April 18, 2016

We All Need A Reality Check

Sometimes being a skeptical bastard is difficult.

You start to think that maybe the Pollyannas have it right and you're just a stupid fool who's missing something.

You begin to question your ability to process the reality of what's happening around you.

You think, "maybe people really are using QR codes and wearing Google glasses."

And then one day all your amusement at the gullibility, Machiavellianism, and silliness of your industry is rewarded. That day happened last week when I bought and read Disrupted by Dan Lyons.

Disrupted is a wonderful confirmation that all the bullshit and nonsense that we sense swirling around us really is bullshit and nonsense.

In case you haven't read about it, Disrupted is Lyons' account of his experience at a marketing software start-up. Lyons had been the technology editor for Newsweek magazine when at the age of 52 he suddenly found himself out of work, with a sick wife and two young kids.

He decided to try his hand at the very thing he had been reporting on for years -- a tech start-up.

Lyons tries his best to overcome the misgivings he has accumulated after years on the tech beat. But the absurdity and idiocy of life in the company he joins -- Hubspot -- is beyond anything he could have imagined.

What makes the book so enjoyable is the fortunate convergence of three wonderfully loathesome subjects: marketing bullshit, Wall Street voodoo, and the insufferable arrogance of the young and gullible.

At times during his tenure at Hubspot Lyons, too, starts to think that maybe the Pollyannas have it right and he's just a stupid fool who's missing something.

But, to his credit, he ultimately goes all-in on his contempt for the con men, liars, crackpots, and bozos who inhabit his world and ours.

If you work in marketing, and specifically online marketing, and you don't read Disrupted, you really don't understand what business you're in.

... Full disclosure: I once gave Hubspot permission to publish a post of mine.
... Like every non-fiction book I've ever read, Disrupted would have benefited from a much more ruthless editor.
... From the great John Crawford,  "behind all the nonsense about new paradigms, etc., it all came down to salesmen selling other salesmen bad sales leads, with a lot of low-tech partying, gambling, drinking, big rock acts, etc. under a veneer of high-tech.  Not that different from a car dealer's convention.  However, if you plant these enterprises in the shadow of MIT (or Stanford) they take on a certain aura."  
... Lyons goes on to be a writer on the successful HBO series "Silicon Valley," and the detestable creeps running Hubspot go on to become zillionaires, even while being investigated by the FBI.

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