Cult of Crap
I read a decent amount of books each year, and look to colleagues, magazines and various other sources for recommendations/referrals. I was lured into picking up Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture based on the Associations Now cover story back in November.
The magazine article by the book's author, Andrew Keen, provided a somewhat pragmatic look at the dangers of Web 2.0. The opening pull quote read:
"Welcome to the dark side of Web 2.0, where focused expertise is replaced by rampant amateurism; opinion is mistaken for knowledge; and credentials, degrees, and years of experience mean virtually nothing."
Despite the sensationalism, there was some brief discussion on how social media can be leveraged by associations, and I figured that the book would delve more into how we can bridge the gap between expert and amateur.
Wow, was I wrong. In my opinion, The Cult of the Amateur is stinking pile of worthlessness beyond imagination! Every single page I read prompted me to think of counter arguments against literally every sentence written. I kept thinking Keen would turn things around after unloading his vitriol, alas, the turn around never came. The only good thing I can say about the book is that it was short.
Ironically, the book itself is an amateur effort (ie, it is Keen's first book (which he only tells the reader at the end of the book, after totally destroying amateurs)). For one, he rambled on about online gambling addiction, which had absolutely nothing to do with the premise of the book. And, a reference he made regarding video games (ie, that Myst was a form of MUD) was patently incorrect. Never mind a bunch of other misrepresentations, especially regarding the concept of the long tail. So much for his army of fact-checking experts.
While I can certainly agree that social media presents new challenges, building a bunker around the "experts" is certainly not the way forward. Not once did Keen even explore the idea of how an expert becomes an expert, and how all experts were once amateurs. Better, understanding that evolution and helping members along the path is what I am most interested in as an association leader. Sadly, Keen's amateur effort fell way, way, way, off the mark.
PS: Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations is a new book by web/community pioneer Clay Shirky that I just noticed. While my guess is that the title will freak out most association execs, I'm gonna predict it is the one we should all be reading and gaining insight from. I'll let y'all know once I read it...
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