By Kate Askew
There are many urban legends that get thrown around the school yard, but the one I used to like the most was the fact that a single daily newspaper apparently contains more information than the average woman in Victorian England would learn during her lifetime (unless, of course, she was totally up on the latest AFL scandal or reality television star’s love life).
These days, apparently, a similar effect is happening on the internet, where the millions of words added each day combine to create a hyperbole effect on the amount of “knowledge” available (now almost totally devoted to AFL scandals, pornography and reality television stars’ love lives, of course).
It’s hard to imagine the days before Google, Facebook, Amazon and the rest – even though they are less than a decade old.
But the names associated with that period in the late 1990s when the dot.com boom ummm… exploded… are a fantastic insight into the way we were. People such as James Packer, Malcolm Turnbull, Jodee Rich, David Lowy… all powerful people with big wallets and a burning desire to be at the forefront of the digital revolution.
On the surface, Kate Askew’s book dealing with the inside story of the dot.com explosion could have easily turned into one of those grating prolonged versions of “I-told-you-so”.
Yes, the figures were dodgy. Yes, we should have known better. Yes, it wasn’t actually different this time.
Some have retrospectively suggested that the best way to make money during this period was to take a noun, add “.com” and sell it to the nearest sucker. In fact, it wasn’t far from the truth.
As internet forums sprung up to extol the virtues of the internet in a gloriously unchallenged exercise in narcissism, stock prices kept rising up and up in the culmination of the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.
But the problem with this hindsight clouding our vision has forced us to forget that these were exciting times, and amid all the economic carnage that followed there were many clever people making plenty of clever deals.
And Askew’s book is there for every hair-raising moment, bringing a clarity to recent history that repetitively made me ashamed to admit I had forgotten some of it already.
And through it all, the characters loomed large and the big moves made overnight millionaires of many.
This book isn’t really about trading at all yet it should be read by every trader who has forgotten that although the invisible hand of the market is meant to be providing ultimate control, inevitably the individuals that create the market are prone to moments of mass insanity and gross delusion. This, apparently, is something that we learn every time there is a boom.
But don’t worry about the mining boom. This time, it’s going to be different…