Joel on Software talks about Malcolm Gladwell and Tom Friedman

There have been a number of articles taking shots at some of Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, "Outliers". No doubt Mr. Gladwell is really good at getting visibility for his books and has hit upon a formula with The Tipping Point and Blink which are fascinating reads, with profound insights, that happen to sell well.

Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times was the first one I saw being not 100% flattering about the book, saying:
"“Outliers,” Mr. Gladwell’s latest book, employs this same recipe, but does so in such a clumsy manner that it italicizes the weaknesses of his methodology.: (from Books of the Times, NYT)

More interesting or telling is Patrick Smith who writes Ask The Pilot for Salon. He is an actual 'subject matter expert' as they say, and he more or less tears apart one of the Gladwell anecdotes from the book as well as from press appearances. He writes:
"Malcolm Gladwell claims cultural issues can play a big role in plane crashes. The pilot begs to differ" (from Ask The Pilot)

It's fun to take down cultural icons.

Another interesting post comes from one of 'our own' cultural icons, Joel (middle name: "On", last name: "Software") who writes a new piece called "Anecdotes" where he aggrees with Michiko Kakutani and does her one better:
"This review captures what's been driving me crazy over the last year... an unbelievable proliferation of anecdotes disguised as science, self-professed experts writing about things they actually know nothing about, and amusing stories disguised as metaphors for how the world works." (from Anecdotes, Joel on Software)

But then he goes on to also speak not-nice about Thomas Friedman, and several other authors, saying that:
"Thomas Friedman, who, it seems, cannot go a whole week without inventing a new fruit-based metaphor explaining everything about the entire modern world, all based on some random jibberish he misunderstood from a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur" (also from Anecdotes)

Ouch! I admit to be a Tom Friedman fan (despite the fact that Mr. Friedman feels like the highest virtue is inventing new words and trying really hard to have us adopt them.) He is smart, very well informed, insightful, experienced, and an excellent writer. About major world issues.

I have to say I always enjoy reading Joel on Software, especially when he is writing about Software and the software business. I wonder whether Joel himself (or Himself) is falling into this trap himself:
"This is not the way to move science forward. On Sunday Dave Winer [partially] defined "great blogging" as "people talking about things they know about, not just expressing opinions about things they are not experts in (nothing wrong with that, of course)." Can we get some more of that, please? Thanks." (also from Anecdotes)

Posted on December 7, 2008 and filed under Life.