Felipe Machado and Andrew Keen: Thinking outside the social media echo chamber

7 02 2010

Back in November, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Felipe Machado, multimedia editor for one of the largest newspapers in Brazil, and a former business partner in a short-lived Internet venture in the mid-nineties. The get-together was brokered by Daniel Dystyler, the consummate connector in the Gladwell-esque sense of the word.

Felipe Machado and Daniel Dystyler

Felipe is an accomplished journalist, book author and musician, and I deeply respect his ability to connect the dots between the old and new media. I actually often disagree with him: I tend to analyze the world through a logical framework, and Felipe relies on intuition and passion. That’s exactly why I savour every opportunity to talk to him. If you understand Portuguese, you may want to check his participation in “Manhattan Connection” (Rede Globo, 4th largest TV network in the world), talking about the future of media:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

During our lunch conversation, Felipe mentioned Andrew Keen’s “The Cult of the Amateur”, as a book that broke away from the sameness of social media authors. Coincidentally, I had read an article about that book the day before, so I bit the bait and borrowed the book from the local library the first week I came back from Brazil.

This may come as a surprise to anybody who knows me, but if you work in anything related to new media, social media, Web 2.0 and emerging Internet technologies, I highly recommend you read Keen’s book. Make no mistake: the book deserves all criticism it got – you can start with Lawrence Lessig’s blog post for a particularly heated discussion on the limitations of Keen’s arguments. “The Cult of the Amateur” is ironically a concrete proof that having editors and a publisher behind a book does not necessarily make it any better than, say, a blog post.

The reason I recommend a not-so-good book is this: Andrew Keen represents a large contingent of people in your circle of friends, co-workers, clients and audience – people who hear your social media message and deeply disagree with you. They may well be the vast majority that does not blog, does not use Twitter and couldn’t care less about what you had for dinner last night. They often don’t say it out loud, to not be perceived as luddites, but are not convinced that social media is making things any better, or Web 2.0 is something inevitable.

Those are the folks you should pay attention to. No matter how much you admire the work by Chris Anderson, Clay Shirky, Jeff Howe and others social media luminaries, you are probably just hearing the echo of your own voice there. You need to understand the concerns, the points of view and the anxiety of the Andrew Keens of the world toward the so-called social media revolution. Failing to do that will prevent you from crossing the chasm between early adopters and everybody else.

Reaching out to the members of our social network who are not in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can go a long way for us all to realize that the real world is MUCH BIGGER than Web 2.0 and Social Media (as I learned from Jean-François Barsoum long time ago).




6 responses

8 02 2010
Jen Okimoto

Hi Aaron – Thanks for book recommendation. I will definitely check it out…as, this is surely a perspective I need to better understand. You might like to know that your contributions still live at IBM. I opened a new deck this morning and the front page acknowledged 2 sources – and one was you!

15 02 2010

Hey Jen, it’s not exactly a book recommendation in the sense of “I recommend this great book”. The book will likely drive you crazy with its faulty logic and the long pointless rants. I wish there were some good authors writing against social media, so that we could have a more healthy conversation around the pros and cons. Good to hear about my contributions still having some influence at IBM, but I totally expect that to disappear soon, as things move very quickly in this space.

8 02 2010
Jean-Francois Barsoum

Insightful as always Aaron. We learn more from our detractors and our opponents than we do from those who parrot our own words back to us…

Debate requires conversation, and conversation is the really hard part of 2.0. The part that requires work and listening, the part that the people blogging at each other don’t always quite get. The comments portion is often where you get some of the deep insights, the ones that force the blog author out of their comfort-zone arguments.

15 02 2010

I’m guilty myself of not handling comments very well, this post being a typical example! I tend to write posts sporadically and often forget to reply to comments in a timely manner. In any case, I don’t have enough of a readership to elicit controversial comments 😉

15 02 2010
Felipe Machado

Hey Aaron, how are you? Thanks for the post; I really think this subject is very interesting and we will see many changes in the near future. Remember we talked about paid content? The New York Times and a few other big media companies (Murdoch ahead) are preparing to charge for some of premium and specific content, which might be a way to do it and not loose the readers you already have. Anyway, many more news on the horizon… Next October I will be in New York City again for another conference, it will be great to meet you there if you got the time.

Um grande abraço e parabéns pelo blog. Engraçado, uns brasileiros que estavam na posso do Obama juram que em algum momento eles ouviram uma voz gritar: ‘Obama é melhor que ‘Eto!’ 🙂 Abs, F.

15 02 2010

Hey Felipe, I’m curious to see how paid content is going to be affected by Apple’s iPad. I, for one, will probably start subscribing again to magazines. Reading the Time magazine in Amazon’s Kindle is a horrible user experience, I really hope the iPad changes that, as I’d like to get rid of most physical media I currently own.

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