Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Pragmatic Redux

Late on Friday night, Mike Rothman finally posted a response to some of my questions from last week. Most notably he reveals who the Mike in his “Ad” is:

The answers are pretty straightforward. Mike, the Pragmatic CSO, is a fictional character. For those of you a little slow on the uptake, that means he doesn’t exist. Well, not really. Mike is a representation (some would say a caricature) of the thousands of CSOs and security professionals I’ve met through the years. Both the good traits, and not so good traits.

I was all set to ask Mike how a fictional character could spend $97 on a book let alone drink that much product from Starbucks, only to discover that Rothman had edited the website. It now says:

think buying the Pragmatic CSO book will be the best $97 you’ll spend all year. For less than you probably spend at Starbucks a month, you’ll be able to get back in control of your security environment. Dare I say it, but it’s worth 20 times the price. Even better, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. If you don’t like the book, just ask Mike Rothman for your money back within 30 days – no questions, no heartburn.

While I appreciate the corrections, I do find the silent revisions somewhat worrisome. I guess that comes under the not so good traits Rothman refers to above…
Mike closes out with:

He [Arthur] also wondered a bit if he could meet Mike, the Pragmatic CSO at RSA. Maybe I’ll get a life size poster of Mike, and then Arthur can have a conversation with him.

I have to say I’ve certainly had worse conversations on the vendor floor at RSA than I would have with a cardboard cutout, so bring it on. I can out-argue a cardboard-cut out any day.

4 comments on "Pragmatic Redux"

  • Mike Rothman says:

    Why is a revision a “not so good trait?” Companies are constantly tuning their messaging, and it was your post that pointed out some possible confusion. So I fixed it. And that’s a problem how?
    I guess I’m not clear on your point. Should I not be trying to sell my book? If you are an expert, perhaps you have some suggestions on how to create some urgency with my target audience to actually get off their asses and do something.
    You see, the status quo is the most dangerous threat we have to deal with. What we are doing is not working from a security standpoint. They don’t have to buy my book, but I think it would be a good start. And lots of folks agree, since I’m sure you read many of the same blogs as I do.
    I’m all ears, if you have suggestions for more effective marketing text and positioning – I’m willing to listen.

  • Arthur says:

    The revisions aren’t the problem. The issue is the silent nature of them. You had ample opportunity to mention that in your post explaining who Mike was. If you had, in fact, in fact acknowledged some of the confusion instead of making fun of people who were confused, I wouldn’t have sniped at you. If I offended you, my apologies.

  • Mr. Gumby says:

    Um, let’s see. I spend about 5 bucks per day in SB. That’s 25 bucks a week, for 100 bucks a month. I see a lot of the same people in the store every day so I’m obviously not the only idiot. And, considering the dollar is now 40% less than it was 2 years ago (maybe more), I’m only spending about 3 bucks a day in relative terms. Still far less than I spend on cigarettes per day back when I smoked.
    And as to 97 bucks for a book, I’ve spent far more. Some books are too rare to drop down – say, a book on ion Sources or electron gun design.
    I mean, do you really find it that hard to believe that people spend that much money for coffee or books???
    You need to get out more…

  • Mike Murray says:

    I’ve been really enjoying this discussion thread… It seems to me that the message is clear:
    “Don’t use fictional characters as a rhetorical device unless you’re going to make it really clear that it’s only a rhetorical device, thereby negating the use of said device. But do it in a way that doesn’t harm sales.”
    Or something like that.
    In all seriousness, I thought it clear from the website and from the first chapter that “Mike” is a rhetorical device.
    And I’d pay to see Arthur debate the cardboard cut out of the large-headed “Mike” character. Hell, I’ll even offer to voice the character, in my best Eric Cartman impression.
    Only after a few beers, of course. Because isn’t that what RSA is all about?

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