Full disclosure: I am by definition not qualified to have the opinions I am about to express. The book in question, Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, is a national bestseller. It says so right on the front cover. I don’t have any bestsellers to my name. The book was also published by Harvard Business Press. I didn’t go to Harvard.
At the library the other day I snagged a copy of a book called Groundswell. I think I grabbed it because of the zany hypo-glasses-like book cover, but I was grabbing a lot of books from the newly-acquired shelf that day, so I can’t be sure.
The authors of Groundswell are both employees of Forrester Research, about which I know almost nothing. I figured maybe it meant something useful in a data-driven way, so a couple of days ago I started reading. Turns out the ‘groundswell’ in the title is the internet + social networking + tech + the inability of the corporations to control their messaging + the author’s desire to identify, brand, trademark and exploit a cultural phenomenon. Not particularly earth-shattering stuff, but okay.
The book itself is designed to bring non-techy types up to date on the groundswell, to teach them how to live with the beast, and even how to turn the groundswell to their advantage. To which I say, bravo. Anarchy is all well and good, but let’s not get carried away.
Reading into the book I became a bit concerned by the frequency with which the book referred to itself, and particularly its own title, as if it had been written with keyword searches in mind. But all that was forgiven when I finally hauled myself up to page 20, ice axes gleaming in the high-altitude sun, and found, on a craggy outcropping, the single funniest English-language sentence written in the past ten years:
Unlike journalists, bloggers may sometimes mix fact with opinion, report rumors, and fail to disclose conflicts of interest.
I call this kind of sentence an ejection seat, because after I read it I couldn’t go on. The authors may know a great deal about this whole groundswell business, and I may miss out by not reading the rest of the book, but I just can’t do it. Somewhere in the rest of their text is another sentence equally as misguided and oblivious (or calculated) as the one above, but that one might get past me. I might internalize it; even believe.
That such an sentence could be written by smart bestselling people who are qualified by virtue of publication to explain a cultural sea change to other smart people seems to me indicative of something, but as a blogger and non-bestelling writer, I don’t know what it could be.
— Mark Barrett