, you find it funny. He has a reason to do that. Microsoft is the arch nemesis and I can just imagine how frustrating it must be for the real Steve Jobs to listen to some of the more outrageous demands of the Linux community. You can almost visualize him saying those words.

However, when fake Steve starts heaping on the XO laptop, you think, “why is he doing that”. There is no motive. The OLPC project is not related to Apple in any way at all. Apple and OLPC are like the two opposite ends of the technology industry. Where the latter seeks to bring inexpensive computers to poor kids of the Third World, the former’s entire business model rests on selling well designed, high quality, medium to premium priced products at high margins. These days, I just cannot look at any review of the XO laptop objectively. No matter how effusive the reviewer is towards it, I just keep finding faults with it. Constant exposure to Mr Lyons’ bashing has turned me against the project without ever having seen the laptop even once.

When David Pogue, an author I admire and a person whose opinion I respect, reviewed the XO laptop and released a video, I found it very difficult to hate the product after I’d watched it. Mr Pogue was right on the money. This laptop was not intended for the “snarky bloggers” and wasn’t half bad considering its target audience. But that wasn’t the point anyway. Even if the XO laptop was poorly designed, ill-conceived and the product of malicious intentions (which it might very well be, I wouldn’t know), I don’t want to see Fake Steve talking about it so frequently. It’s not in his domain.

So, ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that this must stop now. It has gone on far too long. Mr Lyons uses the FSJ blog, instead of his own, to publish these thoughts because he is very well aware of the several times larger reader base it commands. He is misusing the license he’s been given by the community. People don’t find faults with his rude posts about other companies and people because they are entertaining and, we assume, the thoughts of a personality which does not actually exist. We visit the blog and subscribe to the feed because we wish to read the thoughts of fake Steve and we would appreciate it if it wasn’t interspersed with pretentious articles authored by Daniel Lyons, Senior Editor, Forbes Magazine. Thank you very much!

Disclaimers: I am, of course, a Mac user. I love FSJ (for the fourth time, just to make sure that it is clearly understood) and have no ill feelings towards Dan Lyons. I have a very neutral stance on the OLPC project because I am not very knowledgeable about it. I just used it because it was the most visible and obvious example. I am in no way related to Nicholas Negroponte. And for the record, I never fell for that joke about Apple paying Mr Lyons to shut down the blog and I pity the poor folks who did. C’mon, people. It’s a satirical blog by a fake CEO - what did you expect!

Note to John Gruber: I hope I’m not sticking a target on my back that screams “declare me the jackass of the week”. I follow you on Twitter and subscribe to your site. That should be enough to exempt me from the infamy award nominations, right? :p


  • No Way. His OLPC comments are directly related to Linux bashing and arrogance in the Computer industry. I find them very funny. And rather enlightening. I think he’s going too far on the political side. I like the political stuff when he’s directly involved. Think of FSJ as the “jester” of the internet. Pulling the beard of all the high and mighty. I don’t think he’s making fun of the OLPC but rather “Old Saint Nick”. FSJ has a way of cutting through the “detritus” of a situation rather succinctly and summing it up in a nice “quotable” quote. His summation of the MS-Yahoo merger being spot on.
    And I believe that if you find the humour a bit too biting, it may be because you may sympathize or believe the targets of those comments.

    mcloki had this to say on Feb 08, 2008 Posts: 25
  • You might recall that the Real Steve Jobs offered free MacOS X to the OLPC project, and he was turned down since they preferred Linux for ideological reasons.

    This would tend to make him embittered towards the project and so I think there’s a real possibility that Dan Lyons’ attitude tracks Steve’s.

    I think the OLPC is actually pretty cool for what it is, but I do think some of the features (like the whole thing being in Python, with features making it easy to explore and tweak the source) may be wasted on the target audience.  I’d like to see whether I’m right or wrong about that, though.  It’s very possible I’m too cynical.

    Bear in mind, however, that MacOS X itself is an open source project at its lowest levels as well, so the Real Steve has to be at least somewhat supportive of open source.


    David H Dennis had this to say on Feb 08, 2008 Posts: 7
  • A very nice writeup I must say. Although I’m not sure where my stance is with regard to the OLPC project, I am with you in saying that either this Lyons dude stops his fake fake steve blog or go back to the good ol’ days (read: Microsoft bashing!). The blog as I see it has become just another opinion blog and he seems to have a problem with just about anything. Also, his killer posts have already been exhausted. How much can one man write?

    He should have stopped the moment his identity was revealed.

    goobimama had this to say on Feb 08, 2008 Posts: 9
  • Dan Lyons was a paid by Microsoft Linux basher before he was FSJ. Microsoft wants windows on OLPC. Forbes is a Microsoft tool. Microsoft doesn’t want Linux spreading via OLPC.

    zato3 had this to say on Feb 08, 2008 Posts: 26
  • You meant “outed” right? Right.

    Robomac had this to say on Feb 09, 2008 Posts: 846
  • I used to LMAO when visiting FSJ before he was witifully outed by that guy in the NY Times. Brilliant dude, too bad for Dan Lyons.

    Anyway, stopped my daily commute to FSJ’s funny takes once he admitted “I’m So Busted, Yo!”. It just wasn’t funny anymore. I can’t believe people are still pretending the mythical SJ is behind FSJ when it’s apparent it is a person with history of questionable negatives towards the Mac and Linux communities.

    Dan Lyons, give it up already, OK? Mr. Arya, good piece of writing.

    Never mind the OLPC. ‘Suppose to be a very innovative and well engineered laptop designed for the third world - meaning all the apps that will ever be are already in the machine. Good reviews I read. Never any negatives. Buy one if you can.

    Robomac had this to say on Feb 09, 2008 Posts: 846
  • You wrote:

    “It is the opinion of Fake Steve Jobs - and, by extension, the real Steve Jobs”

    Uh no… it’s called satire and you may be taking it a little too seriously (or is it just a slow news week?).

    MykGuad had this to say on Feb 09, 2008 Posts: 3
  • Of course Jobs would have an opinion on the OLPC. For one thing, it is a design disaster: green with rabbit ears? Really? Secondly, it runs a different operating system and is designed to be spread to people around the globe. Any evangelist pushing his religion isn’t going to like a device that is designed to push another religion.

    He might like, in principle, the idea behind helping people. But it seems obvious to me that he’d feel this way about the actual device. If you don’t like FSJ, don’t read it anymore. Seems like you don’t get it anymore. As MykGuad says above - it is satire. And, it IS totally in character.

    Mark the Scientist had this to say on Feb 10, 2008 Posts: 1
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