There’s been a lot to do about Malcolm Gladwell’s criticism (somewhat heated given Gladwell’s usually calm writing and demeanor) of Chris Anderson’s new book Free: The Future of a Radical Price 1. I’m a fan of both Gladwell and Anderson, though I think Anderson’s The Long Tail was a much more down-to-earth book when it comes to business. I think that Gladwell’s books have something of a spiritual feel to them, with little to provide in terms of guidance on business.
But after reading into Gladwell’s criticism of Free, it rang very hollow to me. I think Anil Dash explains it perfectly (emphasis his):
The core of Gladwell’s argument is simple: “Free” fails to provide data to support its claims about the future of pricing, using anecdote and confident assertion in place of actual evidence. In his objection to this methodology, Gladwell seems uncharacteristically strident, compared to his usual measured tones. Whenever I see somebody getting their dander up, I think of one of the first things I ever blogged about ten year ago: We hate most in others that which we fail to see in ourselves. Ah hah!
Anecdotes are just that. Maybe both of them will be vindicated as having brilliant insight into how mass markets work. But just mentioning a couple of examples that support a guy feeling are only enough get folks’ attention, not prove anything
Of course, I’ll continue to read just about everything both author’s write in the New Yorker, Wired, or in long-form print.
Update: I made a small editorial change to the article regarding using quotation marks versus italics for titles.