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Book 14

  1. Meredith, Martin — The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (736 pages)
  2. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o — Wizard of the Crow (766 pages)
  3. Coetzee, J.M. — Life & Times of Michael K (182 pages)
  4. Saint-Exupery, Antoine de — The Little Prince (101 pages)
  5. Brunner, John — Stand on Zanzibar (661 pages)
  6. Dahl, Roald — Fantastic Mr Fox (79 pages)
  7. Walker, Barbara — TEENY-TINY and the Witch-Woman (29 pages)
  8. Shakespeare, William — A Midsummer Night's Dream (23 pages)
  9. Powers, Richard — The Time of Our Singing (631 pages)
  10. McEwan, Ian — In Between the Sheets (134 pages)
  11. Ishiguro, Kazuo — A Pale View of Hills (182 pages)
  12. Niven, Larry — Ringworld (284 pages)
  13. Anderson, Poul — Tau Zero (184 pages)
  14. Eisenberg, Bryan & Jeffrey, with Lisa T. Davis — Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results (273 pages)

Page count: 4265.

The company I've for whom I've been working for the past several months wants to make me permanent staff, and we've been negotiating a deal that would pay me approximately what I make as a freelancer and would also make me head of the clientside team. In discussing my ideas for the team and the company with the managing director, we veered off into a discussion of issues concerning our clients' websites particularly and online retail in general.

Suddenly the MD pulled this book out of his satchel and proclaimed it the best book ever published on the subject of e-commerce. He insisted I read it. My eyes glassed over — after all, my reading list is already so long I have little hope of finishing it in my lifetime — but I decided to be a good prospective hire and read the durned thing. If nothing else, the book might give me some further insight into this company's philosophy on creating web entities for retailers.

I am sure that, to the right audience, Call to Action is a useful, perhaps even a good, book. The problem is that I'm not the right audience. I can see how this book would be invaluable to a Managing Director, a Project Manager, an Information Architect, a Marketer or Salesperson, even perhaps even a lead Designer. But to a Clientside Developer?

I have little interest in or knowledge of such things as conversion rates, sales, marketing, etc., so a lot of this book's content went in one eye and out the other. It all seemed to be pretty common sense stuff. I mean, my inner voice kept saying, "Well, duh!" forgetting that most marketing people I've dealt with seem to lack basic common sense.

The parts of the book that dealt specifically (though not the least bit in depth) with my areas of expertise elicited either more "Duh!" reactions or "Whoa! That's wrong!" reactions. For example, the authors seem to be convinced that the way to increase search engine visibility is to employ keywords and use table-based layouts, ideas which left me banging my head against the nearest solid surface hoping no client of mine ever reads these sections.

Halfway through the book, I had another conversation with the MD. He wanted to know my thoughts so far. I asked him, if Call to Action is supposed to sum up our company's philosophy on e-commerce sites, why is it so much of the seemingly valuable information in the book is ignored. (Fortunately, because the company has hired more-or-less competent developers, the book's mind-numbing suggestions on code development were also completely ignored.)

The MD shrugged. His answer indirectly pointed a finger at who the true audience for this book ought to be: clients! It doesn't matter how much expertise we bring to the table, clients always think they know best. And our attempts to shake them of their ignorance mostly fails, which is why the industry standard for conversions will continue to sit at around 2%, why sites will continue to throw up barriers to users with assistive technologies (estimates for these users anywhere between 7% and 19%) or who have technology limitations (IE or other crap browsers, no JavaScript, no Flash or other plugins, etc.), and why e-commerce will continue to fail to reach its full potential.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
minkrose
Sep. 30th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
I agree very much with your last paragraph. As a librarian, we think about that stuff a lot. It's very frustrating! We want to reach all people, including the lowest common denominator of internet users.
spwebdesign
Sep. 30th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
We want to reach all people, including the lowest common denominator of internet users.

Amen!
elgatocurioso
Sep. 30th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
Forgive me for grasping on a throw away statement, and hijacking your threat:

"Common Sense" is easy to see, when heard (what did he just say?). It's hard to think of as needed. Everything in management, marketing, sales, even in a lot of technical fields is nothing more than common sense. The problem is thinking of, and employing, the right bit of it at the right time. This is metaphorically illustrated by how we so often don't think of the perfect response to that snide comment by the idiot in Accounts Payable until we wake up in bed the next morning when the the moment has long passed.

Anyway, this is why everyone thinks that everyone else in marketing, sales, management in general, are a bunch of blithering idiots. Because when they do things correctly, it was just "common sense" anyway, and why get praise for doing the right thing, but when they do it wrong the feeling is that "a bunch of inane monkeys could have done a better job".

The sad fact is, that common sense simply isn't as common as we would like- but simply because (most) human's aren't as fleet-of-mind as would be optimal.

Not to say that those departments are never comprised entirely of a bunch of blithering idiots- it's just hard to tell those with net-positive good common sense from those who are just complete morons ;)

elgatocurioso
Sep. 30th, 2010 08:37 pm (UTC)
And further illustrated, by how difficult it is to see grammatical errors before clicking *Post Comment* compared to how glaring they are afterward!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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