[META] Hitchens’ Razor: Is It True? Prove It!

by The TECHdotMN Team

It’s time to for some maturation in Minnesota tech because the people and publishers making bombastic claims without any facts to back them risk making us all look bad in front of those who think with their brains.  

The latest offender? “How This Midwestern City Is Leading America in Retail Tech” published today in Ozy by self described “communications professional with a knack for cutting through BS” Brian Martucci.

Save yourself the click for now because the “Midwestern City” in question is none other than Minneapolis and the article is a basically a regurgitation of some local activity in the retail + tech realm that’s been happening for years.

It’s a nice summary and this response to it has nothing to do with the companies or people referenced since we’re consistent champions of them all. Actually, the single media biggest fans in the world based on our collective coverage of them over time (go look at all the archives if you want to see for yourself).

Instead, this has everything to do with individuals and publishers who say bold things without backing it up because there is no mention — not even qualitatively or anecdotally — of any other geographies in the country that could get you as the reader anywhere close to the conclusion that Minneapolis leads America in Retail Tech.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Hitchens’ Razor as basic media literacy tool, it’s time to know:

“Hitchens’ razor is an epistemological razor asserting that the burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim and if this burden is not met, the claim is unfounded and its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it.” – Wikipedia.  In other words:

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”

In a local state of charlatans and government funded propaganda (author’s former employer), some critical thinking is overdue for Minnesota’s tech community right about now.   Questioning all sources while asking for evidence is the antidote to those guilty of (a) blatant lies, (b) non-disclosed paid content marketing, or (c) slowly and subtly stretching the truth over time — because no one called them out on it in the first place.

So, here we are.

If you’re going to claim that Minneapolis, Minnesota is “Leading America in Retail Tech” – that’s cool, just prove it! As the author and publisher purporting this position, the burden of proof is all on you. This represents a great opportunity to back up what you say…or not? Do take us on that though because we really want to believe it to be, though void of any evidence it’s patently false based on Hitchens Razor and basic critical thinking.

Minnesota tech deserves better. Let’s not risk making things up to try and appear any different than we already are. If we’re leaders let it be known and supported with actual objective proof; if we’re not, then let’s talk instead about what it takes to become.


  • BrianMartucci

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

    I agree that “no mention — not even qualitatively or anecdotally — of any other geographies in the country” is problematic. Denver does get a mention, but that’s it for comparable metros.

    I’d like to follow up — and this would be a more ambitious project — with comparative or head-to-head analyses of other markets. What can we learn from Denver? Or Indy, Columbus, Pittsburgh? I’m open to ideas from readers about what that story — or book — should look like.

    Truly objective benchmarking is hard to come by, and even places that look good on paper have drawbacks that can easily turn into dealbreakers for nascent companies.

    For instance, I mention in the piece that Branch was in a great position in Pasadena, Idealab being what it is. What I didn’t mention was that environments like Idealab and ecosystems like Pasadena are noisy, and it can be tough to break through no matter the merits. (Branch sheds more light on its decision to relocate in this detailed blog post: http://blog.branchmessenger.com/why-branch-put-down-roots-in-minneapolis-2/)

    I was also persuaded that incumbents are really important to this discussion. That may be a controversial position, but I think it’s defensible in retail specifically. One of the story’s sources, in a conversation that didn’t make it into the final version, asserted that MSP is the best place in the country for retail startups that want to do business with incumbents. Why not, with two of the country’s biggest retailers and a slew of huge consumer product companies — General Mills, et al.

    And it’s not just the Fortune 500s. We have a thriving midsize/enterprise retail/retail-adjacent community here. SPS Commerce and When I Work come to mind, among many others. While this is common knowledge to this site’s readers, it’s worthy of celebration and shouldn’t be assumed to exist elsewhere. (N.B. OZY reaches a national audience that’s not as familiar with MSP.) My conversations with Minnesota entrepreneurs, not just for this story, invariably veer toward mentors, role models, champions — often unprompted.

    All that said, we have work to do. I mention some of our shortcomings in the piece; I could write a lot more on them. One source, again in a conversation that didn’t make the final cut, envisioned a Medical Alley-style campaign/network for the Twin Cities’ retail tech scene. Maybe the accelerators and incumbents will come together to make that happen. I’d love to help tell that story.


    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Hi Brian, thank you for reading and responding.

      Who, may I ask, paid you to write this article -and- who pays them?

      • BrianMartucci

        No problem!

        I wrote this article as a freelancer for OZY: I pitched, they accepted, and they paid me. It wasn’t sponsored, supported or even pitched in any way by anyone else – totally my idea. As an OZY contributor, I’m bound by strict ethical and conflict of interest guidelines; for example, I can’t accept compensation from outside sources, write about past business associates, or do anything else that would create or potentially create a conflict of interest.

        I’m not privy to the specifics of OZY’s business model, but they claim 40 million monthly visitors and have quite a bit of video and display ads onsite, so I suspect that sort of advertising accounts for a significant share of their revenue. OZY also has an awards vertical, the Genius Awards; things like that can generate revenue for media companies as well. And they have media partners, like NPR and CNN, that expand their reach.

        Anything else I could add would be speculative. Hopefully that helps.

  • http://www.evolvehq.com/ Adam Sellke

    Can’t argue that the article in question was a puff piece. Feels like in this environment, though, that MN finds itself at least trying to assert its dominance and not be out clapped by other would-be pretenders to the throne.

  • Grady

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/75b99d3d97ff58e5135570eee1b0e698ddc81da03facbb227d2b9e60c627edb8.jpg Agree Adam, shameless promotion is a good thing. Look at California and their stupid “happy cows” promotion. Wisconsin would never dare to assert their cows are any happier or less happy than any others, because how can you prove that? It would take year of study! But here’s California making a completely unsubstantiated claim and it served them well. Why not make the claim, then leave it to others to disprove it? Retek, SPS Commerce, Target, Best Buy, Target Tech Stars, etc. not to mention or 400 malls as a testing ground. We have lots of great stories to tell. It’s like hip hop stars or professional wrestlers creating a beef, it benefits all parties.

    • Frank Jaskulke

      Grady, agree. Marketing and PR are good for Minnesota. We could use more.

      • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

        Yes and now the marketer has created an opportunity to validate the claim made about the product.

  • Frank Jaskulke

    This article is not a research report published in a scientific journal subject to peer review. It is a piece written by a person expressing an opinion. Something this same site does often.

    Also, I dislike that this “razor” is attributed as Hitchen’s Razor since the idea of burden of proof being with the claimant is in the US constitution, is a part of British common law, and goes back much further than that according to WikiPedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence