Wikinomics vs. The Cult of the Amateur


I have just finished reading two very interesting, both totally opposed books on the Web 2.0, citizen journalism and mass online collaboration. 

The cult of the Amateur is by Andrew Keen, an Internet entrepreneur who has decided that far from being a force for good, the internet is in fact having a very negative effect on society.  Blogs and wikis are drowing out the work of professional commentators by flooding the market with mediocre content. Amazon and copyright infringement are closing down the record shops and robbing artists of the liveihoods.  Finally the web is awash with smut and gambling. 

The amateur in question is the eponymous blogger.  Keen feels strongly that writing should be left to the professionals, and that these hallowed individuals are being deprived of their jobs by the availability of free (and generally rubbish) online content.  Whilst I agree that 90% of blogs are rubbish, I think it is fair to say that 90% of everything is rubbish (I believe this is called Sturgeon’s Revelation).  Some blogs are written by experts in fields and I would rather read that any day over the opinion of a journalist who has probably spent half a day researching the topic.  In this way I think that Keen is being very elitist in saying that only ‘experts’ should create content.  I for one am not sure how to identify who these people are.

I can’t help but feel that there was a good book trying to get out here.  If Keen had concentrated more on ways in which creaters of quality content can survive in a world where publishing and copying is easy, then I feel he could have written an interesing book.  The internet and the ability that it has given people to publish is firstly, a truely great thing, and secondly not going to go away.  No amount of bitching about it will change anything.

Wikinomics is an altogether more satisifying read.  The authors see a bright future where colaborative technologies allow people from across the work to share information and work together to create products, create resources and solve problems.  The author feel that collaborative technologies are fundamentally changing that way that we work. 

  • Now and in the future it is no longer be sufficient to work in closed companies, to stay competitive we will have to utilise talent from other sources, integrating more closely with partners and possibly sourcing talent through online exchanges.
  • Open source software will help companies reduce costs and create a common technical architecture for which to build the next generation of web application. 
  • Blogs and Wikis are making knowledge readily accessible and encourging widespread discussion

Reading Wikinomics you do get the feeling that the authors have taken a few to many happy pills, but in general I agree that the future of online collaboration is very exciting.


  1. Crowdstormer says:

    Despite your criticisms, you have made me quite intrigued to read Keen’s book! He has a point that the web is full of mediocre content, but surely the point of the ‘layman’s’ blog is that it is easy for others (who probably aren’t experts either) to empathise with. It’s akin to writing a letter to a group of friends; it is enjoyable, sociable and doesn’t necessarily need to confer knowledge on a subject.

  2. trevor says:

    It is an interesting book, and his comments are not without grounds. I think that it is great that people of all levels of ‘expertise’ can make their views know that I also think that the good content does rise to the top in terms of back links. I also think that ‘experts’ and professional commentators need not worry as in the sea of mediocrity, quality content stands out all the more

  3. Will says:

    Our entire website is built using ruby on rails, an open source software. It’s fair to say that we have saved 10s if not 100s of thousands of pounds as a result. Our office infrastructure runs off linux servers instead of microsoft exchange malarkey, again saving us a lot of money. Without open source, simply wouldn’t exist. Simple as that.

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