The new "evangelism"

Chris F Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Fri Mar 30 20:12:51 UTC 2007

Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> April _Harper's_, p. 23f., prints an internal Microsoft document titled "Generalized Evangelism Timeline" with this note: "Microsoft internal documents define evangelism as 'the art and science of getting developers to ship products that support Microsoft's platforms."
>   According the document in question, "Evangelism should avoid formal, frontal assaults, instead focusing its efforts on hit-and-run tactics. The elements of the evangelical infrastructure [are] conference presentations, books, magazine articles, white papers, etc....Working behind the scenes to orchestrate 'independent' praise of our technology is a key evangelism function. 'Independent' analysts' reports should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). 'Independent' consultants should write articles,  give conference presentations, moderate stacked panels on our behalf....'Independent' academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and granted research money).  Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage."
>   So one truly independent definition of "evangelism," in the current dispensation, is "extremely aggressive marketing, advertising, promotion, etc., of a product by means that include the carefully planned deception of target audiences."

I don't think this quite captures the sense.

Of course Microsoft will only talk about Microsoft evangelism. (Much
like many Catholics will be implying that, when they use the term "the
church", they mean the Catholic church, come to think of it. Or similar
for other religions.) Looking beyond the ridiculousness or cynicism of
the statement, even garden-variety print ads employ "means that include
the carefully planned deception of target audiences".

(Disclaimer: My mind boggled when I first encountered this new sense a
few years ago, and when I was recently approached about applying for a
position with this job title, my reaction was "yikes, no way," even
though the job would have been passably interesting, and was not about
marketing or selling any product.)

As I understand the word, the key element in the above definition is
"platform": It is not about selling more MS products to developers, but
getting them to develop stuff that runs on MS's operating system, web
framework, etc. in order to make that framework or platform more
attractive to a much greater number of customers (non-developers) by
proxy. Microsoft has been extraordinarily successful at this goal, as
I'm sure everyone here knows. Many people will not even consider a
different platform, even if they accept it might be superior in theory,
because they are used to third-party tools and games that run on Windows.

Other examples of evangelists I have encountered include:

- web standards evangelist -- maybe a web designer who will
systematically follow the approach know as "web-standards compliant
design", inform the clients about its advantages (in their opinion),
frequent conferences / write articles / give presentations on this topic
- IT security evangelist -- this may be an actual job title for a person
whose job it is to make the members of an organisation aware of good
password / browsing / document handling etc. practices, by means other
than writing and enforcing policies: again presentations, newsletters,
links to articles about security, workshops, etc.
- Linux evangelist, microformats evangelist, social software evangelist
and many more; and I've been called a Unicode evangelist (and no, I'm
not selling anything).

All these have in common that the object of the "evangelism" is more of
a tool to achieve a particular result, than the product to be ultimately
sold, at least if the selling is directed at the people who are exposed
to the evangelism. The result can be to sell one's product to *other*
people (see MS above), or to convince companies that it is their
(financial) advantage to go about their business differently (while
paying the evangelist as a consultant).

Chris Waigl
I much prefer "propaganda" though

The American Dialect Society -

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