Don’t believe everything you read.

Just because it’s written doesn’t mean it’s true.

I think we should read, and we should read a lot. But with everything we read, we need to ask if we really believe it. Don’t just take the author’s word for it. Don’t think that just because they got published that the ideas were vetted. Any specialist in any industry can point to 5 or 50 books that they feel are completely and utterly wrong or misleading, from golf instruction to Ruby on Rails programming to our own world of web analytics.

When you read Avinash’s books, Eric’s books, or anyone elses’ books, blogs, or even worse: companies’ sponsored whitepapers or adversising, just ask yourself, “Do I really believe this is 100% right? Is this the only way of doing this, or are there alternatives? Am I believing something because it is charted or has a seemingly legit data source?”

If you don’t ask yourselves this, I know someone looking to sell their shares of Enron and mortgage backed securities for a good price. They have all the charts and legit data sources you could ever want.

When you ask yourself these questions, however, one of two things happens: you either decide that the point was an interesting one but there may be another way of looking at the world (no, this doesn’t always mean a person is stupid or wrong, you may just feel differently about something), or, better, you confirm what the author said in your own mind, solidifying your respect for their work and thoughtful approach, building more personal conviction and ownership of the concept. In either case, your dissection of their words is what they wanted. No decent human being wants anyone reading their work like a manual for life, because they know that type of reader is a weak, fickle reader who could just as easily be turned by the next post. Writers write to get you thinking so you can reach your own conclusions. Which is exactly why I and so many others have such a great deal of respect for Avinash, Eric, and other major contributors to our industry. They care enough about us to let us reach our own conclusions, and they are comfortable enough with their own lives to be okay with small or even big differences of opinion.

There has been a great deal of manure written and spoken in our industry’s (and others’) history. Microsoft and its fans told the world that Apple was meaningless and Linux less so. How’s that going? And now Adobe is on this rant about the “cost of free” and building fear around Google Analytics and its suitability for enterprise. And even worse, other people are jumping on the bandwagon, trying to earn pageviews by shooting holes in GA and other players in the industry with bazookas. It’s a shame: everyone has been so sensationalist that it’s hard to distinguish the good, valid points from the total nonsense. Some of the points are legitimate, but not all are. It’s also a shame because Adobe/Omniture is a fantastic company that I’ve had nothing but positive experiences with, and they are acting like Tonya Harding rather than working on and talking about their own strengths, of which there are many.

So when it comes to blogs, co-workers, agencies, big companies or anything, listen to your grandpa: “Don’t believe everything you read.”