I’m a fan of Merlin Mann’s work on 43 Folders and how he approaches problems. Figuring out good ways to do things and, more importantly, what’s worth doing at all, is good stuff.

One of Merlin’s favorite subjects is pointing out the ridiculousness of “productivity” websites that post new tips dozens of times per day. As he’s mentioned, you’re not doing anyone any favors by chewing up their time with recycled productivity tips. The best tips, in most cases, being, “get back to work.” He gets into this starting around 3:15 into this video:

Makebelieve Help, Old Butchers, and Figuring Out Who You Are (For Now) from Merlin Mann on Vimeo.

Another topic that he often tackles is charlatan businesses such as the snake oil salesmen we see pimping SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services and self-proclaimed social media gurus. These tend to be consultants who may or may not be able to provide anything of value to clients. Additionally, at least part of what they sell isn’t all that far from common sense (ex. “If you want more online friends, don’t act like a jerk online.”).

Merlin tends to make some blanket statements about consultants in industries like this, suggesting that they’re ALL basically selling common sense advice or snake oil. Clearly, if people are selling snake oil, there is a problem. But when did selling common sense advice become a scam? People are more than willing to pay to hear things they already know. Look at how many people sign up for marathon training groups and weight loss programs. Common sense has value – especially when it comes from people who’ve been down that road before who can adjust the wheel a bit if necessary.

Somehow, this inspired me to talk to the camera a bit to cut a response to Merlin’s narrative. This is my attempt to differentiate the people who deserve to be ridiculed from those who are under the radar and those who actually know what they’re doing.

I’m all for knocking on companies and consultants who write checks with their mouth that their ass can’t cash, but let’s be clear that this is generally only a small slice of people working in any given industry (outside of MLM).