Do you have a bad reputation? We need to talk about bad reputations and the winner-take-all philosophy in tech. Our companies compete for the same deals, and sometimes they go hard. But, how far is too far when you’re trying to win big deals? Would we know it when we see it?

Scandal is what grabs our attention

We have to start this discussion by questioning ourselves, the consumers of the information. Why is something scandalous more memorable and talked about than reality? This certainly seems to be true in many of the prime time news stories we hear. It is so common for politicians and figures in big business bend the truth to match their agendas that Stephen Colbert coined a term for it – “truthiness”.

We are technologists, we are supposed to deal in what we can prove via the scientific method. We prove theories and discard what doesn’t measure up to the hard facts. How is it that we also fall into the trap of debating (or worse creating) the drama that comes from half-truths?

Where is the line? What are we talking about?

You may have seen some of this behavior online, or heard of it from a customer. Perhaps on Twitter an evangelist may disagree publicly with a competitor’s employee, and do it in a way that belittles or mocks the other technology and the individual. In most cases the community will jump in to try and neutralize the attack, and potentially assign a bad reputation to that evangelist for the ad hominem attack. But what happens if the evangelist’s employer – the C-level at the company – join the attack?

Here’s another example. Many people in tech are taking advantage of the gig economy, and doing freelance review and marketing (blogging, podcasting, etc) work for companies. We know salacious posts will get more traffic. So is there an ethical responsibility when creating content? They say bad press is better than no press, and some organizations seem to be ok with taking that chance. But in an economy that depends on how people view your character, will your work still be valuable if you take a gig that requires you to go negative to get the eyeballs? Can your business survive a bad reputation?

Are these approaches ok?

Bad press can give an otherwise unknown player the attention they crave to gain traction. Add that to an aggressive sales team, and there is the potential to raise lots of awareness. This is probably why some teams tolerate (and encourage) the bad behavior. But if we participate in this type of behavior as individuals, will we be branded with a bad reputation?

Some questions to consider:

  • Is there a difference between writing a blog post that explains the technical limitations of a product and writing a post for your employer bashing your competitor’s product only to promote your own product?
  • Where is the line when you are paid to review products? Do you acquiesce to the people writing the check to gloss over true shortcomings, or do you totally rip their competitor to shreds over something minor

What does the community say about a bad reputation?

Thomas LaRock kicked off some interesting thoughts on this topic:

Kong Yang took it further, saying that leaders encourage or ignore bad behavior if it closes deals.

And then Luigi Danakos said this:

Let’s Talk more about bad reputations!

Does this topic interest you to the point that you would like to discuss it further with us?  If so, Kong, James Honey, and I are the hosts of the Wide World of Tech podcast. We’d like to invite other tech podcasters to talk about this issue in the podcast that they publish in the first week of April. There are so many angles to discuss, surely we can come together to really hash out this issue. If your podcasting team wants to participate, here’s what to do:

  • Tweet out that you’re in with the hashtag #ITBadRep, and I’ll add you to the list
  • Publish your podcast the first week in April, and I’ll add the link here as well.

List of podcasts participating in #currentstatus #WideworldofTech

What do you think about this issue? Do you think mixing salacious drama in with creating content about technology is good for the community? Who would you like to see discuss the issue?