I’ve been saying for a two years, maybe longer, that the reaction to Social Media Is Bullshit within The Asshole Based Economy was going to be “Attack & Distract”. In fact, you can even see me totally call that in the book itself.
Thanks to my new best friend, Sour Grapes Dave Copeland, I have some proof I’d like to share with you.
For those of you who don’t know, Sour Grapes Dave Copeland used to write for ReadWriteWeb before getting tossed during an editorial shuffle. As reported to me from former editors and contributors of ReadWriteWeb (now just ReadWrite), Sour Grapes Dave Copeland was not a popular contributor at the site. Sour Grapes also teaches (taught?) as an adjunct instructor at Bridgewater State University, where he was described to be “on thin ice” from sources.
Sour Grapes Dave Copeland teaches courses in journalism, which makes the rest of this post pretty funny …
Now, back when Sour Grapes Dave Copeland was writing for ReadWriteWeb, I made the mistake of thinking, “Hey, Dave writes about the same subject I do, maybe I can send him a press copy of Social Media Is Bullshit and he’ll like it and write about it.” So, I sent Sour Grapes a free copy of the book, he set up an interview with me, and everything seemed fine.
Then on the day of the interview, as I’m getting on the bus to head to the Amtrak station in Syracuse, New York, I got an email from Sour Grapes Dave Copeland at 6:22am:
Finished your book and it’s just not something I’m going to write about for RWW. Rather than waste your time with a 3 pm phone call heading into a holiday weekend, I’m canceling it.
So I figured, ok cool. Maybe he didn’t like it? I’m totally fine with that. Most people who have read the book love it. Even the people who saw me on CNBC and were like “I totally disagree with you” and then I said, “Well, did you read the thing?” went on to read the book and liked it.
I know I’m not going to please everyone, and I’ve been getting shit online since 1998. Believe me, I’m used to bad reviews and mockery.
But then … literally the second people were allowed to post reviews on Amazon, this review went up from Sour Grapes Dave Copeland:
“I rarely get pushed to write reviews on sites like Amazon, but I just don’t get how a house as respected as St. Martin’s accepted and printed something as childish and dumb as this book. Mendelson could actually make some decent points about the push by marketers to use social media as snake oil posing as a panacea, but instead relies on bad jokes, limited research, anecdotal evidence and hunches. He is worse than the marketers that he is trying to take down in that he is blatantly trying to build a book around a catchy title and a hot topic.
Mendelson also loves to name drop. He frequently sets up quotes with “As [Insert Famous Or Semi-Famous Name Here] told me,” never letting the reader forget that he is connected. The people that told Mendelson range from Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan to “I Hope They Serve Beer And Hell” author Tucker Max (who, incidentally, Mendelson seems to admire, which may explain throwaway lines like this: “The [marketers'] have to reach a larger audience to up their speaking fees, and for the foreseeable future, that’s going to be a hardcover book released through a traditinal publisher, that reaches a bestseller list like The New York Times, and not something you can get for $1.99 and a hand job.”)
Beyond bad writing and a sense of humor that is unlikely to click with anyone far outside of Mendelson’s immediate circle of marketing nerd friends, there are bigger problems with this book. It totally disregards how social media is being used in fields outside of marketing, which jives with Mendelson’s sense of self-importance: if he doesn’t see value in something, than it certainly can’t be useful to anyone else.Mendelson may very well be right when he portrays Internet marketers who promises riches built on social media campaigns as con artist, but he barely provides anecdotal evidence to support his jaded opinions.
There is little in way of hard data, which leads to laughably inaccurate and outright false statements like “I don’t think we’ll ever have a clear answer as to why something goes viral organically.”The ever growing percentages of the country’s 14,000 sociologists who are studying how information spreads through both traditional and online social networks would probably disagree with that Mendelson myth.
This book is a total waste of time for anyone who has half a brain.”
If that isn’t an example of “Attack & Distract” that belongs in a textbook, I don’t know what does.
(Also: The Tucker Max thing appeared again, which I find fascinating, given what I said about it here.)
I think it’s pretty clear, this wasn’t just a case of someone not liking a book. The timing is one thing. Plus, Sour Grapes Dave Copeland only left one other review on Amazon back in 2004. This was the work of a dude who clearly had an axe to grind. That’s why I don’t really need to address what he’s said line by line. Put in the appropriate context (the cancelled interview, the immediate negative review, that he hasn’t posted many reviews prior to this one) was definitely a tipoff that this dude was a tad bit jealous. (And I’m the last guy to play the “you’re jealous” card, but … I think it’s more than apparent something was up beyond simply not liking a book.)
(Ok. There’s one little thing I thought I’d throw in about Social Media Is Bullshit: The book’s research, which compromises 25% of the finished manuscript, began back in 2009. The writing of the book back in August of 2010. The Interviews and attempted interviews with every single person I mentioned in the book for a full year throughout 2011. You can see the over 3,000 links I used for the book here. It also took almost a year for the book to come out, so … you can’t really ride a hot topic when you started working on something three years before it was a hot topic, you know? In fact, if you look over on the press page, I was giving “anti-social media marketing” interviews as far back as 2007 when I appeared on The Many Moods of Vince Daniels on KCAA.)
Now, I stated this just recently, but Amazon is unique in that, for a brief period of time, the reviews left on there do matter. After the first few weeks, the reviews stop being useful. That hasn’t stopped me from encouraging others to post reviews of the book though. The way I see it, Amazon’s policy is that people can’t post reviews if they have some sort of relationship with you (particularly a financial one), and publishers have been allowing authors to essentially game and manipulate Amazon for a long time now. So although the reviews don’t amount for much after the first month (at most) of a book, it’s a point of pride to see honest reviews from people I have no business or familial relationship with leave reviews. Sour Grapes Dave Copeland doesn’t think this is ok. But apparently it’s ok to, essentially, jump somebody on Amazon because you’re upset for reasons about to be explained.
So, given all this, it was clear Sour Grapes Dave Copeland clearly has an issue, and I probably shouldn’t let his review just sit there because it went up just as the book went on sale, so out of boredom and morbid curiosity, I called him out. The idea being, I’m going to give him some rope and see if he hangs himself.
And as you might have guessed, he did.
- Me: “I think it’s worth noting here that Dave works as a consultant offering training sessions to corporations on things such as social media. He also received a press copy of the book and works for ReadWriteWeb, which was one of the outlets that I didn’t have many flattering things to say about. Dave, a little disclosure would have been nice in your review.”
- Sour Grapes Dave Copeland: ”I’m not posting as an employee of ReadWriteWeb, and the only mention of RWW that stuck in my head was actually borderline complimentary or, at best, neutral. I did put the book down about two-thirds of the way through, so maybe I missed the truly inflammatory statements. I’ve actually never consulted for any corporation [Emphasis Added] and, in fact, most of my work at RWW has been that of a social media skeptic in tech circles where everyone tends to over-pimp the latest “game changer.”
Note: On Dave’s website, it says: “Copeland is available to run training sessions in your newsroom or corporate communications department and offers a series of free, online training sessions for writers and reporters on a wide range of topics.”
- Sour Grapes Dave Copeland: I have, however, worked with both journalists and college professors on how to use and/or not use social media. And the first thing I tell anyone is they should only use social media if they are comfortable using it, if it makes sense for them to use it and if it helps them do their job better. If I were to advise corporations, I would probably take a position that it doesn’t make sense for most firms to use it as a marketing tool but there are other benefits, including customer service and understanding the demographics of their customers. [Emphasis Added]
Note: This is almost verbatim of what’s said in Social Media Is Bullshit. A book Sour Grapes Dave Copeland just left a review for saying, “This book is a total waste of time for anyone who has half a brain.”
See why I’m even writing about him in the first place?
- Sour Grapes Dave Copeland: I guess if you want to call sour grapes on me I’ll admit that it sucks to have basically said many of the same things you have said in being a critic of the so-called social media experts, but because I did it in a way that was objective and not sensationalistic I didn’t get a book deal out of my bitching. [Emphasis Added]“
- Me: “So … you didn’t finish the whole book, nor did you look at the footnotes where everything is clearly labeled, but decided to post a review anyway? Doesn’t seem like something a journalist would do. Nor a responsible one. Especially since you in fact received a press copy, also not disclosed. On your website, you advertise your availability to offer your services to corporations. I think that’s worth disclosing in a review on a book about how people who do that can be less than honest. That’s all I’d ask. If people don’t like the book? That’s totally cool, but it seems like you dropped the ball here, and did so in a shitty way.
- Sour Grapes Dave Copeland: ”Again, not posting as a journalist: posting as a reader who really, really despised your book and read 2-3rds of the book with the footnotes for the relevant portions. As for the disclosures I failed to make, you made them for me so I guess its up for readers and would-be readers to decide
Note: Remember: Sour Grapes Dave Copeland is a journalism instructor charged with preparing undergrads for a future in reporting the news. If I hadn’t called him out on his lack of disclosure, you wouldn’t know he works as a consultant and gives lectures on social media. The Society of Professional Journalism has a Code of Ethics which I’ve always admired. One of those items in the code states, “Disclose unavoidable conflicts.” So even if he’s not posting as a journalist, he teaches journalism, and thus what he does outside the classroom sets an example for his students.
At least, that’s what I was told when I was working toward my Ph.D. in history. Failing to disclose unavoidable conflicts, to me anyway, is a pretty serious thing not to do, especially when you’re trashing a book you agree with and just stated its central thesis as your own words verbatim because of “sour grapes” and because it ultimately could harm your financial interests.
(I sent a link to this post to the Dean at Bridgewater State University to get his opinion on Sour Grapes Dave’s lack of disclosure and behavior. Never heard back, but should I ever go there for a speaking event, I’ll meet with them and let you know what I hear.)
We can have a lot of fun here at Sour Grapes Dave Copeland’s expense, but I think his comments speak for themselves. I just wanted to share this with you because people thought I was kidding about “Attack & Distract”. Nope! It’s real, and now we have a textbook example of it that I’m going to be showing people for a long, long time.
I guess I should thank Sour Grapes Dave Copeland, but he’ll probably take credit for the idea and complain that I’m getting attention with his idea. Wouldn’t be the first time he’s done that …
10/19/12 Update: If you had any lingering doubt about the character of Dave Copeland, you should probably read this.
6/22/13 Update: I saw Sour Grapes Dave Copeland did a follow-up post about me. Interestingly after he added me on Google+ and other places. His argument was that my book sales sucked. I’m not quite sure how selling 7,500 copies in less than seven months without spending any money would equate to book sales being in the toilet … but he stated as fact. I sure hope he’s teaching his students how to check facts better than he can.