Maxwell E. Wessel, a senior researcher at Harvard Business School, did not expect his article for the Harvard Business Review to generate much controversy, but within hours of its publication, it was picked up on Bloomberg Businessweek, and reader comments were being written once every minute for the first three days.
"I did not expect the type of response that it has had," Wessel said.
Such an outcry from Internet users was a response to Wessel's view that Steve Jobs should not be viewed as much of an idol in society as his rival billionaire, Bill Gates. Although Wessel praises Jobs on his accomplishments as a CEO and technical innovator, he asserts that through his philanthropy, Gates should be respected more in society. According to Wessel, Jobs and his innovations only appealed to a wealthier portion or the world population.
The article has created significant controversy with over 733 comments and 1,163 tweets in a week. Wessel said that he believes that the number of negative comments generated by his article was so great because "people who agree feel no need to participate in these types of forums."
However, there are those among the Harvard community who disagree.
"Lots of comments are interesting as buzz, but substance is something else. Sometimes where there's smoke, there's just smoke. Or a theatrical smoke machine, which is what a lot of publications like to put out these days," said David E. Searls, a former Berkman Center fellow. Searls notes that the article as a whole "worked as bait."
"Lots of people took [the bait], and it made a lot of buzz. In the old days we would have said it sold a lot of papers. Now it sells a lot of pixels for ads, most of which nobody notices or cares about, but it pays for the service," Searls said.