Marcos Calatayud Designer

  1. Twitter
  2. LinkedIn

On bullshit

Context

In a very competitive market –such as software development– people like/need to sell themselves in order to stand out among the competition and catch your attention. Almost like building a brand of themselves. In order to do so, they will use flashy words to try to impress you and make you lower your guard.

They can be seeking:

  1. A job. Either a company hiring or someone looking for a position.

  2. A chance to sell you their product.

  3. A chance to impress you during a speech.

1. Getting a job.

You will find a surreal hyperbolic mix of words to tell you how good they are.

They describe themselves –or are looking for– “ninjas” (good but invisible/unknown), “rockstars” (good and well known/famous) or even gurus (they are more than awesome, they lead the way in their field). Maybe all of this childish hyperbole and ego-boosting made from meaningless words has to do with some Freudian issues, given that the industry is still male-dominated.

2. Selling you a product.

They will use one or more buzzwords to tell you how incredible and ground-breaking their product is. This hype-building escalation of words go from half-true features to hollow adjectives. Often, the products range from candid clones of a well established product to pure smoke. Examples of the words used are: cloud, big data, ground-breaking, disruptive, etc.

3. Impressing you during a speech.

This is the topic which originated this post. Speakers are usually selling a product: their expertise; their product/startup; or even their value as speakers (yes, very meta).

They will wittily sprinkle flashy words all along their speech, making an empty discourse and pretending they actually said something. And eventually they will say some remarkably sentence which:

  • Will mesmerize all of us.

  • Will sound natural and spontaneous.

  • Will be bold and make us think “Of course, how obvious” and “How stupid we all have been. How come nobody thought of this before?”.

Do not be fooled, they are only deceiving –and often arrogant. Have you ever tried to apply one of these great pieces of knowledge? It is impossible. Are we incompetent? No, the quote is flawed; it is pure bullshit.

How do they work? How can we agree when we first listen to/read them? Because we don’t usually read/listen comprehensively. Some people take advantage of this and beautifully craft these quotes after the same principles upon jokes are built:

  • You need a thin layer of truth to help it make sound reasonable. This will act like inertia and help make the whole quote seem true. Simply like a fallacy.

  • The topic, the words and the sentence itself must be catchy. It helps make it memorable.

However, once you start analysing them, you discover how empty they are. I like to fantasize about how they come out with these quotes. I imagine it is like assisting to a meeting of SCDP at Mad Men.

Example

I will take for instance a quote from someone I respect a big deal (dated in 2012, but it keeps coming back periodically)

The best UI is not UI at all.

So Zen. So deep. Until we realise it is a fallacy –user interface is absolutely necessary, since everybody needs a way to tell a tool how and when to perform a desired action.

In the post, he implicitly accepts that he is referring to the abuse of embedding GRAPHICAL User Interfaces to everything everywhere. Just like Raymond Loewy made everything areodynamic –even a pencil sharpener!

I agree to a certain degree with that subjacent idea: adding a new interface system/element (be it a GUI or something else) is not necessarily the solution to a problem but, more likely, an extra problem. But instead of making an honest sentence, he was tempted to make a powerful bold statement.

Example (honest version)

Taking all this into account, the sentence should be more like:

When using something, we should aim for as less steps as possible while maximising usability.

-

Someone may complain that the quote is not being contextualised, but that is one of the raisons-d’être of quotes: they must work on their own.

TL;DR

  • We should try to be more humble and honest in every aspect; there are people who seem to think they can fix the world's problems with software.

  • You will meet some people that will mix the three factors of self-branding mentioned above. They will probably be gurus giving an impeccable speech about how they built the next Facebook. Bullshit.