Railing against Sturgeon’s Law

The great science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon was once asked why 90% of science fiction was crap. His justification was this: “Yes, 90% of science fiction is crap . . . but 90% of everything is crap.” Sturgeon guessed way low. Any idiot with a keyboard now can and will write and publish in some form, from … Continued

The 4 kinds of pushback that generate more powerful ideas

Being hard on ideas makes them better. Great ideas are clear, brief, and not boring. Don’t stop until you get there. For my last 8 years at Forrester — at least since I started working on my first book — I’ve had a sort of smartass attitude towards the world. If you ask people what I was like … Continued

Your regular, daily bullshit: financial markets news

Every single day, the Wall Street Journal and other financial news outlets publish a financial wrapup. And you can count on it including a healthy helping of bullshit every day, too. Here’s the problem: the numbers are facts, but news requires a “story” to wrap around the facts. Creating a story from the fluctuations of … Continued

Generalization Z: The Times reduces generation Z to a caricature

While generalization in writing is a sin, drawing broad conclusions about a whole generation is far worse. Alexandra Levit’s piece about Generation Z in the New York Times is a great — that is, awful — example. The sin of generalization has three basic flavors: generalizations hedged with weasel words; unsupported broad, sweeping statements; and generalization from one … Continued

Globe publishes pure spin from NBA Players Association director Michele Roberts

The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn interviewed NBA Players’ Association executive director Michele Roberts and got nothing but spin. So he published it. Look, I feel for sports reporters. There is so much fan appetite, so much space to fill, and so little content. But everyone knows negotiators want to negotiate, are willing to compromise, and say … Continued

The fluff in the WSJ article about the Pao sex-discrimination suit

Today I’ll dismantle the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of the Ellen Pao-Kleiner sex-discrimination suit. I don’t analyze facts, I analyze writing. You may think the lawsuit is bullshit or the verdict is bullshit, but that’s not my concern. What I will show you is that this article, like much of the news in mainstream publications, is padded … Continued

I hate bullshit

My name is Josh Bernoff and I hate bullshit. So do you. But the difference between us is: I intend to do something about it. After 40 years in academia and the corporate world, I’ve had my fill. I’ve seen it all. Articles from respectable publications full of generalizations and filler. Spurious statistics. Consultants’ reports … Continued