Silicon Valley is full of hustlers, and that’s often a good thing. But there’s a difference between hustling and flat-out lying, and when people deceive company after company, it’s time to call them out.
So: If you look up Shirley Hornstein online, you might get the idea that she’s one of the most well-connected people in tech. Here she is at the THRIVEGulu party last month, where Silicon Valley types got a chance to meet Hollywood geek heroes Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku. Here she is at the Crunchies. And here she is on a list of the top women in venture capital and angel investing (which was republished in Forbes).
Beyond the initial reporter-imparted disbelief that such an extensive act of misrepresentation could occur, the story of @Shirls is utterly fascinating to follow.
In brief, Shirley Hornstein is alleged to have spent the past twelve or thirteen months photo-manipulating herself into the realms of tech-stardom. Although I have personally yet to hear her name, evidently she has capably forged her way into some of the foremost publications in the industry with nothing more than a passable skill-set in Adobe's Creative Suite.
Considering our increasing reliance upon digital interactions, it's not entirely surprising that such a miscarriage of reality could've come to pass. In fact, in many respects, I tend to regard the news with a certain degree of expectance.
Lacking a great many of the social barometrics afforded by tangible human interactions, social networks have facilitated an environment unencumbered by the traditional rules of business and communication. Accordingly, I'm entirely unsurprised that Shirley could've made her way so confidently into the socially-numbed arms Silicon Valley taste-makers.
I suspect Shirley is most certainly not alone in such a betrayal of truth. Amidst an increasingly competitive environment, digital differentiation is of paramount importance for the attainment of jobs, bylines, and connections. For Shirley, she found a unique —and evidently effective — means to bypass the traditional hurdles faced by the Silicon Valley citizen.
What is worrying, however, is the relatively subpar nature of Shirley's Photoshop output. Coaxing taste-makers into the the belief of a falsified identity is certainly believable, but doing so with such rudimentary skills is fairly alarming.
Still, the scrutiny and self-awareness Mr. Ha's piece will engender in the community is welcome. The cavalier movement toward anyone with a celebrity nearby and an arbitrarily high Klout score is utter nonsense, and is certainly unbecoming of the industry in which we found ourselves. Here's hoping the next Shirley — and there will undoubtedly be another — is caught much earlier on.