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Tech journalists who make no sense (37signals.com)
152 points by wlll on June 23, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments

I'll give David credit where it's due - Rework is an excellent book, ROR has a great fanbase, and 37Signals products are generally very well executed.

However I find myself paying little attention to anything he says because it's all just so negative. I unfollowed him on Twitter because I just found every single one of his tweets to be criticising someone else or someone else's business. There's only so much negativity you can take from one person. </2¢>

I understand the distaste for negativity in general, but if you have a quota on the amount of negativity taken "from one person", then you're judging the person rather than the message. Why not evaluate the argument on its own merits?

I'd like to see less discussion of "David" and "Zed"'s peccadillo on this site. A cult around someone's personality flaws is just as vapid as a cult around someone's personality. The well-worn proverb goes, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."

I haven't heard that proverb before, and yes, I can see how you can apply it. I think that maybe this is being overanalysed slightly, I don't mean to apply a quota to anyone. I hardly think this qualifies as a 'cult'.

I just think that overall very little of what DHH has to say is praising or supportive of anything. Yes, that's judging the person, but only after I've judged the messages for the several months I was reading what he had to say. It's mostly things like this - "Forbes isn't exactly known as the pinnacle of journalism, but their latest piece on Salesforce was too much" - I can make my own mind up about Forbes' quality of journalism. He states that as a fact, not an opinion.

For what it's worth, I agree with you 100%. That said, you're fighting a losing battle on this one - the majority of HNN readers seem to think that as long as you've written a famous piece of software, it's perfectly reasonable to carry on like a sniping, petulant child. Spewing vitriol and sarcasm is being "visionary" instead of "douchey."

How is he stating it that makes it a fact? It's clearly a blog entry which would immediately categorize it as an opinion. I think you already have a certain distate for David so anything he says, no matter how true, will fall on your deaf ears.

If you've ready any OpEd articles in reputable newspapers, they're not going to start their column with "this is my opinion of x". Rarely would writers use phrases like "I feel" or "I think" -- it's already implied.

Unfollowing people from Twitter or from your feed-reader is just sane and even required, as sometimes you just need to cut the noise.

But I think that you're going out of your way to criticize David, judging by your other comment too.

Personally I like his opinions; he has a gift of cutting through the bullshit that is refreshing. That doesn't mean that he's always right or that his opinions matter in any way, but the guy has fine taste for what's important for him and you can learn something from that behavior.

I'll take this point to clarify just what I mean. I totally agree when you say "he has a gift of cutting through the bullshit". And I think that's great, which is why I started following him on Twitter in the first place. I wanted to hear some more 'controversial' opinions from a guy who has quite a fanbase.

Yes - this is a generalisation - but, ultimately, I just found almost everything he said was criticising of something or someone else. To me personally, it feels like he was ultimately just trying to find fault with anything he could lay his hands on, like his job is a professional condemner.

And perhaps some people think that is one of his best skills and attributes, cutting through the bullshit - but I think he is a developer and an entrepreneur. And my view is that from developers, I want to hear things about technology and programming, and from entrepreneurs I want to hear about enterprise and innovation, by all means throw in a certain degree of pillory but I just don't want every single damn tweet to be lambasting someone else!

Maybe I am going out of my way to rail against him, and maybe that's hypocritical. I'm sorry. But when you're criticising for the sake of criticising, I feel that is unnecessary, and that's how it comes across to me.

Having written all that, this comes to mind: http://xkcd.com/386/ ;)

How does Re-Work compare to Getting Real?

They're different. There's certainly some cross-over. Rework is more tailored to businesses in general, whilst Getting Real is more specifically about launching web-based businesses (particularly web applications).

I don't like your negativity Jack, consider yourself unfollowed </1c>

You know what's awesome? That the journalist makes perfect sense to me. This guy is just apparently not the target audience.

First off, the more data that Salesforce controls, the better they have locked in their customers... Or the more customers they have. I pity anyone who uses Salesforce and decides to leave for greener pastures. It would be a bloody nightmare.

The second clip talks about using social networking to learn more about their customers and increase retention. Not that mystical.

The third throws some buzzwords, sure, but it also warns people that not everything that's called a 'cloud' is actually a 'cloud'. In other words, some services behave like you expect 'cloud' services to (insane uptime and rendundancy) and others don't.

I can't speak to your personal understanding, of course, but one thing to be wary of is that buzzword-laden speech often forms a tabula rasa. Since it means so little, listeners "fill in the blanks" and make up their own explanation for what it means. It is not surprising that the listener's interpretation closely agrees with their point of view.

Thus, people who use a lot of buzzwords can often be perceived as sensible and their speech as intelligent. Not for what their speech actually says, but for what the listener thinks it says.

This is one of the reasons buzzwords have become so common in business and politics. They are an effective means of selling the speaker to listeners, each of whom believes that they understand what the speaker is saying and agrees with it.

I have no idea what "post cloud world" means, but other than that, I agree with your assessment. There's a difference between "your phrasing screams that you are an outsider and you don't have a full understanding of what you are talking about" and "I truly do not comprehend what you mean."

I would be surprised if readers of this site honestly could not translate the buzz-filled marketing speak into what they actually are doing.

"I have no idea what "post cloud world" means"

I'll use an example:

Client: "I'll be honest we've been looking at some other cloud solutions and they're a lot more competitive on price"

Salesforce: "Yeah if all you want is a cloud solution. What is their post cloud solution?"

Client: "Oh ... umm they didn't even mention that."

Salesforce: "I bet they don't even have one."

I will give you another example


CMO: "we need something new, we have sold 'no software', we have sold 'cloud', we need something to sell to investors to keep this stock buzzing, after all we don't want the company to be valued on fundamentals, like Microsoft"


CMO: "I have a Forbes reporter coming in tomorrow, I need to give him something"

Marketing VP: "ok, how about 'post-cloud world'. it means that we are doing whatever is next"

CMO: "brilliant! a 'post-cloud world'. ok now who is getting lunch, i'm starving"

By him saying he's ready for the "post cloud world" shows that Salesforce is aware of the "buzz word" world we live in and that Salesforce is staying on the cutting edge.

It seems to me that they are interested in customer retention, being the go-to location for storing important business data, and that their business is much more concerned with having the best and most solid infrastructural, and they aren't simply creating a "cloud" for the sake of creating a "cloud". It's about what the "cloud" IS and what it's supposed to provide.

So, if the "cloud" isn't the best solution anymore, they will be ready for that.

I thought it was a pretty well done piece.

As a former English-major nutjob, I do see some problems with how those sentences are constructed. The "internal activities and externally" is very awkward phrasing.

You know what's even more awesome? That I can see that the journalist thinks he makes sense but clearly doesn't. I guess apparently you're not the target audience for this blog post.

Your summary is more sensible than what the journalist wrote.

> I pity anyone who uses Salesforce and decides to leave for greener pastures. It would be a bloody nightmare.

Can you explain how, please? There are simple ways to extract your data from Salesforce (weekly export, bulk APIs, etc). What, per se, would cause said nightmare?

The second clip talks about using social networking to learn more about their customers and increase retention. Not that mystical.

So SalesForce wants to use social networking to know more about the companies that use it's services? Is that what they mean by this?

Yes. As they said, it will allow them to better lock in their customers because they can better offer what their existing customers desire.

Flipped around into being politically correct, they can better serve the needs of their customers, which will make those customers want to stay.

> I pity anyone who uses Salesforce and decides to leave for greener pastures. It would be a bloody nightmare.

Talking about this, does anyone know a good CRM to use for a web agency? We've tested salesforce for a month and it feels over-engineered and unintuitive.

I'm a programmer and former technology staff writer at Forbes.

For what it's worth, this guy isn't a tech journo

I completely agree with that blog post. We are currently in the process of bootstrapping a web project http://bebbl.com and got some echo from the local media. From all the media coverage we recieved there was only one journalist who was able to write about our project correctly. All other either just copied text from others or were not really able to get the idea right.

I suppose the problem for them, is that they need to produce something really fast and have no time to go deeper into the field.

This concept uses social media to gain knowledge of internal activities and externally about customers to ultimately help increase customer loyalty and foster interaction between employees and between the company and its customers.

Reminds me of psychotic speech patterns.

"Beware of false clouds" is my favorite line. It should continue, "They come to you with miracle solutions, but inwardly they just want your money."

It's a great line. I was thinking more "Beware of false clouds. Hide your kids. Hide your wife."

Out of context I like the rootlessly paranoid feel of the phrase "the false cloud", makes my stomach queasy.

This would accurately summarize almost all of enterprise computing.

I've found that you can just keep shoving marketing bullshit through badtranslator[1] until the message becomes clear:

> Salesforce.com remains a stock with much upside, according to analysts at RBC Capital Markets, as the company continues to control larger quantities of customer data and leads the way to a post cloud world.


> Royal Bank of Canada investment of foreign customers, Salesforce.com (NYSE).

[1] http://www.cheatingtranslators.com/bad-translator

A lot of tech journalism looks like it was written with a markov chain generator.

Irregardless of the synergies we find when enhancing our “web 2.0” ubiquitous utilization, enterprise-quality, shovel-ready progressive monetization schemes, we cannot eschew obfuscation assiduously enough.

I agree there is bad reporting and in his example the bad editing that let the story though. I'm interested in hearing where other people find good reporting.

"I’m sure all fields have terrible reporting, but the shit that’s coming out of the tech world must be eligible for some sort of cake."

Kudos for telling it as it is.

Frank Lingua, president and CEO of Dissembling Associates, is the nation's leading purveyor of buzzwords, catch phrases and clichés for people too busy to speak in plain English. Business Finance contributing editor Dan Danbom interviewed Lingua in his NYC office.

Danbom: Is being a clichée expert a full-time job?

Lingua: Bottom line is I have a full plate 24/7.

Danbom: Is it hard to keep up with the seemingly endless supply of clichés that spew from business?

Lingua: Some days, I don't have the bandwidth. It's like drinking from a fire hydrant.

Danbom: So it's difficult?

Lingua: Harder than nailing Jell-O to the wall.

Danbom: Where do most clichés come from?

Lingua: Stakeholders push the envelope until it's outside the box.

Danbom: How do you track them once they've been coined?

Lingua: It's like herding cats.

Danbom: Can you predict whether a phrase is going to become a cliché?

Lingua: Yes. I skate to where the puck's going to be. Because if you aren't the lead dog, you're not providing a customer-centric proactive solution.

Danbom: Give us a new buzzword that we'll be hearing ad nauseam.

Lingua: "Enronitis" could be a next-generation player.

Danbom: Do people understand your role as a cliché expert?

Lingua: No, they can't get their arms around that. But they aren't incented to.

Danbom: How do people know you're a cliché expert?

Lingua: I walk the walk and talk the talk.

Danbom: Did incomprehensibility come naturally to you?

Lingua: I wasn't wired that way, but it became mission-critical as I strategically focused on my go-forward plan.

Danbom: What did you do to develop this talent?

Lingua: It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. When you drill down to the granular level, it's just basic blocking and tackling.

Danbom: How do you know if you're successful in your work?

Lingua: At the end of the day, it's all about robust, world-class language solutions.

Danbom: How do you stay ahead of others in the buzzword industry?

Lingua: Net-net, my value proposition is based on maximizing synergies and being first to market with a leveraged, value-added deliverable. That's the opportunity space on a level playing field.

Danbom: Does everyone in business eventually devolve into the sort of mindless drivel you spout?

Lingua: If you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, you're a duck. They all drink the Kool-Aid.

Danbom: Do you read "Dilbert" in the newspaper?

Lingua: My knowledge base is deselective of fiber media.

Danbom: Does that mean "no"?

Lingua: Negative.


Lingua: Let's take your issues offline.


Lingua: You have a result-driven mind-set that isn't a strategic fit with my game plan.

Danbom: I am not getting the answers that I need from you.

Lingua: Your call is very important to me.

Danbom: How can you live with yourself?

Lingua: I eat my own dog food. My vision is to monetize scalable supply chains.

Danbom: When are you going to quit this?

Lingua: I may eventually exit the business to pursue other career opportunities.

Danbom: What is your advice to the up and coming generation.

Lingua: Take it and run with it.

I choked on my morning tea when I lol'd reading this.!! :-/

Add Cringley to the list, who claims (or rather thinks at: http://www.cringely.com/2011/06/intercontinental-ballistic-a...) that Apple's App store will eliminate software piracy.

If only the world was so much simpler :)

Cringley might be wrong, or right, but at least he writes intelligibly.

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