Random thoughts from an unusual company

Why I’m No Evangelist

Gabriella Davis  2 March 2011 13:52:14
There's a lot of evangelism out there right now (can I get a woo!) and seemingly more every day.  On linked in I can see new evangelists popping up all the time.  So clearly it's the newest, buzziest thing to be.  But not for me.  OED defines "evangelism" as

"zealous advocacy or support of a particular cause" O-K

Evangelism says to me "intractable" "fixated" "not open to contradiction".  If I was thinking of getting a water cooler and a guy came in saying he was a water cooler evangelist I'd immediately think "well I don't want to ask you because all you can recommend is water coolers when there may be other things out there I should know about that would suit me better".  The same goes for "social networking" - yes you can evangelise it but that implies you believe it the best solution in any and all circumstances and aren't interested in information that may contradict that opinion.

I've always seen my role, and that of Turtle to be delivering a solution for a customer's needs that best fits their requirements and budget.  I believe in the value of many Lotus products but then again I also believe in the value of Macs, iPads, Skype, Omnigraffle, VPNs and a thousand other technologies.

I'm proud not to be a water cooler evangelist.

1Duffbert  02/03/2011 14:18:55  Why I’m No Evangelist

Excellent observation, Gab... well said.

2Carl Tyler  02/03/2011 14:25:27  Why I’m No Evangelist

I think you should evangelize this opinion, present it at conferences :-)

3Julian Woodward  02/03/2011 14:34:03  Why I’m No Evangelist

"I've always seen my role ... to be delivering a solution for a customer's needs that best fits their requirements and budget."

Here here. Otherwise you end up lying to your customer, or yourself, or both.

4mark  02/03/2011 14:41:14  Why I’m No Evangelist

i always think a evangelist is what a frantic calls them self (a bit like terrorists and freedom fighters)

5Bill Buchan  02/03/2011 14:53:52  Why I’m No Evangelist

Well said.

---* Bill

6Sharon Bellamy  02/03/2011 14:57:47  Why I’m No Evangelist

hear hear ...


7Lars Berntrop-Bos  02/03/2011 15:55:20  Why I’m No Evangelist

Hear hear!


8Jerry Carter  02/03/2011 15:58:43  Why I’m No Evangelist

Cool. Great observation. I think evangelism though refers more to the sharing of a view than the zealotry that is sometimes ascribed to it. Evangelists can become or be zealots, but I like the neutral definition offered by wikipedia:

"...to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs"

We have to take care not to conflate evangelism with zealotry... having a strong conviction should not be vilified as long as the advocate isn't threatening physical violence to achieve imposition of their personal view.

I've been accused in the past (unjustly) of being a Notes Bigot because I would say something like, "well, you can do that with Notes". I think the grade of belief ascribed to the evangelist is often in the ear of the hearer. Some people have a bad reaction, via predisposition, to Lotus Notes. I'm actually a lot like you in that I prefer to prescribe the right tool for the job. Java? .NET? php? what works best for the customer? I'm a technologist and evangelize for the best solution for the problem at hand. :-)

Still then we have that fine line between evangelist and zealot or fanatic. There is a point along that line where you know what you know to be good and true and preferred to yourself but don't overstep to the point of condemning those who disagree or decline to accept your point of view. I think of Ed Brill. He is indeed an evangelist but his mind is rooted in reality - he knows where the edge of the cliff is but dutifully acclaims that which is good and true and worthwhile about IBM without crossing over into zealotry. Contrast him to Steve Ballmer! :-o lol

9Gab Davis  02/03/2011 16:09:56  Why I’m No Evangelist

@Jerry - I think you'll find the most recognised definition of evangelism is zealotry and that's leaving aside a religious association. Having said that, even with the more innocuous definition you use I still wouldn't want it on my business card because no-one is employing me to be an evangelist. I may feel it in my heart but that's not the service i'm offering customers.

Some people specifically have jobs that require them to evangelise and define them as evangelists.. Ed is one of them, that's part of his role and perfectly appropriate.

10ChrisC  02/03/2011 18:22:50  Why I’m No Evangelist

Whats this about water coolers? I could do with one. Anyone know of any water cooler evangelists?


11Bill Malchisky  02/03/2011 21:33:35  Why I’m No Evangelist

I concur...I love Lotus and Linux offerings, but I have clients that run other solutions and I am happy to be their vendor.

To that point, I always give my clients a dose of the truth, whether they want it or not. Then, we both know if we can do business. For example, informing the biases in the opinions of some of the competitors to which they have spoken. This allows them to be more informed and then can make better decisions about what they need and how I can help. Otherwise, I feel, I would be performing a disservice to them.

12Alan Lepofsky  03/03/2011 05:55:32  Why I’m No Evangelist

When I moved from Toronto to Boston in 2001, my first title was Lotus Evangelist. When my mom saw my business card she asked if IBM had made me convert!