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Web valleyofthegeeks.com

Frequently Axed Questions
Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Why did you create this site? You've been warned

My gift to the world is to make each person's day just a little bit brighter by giving them a light-hearted look at this crazy, mixed-up place we call Silicon Valley.

Is this a joke?

Yes, very much so.

No really, why did you develop this site?

Valley of the Geeks was developed in2002 in order to get experience in building a web site.  It also enabled me to publish the many satirical articles I've written about Silicon Valley over the years and to promote the book of the same name.

So you're saying this site is basically just a commercial?

Look, bub, "free" went out with the dot com era.

Where can I buy the book?  Who is publishing it?

The book is available directly from iUniverse Publishing as well as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and most any retail bookseller.  The book is published by the fine folks at iUniverse.com, a print-on-demand specialist.   Click here to find out more about the book.  If you're an agent or editor interested in publishing the book or articles, contact me directly via email.

How can I be kept up to date on new stories?

Who has time to write new stories?  Why don't you just buy the book?  New stories are published once in a while, but the best material is all in the book.

If I subscribe, how often will you send me email?

Not too bloody often , to be honest.  I really don't have time for this anymore. But if you get lonely, you can read the old newsletters. 

Where does the name "Valley of the Geeks" come from?

Its a play on Jacqueline Susann's novel "Valley of the Dolls" first published in 1966. Also, I got a good deal on the domain name.

Were any of these articles previously published?

Some of the Features appeared in an earlier form in Windows Tech Journal, an august publication founded by JD Hildebrand. I wrote for WinTech for five years, gradually migrating from technical topics to business topics and occasional satire. Other articles were sent out via email to friends and colleagues. Most of the articles are new and not available anywhere else.  If you'd like to publish some of the articles, please contact me

What's so funny about Silicon Valley anyways?

Where else but in Silicon Valley could you have guys like Phillipe Kahn having a Toga Party at Comdex, Larry Ellison buying a Russian MiG jet fighter, Miniscribe shipping bricks instead of disk drives and Steve Kirsch creating a $50 million charitable foundation to study the effects of Rogaine? I could never come up with stuff that’s that funny. Still, I try. (Ok, I made that last one up about the Rogaine. Just kidding, Steve!)

Do people ever complain about being featured in your articles?

No. Most companies are flattered to be mentioned. It shows good street cred. I try to keep the humor in a positive spirit and avoid anything that is blatantly offensive. Most people understand its a satire and don't take it seriously.  Also, I think corporate lawyers realize that they are better off just ignoring parody, since they can't prevent it, what with the First Amendment and all that. And if they raise a fuss, it's likely to just draw more attention anyways.  

Don't you need companies permission from the companies you parodize?

No, you don't need permission to write parody.  If you did, you wouldn't have Mad Magazine, National Lampoon, Dave Barry or even Saturday Night Live.  While companies may not like to be the object of satire, the First Amendment provides clear protection for freedom of speech including parody.  In addition, the Copyright Act section 107 provides for "fair use" of copyrighted material to support the creation of criticism including parody.  The US Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (1994) stated that a parody as a form of criticism or comment could be fair use of a copyrighted work.  That being said, I have received boiler plate "cease and desist" letters on occasion.  Since this is a non-commercial site and the contents are all fictional satire, there's little grounds for legal complaint.  If you'd like to learn more about copyright law and the rights of parodists, please take a look at the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco and University of Maine law school clinics.   And if you're thinking of sending me a cease and desist letter, go talk to a real copyright lawyer who understands these laws before you waste your time.

Do you make any money with this site?

No, it's not a commercial site.  However, if you'd like to donate large amounts of money, I'm very flexible. You can support the site by using the Amazon Honor System on the Support Us page.  For the price of a half-caf-decaf non-fat double latte you could help keep Silicon Valley laughing.  You can also order RTFM hats, shirts, mugs or other logo ware on our RTFM Store.  Or sponsor some of the advertizers.  Money from these sources helps keep the web site up and running.

What does RTFM mean?

RTFM is a special acronym tech support professionals use to denote customers who deserve extra care and attention.  It stands for Read the F***ing Manual.  And if you want to show your true inner geek, you can buy RTFM logo wear at our RTFM Store.

Do you accept advertising on this site?

The site has recently been updated to work with Google AdSense. So you will see some real banner ads on the site.  They help fund the costs associated with hosting the system.  There are also quite a few fake banner ads we've created in articles like  Banner Ads We'd Like to See.   You can reuse these banners, but please make sure they link back to www.valleyofthegeeks.com

Who reads this stuff?

The site gets coverage from around the world for reasons known only to the people who visit the site.  You can find out more about our readers at your own risk.

What do you do really?

My day job is a software executive in a Silicon Valley startup company.  (But don't tell my mother, she thinks I'm the piano player in a whorehouse.)  My job keeps me very busy, so that's why I don't write much new material any more.  Sometimes, I'll just recycle an old story.  In the rest of my spare time I run the occasional marathon, ski, hike and play really bad electric guitar.  Not bad as in good, just plain bad.  But I try.

Who did the design and implementation?

Technical work was done by my buddy Ben Riga. I also used the services of iFroggyDesign; they do great work at very reasonable prices. For more details refer to the Site Information section.

Do you publish outside submissions?

So far, I haven accepted only a few outside submissions; I'm not really a team player in that respect. But if you're a published author, and really funny, I'll consider it. Especially if you give me the name of your publisher and agent.

I worked for you once and you always seemed very serious. When did you get a sense of humor?

Right after I fired you.

Where do you get your ideas?

I steal them from David Gerrold, author of the "Trouble with Tribbles". Otherwise, I read a lot about what's happening in the high-tech industry. Then I go jogging. Invariably the ideas get jumbled around and I come up with something funny. If I still remember it a couple of hours later, I write it down. If I remember where I wrote it, it eventually ends up in an article somewhere. If its really funny, I use it two or three times.

What's the funniest stuff you've ever written?

I think the Interview with Rich Young is pretty good. "SPAM on X... SNOT's running today. MUCUS is just a hack". It still makes me laugh. Also, the High Tech Dictionary has a lot of good one-liners in it.  You can even find this article translated into French.  The fake banner ads are a hoot and I enjoyed creating the fake ads but they are a lot of work.  The stories on Microsoft and HP have been very popular.  The site has won several awards and has been featured in a variety of on-line publications.  I've also created a page featuring some of the classic articles. The best stories, plus bonus material not available elswhere, are all in the new book "Valley of the Geeks" from iUniverse Publishing.

What are your influences?

Mostly Mad Magazine. My father thinks it corrupted me. Also, National Lampoon in the 1980s when it was a real magazine. The Library section lists other good high tech humor books and web sites.  

Are you the same Zack Urlocker who...?

Yes, yes, but it was a long time ago and I was drunk at the time.

No, really, you grew up in Montreal and in high school you wrote an underground magazine, right? 

Alright, alright. Yes, I co-wrote an underground satirical magazine in high school called The Global Riot with topnotch Canadian legal eagle Patrick Callaghan.  It was a Catholic school and the parish priest (known as Father Lawsuit) objected to a story about the merger of McDonald's and the Catholic church.  It seemed pretty funny to us at the time.  Those were the days.

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