I'm in Las Vegas for a couple of days, attending a meeting that is supposed to teach consultants how to grow their consulting practices. I've never been to this particular meeting, and I didn't quite know what to expect.
In one breakout session, a senior member of the association that sponsors the event stood up and made the claim, to my ear somewhat aggressively, that consultants need to emulate their clients to land serious business. This included dressing as CEOs dress. His recommended solution: buy and wear Hermes ties. He went on to say that he had packed and worn a different Hermes tie for every day of the conference.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. "I wore a Hermes tie, and I got the job. Everyone should wear Hermes ties. It will help them grow their consulting practice."
On a notepad, I tried to figure out the Hermes-tie equivalent of the conference fee. However, I did not stand up and say, "Seriously? That's it?"
You can credit me with being polite, but I think the more likely reason is battle fatigue. I hear and read too much stuff that uses a small amount of data to draw a significant and unsupported conclusion.
One example came last month, when Bookseller editor Philip Jones went about "exploring in exaggerated terms one outcome of the current narrative around publishers seeing readers, rather than booksellers, as their customers" (his words, not mine). Jones fears that the death of bookstores will result, as publishers sell direct and pursue communities to the exclusion of the bookstore.
His arguments are effectively dismantled by Suw Charman-Anderson, whose Forbes post contends that "[c]reating and maintaining a direct relationship with your readers, and treating them as the end customer, does not mean that you have to turn your back on distributors, wholesalers or retailers." That seems self-evident, so much so that I struggled to understand how Jones missed the point.
In a similar vein, "The abomination of eBooks: They price people out of reading" claims that publishers' pricing practices for libraries block uptake for digital versions of popular titles. This post led M.G. Siegler to write about "The end of the library", a riff whose centerpiece argument navel-gazes us to death:
It’s hard for me to even remember the last time I was in a library. I was definitely in one this past summer in Europe — on a historical tour. Before that, I think it was when I was in college. But even then, ten years ago, the internet was replacing the need to go to a library. And now, with e-books, I’m guessing the main reason to go to a library on a college campus is simply because it’s a quiet place to study.
Yes … I haven't been to the library in a long time; they must not be very useful. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
All of these posts picked up at least one moderating comment, and maybe a cross-section of people read past the headline and into the comments section. But (like this post): what a waste. We could be working to improve the appeal of reading in a digital era. Instead, we're chasing arguments that steadfastly miss the systemic nature of cause and effect.