A car, a van, trees, stone facing, what’s not to love?, and The Cult of the Amateur

A car, a van, trees, stone facing, what's not to love? -- by Joe Reifer

A car, a van, trees, stone facing, what’s not to love? — by Joe Reifer

I’ve been reading Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur, and it doesn’t make me feel like blogging very much. While some of the arguments are a bit extreme, there are a lot of thought provoking ideas in this book.

6 thoughts on “A car, a van, trees, stone facing, what’s not to love?, and The Cult of the Amateur”

  1. Joe,

    I haven’t read Keen’s book, but I have read quite a few scathing reviews of it, and I’m very familiar with many of the arguments that he (reportedly) proposes.

    One of the most interesting criticisms I read of his book was written by a veteran newspaper editor. Although he appreciated Keen’s support of the professional newspaper veterans, he said that Keen obviously had no experience in the news industry because Keen maintained these idealist fantasies that every piece of news that came out of the professionals was deeply researched and written with visions of world-changing ideals. That’s just one example that stuck in my head. Maybe I should stop here because I haven’t read the book :-)

    I hope you don’t lose any sleep over what he wrote, and I hope you don’t stop blogging, especially due to anything in the book.


  2. Yeah, I need a better explanation. Pretend I never heard of Keen or his book. WHY did it make you feel like stopping blogging?

    I read some of the reviews at amazon. Nobody seems to like this book very much, even the people that are supposed to. Many of the reviews mention the book’s bad writing, grammatical errors and poor research. It seems ironic that a book bemoaning the professional world being overrun by amateurs sounds like it’s so sloppy and amateurish.

    My photography career wouldn’t exist without the internet, but trying to rise above the noise of all the other photographers is surely the difficult part.

    Joe, you know how I feel about blogs in general, does this book play into that?


  3. Although I have not yet read this book, I am thinking about/dealing with the issues covered in the book on a regular basis for work. In reviewing online content that can be used as trusted information by librarians, student papers, and the general public researching consumer topics, health issues, and and the like, I have to sift through a huge number of websites to find worthwhile material.

    I have never used a Wikipedia entry for a trusted source, and it is very rare that I would list a blog. I completely agree with Andy’s comment that news is often not fact-checked or reliable, and it is only getting worse. There are also a lot of terrible books out there, bad movies and art, and other media that goes throw the traditional channels that is unreliable or mediocre. It is just magnified online, and particularly in the Web 2.0 world, and anyone who is not adept at thinking critically about what they are reading and seeing is bound to be confused, misled, and ill-informed. Yes, part of the issue is that people need to be better educated in evaluating information (we’ve all heard the stories about students turning in research papers with Wikipedia entries listed as references).

    Yes, there IS good Web 2.0 content out there in with all of the ranting blog entries, uninformed writings, unedited photo collections, etc. But I think that whether or not this book is any good and regardless of whether it has problems, it is worthwhile if it makes a few people stop and think about why they think Web 2.0 is so wonderful. Does it really facilitate creativity and valuable sharing of information? In many cases, I don’t think so. Most of what I end up using for work research comes from traditional sources who now make content available online: an interactive museum exhibit, a research guide from a library, video and accompanying feature from PBS, fact sheets from consumer organizations, etc.

    As someone who as also written a blog, the premise of this book leads me to think carefully about if and what type of content I want to put out on the Web. Is what I am putting out there of use or interest to others? If so, am I willing to put the time and effort into making sure that what I put out there is of good quality and/or well-researched? If I took the online content and moved it into an offline format (such as a book or art exhibit) would it be good enough for that? If I can’t answer yes to at least one of these questions, I would think long and hard about whether to put this content online or continue doing what I’m doing online. Whether or not this book is accurate or has grammatical errors or has parts I disagree with, I think the idea being presented is worth spending some time with.


  4. Andy – There certainly is some irony in Keen’s tirades, but that doesn’t mean the ideas aren’t interesting. If you read a book and agree with everything, what did you learn? Reading one book won’t stop me from blogging, but it’s certainly helped me clarify some thinking I was doing already about blogs and online community.

    Troy – My current personal photography goals don’t map well to using online community, and this book has helped me clarify why. I absolutely don’t want to turn this into a debate about the relative merits of Flickr. Both sides of that debate have already been covered nicely.

    I’d like to think that my writing on night photography technique and history is useful for a few people. Photography blogs are typically used for recycling content that’s already found elsewhere, self-promotion, selling advertising, workshops, etc. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities – I just need to ask myself, is self-promotion via the blogosphere a good use of my time? I’m having my doubts.

    Jen – Web 2.0 makes professional librarians more necessary than ever. Whether anyone cares to listen or not is the scary question.



  5. I haven’t read Keen’s book either, but I do source information from paper-based sources at least as much as electronic, still.

    I have had a vague anti-professional attitude about most things artistic for many years.

    When it comes to information, though, when I use Wikipedia and the like, I take what I find with a few pixels of salt.

    Don’t stop blogging, Joe!


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