Marketing is hard, but it’s not as hard as C++

That’s something I once heard Bill Gates say. It struck a chord, and I thought it was kind of clever at the time. Learning C++ takes raw intelligence, a lot of commitment, and a brain that’s wired a certain way*. Marketing, well, doesn’t.

I see things a little differently now. Sure, C++ is hard. But learning it, and coding with it are tractable problems. The vast majority of programming challenges can be stated and can be solved. And you know when you’ve solved them.

Marketing problems, on the other hand, are harder. Sometimes they’re wicked. They’re hard to state; they have no right answers, and you don’t know if your solution is any good until it’s too late.

Take an issue that Microsoft face right now. Building a distributed operating system that people can build, host and sell applications on is hard. Of course it is – I wouldn’t argue otherwise. But they’ve done it. Getting people to adopt it? Persuading them that it’s the future? That your success is inevitable? That’s not just harder: it’s a different class of problem altogether.

If you think that getting a machine to do what you want is hard, try persuading a bunch of humans.

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* It was way past me. I got as far as all the different types of string and gave up, confused.