In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters

Overview

In Search of Stupidity is National Lampoon meets Peter Drucker. It's a funny and well-written business book that takes a look at some of the most influential marketing and business philosophies of the last 20 years and, through the dark glass of hindsight, provides an educational and vastly entertaining examination of why they didn't work for many of the country's largest and best-known high-tech companies. Make no mistake: most of them did not work.

Marketing wizard Richard ...

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Overview

In Search of Stupidity is National Lampoon meets Peter Drucker. It's a funny and well-written business book that takes a look at some of the most influential marketing and business philosophies of the last 20 years and, through the dark glass of hindsight, provides an educational and vastly entertaining examination of why they didn't work for many of the country's largest and best-known high-tech companies. Make no mistake: most of them did not work.

Marketing wizard Richard Chapman takes readers on a hilarious ride in this book, which is richly illustrated with cartoons and reproductions of many of the actual campaigns used at the time. Filled with personal anecdotes spanning Chapman's remarkable career (he was present at many now-famous meetings and events), In Search of Stupidity is a no-holds-barred look at the best of the worst hopeless marketing ideas and business decisions in the last 20 years of the technology industry.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Slashdot.org
An excellent source of information, analysis and good laughs. It's one of the few industry titles that will give you a large supply of stories to re-tell to other developers over a beer. Chapman's book is also an excellent case study collection of anti-management rules that one should avoid when running a high tech company.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590591048
  • Publisher: Apress
  • Publication date: 7/9/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman is the author of the first edition of In Search of Stupidity. 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 U.S. 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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Table of Contents

Foreword
About the Artist
Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 First Movers, First Mistakes: IBM, Digital Research, Apple, and Microsoft 13
3 A Rather Nutty Tale: IBM and the PC Junior 33
4 Positioning Puzzlers: MicroPro and Microsoft 47
5 We Hate You, We Really Really Hate You: Ed Esber and Ashton-Tate 65
6 The Idiot Piper: OS/2 and IBM 79
7 Frenchman Eats Frog, Chokes to Death: Borland and Philippe Kahn 105
8 Brands for the Burning: Intel and Motorola 123
9 From Godzilla to Gecko: The Long, Slow Decline of Novell 145
10 Ripping PR Yarns: Microsoft and Netscape 163
11 Purple Haze All Through My Brain: The Internet and ASP Busts 193
Afterword: Stupid Development Tricks 223
Glossary of Terms 233
Selected Bibliography 241
Index 243
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2005

    nice analysis of IT disasters

    Chapman gives a witty and entertaining analysis of various marketing disasters in information technology since the 1980s. He offers cogent analysis of whoppers of mistakes. It was a pleasure to stroll back in time with him and recall such events as IBM's famous PC development. Where it licensed an operating system from then tiny Microsoft. Chapman states that the now common understanding of that event is wrong. Microsoft did not bamboozle IBM, who actually knew full well that Microsoft would in turn have to licence that operating system from someone else. Other vanished and once great companies grace the pages. Wang, DEC, Ashton-Tate. Closer to home, he also provides a piercing scrutiny of the dotcom craze. He explains why defunct 'visionaries' like Webvan, Kozmo and the entire Application System Providers had few viable prospects. One quibble I have is with his statement that some technologies did not spawn an investing and startup craze. He cites TV and computers, amongst others. But in the instance of computers, this is wrong. Consider the personal computer introduction of the late 70s. A multitude of hardware and software companies were spawned, and many went public, like Eagle Computer and Tandon. Though most ultimately fell by the wayside, especially after the high tech crash of 86. Remember that? While that period did not equal the dot com craze in terms of capital invested and burnt, it was comparable to earlier crazes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2004

    Not what I expected

    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. It was entertaining in certain parts, but the focus of the book seems to be solving problems in hindsight. If you don¿t have a time machine, you don¿t have that benefit, and cannot expect anyone else to have it either.<p> It hammers the egos of many people who at the time were the heads of their organizations, laying the blame on the more prominent of these. Yet the style of the writing tends to promote the idea that the author was infallible; it seems at times that by his counting, if he had headed these organizations, he would be in the position that Bill Gates is in now.<p> The book is very good at recounting history of computer software companies, focusing mainly on those in which the author had direct relation with, either as an employee or as a programmer using their product. In this sense, the book is worthwhile. It seems more of a biography than a heartfelt analysis.<p>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2003

    Learn from history

    First of all it is a great compilation of 20 years of software history from someone who was a player in the game. It is also of value as a business text, but not if one needs the lessons spelled out in bulleted form at the end of each chapter. Take the mistakes listed in the book and make sure your marketing department isn't making them. My only real criticism is that Microsoft does get a little bit of slack, in that some of their failures were sort of mentioned as an aside rather than the in-depth historical analysis that marks the rest of the book. On the other hand, Microsoft's failures by and large were not marketing failures. Did 'Bob' fail because it was dumb or because it wasn't marketed correctly? Some more examination of that would have been helpful. One more amplification of just how right Mr. Chapman's view of history has been. I worked at Microsoft when Lotus Notes was being rolled out. Microsoft actually delayed the shipment of some of it's products to find an answer to the threat that was Notes. Because Lotus bungled the marketing of Notes so badly, Microsoft (who clearly understood the potential and threat of the product) was able to release the software with a small delay and not have to change anything to compete. There are many more examples of the 'best' products not controling the market because for a lot of people 'marketing' is just not done right. This book should help decision makers to understand the consequences of that choice.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2003

    Stupid Human Tricks

    From NY, NY United States I loved this book. Kind of like stupid human tricks for software companies. This book offers many funny anecdotes choked full of technical marketing lessons. They were very relevant for me as my career traced the rise of high-tech over the last two decades. One can only wonder how management at once-major players (Novell, Ashton Tate, Netscape, etc) acted so 'stupidly'. You would think its quite difficult to screw the pooch when you are the dominate networking vendor (e.g., Novell) , have the 1st mover advantage, annually sell billions in product, customers like your product and have several 1000 employees. But Rick describes in painstaking detail Novells wrenching fall. Having built several Novell and Microsoft oriented products, this chapter alone for me was worth the price of the book. Plus the book was hard to put down with all the named names¿ Ed Esber, Ray Noorda, Jim Manzi, Philippe Khan stupid human tricks. If you are in the tech business, buy this book. Read it too.

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