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In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters Hardcover – Jul 9 2003

4.2 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Apress; 1 edition (July 9 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590591046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590591048
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 15.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,299,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman is the author of the first edition of this book. He has worked in the software industry since 1978 as a programmer, salesman, support representative, senior marketing manager, and consultant for many different companies, including WordStar (really MicroPro, but no one remembers the name of the company), Ashton-Tate, IBM, Inso, Novell, Bentley Systems, Berlitz, Hewlett-Packard, and Ziff-Davis. His first computer was a Trash One (you antiques out there know what that is), and he began his career writing software inventory management systems for beer and soda distributors in New York City. He is the author of The Product Marketing Handbook for Software, coauthor of the Software Industry and Information Association's US Software Channel Marketing and Distribution Guide, and periodically writes articles about software and high-tech marketing for a variety of publications.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Years ago, on Saturday Night Live, there was a Jeopardy skit, and one of the contestants (played by Adam Sandler) answered every question (or questioned every answer) the same way: "Who is the marketing genius who came up with this one?" (or something akin to those words). I thought about that old SNL sketch many times as I read through this fascinating book. In Search of Stupidity is in many ways a history of the personal computer business and the radical changes that have taken place over the years. All manner of companies have crashed and burned during this time. Big Blue nosedived from its place of blue-chip royalty, Netscape shot itself in the foot, countless dot.com startups dot.came and dot.went, and a shocking number of other important companies disappeared. After reading this book, one can no longer ask why Microsoft came to rule the roost; Bill Gates made fewer stupid mistakes than his would-be competitors. And, yes, stupid is not too strong a word; it's the only way to describe the suicidal deaths of so many high-tech legends of yesteryear.

This book really brought back some memories for me: visions of my old Commodore 64, for example, as well as Coleco's Adam (a system I absolutely lusted after as a kid); it also introduced me to products and services I do not remember. It's amazing to look back now and see just how differently things could have gone in the high-tech business had stupidity not taken down many an important player in the game. At one time, three companies led the way: Microsoft (with its DOS operating system), Lotus (with its spreadsheets), and Ashton-Tate (with its databases) - oh, how things have changed. Merrill R.
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Format: Hardcover
In Search Of Stupidity - Over 20 Years Of High-Tech Marketing Disasters by Merrill R. Chapman (Apress) is a wickedly funny read with some very real lessons on how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Chapman takes a look back at the first two decades of the high-tech industry to see how companies with dominant product leads squandered those advantages to become irrelevant (or non-existent). The examples are numerous... IBM and the PC, Micropro and Wordstar, Novell and Netware. He actually worked for some of the companies that are under the microscope, so there is an insider's color and flavor that you don't normally see from a customer perspective. Because of the biting style of writing, the book doesn't suffer from a lofty "anyone could see this coming" attitude that so many of these historical examinations seem to adopt.
Back to the writing style... Chapman has a satirical, wicked wit that is used to maximum advantage here. Even if you weren't terribly interested in the content, it would be worth a read for the laughs. I haven't enjoyed a business book this much in a long time.
And by the way... Don't pass up the glossary at the end. It's the cherry on top of a great sundae.
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on May 17 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is designed to be the counterpart to the Tom Peters and Bob Waterman best seller since 1982, In Search of Excellence. I agree that it makes more sense to check out stupidity than excellence. Most people tell me that they learn more from seeing disasters than from reading about top performance. In addition, time has cast doubt on the wisdom of what those "excellent" companies did since so many of them have tanked since then.
Why would anyone want to read about all of the stupid things that companies have done since the early 1980s to lose money, destroy customer relationships, go bankrupt and annoy everyone? Well, it should be because almost everyone makes a fatal error in a high tech company. Only Microsoft among the software companies has avoided that folly. Among PC companies, only Dell seems immune to date. Intel flirted with a fatal error when it tried to ignore its Pentium floating point problem. $500 million later, it was wiser.
Another good reason for reading about them is that Mr. Chapman is a very funny writer. He makes the stories very entertaining. He also was present at some of the most inauspicious moments which gives the stories an extra verve that's irresistible.
I especially enjoyed the afterword which explained in detail why it's always a stupid idea to rewrite working code from scratch to create the next release.
I agree with the conclusion that tech companies need to be headed by people who understand the technical issues and the business challenges so they can make informed decisions about what to do next. I also suggest that investors read this book to get early warning signs of high tech meltdowns.
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By A Customer on April 23 2004
Format: Hardcover
One thing that impressed me about the book is how Chapman *doesn't* just hit easy targets or take cheap shots. He convincingly shows that the incidents of stupidity he describes were very much *avoidable*, made by people who really should've known better.
The only minor complaint I have is with the interview in the appendix, which:
1. Only has a tangential relationship to the main part of the book, and is really about programming, and
2. Is really, really clueless *about* programming.
There's probably 1/3 of a good point there (programmers are inherently drawn to recoding from the ground up, "Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. That's the only way to be sure" solutions, so one should be skeptical), but stretched to a wildly dumb conclusion (rewriting code from the ground up is *never* justifiable!) They ignore a lot of obvious problems (e.g., the obvious fact that kludgy software is very difficult to maintain, and that multiple kludges interact with *each other* to exponentially increase bugginess.)
In fact, one might almost call it... stupidity? :)
But you can just skip the appendix, which is actually kinda nice just as a reminder that, yes, even really smart people like the author aren't completely immune to stupidity....
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