Monday, August 1

Why it is hard to trust analysts

I was recently asked to write an endorsement blurb for the back of a book by an author who had made the the same request of at least 19 other industry "experts."

I am assuming no more than five would make it to the back of the book. So if I cared about actually being quoted, I would have to write something amazingly positive. "Sell your children if you have to buy this book and make it your new reason for living. Quote it to friends. Post aphorisms from it on your walls. THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE ."

This reminded me of when I was at Gartner.

First, reporters would call me and several other respected e-learning analysts. The wanted a projected market-size in billions, and frankly would quote the biggest number. So if you wanted your name to appear in the Wall Street Journal or on ABC news, shoot high.

Second, if you have a beat within any "neutral" media organization, be it for a publication, a broadcast, or as an analyst, you have to compete for resources within your organization. So again, it benefited you to be as inflationary as possible. (And don't get me started about Wall Street!)

I hope the book will be a big success and I am sure I will recommend it personally to clients. But I turned down the author (I turn down over half the books that people ask me to do).

Having said that, I have no doubt the person will get at least five of people to say, "You must buy it now. YOU WILL LOOK BACK AT THE TIME BEFORE YOU READ IT AS A CRUEL CHARACTURE OF LIFE," or something like that.


Ben Watson said...

Up until a few years ago I used to read the back of books (especially the hardcovers) to help pick through the clutter until the authors I trusted started to endorse so many authors that it was impossible that the author has read the actual books.

Then I started to read the first few pages in a book where more reviews where located and then the scandal hit about movie companies paying for reviews or even creating fictitious reviews so I thought the same was probably happening to books.

So long story short I now go to and read the user reviews there (and only the reviews that had 'real name's (i.e. verified identified) and use those as a filter. So far so good.

P.S. I moved back to Canada about 2 years ago and here books seem to be abut 30% higher than in the US (taxes etc) so it had become even more important to take my time finding a good book to read.

P.P.S. I have always believed that if an eLearning company truly believed in the value of their courses that they would enable a global rating and ranking feedback system similar to where learners could rate the course and post their comments as well. Not only would this help other potential learners but this 'feedback loop' would also help the eLearning company. Of course this doesn't stop an end-user company from putting such a system in place, especially if they were using courses from several sources.

Clark Aldrich said...

Hi Ben,

The bigger issue for me is why aren't there e-learning courses on Amazon?

There certainly are courses that are good enough. There are courses that are self-contained enough.

Ben Watson said...

Interestingly enough during my time at SkillSoft/SmartForce I actually pushed for us to offer our courses through but of course nothing came of it.

All it take is, ideally, a UPC or ISBN number and giving a cut to Amazon of course. Already sells products that, in the sale receipt email, gives you a web page to go to and an access code to login with.

Rumour has it that Microsoft is now considering offering their (internally developed) eLearning courses through which would be ideal as they could be positioned alongside / bundled with their software programs. Now that would be smart!