How to opt out of IT vendor FUD

IT vendors commonly spread fear, uncertainty and doubt in an effort to get you to spend money unwisely. These steps can help you avoid FUD.

In the world of IT, fear, uncertainty and doubt are the work of the marketing and sales fluff-makers, overtrained sales engineers and overzealous executives. Their objective is to spread false and misleading information, leading to confusion and misguided solutions. FUD takes no prisoners by undermining credibility, destroying our allegiance to companies and their products, and exploiting the fact that most people will believe anything they read or hear. I hate FUD, especially when it gets in the way of my success, so now I am on a quest to become FUD-free.

FUD has many forms, and it was first used back in the 1920s. Warring countries commonly disseminate propaganda, and one of the most famous purveyors of FUD was "Tokyo Rose" during World War II. In reference to technology, some believe that Carl Amdahl's separation from IBM in 1975, and the ensuing flood of FUD from IBM, brought us the actual acronym. But, as the picture to the left of a war poster circa 1943 shows, the term was apparently around long before that.

I have found that most of the FUD that comes my way isn't from marketing brochures or advertisements, but rather directly from the people who try desperately hard to influence your thinking and decisions. I have seen all kinds of FUD, from cable providers all the way down to recommendations for my choice of laundry detergent. Almost daily, I pore over my favorite blogs and eyeball my Twitter feed, and just when I think I've avoided being bombarded with rhetoric, FUD shows its ugly face again.

I have started to create a simple plan to deal with IT vendors and their FUD. My goal is to keep it simple and effective.

  1. Take a course in reading body language. This was one of the best classes I have ever taken, and it brings enormous value in your daily interactions with people, both professionally and personally. I have found, and called out, many a fibbing vendor using these skills.

  2. Take in whatever the vendor-supplied "experts" tell you. Ask that any reference documents that are mentioned by the vendor, such as tech notes, articles or links to their personal blogs, be given to you. It is one thing to casually mention in a presentation that "the statistics show that our product is superior to those of our competitors," but another to actually back it up with fact. If a claim cannot be confirmed or corroborated, it is FUD, plain and simple. (This step usually causes heartburn for sales folks.)

  3. Get all of your questions answered. If they can't be answered right immediately or via a follow-up call, then you are being set up for FUD.

  4. Research. This is the key to your success in pummeling FUD. Knowledge truly is power.

But what I really want to know is where are the opt-out link is for FUD? We can opt out of almost everything else, in some cases as required by law, but why not for vendor folderol? A peer suggested establishing a "Do not FUD registry," similar to the National Do Not Call Registry for telemarketers. How about the creation of the "FUDinator" -- a tiny device that could be worn and automatically warn you of incoming marketing obfuscation? Or better yet, how about having it stun the perpetrator who is spewing it at you? Not only would you be closer to being FUD-free; it would also be a lot of fun.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Nelson has been in IT for over 20 years, with exposure to a very diverse field of technologies and solutions. He has devoted over half a decade to virtualization and server-based computing. Nelson is currently a senior analyst at a Fortune 100 company in the U.S. Midwest.

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