In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters Hardcover – Jul 9 2003
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
His sagas -- well written with his own often humorous insights and asides making the reader wonder how these once-major players acted so ridiculously -- is well thought out, organized, interesting, interestingly illustrated, and despite its subject matter (making great things go bad), was hard to put down. I could hardly wait to tell each and every one of my friends, even those outside my profession, that it's a must-read.
My only regret is I never had occasion to work with the author -he exhibits a unique flair (for the obvious), a good sense of humor, a certain passion for those companies now "deceased" and has a unique gift for telling a good story (many, actually).
I can't say I truly thoroughly enjoy reading too many business books, although I try to learn from each one. With this one, I enjoyed, reminisced, reflected AND learned. Thanks, Merrill, er, Rick.
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....
In 20 years of consulting I've read a lot of books on strategy, marketing, impact of technology and the histories of companies and the captains of industry. But few have both the sweep and simultaneously the depth of Chapman's Stupidity. Oh, and don't be mislead by the flip title (it's in keeping with his irreverent style if you've ever seen him give a presentation) - it's a serious look at the strategic errors and bad assumptions that have driven companies and careers into the ground. Good to know if you beginning to wonder where your shop is headed.
Be advised that there are no sacred cows in Stupidity - if you hold a certain company in reverence due to their PR efforts (which he dissects in particular for Microsoft) or perhaps just industry myth and legend, he won't give them any reverence at all.
Although my expertise is in marketing and public relations, I was fascinated by the appendix on Stupid Development Tricks - which is an interview with Joel Spolsky, who some sort of product development guru. The interview brutally dissects how programmers bamboozle non-technical executives (John Sculley being my favorite example) into massive rewrites or poor development decisions - which often doom the company due to a lost window of opportunity - for all the wrong reasons.
If you are the least bit curious as to how the industry got where it is -and what happened to some of the companies and players you never hear about anymore - Stupidity should be on your bookshelf.
This book basically deals with the stupidity found in high tech companies of the 1980's and 1990's. Why is Microsoft such a huge company today? It isn't because their products were better or because they cheated other companies out of their rightful place in the market. It's because they weren't as stupid as their competition. Merrill Chapman takes us through the comedy of errors that companies like Digital Research, WordStar, Lotus, and Ashton-Tate went through as they tossed their market leads aside in fits of stupidity. You can't help but laugh (or cry) at the amazing levels of stupidity that these companies exhibited. Examples: WordStar was once one of the finest word processing programs in the world. But somehow the company ended up owning two competing mediocre products. Lotus was the leader in spreadsheets but ignored the rise of Windows and allowed themselves to be knocked out of first place by Excel. These and many more examples are well documented in this book.
The book is not an in-depth study of the business world. You won't find very much analysis of why a particular company made such obviously fatal errors. Why did Borland pay an outrageous sum to buy Ashton-Tate at a time when Ashton-Tate had virtually nothing that Borland needed?Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is a funny book, you could laugh about how blind some people were, and as stated in the preface, it might be the first reason to read it. Read morePublished 8 months ago by iAPX
Wonderfully articulate and well-written; the author not only can spin a yarn, but his personal recollections of events as they occurred provide a lovely freshness to each chapter. Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2013 by Ian MacRae (Ottawa)
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:... Read morePublished on July 14 2006 by Daniel Jolley
The author describes his experience and observations around famous failures in software industry. The language is very entertaining. Read morePublished on June 2 2004
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... Read morePublished on May 28 2004 by Thomas Duff
This book is designed to be the counterpart to the Tom Peters and Bob Waterman best seller since 1982, In Search of Excellence. Read morePublished on May 17 2004 by Donald Mitchell
It was great to get to hear both some clarifications of urban legend and some reflection on what was messed up by people in the industry. Read morePublished on May 3 2004 by Lars Bergstrom
This book IS timely. The DotCom busts were easy to analyze, even at the time (D'uh!) - no brick and mortar, no estute business plans, just vapor, b.s. Read morePublished on April 1 2004 by Steve Frock
When I picked up this book, I expected it to have more depth of recent dot-com busts than about software companies that tanked years ago. Read morePublished on March 29 2004 by Antonio A. Rodriguez
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