Posted by Amanda Chapel
An Interview with Andrew Keen
Every so often, a book comes out that changes everything. The Cluetrain Manifesto was such a book. It was a seminal work that articulated a genuine paradigm shift.
Well, mark this down. There's a book coming out in June that again changes everything. Ironically, it describes the Cluetrain Wreck.
Authored by Silicon Valley insider and pundit Andrew Keen, we were lucky enough to get an advanced copy. It is a hard-hitting and provocative polemic that exposes the grave consequences of today’s new participatory Web 2.0. It demonstrates definitively how the Web Train is off track and threatens our values, economy, and ultimately the very innovation and creativity that forms the fabric of American achievement. THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR is a wake-up call!!
Here we sat down with Keen for a brief Q+A.
COMMENTS CLOSED 4-5-07
In typical social-media-gangland style... the comments to this article attracted a number of zealots and Web 2.0 radicals. As was predicted in the Q+A, their response was variously negative typical of anything critical to the "cult". NOTE: Not one has read the book they prejudge and damn. Like I've said many times, mobs love hangins.
Directly below here, I, one who's read the book, respond to each. Maybe later when we ALL have read the book we can revisit the discussion.
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But I've always kind of thought that the whole atmosphere the "cult" was pushing reflected most on the "presentation layer," or the interface between the organization and the masses. It's maybe a mix of that and poking porous holes into the visibility of the organization.
It's been a while, so my Train's rusty, but were they advocating handing over control of organizations to the masses? Hmm. Guidance? Sure. A place at the table? Okay. But control would be a little tricky.
Great interview, and I look forward to checking out the book. Thanks!
This is such a cute argument. It is charming, really. Very freshman year, late-night, philosophical conversation. The great thing about the Cluetrain Manifesto is that it did not have an agenda: it was informational more than instructional.
It described a paradigm shift, it did not, in fact, teach marketers and CEOs how to either engage or defend against this new market, defined my access to direct, decentralized, conversation.
The 95 Theses describe the new order, they don't teach companies how to leverage that order -- just warns them that what they're doing isn't working: and it (still) isn't.
So, a heresy on heretical work? A reformation reformation. Whatever.
Here's what you all should do: follow Keen's advice. Do it! I don't care. What keen is is a guy who never understoed the text anyway. When you don't understand a bible, when you don't understand the words and the context and the content, then you attack it.
Firstly, noone asked anyone to "cede control to the blogosphere." Engagement, outreach, advocacy, and online diplomacy has nothing to do with "ceding" but rather deals almost completely with getting face-to-face.
What a "heretical" "Orwellian" text like this actually is is doublespeak. I can almost guarantee what Keen is so keen to offer us is contradiction, contrarianism, and, ultimately, a desperate and hungry passiona play for the attention of said "chief marketing officer."
I am sorry, Mr. Keen, but you will just make a fool of yourself. It is like a child trying to refute relativity or an evangelical using the bible to disprove evolution: this book is the equivalent of Intelligent Design: just because some minds cannot fully comprehend the music of the stars doesn't mean that one must temper to the lowest common denominator.
Okay, after all of that, I am so happy to see that the Cluetrain Manifesto -- which has become a book that fewer and fewer of my peers have ever read, to say nothing of never having heard of -- is staging a comeback.
The same thing has happened to the Bible has happened to the Cluetrain Manifesto: lots of small minds have distilled it down to very dangerous spirits that makes folks all drunk and sick and full of regret.
It is time to leave behind snake oil salesmen like Andrew Keen and get back to the original text; also, it is essential to be moderately Derridean here and allow the Cluetrain Manifesto and its 95 Theses to remain excellent gospel no matter how human, mortal, and full of sin its writers may or may not be.
In fact, I think we really should all go back and re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto -- I am going to open my sweet little first edition. Our understanding of the Cluetrain is now all corrupted into "Tipping Points" and Edelman cockups and blowback and mockeries and feelings of general Agency Hangover...
Like I said, abandon this text -- the fewer of you who understand that one cannot broadcast to the Internet, "The Internet is Vastly Hugely Mind-Bogglingly Big," after all. To paraphrase The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to the Internet."
How will increasing the transparency between business and consumer equate to corporations ceding "control variously to the blogosphere"? And how does web 2.0, which has brought us the likes of Creative Commons, trying to abolish copyright protection and intellectual property rights?
This guy keeps talking about web 2.0 "undermining the core tenets of American culture". Like what? Business being all powerful and consumers stuck with dumbed down products and no voice with which to be heard? C'mon. This is a clear play on the fears of the non-informed.
The only PR person salivating is Keen.
Ai gree with John Fitzsimmons 100%. If American culture can be undermined by "we the people" then it really needs to be. If "our was of life" and "our way of business" is so unsustainable that it need to don its "iron fist" then the entire thing needs to deconstruct and then be rebuilt.
Couldn't one take issue with say the cult of the professional? Take the White House Press corp who have capitulated on truth, courage and pretty much every journalistic value worth shredding.
Well, I know everyone in PR, marketing and Web 2 frigging dot oh has a book to push, but I'm intrigued by Andrew Keen's interview with Amanda. I
I question a premise that amateurs are taking control and acting like a cult. Seems like bloggers and podcasters are jumping in to the pool of opinions - no reason they can't be as well researched (or even edited) as a mainstream media reporter. Regardless, their opinions are important and can move markets.
As Shel Holtz and David Weinberger pointed out at New Comm Forum 2007, the conversation is open - that genie left the bottle. I guess the issues about how companies (and marketers, advertisers, PR pros) react is the next step in the conversation.
My first reaction to reading this was simply "Ah, yes, here's another example of the immune response from the existing entrenched communications world. Beat back the invaders who are messing up the existing order of things. Dismiss it all as irrelevant. Pull in pornography and online gambling to show people that the Internet is a big scary place and that it was all better before. Say that people must trust the "professionals" and all will be better. More fear, uncertainly and doubt (FUD)."
Go ahead... close your eyes and hope that when you open them again everything will be back like it used to be. Maybe that will work. (But here's a tip... it never worked in the past!)
The rest of us will keep our eyes wide open and be out there engaging in the global conversation that, despite the dismissal by folks like this author, is the reality of today. (And which Cluetrain discussed "way back" in 1999.)
The last time I checked, one of "the core tenets of American culture" was democracy, something that powers the web 2.0 revolution. Keen sound just like his counterparts in the 50s: rock and roll will be the downfall of society. Sure, there is a book to sell to people who think like this. Good thinking, Keen. A true marketeer.
Like most, my first impression is that the author never understood the Cluetrain Manifesto to begin with. I'll buy and read it, but frankly I expect it's the sort of FUD, confusion and old world mindset that many of us see as too prevalent still. Make sure your tinfoil hat is firmly in place while you're at it.
It pprtends a danger of the barbarians at the gate, which simply isn't true. We barbarians slipped inside the gates years ago. Look around. We're at the helm.
Every so often I've run into Andrew Keen's bloviations; the venues have varied but the substance is always self-serving FUD. He's found his very own niche as a culture warrior; that's no doubt good for his pocket but who needs another repetition of the barbarians-at-the-gate argument. Dull as dirt, irrelevant to boot.
Nothing like a provocative title to boost book sales. Talk about transparently obvious PR gimmickry. Much prefer Doc Searls blog post about the holes in the argumentation against the Manifesto.
Talk about an interesting juxtaposition on the Amazon site selling this packaged with Wikinomics by Don Tapscott.
Law #1 of online etiquette is to never use ALL CAPS (it is consider yelling)
Okay, what is the name of this books? Oh, "THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR." Poor form.
With regards the book, "THE CULT OF THE AMATEUR," Andrew Keen and Amanda Chapel, it isn't a funny joke unless you post it all on April 1st!
"April Fools!" was a couple days ago...
This post begets its own book, "The Cult of the Amateur Book Promoter, but I will wait until the time is right.
All I can say is wow....
"After reading my book, I doubt that any chief marketing officer of a large corporation will have the confidence to let go of their brand and allow any anonymous Internet user to corrupt it."
I'd love to see if, #1 CMOs (as a job title) still exist in the future and #2, any corporation can actually retain control of their brand outside of traditional media.
And if memory serves well, I thought the "C's" of marketing was an adaptation of those darned anonymous Internet users who interpreted the book, well after the fact, and ran with a new set of ideas. And the term "citizen media," for what it's worth, goes back hundreds of years.
While I'm sure this book will be an interesting read, "The Cult of the Amateur" will fade faster than Justin.tv. I'll wait to buy it used on Amazon. Until then, I'll just go back to blogging "without formal editorial checks and balances."
Methinks Strumpette has been swapping too many body shots with Sammy Hagar if she buys this outdated and patronising thinking.
This is almost so absurd as to make commenting a waste of time.
I predict that Mr. Keen will sell a lot of books, because there's a lot at stake here, and he's "tickling the ears" of those who wish things to stay exactly as they are. The mainstream will give him all the publicity he needs to make some money, and that's really what this is all about.
I agree that the modern culture is under attack, but who's to say it doesn't deserve it or need it. What exactly is Mr. Keen trying to protect? The 15% of the population with 85% of the wealth?
And many people create, because it's their life, not their livelihood. Ask funtwo if he feels slighted because 15 million people have seen his rendition of the Canon in D. Does he deserve a seat at Mr. Keen's table?
I'm sorry, but the real tip-off about the foolishness of this book is its title. Calling amateurs a "cult" is an insult of the highest order, and Mr. Keen should be ashamed of himself. What about amateur astronomers, huh? They're robbing the pros of all their glory, so why not attack them, too?
The biggest mistake all critics of the personal media revolution make is the assumption that it's an all-or-nothing proposition. It's not, and we shouldn't buy the books of people who try to make it so.
This book will no more derail the cluetrain than any other self-serving diatribe from the status quo.
we jeopardize the future viability of our newspapers, record labels, movie studios and publishing houses.
Oh, Dear! I would like to suggest that breaking up these monolithic juggernauts of popular culture would be a good thing.
And as for "editorial checks and balances", do we have to remind Mr. Keen of the Dan Rather vs the Blogosphere business a couple of years ago? Passionate users edit and correct each other, and credibility is won and lost by admitting your mistakes, or displaying your ability to present the facts, regardless of your "professional" status as a "journalist".
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