No such thing as a quiet marketer

I don’t know what it is, but I’m really tired today. And since I don’t want to post variations of “Oh, No!” every hour for the next 24, I think now is a good time to focus on finishing some work for folks, and the new code for this site.

I’ve decided to package the photo code up in such a way that it can be used by people regardless of weblogging system they use and whether images are stored at Flickr or not. By doing so, and making it both fun and easy to use, I’m hoping I can encourage more people to use it. A by-product of this use, then, is that it provides easily accessible rich, structured, metadata that can benefit all of us.

This is just going to revolutionize our lives. I am not joking — the next generation of the web is here, and I’m just so excited! It is going to be big, babies! Big! I am so going to punk the web.

And it started here, first! With me!

I need to call Dave Winer. I know he’ll want to be in on this.

Whoa. Deep breath now.

No, I haven’t been bitten by one too many tics. I’m trying find a way to inspire you all with my enthusiasm, without me being there to grab you by the shoulders and look you intently in the eye. I’ve used some of the same words you may have read elsewhere in the last month or so, for some new innovation or other. But where the words can fall naturally off of some folks tongues, like hail in a storm, the don’t feel like me.

I was inspired in this momentary exercise, in part, by Kathy Sierra’s latest humorous and well written post where she says we’re all marketers:

The late (and brilliant) comedian Bill Hicks was an early adopter of the “all marketing is evil” meme:

“By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. No, this is not a joke: kill yourself . . . I know what the marketing people are thinking now too: ‘Oh. He’s going for that anti-marketing dollar. That’s a good market.’ Oh man, I am not doing that, you f***ing evil scumbags.” (asterisks are mine)

I was about to protest, “Dammit Jim, I’m a programmer, not a marketer!”

But that would be a lie. In this new open-source/cluetrain world, I am a marketer. And so are you. If you’re interested in creating passionate users, or keeping your job, or breathing life into a startup, or getting others to contribute to your open source project, or getting your significant other to agree to the vacation you want to go on… congratulations. You’re in marketing. Now go kill yourself.

Kathy has a valid point, and one that isn’t lost on me. I’ve not been a particularly good marketer: of my skills, my projects, or the technology I use (RDF comes to mind). I mean, look how I started the post: “Hey, kinda tired lately”. What kind of marketing is that? It may be true, but it doesn’t sell people on an idea or a person.

It wasn’t as if leaving these words off would be a lie. We can choose not to say something, and doing so turn a quiet post into one that has zim and zingle. My problem, sorry, challenge, though, is that I’m not a zim and zingle type of person. Oh, I can get angry, and I can get passionate, but when I’m creating something important to me–be it software, writing, photos, or even a relationship–the more important it is, the closer it is to me, the quieter I get.

Later in her post, Kathy writes:

Remember — when people are passionate about something, and in a state of flow–and you have contributed to that by helping users/members learn and grow and kick ass–these are some of the happiest moments in their lives.

I agree with this, too–it is wonderful when you’ve helped someone, or someone likes your application (or photo or book or you). The thing is, you can be passionate about something, but quietly so and that’s what separates out the true marketers from all the people who love what they do.

Loren Webster writes on flashy flowers and one’s own garden in a post full of subtle innuendo–but how does that translate into RSS and hold up under an aggregator? You know, bright lights and lots of noise make it hard to hear a lover’s whisper; and if you’ve sandpapered your fingertips, it’s going to be hard to feel the veins of a leaf.

So where is the middle ground between the quiet corner and the jumping up and down we see so much in certain unnamed-weblogs-but-you-know-who-they-are? Is being passionate, enough? Or must we exaggerate that passion–emphasize it so it can be seen at a distance: paint with bigger brushes, more gadgets in the code, zoom in with larger lenses, use more exclamation points when we write, and scream more during sex?

More, brighter, louder. No wonder I feel tired.

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16 Responses to No such thing as a quiet marketer

  1. Rob says:

    I was about to install Gallery 2 and the WP plug-in. How does this compare? I have a lot of photos at UnSpace, and this might be useful.

  2. Shelley says:

    Not a Gallery replacement, Rob. Gallery has a metadata plugin I think that does some of this, but not all. Consider this a third-party functionality meant to ‘do something’ with photos related to a weblog post, and then make this data available for other metdata consuming apps, more than replace photo album software. It’s basically the functionality I have with my photo page, the Tinfoil project, and the application that delivers RDF/XML of any metadata (including metadata such as microformats) when a page is accessed. Oh and a couple of other goodies.

    Used with, rather than in place of. But let me know how the Gallery with the plugin goes.

  3. Shelley says:

    Wow, I blew it as a marketer, didn’t I?

    Rob, why yes this will. With a little hard work and ingenuity, but what’s life without a fun challenge? Eh?


  4. Scott Reynen says:

    I have conflicting feelings about this. I don’t like how Kathy takes criticism and changes the subject. If it’s worth addressing, I think she should address it directly. The way she uses criticism as a jumping point for whatever she feels like talking about belittles the critic, and is exactly the kind of thing that makes her smell like a marketer, by which I mean exactly what people have always meant when they used that word.

    On the other hand, I think she hints at a more interesting conversation. If the web really is changing the marketing game, how is this happening, is it all for the better, and how do we separate the good from the bad? I suspect some of your reluctance to do more marketing has less to do with your temperament than your uncertainty of how to do it without becoming a schmuck. I know it does for me.

  5. Shelley says:

    Being sensitive to pulling comments out of context in a post, I know what you’re saying, Scott. But the person did write, “This started out being so interesting. then you reveal yourself as a marketer. please terminate yourself.” To me this is the type of comment that deserves to be dragged out into the light of day.

    I’m actually not bad at waxing enthusiastic in person. But I’m not good at the more pedantic aspects of marketing that I see, such as an intolerance to criticism, as you mentioned. I’m just not sure that being passionate about something is the same as marketing something.

  6. Kathy Sierra says:

    I honestly didn’t consider “…you reveal yourself as a marketer. please terminate yourself.” to be criticism. It was a perspective, and one that was expressed–on my blog–in a way that was not asking for a reasoned response. Come on Scott… if you tell someone to kill themselves for how they sound (or smell), without a shred of specific (let alone constructive) criticism, what kind of response would you expect and deserve? What would be your goal in saying something like that? I am imagining a wide range of things he might have been wanting to get from that comment, but an honest discussion wasn’t one of them.

    But…since there is still some piece of me that shares ‘pinhut’s view, my intention was not to belittle him, and I’m really sorry if it looked that way — on the contrary, I thought the whole post was explicitly acknowledging that many of us (me included) DO feel that same kind of knee-jerk, visceral reaction to the notion of marketing.

    From my perspective, that WAS the subject–”many people have a really bad feeling about marketing/marketers, yet many of us are doing these same things now.” And my choice was to respond to that by pointing out the ways in which what we non-(or at least *new and reluctant*) marketers are doing is quite different from the traditional marketing we love to hate…

    I obviously did a lousy job with that post, but that’s part of my learning curve, and Scott I appreciate that *your* criticism was specific–which makes it useful and gives me a chance to improve.

  7. Shelley says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for stopping by to read the comments.

  8. Peggy says:

    I think being passionate about something, building it well, using it, and presenting it to a wide audience in easily understood terms is indeed marketing. AND, yes there is a very fine line and some fancy footwork between tootin’ the horn, and the perfect level of enthusiasm.

    Not being the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to the how/why of all the acronymns associated with the feed – ing frenzie, raises some basic questions for me.
    I am using Firefox web browser, with ‘FeedView’ Extension. Why is it I can select an rss, or xml feed and view it directly in the browser with this extension, but an rdf file such as your syndication link, I need to download, and read with another app, OR Bookmark it in FireFox, then selecting the bookmark to view it in the browser. Is it just a matter of which formats the RSS extension or app was coded to handle?

    I missed some of the posts on WordForm. Now when I select the WordForm link on the sidebar, it takes me to your home page?

    This is may be outside the scope of this post, but I’ll try to push my luck here:

    I’ve decided to package the photo code up in such a way that it can be used by people regardless of weblogging system they use and whether images are stored at Flickr or not.

    Someone asked me:
    So, can I use it with Mambo and a local directory of images ? ;)


  9. Scott Reynen says:

    Come on Scott… if you tell someone to kill themselves for how they sound (or smell), without a shred of specific (let alone constructive) criticism, what kind of response would you expect and deserve?

    I’m not concerned with the rhetoric – you can dismiss that all you want and it won’t bother me. But you pulled a reasonable concern (marketing is dishonest) out of that rhetoric, one that I share, and then failed to address this concern, instead using it as a jumping point to talk about “neo-marketing,” or whatever we’re calling it now.

    This struck me as sort of like Coke’s new ads that are all about the world living in peace and harmony because…um…drinking Coke will end war? And…um…the web will end dishonest marketing?

    Both leave out the most important part: how do we get from bad to good? Making a chart with bad on one side and good on the other is at best just a small step towards answering this question. At worst, it’s marketing.

  10. Kathy Sierra says:

    Shelley- thanks for writing this!

    Scott – nothing will end dishonest marketing. How do we get from bad to good? That’s what we’re all here exploring, are we not? In fact, that’s pretty much the entire point of my blog. The idea of trying to create passionate users is not the path for everyone, but for a few of us… it’s a path we find rewarding.

  11. Rob says:

    Shelley, thanks.

    I’ve got a place to experiment with the Gallery 2. I’ll let you know how it goes. It may be a while. I live in Pittsburgh, and I have to prep some downspouts before Tuesday.

  12. eric miller says:

    Color me interested; where is the code? :)


  13. Shelley says:

    Rob, good luck with the storm. Hope it’s light in your area.

    eric, still working on it. having some real problems with connectivity last day or so. But I’m finding that RDF makes a wonderfully portable, self-suffient, and lightweight ‘database’ system for open data.

    Kathy, then what is a ‘passionate’ user? I see a lot of words and a lot of enthusiasm, but I don’t see anything beyond what we’ve been doing for the last 20 years — which is listen to the users and do the best we can within the constraints of the technology.

    It’s not iPod white or featured at an O’Reilly campout, but it is good, solid, software development.

    What are you doing differently? What is this new marketing that makes this all so different? What I’m seeing is a new kind of ‘marketing’ that is nothing more than the same old, but it has a lot of people who used to be tech and are still, somewhat, who are touting these miracle events and technologies–most of which are old, or pretty flimsy.

    Cases in point:

    AJAX. Huges amounts of jumping up and down for what is technology that’s basically the same as that which powers my old DHTML hurricane demo.

    Java. We can talk ‘open’ all we want, but Java is not open source.

    RSS. A syndication feed is a syndication feed. It can only go so far. It cannot replace every application known to man.

    CC licenses. Too little good law, too much hype.

    OPML. Worst piece of shit (I can use ‘shit’ with my readers) use of XML. Ever. Touted as the next great coming.

    WebOS. Oh give me a break, that one is so weak, even a kitten can drive through it.

    Algorithms. Nothing that can’t be cured in the world by a good algorithm.

    I could go on…that’s the ‘new’ marketing, same as the old marketing. It’s still, “I can teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…”, as Scott would say. It’s still trying to show that buying a Pepsi will bring peace to the world.

    Except there’s another element: the marketers are people among us. So not only do we have the marketing, we also have what amounts to a gag order to question it — after all, that would be raining on people’s parades, kicking the baby squirrels, being ‘part of the problem’. More, the questions just get ignored. All people want to ‘hear’, is the ‘good’. Which kind of contradicts the whole ‘conversation’ thing. No we’re not having a conversation. We’re having shouted pep rallys.

    Not only does it seem it is _not_ better, it is, in many ways, worse.

    That’s the question that you’re not addressing. Other than to say it’s “goodness” and you’re passionate about it. And that you believe in it. I just don’t know what _it_ is. But yeah, you’ve got a lot of people jumping up and down now going, “We’re all marketers!” We’re all marketers. Those who don’t market, die. Doesn’t matter what you deliver, as long as it buzzes, hops, pops, and throws up sufficient sparks. Oh, and has a ‘conversation’.

    And that’s the same old marketing.

    You know if you convert a dollar bill to four quarters, the money may weigh more, and shine pretty, but it still only buys the same amount. It’s not ‘better’; it’s just different.

  14. Jay Fienberg says:

    The software business has been heavily marketing-oriented. The dot com boom was a time when the web offered rewards to software businesses totally focused on marketing.

    Many of the technologies you mention became interesting after being put into practice after the dot com bust (circa 2002-2003) because of browser / web server maturity (and cheap hosting) and projects done by some talented folks who were largely out of work.

    But, we’re in the dot com boom #2 (circa 2004-), which, however tiny the boom, is as aligned as ever to the software-as-marketing model. And, many of these same talented folks now have big paychecks tied to that marketing.

    The connection of all this to blogging includes, IMO, to some degree, bloggers being encouraged to adopt the software-marketing mindset and to see their blogs as existing within a sphere with statuses defined by software-marketing values (e.g. generating buzz, getting interest “hits”, etc.).

  15. Seth Russell says:

    Well said ! I’m going through some of the same things myself … how to project some of my passion for my new web site (no it’s not speaktomecatalog) without the shallow jumping up and down and the empty superlatives … how to get the message out that this is really exceptional without being just like everybody else who is saying the same thing ? … incidentally u into “start up” futures ? … oh don’t mind me I’m just half joking.

  16. “I am imagining a wide range of things he might have been wanting to get from that comment, but an honest discussion wasn’t one of them.”

    Hello everyone – this is pinhut/extreme unction, picking up on kathy’s attribution of my intent on this thread.

    I was prepared for honest discussion, but my comment was emotional. As a student of human behaviour, Kathy could’ve come up with something more original, and perhaps reflected better on why I had such a visceral reaction to her post. The fact I was so dimsissive was in large part due to the Excellence of the Article, and the ugly contrast this formed when its Purpose was revealed. I was upset that the article was written for purposes of manipulating people to sell product, just as I would have same reaction if I read article on filming video that started with useful tips and then turned to subject of how to film up women’s skirts unnoticed.

    Understanding people – fascinating
    Understanding people to facilitate your marketing materials – unedifying (to myself)

    As I say on further post on Kathy’s blog, I have some close magic skills. Using Kathy’s value system, I would not feel bad about writing an article on how to distract people’s attention so you can swipe their watch.

    Kathy again fails to question her assumptions when she talks of “from bad to good” – that asserts that there is a “good” form of marketing. if there is such a thing, how can it be built upon the mind-control methods that Kathy propagates?

    just because marketing has become a powerful force in society, does not mean that it is natural or has to be accepted. for those living inside the bubble of marketing, drawing down $$$ from it, i can understand that you may feel uncomfortable. but it is an arms race, from my point of view. there is another wave of “olfactory marketing” coming, scents being used as marketing. some here may welcome it, i will be going to the supermarket wearing nose plugs.

    marketing can be resisted.

    lastly, kathy has the ill grace to call my post another example of marketing. if you go back to the bill hicks routine i echoed, he deals with the same comeback, “Oh, the anti-marketing dollar, that’s a huge market”

    kathy is wrong of course, everything is not marketing, just as if i wear a green eyeshade, everything is not green – it just LOOKS green.