Friday, October 19, 2007

Marketing Is Not Deceit

I've posted many times about programmers and marketing, and especially marketing yourself as a programmer. Many people, in the wake of my "Debugger Support Considered Harmful" post, have been generally furious with me. I have no idea why; however, in the context of this anger, people have often said things like, "His blog is just marketing anyway; he doesn't care what he's saying."

Saying that does not indicate an accurate understanding of my philosophy of marketing, or, in cases where my philosophy of marketing is understood, it indicates a very different philosophy. Marketing is not about lying; acquiring attention for its own sake is not useful from a marketing perspective.

Obviously the idea that marketing would be about lying does not reflect a high opinion of marketing. Prejudice against marketing is strong in the world of programming, and for a good reason. The tech industry pits marketers against programmers. It's actually an incidental effect, in that the old-school "boxed software which ships to stores" model required marketers to push for bullshit features and meaningless releases, and programmers, who generally regard integrity and logic very highly, to say nothing of avoiding inefficient busywork, inevitably resisted that. This created a culture of conflict within high tech, and to some extent that culture persists to this day, even when new Web-based software business models have obviated it.

Frankly, if your philosophy of marketing requires lying to people, I think pursuing that philosophy will inevitably involve some serious disappointment, failure, or frustration for you. Likewise, using that philosophy as an excuse for avoiding marketing yourself at all really just results in a particular type of marketing. You end up marketing yourself as somebody who is "too pure" for marketing.

But in reality, somebody who presents themselves as "too pure" for marketing actually appears as if they don't know or care about business. Marketing is really just communicating information about yourself. The only way to communicate nothing about yourself is to be invisible, or somewhere else. Even standing in a corner being quiet communicates something. The only way to be not marketing is to be not there. So if you say "I'm too pure for marketing," business people perceive you as simply not being part of the picture. In some cases that's a good thing, but in many cases it's a very bad thing.

Marketing yourself as a programmer means drawing attention to something useful that you've done. That's it, and that's all.


  1. There was a comment I had to delete because it was rude. I'm giving you an edited version here:

    "Many people...have been generally furious with me."

    Nobody's furious. They've just correctly identified you as someone who doesn't really know what they are talking about. There are lots of [programmers] with no understanding of the fundamentals running around making the rest of us look bad. Trying to make yourself look good by removing comments probably didn't help your case.

  2. And now a response. I delete rude comments. Many programmers don't feel any need to be polite with each other. Many programmers get into religious wars with each other instead of learning from each other. I believe these facts are related, and unhealthy - both on an individual level and for our industry as a whole.

    I do not allow rudeness in my blog because I am only interested in the type of discussion between programmers which leads to people learning. I think rudeness inhibits open discussion.

    Regarding the presence or absence of fury, I wouldn't be swearing at people, stating broad generalities about them, or accusing them of general incompetence without any knowledge of their job performance if I was thinking rationally. I don't think anyone who exhibits those behaviors is likely to be calm. In fact I think the suggestion is absurd.

    I don't think people have responded to my post appriopriately or rationally. I think you're all acting very immaturely, and I find it very hard to believe that emotion hasn't clouded anybody's reasoning. It might have been reasonable to state that you were not furious, but the statement you made, that nobody is furious, is almost certainly false.

  3. Also, I'm talking about marketing in this post. I mentioned the flame war in passing, and I'm not interested in pursuing it.

    If I see another flame war comment, I'm closing the comments. I just don't have any time or interest, and I'm happy to let you conclude whatever it leads you to conclude about me.

  4. can we please leave the comments open. Eventually the angry people will go away and we can resume having good dialog around your posts.

    anyways keep fighting the good fight.


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