New Releases

More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys, Three Years, and a Chronicle of Ideals and Ambition in Silicon Valley

November 10, 2015


A paperback edition of Jim Dyer's excellent account of "Diasporo," an ambitious social media project that sought (still seeks) to rival the giants and protect privacy.

Now in paperback: More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys, Three Years, and a Chronicle of Ideals and Ambition in Silicon Valley by Jim Dwyer

“A community of hopeful ideas and people trying to build a world so much more awesome…Dwyer proves to be the ultimate fly on the wall, capturing every important moment... an extraordinary ability to make this world both accessible and compelling...Through rich metaphors Dwyer casts wide the doors to all of us [and] has a talent for turning the mundane into the dramatic…So, too, Facebook, Kickstarter, Wikileaks, online encryption, blogging software and the Arab Spring all are given fascinating treatments that offer both context and insight.”—America Magazine

“[A] lively account…[that] finds heroism and success, betrayal and even, ultimately, tragedy in the hurtling pursuit of a cause.”—Washington Post

“Dwyer’s account…is a thrilling read, astoundingly detailed and researched, alternately suspenseful and heartbreaking.”—Daily Beast

“Smarter…brutally honest…. Dwyer has painted a detailed portrait of the enormous difficulties facing female programmers and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.”—New York Times Book Review

“Fascinating…a terrific writer…infuses color and vigor into a narrative…a portrait of ambition and idealism…also a good business book that takes us inside the thrilling and complex tech startup world.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“[This] tumultuous story of four young men…offers a useful vantage point for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Silicon Valley’s culture.”—Wall Street Journal


At a time when more and more people are worried about internet privacy, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Jim Dwyer’s More Awesome Than Money: Four Boys, Three Years, and a Chronicle of Ideals and Ambition in Silicon Valley (Penguin Books; on-sale: November 10, 2015; $17.00) tells the riveting story of four ambitious NYU undergrads who tried to change the world by taking on Facebook—and were swallowed up by their quest to keep your data safe.

The initial idea sounded so simple that it took a few minutes to grasp its audacity. The four boys—Max, Rafi, Dan, and Ilya—wanted to build a social network that would allow users to control the information they shared about themselves. They called it “Diaspora,” and hoped they would be able to raise enough money on Kickstarter to afford a summer of ramen and non-stop coding. They asked for $10,000—and raised $200,000, setting a record for crowd-sourced funding. Seven thousand backers from around the world, including many legendary digital innovators, wanted to help make Diaspora a real alternative to the giant social networks that control and sell user data, and another tens of thousands of people began to follow the project. Almost overnight, the Diaspora Four had received a global commission to re-bottle the genie of personal privacy.

For a while, adrenaline and activist fervor drove the boys, who were suddenly being wooed by venture capitalists and advised by the elite of the digital community. But as the months wore on and the money ran out, coding failures, bad business decisions, over-reach and under-organization, and the inevitable conflicts of personality and goals drove the Diaspora Four apart and threatened to derail the project. Even with a half million people on a waiting list to join, they found out how much they had been on their own all along. One of the four, the charismatic Ilya, took his life in the fall of 2011.  The story of Diaspora, now in the hands of a new generation of hackers, is a chronicle of both the fight to build a better internet and of the harrowing price paid by these four young men.

Written with the cooperation of the partners, More Awesome Than Money is a compelling account of the Diaspora saga, a clear survey of the debates and ethical questions surrounding internet privacy, and a wake-up call for everyone who tweets, Googles, or signs into Facebook without a second thought.


JIM DWYER is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who writes the “About New York” column for the New York Times. He has written or co-written six books, including 102 Minutes, which spent twelve weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He lives in New York City.

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