You can guar­an­tee that when­ever Mal­colm Glad­well brings out a book he’ll make head­lines. And with his lat­est book hav­ing recently been released, here are a num­ber of inter­est­ing and con­trast­ing views.

First (via Kot­tke, and in Gladwell’s own words), what to expect from Out­liers: though the story of Sid­ney Wein­berg, from high-school dropout to senior part­ner at Gold­man Sachs, Glad­well asks whether under­priv­iledged out­siders (out­liers?) have an advan­tage.

Next, in an arti­cle that is pos­si­bly slightly too long, New York Mag­a­zine pro­files Glad­well and reviews Out­liers. After­wards I find myself agree­ing with the com­ments of Mind Hacks’ Vaughan: I found Gladwell’s pre­vi­ous books intru­ig­ing but didn’t quite “get the punch­line”. The Tip­ping Point was excel­lent as a col­lec­tion of psy­chol­ogy and soci­ol­ogy anec­dotes, but I read it in record time as even my cur­sory knowl­edge of these two fields equipped me with prior knowl­edge of almost every­thing in the book.

Next, More Intel­li­gent Life coins the phrase “journo-gurus” in an arti­cle look­ing at the rise of journ­lists as con­sul­tants.

These journo-gurus are not just sharp observers of busi­ness, but sharp prac­ti­tion­ers too. They have mas­tered the dark arts of syn­ergy and global brand­ing. They churn arti­cles into books and books into lec­tures. […] Fried­man dreams up Madi­son Avenue phrases that stick in the mind, such as the “golden strait­jacket” for for­eign invest­ment. Glad­well turns com­plex busi­ness ideas into engag­ing nar­ra­tive. Ander­son has bro­ken with con­ven­tion by invit­ing read­ers of his blog to debate his argu­ments before they reach the presses.

Finally, Joel Spol­sky takes the reigns to crit­i­cise these ‘journo-gurus’, say­ing some­thing I’ve been think­ing but in a much bet­ter way than I could ever have managed:

Anec­dotes dis­guised as sci­ence, self-professed experts writ­ing about things they actu­ally know noth­ing about, and amus­ing sto­ries dis­guised as metaphors for how the world works.


This is not the way to move sci­ence for­ward. On Sun­day Dave Winer [par­tially] defined “great blog­ging” as “peo­ple talk­ing about things they know about, not just express­ing opin­ions about things they are not experts in (noth­ing wrong with that, of course).” Can we get some more of that, please? Thanks.

A num­ber of these arti­cles come as a refresh­ing change as Glad­well is becom­ing the Coen broth­ers of jour­nal­ism… every­thing he touches is gold, whether it is or not.