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The road to hell is paved with amateur contributions

Fabulous title for a not so fabulous op-ed from journalisten.dk. And yes, we're talking about Andrew Keen's "Cult of the amateur – how Today's Internet is killing our culture and destroying our economy".

In short: the journalist thinks this is a very important book from an author who is too much in love with his own conclusions. He offers quite a bit of praise for Keen, but also comes up with some very valid objections against his arguments.

I have sometimes been accused, perhaps rightfully, of being a contrarian by nature, but the 'contrariness' of Keen's book doesn't appeal to me at all, so praise for him is lost on me. Mainly because Keen comes across as a guy who simply does not understand what he's talking about.

If the blogosphere has taught me one thing, it is to become a better listener: I love letting the links of blogs I trust or appreciate take me into unknown territory – introduce me to new and interesting takes, angles, voices... which is clearly a venture of serendipity Mr Keen has never dared, or found in interesting enough, to undertake.

But I'm much too tired now, so prone to ramble. To avoid that, I'll just leave you with a quote from Adriana's Furl feed that sums up some of my main feelings about Keen:

I think I am getting Keen, he does represent a particular mindset, which existed throughout the ages. He doesn't understand, which is not a crime, but he doesn't want to understand. He is like the rest of the media industry - has a story and he's sticking to it. Everything else washes off of him. His loss. The more interesting is the reason he's getting attention. Somehow people sense that he represents a wider view and so he gets debated... it is like trying to convince the reactionaries out there by proxy...


You're absolutely right. I read the cult of the amateur right after reading Anderson's 'The Long Tail'. Whereas the long tail carried an intelligent argument through 200 pages, supported by both figures and detailed case studies, Keen's book reads more as an impressionistic rant.

What really bothered me, in a book whose principle arguments are about economics, was a lamentable lack of basic economic understanding. Viz p.62: "the average professionally produced 30 second spot costs $381,000. Yet Frito-Lay paid a mere $10,000 to each of the five finalists... leaving $351,000 on the table. That's $351,000 that wasn't paid to professional filmmakers, scriptwriters, actors, and marketing companies - $351,000 sucked out of the economy." 'Sucked out of the economy'? Or reinvested elsewhere, either by the company or its bank. This is a basic error, akin to those nationalists who note that globalisation means greater competition for export-based industries and then fail to notice the advantages of lower import prices.

The irony, of course, is that when it comes to writing Keen is the amateur - an entrepreneur who turns his hand to it - while Anderson is the professional.

Enjoying the blog.

Indeed. There are several fallacies in Keen's argument, and part of it is so ignorant that I find it alarming to see so many people take him seriously. Will return to this topic soon.

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