Comments on: Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur”: BRILLIANT! Blog, news, books Thu, 12 Oct 2017 08:56:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: louis vuitton sito ufficiale Tue, 16 Apr 2013 08:28:35 +0000 Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and aid others like you aided me.
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By: Marcel Leonardi Fri, 26 Dec 2008 11:12:43 +0000 Regarding the Habermas quote, I don’t know if Andrew Keen did this on purpose or just failed to check the actual source; in any case, this is what Keen quoted:

“The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet is the decentralized access to unedited stories. In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus.” (p55)

This is what Habermas actually said (full text here:

“Der begrüßenswerte Zuwachs an Egalitarismus, den uns das Internet beschert, wird mit der Dezentrierung der Zugänge zu unredigierten Beiträgen bezahlt. In diesem Medium verlieren die Beiträge von Intellektuellen die Kraft, einen Fokus zu bilden.”

Properly translated, it goes “The welcome growth of egalitarianism that the Internet gives us is paid for with the decentralised access to unedited contributions. In this medium the contributions from intellectuals lose their power to build a focus.”

Andrew Keen’s quote implies an ambivalence about egalitarianism that the original clearly views as a positive, even if it has certain negative consequences. The word begrüßenswerte was omitted.

By: Mark Wed, 17 Sep 2008 01:33:16 +0000 I did not publiclly call him on it earlier, since I thought he might have corrected it, by adding NOT or something after BRILLIANT, after I or others pointed it out to him.

By: catherine Fri, 05 Sep 2008 11:31:11 +0000 The real argument of Keen’s book is that traditional media and publishing is just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Here’s a book — Keen’s — that has passed through all the rigor of modern American publishing, yet which is perhaps as reliable as your average blog post: No doubt interesting, sometimes well written, lots of times ridiculously over the top — but also riddled with errors. Keen’s obvious point is to show those with a blind faith in the traditional system that it can be just as bad as the worst of the Internet. Indeed, one might say even worse, since the Internet doesn’t primp itself with the pretense that its words are promised to be true.

By: jessicachristina Fri, 05 Sep 2008 09:45:16 +0000 There’s much in the book that even we amateur-o-philes should think about. How can we build trust into the structures of knowledge the Internet is enabling (Wikipedia, blogs, etc.)? How can make sure the contribution adds to understanding rather than confuses it? These are hard questions. And as is true of Wikipedia at each moment of every day — there is more work to be done.But what is puzzling about this book is that it purports to be a book attacking the sloppiness, error and ignorance of the Internet, yet it itself is shot through with sloppiness, error and ignorance. It tells us that without institutions, and standards, to signal what we can trust (like the institution (Doubleday) that decided to print his book), we won’t know what’s true and what’s false. But the book itself is riddled with falsity — from simple errors of fact, to gross misreadings of arguments, to the most basic errors of economics.

By: Andrew Thu, 07 Aug 2008 04:09:10 +0000

I agree that the book is full of errors a good fact-checker (or just an informed reader with a lot of time) might have caught. I myself prevailed upon Keen to correct some errors he had written about Wikipedia and Citizendium.

This is an obvious flaw, but he also advances a lot of arguments the substance of which cannot easily be dismissed. I’ll be interested to see whether what Seth calls “Net evangelists” actually respond to the substance of those arguments. Clay Shirky did, for one.

By: vacuum cleaners Sun, 29 Jun 2008 20:19:01 +0000 If Keen has deliberately done this with his book (which is incredibly Ironic, if he hasn’t) – but if he HAS then I have to agree with you that “Keen is our generation’s greatest self-parodist.” However, the truth of the matter is that the Internet actually opens up opportunities for more of truth and more of real information to get out there. People will now be held accountable for the information they produce – in other words, if the information you produce turns out to be false, people will stop visiting your blog. You simply can’t brainwash with the internet – whereas, with traditional media, you could.
It’s a simple thing – people and organisations will have to EARN respect rather than just get it simply because they’re a publishing house.

By: Badger Fri, 06 Jun 2008 21:54:34 +0000 Clearly, Mr. Keen is not one to be complaining about ignorance. If you can believe it, in a public radio interview just today, he gave voice to his fear of “the crowd ” by pointing out that “the crowd” gave us George W. Bush. But there is no question that Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election. This is common knowledge. (Less common knowledge is that Al Gore really won the popular vote in Florida, too.) Of course, Mr. Keen then promptly undercut his argument about the need to fear “the crowd” with his claim, which is arguable, that the Internet has had very little effect on our politics!

I enjoyed reading this critique (I have only read the early part): funny, devastating, and very revealing.

By: Brad Thu, 07 Feb 2008 23:44:52 +0000 I happened to hear this man on Coast to Coast AM and found him to be insufferably dumb. He fears the internet because his old withered brain cannot cope and handle the content found therein. He seems to think that we are all ignorant ugly goblins who can’t think for ourselves and need corporations and mass media to spoon feed us information and tell us what to buy, who to listen to, how to think, and how to exist. We want to think for ourselves, so we have embraced the Cult of Amateurs! This cult of amateurs will be the downfall of mass media! The problem is that he sees this as a bad thing. The downfall of record companies and corrupt journalism! Good. He keeps mentioning that the internet will eliminate newspapers, so be it. They’re obsolete and so is he. We’ve moved on to faster and larger sources of information. If he had lived ten thousand years ago, he would have fought against papyrus scrolls in favor of carving on stone tablets. This guy is a relic.

We can, contrary to popular belief, think for ourselves, filter through the garbage and get to the truth on the internet. We can, contrary to popular belief, choose how best to live our own lives. We can, contrary to popular belief, handle freedom and handle free speech. There is a revolution in progress and you can do nought to stop it. The disgruntled proletariot is marching toward the battlements of their corporate overlords wielding not the pitchforks and torches of the past, but instead we wield mp3s mpegs and freely spoken blogs. We will have our freedom at any cost.

By: D300 Tue, 15 Jan 2008 08:25:37 +0000 I really like what you’re doing! Clearly, YouTube is revolutionizing the way we interact with candidates, formulate opinions and spread information. All in front of a shockingly large and interested constituency. Your work is vastly important. Thanks!

By: Cadenza Tue, 08 Jan 2008 02:00:41 +0000 I did not publiclly call him on it earlier, since I thought he might have corrected it, by adding NOT or something after BRILLIANT, after I or others pointed it out to him.

By: vb Tue, 13 Nov 2007 00:14:28 +0000 Thank you for this invaluable work of fact (well, falsity) finding. I’ll be sitting on a panel with Mr. Keen on Thursday, at the United Nations’ Internet Governance Forum, and if I get a chance I might use part of your fact-finding on him :)

By: Frank Szendzielarz Wed, 03 Oct 2007 03:38:10 +0000 Keen encourages us to commit our real identities to the web so that we might be more responsible in our choices of what information we distribute. He believes that by giving up web anonymity we would be more civil and cautious and that ultimately there would be more signal and less noise. I think this cannot ever happen; it is an ideal. On the other hand the opposite extreme, what Keen rails against now is a state of anarchic information flow. What should really happen, and will happen, and has happened outside of the web, is a compromise where value is added to content by branding it. The company identity, the brand will be enough I believe. The fact that Keen is selling his book in significant numbers is testimony to this. There is demand for trusted content. Ultimately there isn’t a difference between Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica. They are both brands to which we ascribe certain values of trust. One uses one method of filtering content, the other another.

By: Jess Fri, 28 Sep 2007 07:10:14 +0000 I would like to address the idea that Google is a parasite because it does not generate content. I believe this in patently untrue. I work for a small website that has been struggling to survive for the past 10 years. Without our Google advertising revenue, we could not hire freelance authors to write articles about specific subjects, we could not afford an editor for our reader submissions and we probably couldn’t afford the servers to keep it all running.

I believe that Google is one of the main reasons that there is so much diverse content online. While I see why this would be frightening to those in the traditional publishing world, I am glad that I can type virtually any question into my handy browser and get back a handful of responses. While they might not all be right, that is true from any media source (look at all the retractions and corrections you see in a traditional newspaper)


By: Vanna Wed, 19 Sep 2007 00:51:48 +0000 Is this book a corollary to Leonard Shlain’s peculiar tome, The Alphabet and The Goddess?

Shlain asserts that the printed word causes war, and watching television will make us more peaceful.

By: Steve Baba Wed, 05 Sep 2007 01:08:22 +0000 Everyone who as googled The Cult of the Amateur has been given:

Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur”: BRILLIANT! (Lessig Blog) in position 2.

which looks like an endorsement, but is actually Lessig being a bit too clever for his own good.

I did not publiclly call him on it earlier, since I thought he might have corrected it, by adding NOT or something after BRILLIANT, after I or others pointed it out to him.

But now it’s just another of Lessig’s unintentional example of the poor, quick and dirty, quality of most Web 2.0. content.

Most people read newspaper articles in a pyramid style and only skim headlines, some read the first paragraph, and few people read the entire article. Of course an amateur might not know this.

By: advertising killed the radio star Wed, 29 Aug 2007 12:35:53 +0000 A few mildly unrelated observations:

People who take their own opinions more seriously than anybody else’s were always around, they just seem louder now because words are so cheap on the web (and trust me, this pisses me off, too). A hundred years ago those people just didn’t read anything, much less sit down to write. The rest of us who were getting two editions of the news per day and waiting for the new Stravinsky ballet in this century stay away from the Surreal Life and read both the New York Times and DailyKos. Those of us who have had the benefit of quality education can separate the wheat from the chaff even in blog posts (imagine a tangential rant about the state of public education here). Which brings me to my next (somewhat unrelated) point:

Speaking of wheat and chaff, we all get the difference between posts and comments in blogs, right? Even as I post this, I generally never read comments. I read blog posts from interesting people who make me think. People leaving comments almost never fall into that category. It seems that nobody in the mainstream media thinks it’s convenient to delineate between them, even though we have a ready analogy in the form of Letters to the Editor, which nobody would treat as the product or opinion of the newspaper printing them. And many blog sites flag certain letters as editor’s choice, the same way newspapers choose to print (I would hope) the most thoughtful reactions to their pieces.

Third and final point: How the hell does television make it out of this debate unscathed? If anything is killing our culture, TV has been doing it for decades. The ratio of substance to trash has a much worse track record there than all of the internet. The only thing saving fictional TV is DVD, which puts directed viewing back in our lives. And nothing is saving non-fictional TV. The news is a bunch of speculation by people who are prettier than they are smart, and that’s when it’s at its least dangerous. At its most dangerous, it’s using sound-bite editing techniques to distort the truth and manipulate opinion in a way to benefit consumerism. We get a lot of exploitation and almost no information. At least on the internet it’s possible to get actual news anytime you want without any “continuing coverage” of Anna Nicole’s baby-daddy. But apparently this is all okay because people on TV get paid for what they do by advertisers (see Keen’s interview on The Colbert Report; for extra fun, also see a discussion by Al Gore [who began his career as a journalist] of the detrimental affect of advertising on public discourse in The Assault on Reason).

Ok, that wasn’t so final. One last thing. Does Keen not know about newspapers on the internet? How long has existed? Like…10 years at least? Probably more? I’m no expert on how the internet has detrimentally affected newpaper sales (Keen would probably tell me to shut-up right now) but I’d be willing to bet TV started the decline a long time ago. And most newspapers have seen the internet as an opportunity to get back into the news game. Unlike the record industry, they’ve adapted, offering traditional content for free and special content for what could still be called subscription fee. And now we have the opportunity to compare coverage, since we have access to newspapers from thousands of nations in hundreds of languages. (This also brings us back to directed viewing fictional television, since the major networks have begun making their new shows available online for free with advertising sponsorship. Voila! Adaptation to a new media.)

One last amateur note on music piracy…ahh, screw it. It’s been done to death. Nobody but Keen can possibly feel sorry for the recording industry when they have absolutely refused to use the internet to their advantage (widely available digital release, anybody?). They haven’t even adjusted their prices to attract new customers, all they do is engage in lawsuits. This also ignores the problem that record labels are the ones that killed music culture in the last 30 years by turning the mainstream sound into one continuous, uninspiring bass track with some robotic pin-up blathering cliched phrases tunelessly over top of it. They’ve also made live music inaccessible by giving Clear Channel a monopoly over artists and venues.

In conclusion, I’m tired after all that.

By: cribb Wed, 08 Aug 2007 19:47:24 +0000 I am 100% with Andrew Keen on this issue. Ever since people began watching reality TV and believed they too could be the star. Ever since we started dropping ecstasy tablets and getting off on ourselves on the dance floor as opposed to a band on a stage with quality musicians. Ever since we started believing that Jackass 2 was worthy of belonging in the canon of great cinema as opposed to Godard, Bergman and Scorsese.
society has forgotten how to defer to real talent, learned talent, sweated over professional talent.
I know this because the kids that I teach do not actually understand anymore what actually requires talent. They think in this post modern guff of a world that a text message is as worthy of analysis as Shakespeare. Spare me! Bring on elitism I say. Bring it on because the world is so full of bland garbage and there is no awe in the presence of greatness anymore. And blog sites….well just lots of people talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothin’. In love with the banality of their own opinion. I generalize of course but Andrew Keen has struck a chord with this little black duck. Elitist? Moir? Absolutely!

By: Dave Kresta Sun, 05 Aug 2007 08:24:17 +0000 I like Lessig’s analysis. There is room for amateurs, and “experts”, and everything in between. What is needed is a way to make transparent who is producing the content, and some standard way to determine credentials. From this, content consumers can determine credibility. I don’t believe it is the role of publishers and other intermediaries to determine what is true and credible for us. See for more of my analysis.

By: Maik Schmidt Tue, 24 Jul 2007 12:58:25 +0000 Found the following article on /. two minutes ago:



By: Timothy Denton Fri, 20 Jul 2007 01:15:08 +0000 I wrote this on the subject of Andrew Keen.

Andrew Keen: High Tory Mugwump

Greetings Mr Keen:

Clearly, you are highly intelligent. Consequently I am unable to believe that you believe everything you are saying. This is not, in my opinion, intended to impugn your integrity. It is merely to confirm what you said earlier in your speech that you might not take your arguments as seriously as some of your opponents have done.

The idea of a medium without gatekeepers, of which you so disapprove, is not a question of choice but a matter of costs of production. That is to say, you may lament the passing of a certain technology, but you cannot change the technological-economic facts which have changed the relative costs of gated media, and ungated media.

It is like lamenting the pasage of mounted cavalry, or the value of a knighthood in a former age. It is as if you could maintain the chivalric virtues by outlawing the use of gunpowder weapons. I believe this experiment has been run: viz. Japan from about 1600 to the time of the Meiji revolution.

Your call for greater media literacy is always timely and relevant. I am reminded of the expression that in the 18th century, 20% of the population was literate. Today 98% of the population can read and write, but the same 20% is literate.

The issue is education. It is always edcation. But recall the Bell Curve. As a friend said to me, “Tim, 100 [IQ score] is the average, not the bottom.”

Fragmentation of taste? Using the Internet to confirm our views? Watching pornography? Digital narcissism? learning to be silent? the value of listening?[to our betters]. The need for trained professionals to educate us? The evils of using the Internet to express ourselves?

My, my, such High Tory views. So frankly elitist. But as I am one myself [elitist, not high tory] we are merely debating how the elite can best make its views known. In your case, the issue is how the elite can speak to the masses. In my view the issue is how the elite can reel in the journalists and the organs of opinion that wer predicated in limited spectrum and high capital costs.

Back to the question of traditional paid media versus the amateurs. It seems that the open competition for attention is now being conducted by larger numbers of people. My interpretation of your views is that the new media distract attention from our social and intellectual betters.

For my part, I have frequently been persuaded that, in Canada and the United States, that the people whom I read in the op-ed pages do not have superior wisdom, insight, or experience. I am simply saying that, apart from all the wonders of the Internet that allow me to write my thesis from a rural cabin, your argument for a gate-kept media is now in full competition with another model, and both shall prosper.

“Truth is just as hard to find on this democratized platform” …as in the mainstream media?

Not bad for something without gatekeepers. Eh?

Anyway, I am not a Tory, and your argument is the best recent expression of the Tory view of man and his possibilities. I predict that America will reject your views because they have no receptors for this form of argument. They fought a revolution to get rid of it and they are not bringing it back.

It’s an interesting point of view. I think it is predicated on a view of technology that ignores the costs of production, and the nature of technological change. But if it keeps you on the lecture circuit, good on you, mate.


Timothy Denton

By: Michael S. Hart Thu, 19 Jul 2007 20:08:34 +0000 About All Those Comments On “The Cult Of The Amateur”

by Michael S. Hart
Internet User ~100
Definitely Amateur
Inventor of eBooks
Project Gutenberg,
& World eBook Fair

Only Professionals Should Be Trusted

That’s the main message of “The Cult Of The Amateur.”

Of course, as soon as one even looks at the structure
of this thought it becomes obviously a circular point
in an argument whose logic is from the circular file.

The author wants us only to pay attention only to him
and his cohorts. . .if he were in a different field a
similar argument would be coming from him concerning,
and recommending trusting, only members of that field
to which his success belongs.

Since he is a failed Internet entrepreneur he has the
emotionally childish obligation to denigrate Internet
activities at large, and those that compete with this

new and more successful field of his in particular.

While he discounts everything not written via certain
professional standards of publishing, a fact checking
department, a professional editing staff, etc., words
appear in this book that obviously should have been a
casualty to such professionalism. You can look for a
few minutes yourself, or you can take the word of the
pre-eminent Harvard, Stanford, and Supreme Court face
of Larry Lessig, at

Of course, if you have read my previous comments that
have appeared concerning Mr. Lessig, Esq., you may be
able to understand just how well Lessig’s comments do
as a perfect fit in this case.

However, Lessig does a great job of parodying this to
the point of showing how The Cult of the Amateur is a
great parody of itself, poking holes in both the fact
and process errors that could have been spotted to be
corrected by the professionals at Doubleday.

If this were a blackjack game, Lessig doubles down at
this point increase his winnings.

I won’t even begin to go into the list of corrections
Lessig suggests, other than to point out it is a long
list, complete with page references, pointing out the
errors from an astoundingly simple difference between
“appropriation” and “misappropriation” along with the
expected mistakes in misquoting or misparaphrasing an
assortment of Lessig’s legalism that obviously should
been run by someone who actually understands terms of
Lessig’s profession.

In addition Lessig takes their mathematics to task on
multiple occasions concerning some 20 billion dollars
in piracy claims for an industry total of [you got it
right] less than $20 billion, not to mention percents
misused and unlabeled as to how big a percentage will
fall into which category.

Lessig winds up this section, and we are only a third
of the way through by now, with a correction of those
differences between denotative and connotative words,
and quotes The Oxford English Dictionary, amateurs in
all respects, yet professionals in all respects, when
using the proper denotative context, and we are left,
as it were, with a realization that “amateur” in this
context is simple schoolyard name calling.

By the way, the remaining two thirds are already some
comments by Lessig’s readers, perhaps he will add the
comments I have made here.

It will be interested to see how Lessig’s invitations
to others to help create a wiki listing of the errors
comes out, but it’s really not needed as Lessig’s bat
has already taken “Cult of the Amateur,” out of range
of even the best fielders Doubleday can provide after
the barn door has finally been closed, but the horses
have already escaped.

What’s the famous quote about not even fastest of all
horses can bring back words once spoken?

Of course, Doubleday, with the wisdom of publishing’s
finest traditions, will decide that the profitability
of creating a new buzz phrase and a potential of this
becoming a million seller was well worth the dents in
their professional reputation, and will say it was an
entirely conscious decision to leave unedited comment
after comment that should have been excised if not an
editor’s nightmare of how to straighted in out.

What this is, in reality, is the start of a gang war,
but started by those who are supposed to decry such a
gang war mentality, and Doubleday is showing attitude
in a gang war sense here, and it makes you wonder for
a while whether the outcome of this gang war, should,
somehow, this should actually become a big enough war
to engage the population, will be as they expected.

The results, Doubleday and the publishing industry at
large are hoping, will be that people stop reading on
the Internet and go back to reading publisher’s rants
and raves, without question, simply because publisher
public relations people SAY to trust publishers.


So, we are now back to the same circular arguments as
we saw at the start of this conversation. . . .

You should trust the publishers because they are just
that. . .the publishers.

You should not trust anyone else.

No one should trust anyone who is not a publisher.

No one should be trusted by you.

You should be trusted by no one.

This is the same argument as is made by noise machine
proponents the world round for all history.

If. . .we muddy the waters enough. . .no one will see
the truth. . .no matter how many people point out the
emperor has no clothes.

PS. I wrote all this originally in LYNX, which cannot
do the recaptcha, I resent being forced to GUI-Land.
I also resent that after “preview” is used recapcha,
in all its spendor and glory, is reused. While I do as
much, or more, for eBooks as the average person,
I resent being FORCED to. . .not to mention that if an
ENTER key is hit after the recaptcah, another one is
forced upon me, each and every time. . .it never has
simply said, “Thank you, please proceed.”

By: Steve Baba Wed, 11 Jul 2007 02:29:56 +0000 Usability expert Jaob Nielson yesterday had an article similar to this book’s thesis, except it was written from the writer’s angle – don’t write junk as opposed to this book’s more don’t read junk:

Write Articles, Not Blog Postings
To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

Also Nielson appears to have called Google a “leech,” for using the content of others, before Keen called Google a “parasite.”

By: Steve Baba Tue, 10 Jul 2007 02:10:19 +0000 I would speculate that Lessig’s wiki on Keen has failed to take off for the following reasons:

1. Keen covered many established topic, such as Criticism of Wikipedia, which already has it’s own section on Wikipedia. Wikis usually have economics of scale and require critical mass. Just as no one wants to use a second-best search engine when there is Google, people will use Wikipedia.

2. There was little, I hate to use the Wikipedia term, neutral point of view in Lessig’s initial wiki.

3. It was difficult to find the wiki even in the original post.