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Be Slightly Evil: A Playbook for Sociopaths (Ribbonfarm Roughs)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  450 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In 2010, Venkatesh Rao, author of the widely read ribbonfarm.com blog, began writing an email newsletter called "Be Slightly Evil" on the timeless theme of power and influence dynamics in the world of work. By the time the list was retired in 2013, it had over 2200 readers and was growing steadily. This ebook is a carefully sequenced and edited compilation of the archives, ...more
Kindle Edition, 206 pages
Published September 15th 2013 by Ribbonfarm, Inc.
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Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays, business
I didn't find much in here particularly compelling. Rao's "slightly evil" mode of behavior seems to basically consist of trying to replace one's personality with a miscellaneous bag of tricks for impersonating a human in order to gain advantage in adversarial situations, with said tricks being informed by a mix of pop psychology and (I would assume from the many references) movies and television programs. Numerous ideas presented in rough outline are noted as being "complex," with in most cases ...more
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
First, Venkatesh is an excellent writer who often can give new meaning to old concepts as they pertain to the business world. This collection was well written.
However, it makes me sad for most of corporate society. The manipulation tactics, the thought experiments on "do you lose status if you hold a door for someone". This is a sad sad testament for everything wrong with what corporations / management has become.
I guess if you want to become something that everyone who has ever worked for you h
all around atlantis
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
There's important variance, as to quality and effect, between Rao as a blog writer and a book writer.

Or: there is important variance, as to quality and effect, between blog posts presented as blog posts in a blog and blog posts seriated into a book.

Read his "The Gervais Principle" -- on the blog or in ebook, that one is a masterpiece.
After that, his Learning to Fly by Missing the Ground post.
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Where philosophy, self-help, and management collide, you end up with a book like this. Though the title advocates evil, it's more primarily a pun on Google's motto. The core focus in the book is advice and analysis centered around all of the many situations where "Win, Win" is not a viable outcome.

A valuable read.
Alper Çuğun
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Venkatesh's slightly evil is essential reading for those who are prone to self-pity and self-help. And for those who aren't it still yields lots of useful heuristics and mental models. ...more
Dec 26, 2018 rated it liked it
First off - taking good blogs and building anthologies should be more of a cottage industry. While the medium of the blog / essay is taking off, the power of consuming a corpus of curated articles shouldn't be lost. I'm in the middle of reading a few of these from blogs that I've perused casually, and it's been a great experience.

Following up on a perennial favorite, The Gervais Principle, Be Slightly Evil is a playbook for navigating a particular kind of environment. There are some good nuggets
Dec 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
Rao is a vampire. The response to that from people ranging from lesswrong emigrants like Rao to uncomfortably adjacent far right myth-makers like Zero HP Lovecraft is as thus: “actually, everyone is this psychosociovampiric and they’re just in denial. [pop psychology book or blogpost, possibly from Robin Hanson, who is not a psychologist] said so!” And I guess if you mostly lived in a middle class purgatory of managerial moguls and only interacted with the digital world through fucking Twitter a ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it liked it
This ebook focuses on (for the most part) interpersonal interactions in a corporate context. I find Rao to be a very interesting individual and love reading his thoughts on things.

I think this book is best consumed when one doesn't take it too seriously. Many of the reviews criticize the essays for being half baked, but Rao pokes fun at himself and is highly self aware throughout. In fact, the preface clearly states that it's a collection of emails he sent from his newsletter over a period of
Jan 26, 2020 rated it did not like it
Useless book. Not because it isn't right but precisely because it is not practical. No one can contain that many different models in their mind and apply them on the go during day time. That's not high performance decision making is made. So this book is aimed at armchair politicians rather than practitioners.

It would not be polite to criticize without giving a solution. See what Flavia Cymbalista writes about in "How George Soros Knows What He Knows". Also check out what Cummings writes about h
x x x
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Interesting perspective on social interactions

I can't remember being so emotionally affected by a description of social interaction before. This series of blogs turned into an ebook has the potential for changing your ability to thrive in social situations especially if you happen to be somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
I picked this up after reading a few wonderful posts on Rao's blog. Here I found a string of blog posts slight manipulation, but there's immense variance in the quality and topics here, to the point where it's barely coherent, so I would not even call this a book. I will try the Gervais Principle ebook next, for which I have better hope. ...more
Brian Cajes
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Eh, not super.
Sep 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A great book that sheds light on the subtle power plays in and outside the office world.

The author discusses power plays, deception and status in a fun and engaging manner so I highly recommend this book to empathetic readers who need actionable tools to fight back against those who are naturally inclined to lie and deceit.
terio bost
Mar 24, 2018 rated it did not like it

This book is somewhat entertaining but I am having a hard time believing the author owns a successful consulting business, if the author does and her clients follow the philosophises found in this book they are bound for failure.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy Rao's weekly email writing so decided to read his books - this is the first in a series of seven. ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Must read to survive in a corporate setting.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great book
Mar 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
I don't know what I've read but since it has a cover, an ISBN number, must be a book. ...more
Mar 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Depection of how work place success is.
Zi-Xiang (Zack)
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An addendum to the Gervais Principle that complements and enriches it. A must read.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff Yoak
I didn't like this book from the very beginning, but stuck with trying to read it much longer than I would ever normally consider because a friend was interested in my impressions.

There are really two levels on which I reacted to the book. The first was to its attempts to provide an integrating philosophy which frankly was just laughable, but painful if you try to stick with it.

Second, in its form as a collection of essays, it covers a lot of ground in various ways in which one might attempt to
Xavier Shay
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it
decent collection of blog posts, plenty of ideas to think about. Note: "sociopath" in subtitle is a reference to a previous book with a (imo) strained re-definition.

"If your team can’t escape certain consequences when things go wrong, by saying “my manager said it was okay,” you are not doing enough for them."

"one of the easiest ways to figure someone out is to look at the information they choose to consume."

"Discussing ideas is only a sign of great minds if events and people – both matters of c
May 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this, but then I am a bit of a Venkatesh groupy. It's an uneven collection of writing on adversarial thinking. Ultimately, I think "be slightly detached" would've been a better title, because a lot of this is actually about mindfulness and the zen warrior concept of thinking in action, or orientation in boydian terms. The closing essay, providing an overview of how competitive "games" evolve was by far the most interesting for me. It provided me with some new metaphors for thinking abo ...more
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
My hope was for a bit of philosophical navel gazing from the blog posts I read, or like what can be found on overcoming Bias. Sadly, this reads like a self help book aimed at people who are uncomfortable being human and prefer aping a robotic ideal.

Some creative narrative building within, but it is obfuscated by the book trying to be relevant to daily life.

In hindsight, the title should've tipped me off
Ray Doraisamy
Dec 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
It was alright. While it introduced some interesting concepts, the book itself did not seem to present empirically-backed ideas from newer research. Instead, he uses examples from pop culture with some great methodology from a very narrow pool.

I guess I expected more.
Vinod Khare
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humanities
Rao's ideas are interesting, as usual. However, I found this book less coherent than some of this other work. Much of the text was too abstract with very little real world examples or stories to pin them down. ...more
James Strencht
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Good book for self reflection

I found this book quite compelling and it got my curious about John Boyd and applications of his ideas to business
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
It may not be a scientifically tested hypothesis, but it certainly explains a lot of what happens in real life. Definitely worth a read!
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