Thursday, February 03, 2005

Policy and Marketing

Thinking about this previous post led me to question how easy it is to fool people. Following the architecture astronaut mentality this led me to abstract all human behaviour thus:

Seems to my potty head that everything that people work on can be summed up in these two things - Policy and Marketing.

Policy is what people do, what they will do and so on - Marketing is how they will percieve what gets done. Now, we all know that perception is easier to manipulate than reality - it's much easier for me to convince you that I had a wee on the top of Mount Kocsziusco than to actually do it.

Add to this the generalisation that all people are fundamentally lazy. So they often tend to work more on perception than reality. Which is why it's occasionally easy to fool people.

In my line of work, I work with a bunch of engineers. I like engineers. One of the things I like about them is that they don't do bullshit. They only care about what really gets done. (Often this makes engineering types very difficult to talk to, becuase they don't see the point in talking when there is nothing to say. They do, of course have a good point.)

This endearing quality is the same one that makes them wear shorts, socks and sandals.

Initially, they tend to be easily influenced by marketing and perception because they assume that what people are saying is true. After a few bad experiences, they end up with a finely honed bullshit detector, which leads to the cynicism so popular these days....

On the other side of the fence, there are people who don't do anything - just manipulate the way people see things that have been done. Look at advertisers, marketers, press secretaries, PR companies and Journalists, Lawyers and Accountants (well, dodgy ones). What actually happens is pretty much irrelevant. These guys spend their lives manipulating the way that people percieve things. And, they generally make a shitload of money - becuase their efforts to change people's minds are effective. The reason people pay for advertising is because it works.

If you look at all public institutions, whether they are companies, governments or churches, political parties or freaky cults, they all have two clear divisions - people who do stuff, and people who persuade people the stuff is good. (In software land, this is clearly illustrated through Eric Sink's brilliant closing the gap articles)

My Friend Matt is a Roman Historian. He's also a D&D role-playing, web developer and skilled IT professional (read:card carrying nerd) who's never heard of slashdot, but that's a different story.

Anyway, when I saw him last week he gave me a roman coin from about 300 A.D. I've always liked this coin, becuase the reverse inscription has a Roman soldier stabbing a Persian, and the inscription around the outside reads "Happy Days Are Here Again!" (except in latin)

Matt tells me that in actual fact, the Romans were being pretty badly beaten by the Persians, but that didn't stop them from actively trying to persuade people otherwise. Nothing new here.

One side of the coin is policy, one side is marketing...

(oh, and if you're looking for amazingly great roman coins - Trust, me, they're really, really good.)

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