His conclusion: These animals are giving contradictory advice! And that's because they're all "outliers".
But both of these points are subtly misleading. Yes, the advice is contradictory, but that's only a problem if you imagine that the animal kingdom is like a giant arena in which all the world's animals battle for the Animal Best Practices championship , after which all the losing animals will go extinct and the entire world will adopt the winning ways of the One True Best Animal. But, in fact, there are a hell of a lot of different ways to be a successful animal, and they coexist nicely. Indeed, they form an ecosystem in which all animals require other, much different animals to exist.
And it's insane to regard the tiger and the parrot and the snail as "outliers". Sure, they're unique, just as snowflakes are unique. But, in fact, there are a lot of different kinds of cats and birds and mollusks, not just these three. Indeed, there are creatures that employ some cat strategies and some bird strategies (lions: be a sharp-eyed predator with claws, but live in communal packs). The only way to argue that tigers and parrots and snails are "outliers" is to ignore the existence of all the other creatures in the world, the ones that bridge the gaps in animal-design space and that ultimately relate every known animal to every other known animal.
So, yes, it's insane to try to follow all the advice on the Internet simultaneously. But that doesn't mean it's insane to listen to 37signals advice, or Godin's advice, or some other company's advice. You just have to figure out which part of the animal kingdom you're in, and seek out the best practices which apply to creatures like you. If you want to be a stalker, you could do worse than to ask the tiger for some advice.
 The ants are gonna win. Hölldobler and Wilson told me so.
I'll just chip in that it's the same for pretty much all advice about how to do stuff... Another example is project management "best practices". The truth is, no practice is "best", they're only appropriate in certain conditions, and you have to use your brains to figure out which ones apply to your project at this particular stage.
The same is true for testing practices - you have to adapt to the situation.
Etc... Advice is like design patterns. You can't, and shouldn't, try to use them all at the same time.
As humans our overriding goal is to use our big brains to switch strategies when needed -- but not to switch too often lest we go insane trying to follow all the good advice on the Internet at once. Nobody said it was easy.
The concept of "best practices" is insidious. "Best" for what? We need to know what we are, our context, and our objective before we can consider the practices that will optimize our objective. Are we a tiger or a snail? Are we in a cage or a forest? Are we trying to eat or mate?
Practices provide the know-how. To provide the know-why, we must understand ourselves, our context, and our objective.
We also need to understand whether we (our system and sub-systems) and our context (our super-system) are purposeful: can any of these systems select their own means and ends. Don't ask me why—I'm still figuring this piece out myself.
For more, see Russell Ackoff: http://bit.ly/iHwQ.
Of course I know how your company is SIMILAR to other companies in the industry - do you really want a copycat strategy? "Best practices" may keep a company from crashing+burning, but without creativity and context won't get you any acceleration.
Now this is my kind of upvote! ;)
I agree though - If you know what species you are, it's better to follow advice of similar companies...
BTW, I really like threads where comments earn more karma than the article.
unless you're after advice on writing markup.
I think it was Greenspun, but it might have been Strunk and White, who taught me this secret: Don't equivocate in print. Don't write like this:
"Here's some advice, which may not apply in your particular case: Do X."
or this (which you're more likely to see in actual writing):
"I think X."
Better to write:
Readers tend to understand that your writing comes from you, that it reflects a certain perspective and is unlikely to be universal truth. It's usually unnecessary to hammer this point home at the cost of cluttering up your sentences with clunky disclaimers that are always the same.
When you write, say what you think, straight out.  Don't settle for dull accuracy. If people get mad because something you say is wrong or overgeneralized, ask forgiveness, not permission.
37signals' work gets read and cited all the time because it is well written. One of the things that makes it so well written is that it's not larded up with apologies, disclaimers, and caveats. They assume that their readers are smart enough to figure out, without being told, that 37signals writes from a 37signals perspective and that your mileage may vary.
 Interestingly, speaking can be a different game. There's more room for artful equivocation. You can sell things with body language. You can vary the pace between telling it short and straight and telling it long and rambling. Novel-length writing is also different. We're talking about essays, here.
I want you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions. Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings... If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourself, man, woman and child to be slaughtered
Now, I'm not as famous as Ghandi. But I think I'm qualified enough to say the above was stupid advice.
Mahatma Ghandi did a great thing for the world in that he popularized a very powerful tool: Non-violent resistance. But where he failed was in realizing his one tool didn't apply universally (in this case it only works if the person you are resisting is decent enough not to throw you in a gas chamber and kill you en masse)
The same thing is true with the author of this blog.
If I have any advice for him it's to see each "startup success story" as a tool that can create success in some situations. The responsibility of someone wanting to use that tool is to determine which situations that tool applies to.
So when contradictory advice comes along he should ask himself "why did that tool work for company X and not for company Y?" Then decide whether you are closer to company X or company Y.
In short: Rigid belief in the use of a single strategy is also harmful.
37Signals gives a ton of good advice when it comes to running a web service, and some not so good advice.
Here a gem 37Signals provided:
Ask 37signals: How do you process credit cards?
It was so good, that the CEO of Braintree Payment Solutions referenced it when talking about the same subject:
Now that it's tough to raise money, "copying" 37 Signals and charging for your products on a monthly recurring basis is spot on for most new web services. I don't listen to everything they say, but every now and then they have it figured out.
I just don't understand the recent backlash against ad supported. Some people seem to think it's not real money, or doesn't count as much... Fact is there's insane amounts of money to be made from advertising income.
I disagree that people think it isn't really money though. I believe that people think it isn't really reliable.
I think it'd be a really bad idea to discount it as a possible business model.
Being beholden to a market that consists of a bunch of AdWords account managing hooligans that gnash and claw all day to drive bid prices down and are being governed by Google isn't really the kind of market you want to be counting on long term. Which just goes back to my point that while things might be good one day, by relying on an outside party for revenue, you might wake up tomorrow and be screwed because of decisions made by people totally unrelated to you or your product.
>> "it's an industry built on the back of ringtone scams and click fraud."
Sorry but this one is just ridiculous. How much have you used adsense, or any other affiliate network?
I'm going to stop now because this is diverging into a pissing match of sorts, but I've been in the business of making money with online advertising myself long enough to feel qualified to comment and pay my bills.
About ads, FriendFAQ is killing it on Facebook. Friends that run content sites say ad payouts are down, affiliate companies are killing it.
I think the evidence from the dotcom bust was that online advertising continued to grow.
It's good to be exposed to a variety of perspectives and points of view, but you have make your own way forward. Take whatever you find useful and leave the rest behind. Fill in the gaps with your own ideas.
The worst thing you can do is stop thinking for yourself.
"Balsamiq Roadmap for 2009"
"A Look Back at 2008"
"Startup Marketing Advice from Balsamiq Studio"
"Profitable after 3 weeks"
As merrick33 pointed out, it will not hurt to listen to people like 37signals or Joel Spolsky and be inspired by their best ideas. Just don't blame them if goes wrong for you.
Most importantly, I think you can learn from Outliers and apply but think of your OWN WAY TO BUCK CONVENTIONAL WISDOM and do it in a way that you believe it and are passionate about making it happen.
"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought."