Book: In Search of Stupidity by Merrill R. Chapman

Not that much fun.

Merrill R. Chapman
In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters
Apress, 2003
ISBN 1-59059-104-6
US$ 24.99
231 pages (main text)

In the introduction of In Search of Stupidity, Merrill Chapman says that the reader can use his book as a sort of anti-howto. Having read about other folks' stupid actions, the reader will be less likely to repeat them. I suppose that's possible. But really, would anyone pick up a book thinking, "I might be stupid so I had better read this"? I didn't. I picked it up in the hopes of getting a few hearty laughs at other people's expense. Alas, the laughs mostly failed to materialize. Most of the stories are more painful than funny.

There are some marketing lessons to be had here but since the actions that Mr Chapman describes really do seem to be stupid, they aren't very subtle ones. For example, you shouldn't produce two products that compete with one another and if you change the name of your product people will assume that you've changed the product. I suppose that reiterating the obvious can sometimes be useful but it's not very entertaining. Some of the stories in the book document interesting parts of the history of the personal computer and there's an interesting bit about the difference between geeks' opinions of Microsoft and the general public's at the beginning of chapter 10. But I already know the history of the personal computer and the bit on Microsoft wasn't enough to make me a fan of the book.

Mr Chapman has plenty of technical clues. For example, he very correctly points out that the UCSD p-System did in the 1980s what Java does today (and with only a little less success). At its best, his writing is very clear, but he has a habit of embarking on extended metaphors that don't turn out to be particularly enlightening or entertaining.

Posted: Thu - January 1, 2004 at 01:18   Main   Category: