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.comment: Savor the Unmarketed Moment
Here They Come, And They're Not the Monkees
September 20, 2000
Once, many years ago, a guest in my home announced that he was in the marketing profession. There had been a rabid raccoon that had got dispatched in the back yard the day before, and I was now out of ammunition. Had I anticipated the guest, I'd have learned to live with the raccoon.
I mention this because we may be in the last happy minutes before marketing types turn the public face of Linux into something none of us recognizes. And whatever the flame wars and general boisterousness and bluster we've experienced before, they are likely to seem like harps and cottony white clouds by comparison.
Smarmy, glad-handing herds of scientific marketers are on the move, and they're heading for Linux. They've picked up the scent of money in the air, and they're migrating toward it, and when they're done much that once worked will be broken.
We're already seeing some of it.
Even now, here and there, I hear people referring to Linux programs as "solutions." Sometime in the foggy distant past someone in a marketing department somewhere came up with an idea: We don't sell software, we sell solutions. And for a week or two, that was a clever and fresh approach. Within a year it had been beaten to lifelessness. But its sorry carcass has been dragged around between the teeth of marketers ever since, and now it's being flung on Linux. It will be tough to fling back.
Want a software solution? Copy some code onto a floppy. Remove the floppy from the drive. Break open the plastic cover and remove the circular recording medium. Drop it in a container of alcohol and stir vigorously. The brown discoloration and the alcohol will be your solution. (Well, actually, I think that it will be a colloidal suspension, but it's closer than the marketing definition.)
Not long ago, while talking to a hardware manufacturer, I was asked if I am a "solutions provider." I said that I didn't know and asked for a definition of the term. The manufacturer was unable to provide one. I didn't purchase his product, though I also didn't weep long into the night over the prospect that I might not be a solutions provider.
We're seeing customers becoming "partners," too. This, I guess, is supposed to inflate and therefore distract the "partner" from whom the money comes, so that he or she doesn't notice the one-way flow of cash in the partnership. In an earlier day, the word was "pigeon." As a good rule of thumb, if you download it and use it for free, you are not a partner. You have to fork over the loot to join the partnership.
Things related to computers no longer have size and shape; they now have a "form factor." Do you honestly believe an actual computer person dreamt this up? Of course not. This is the kind of drivel spewed by the marketers: My competitor's 3.5-inch floppy drive has size and shape, but mine has form factor, and you are supposed to believe, therefore, that mine is better.� The same bozos would have us believe that Firestone has been recalling tires with a 15-inch form factor.
"Wireless Linux solutions -- now with form factor!"
It's still a little bit funny in the Linux world, but that's going to change -- the joke gets old after the first thousand or so tellings.