Predictions

by Mike Masnick




Missing The Point On Amateur Content Online

from the it's-amateur-for-a-reason dept

Nicholas Carr has a way about him: he comes up with impressive theories that sound so smart -- but which are often painfully wrong. However, he does a good job of leading you down the road to wrongness so gracefully that it seems like maybe he's right. His big splash a few years ago was over the idea that technology held no competitive advantage for anyone. The argument was that technology was becoming commoditized (something that was likely true), and therefore, any advantage was fleeting (again true, but not really the point). What he was missing was that those fleeting competitive advantages are the key these days, and simply having the technology your competitor has is quite different than really leveraging it to your advantage. Carr's making some noise again, this time complaining that an internet made up of "amateurs" is a bad thing, using Wikipedia as his straw man. Again, he so gracefully leads people down this road by stating a few things that are true, that it's easy to miss where he goes completely off the road. As with others who have trashed Wikipedia, he goes on about why you should never trust amateurs, and that the world needs "experts." While it's absolutely true that experts are important -- hell, we've based our entire business on that very concept -- what Carr and others agreeing with him seem to be (conveniently) forgetting is that amateurs and experts are not mutually exclusive. Combined, they actually create a much better solution. The experts are still necessary and useful, but the amateurs help bring out more info and raise new and important questions and ideas. The amateurs aren't "taking down" the experts -- they're just making them even more necessary. The problem is that too many experts are frightened of these amateurs, rather than looking at ways to embrace and encourage the amateurs in a productive way. Embracing the amateurs opens up new and exciting possibilities for the experts -- it lets them turn that amateur content into something much more useful and valuable than either the experts or the amateurs could have done alone.

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  • identicon
    Newob, 24 Oct 2005 @ 3:09am

    Amateur Experts?

    Since when was "professional" synonymous with "expert"? Many subjects of study don't pay at all! We're so used to seeing the "experts" on TV, paid to pontificate about whatever they are an expert on; but expertise is not exclusive to professionals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ron Ngn, 26 Oct 2005 @ 7:38am

      Re: Amateur Experts?

      Actually, Mike, you're distorting Carr's point here. He's not arguing against amateurs - he explicitly writes that he wants both professionals and amateurs - he's saying that the web may shift the economics of media in such a way that there will be now way to support the best qualities of traditional media in the future. It seems less like Carr is wrong on all these issues and more that you're incapable of following anything but the most simplistic argument.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike (profile), 26 Oct 2005 @ 9:36am

        Re: Amateur Experts?

        Heh. Well, thanks for pulling out the insults instead of just discussing the points. That really adds credibility... :)

        But, it seems like you're now distorting my point (so is it fair game for me to insult you now too?). My point does counter Carr's, noting that this *opens up new opportunities* for experts. That doesn't disagree with your interpretation of Carr either, so I'm not sure why I deserve such scorn.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 24 Oct 2005 @ 3:11am

    What if amateurs are harmful?

    Looking up medical information on the web is a painful exercise, because "alternative medicine" garbage outnumbers real information by about 10 to 1. Talking with amateurs is a tiresome exercise also, because they are hung up on conspiracy theories by the pharmaceutical industry, government, "artificial chemicals", etc. IT professionals themselves are usually believers of these theories and may take steps to discourage or censor real medical science.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Loraan, 24 Oct 2005 @ 3:18am

    No Subject Given

    I have contributed content to Wikipedia on subjects about which I am considered an expert.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 24 Oct 2005 @ 3:30am

      Re: No Subject Given

      I have contributed content to Wikipedia on subjects about which I am considered an expert.

      Which is exactly the point. Experts aren't separate from the "amateurs" online. They can contribute to things like Wikipedia, or help point out what is right and wrong in wikipedia.

      One of the complaints used against me in my last discussion on Wikipedia was that you wouldn't let "amateurs" conduct brain surgery on you -- but that assumed (again) that there were no brain surgeons among the amateurs. It's not hard to figure out when a real expert is around, and most non-experts will default to the experts in such situations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        dorpus, 24 Oct 2005 @ 3:45am

        Re: No Subject Given

        I just looked up wikipedia on "acupuncture", and it's full of dangerous misinformation which claims the NIH condones it. The NIH was forced to build an alternative medicine research center upon the orders of Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah, a well-known friend of the alternative medicine industry, and the "research center" was staffed by people with no scientific credentials. The center cranked out some "research" to "prove" that alternative medicine worked, but it was ignored by true scientists. Amateurs do not know this distinction.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rodger Aiken, 24 Oct 2005 @ 4:26am

          Re: No Subject Given

          What a few of you seem to be missing is that there are amateurs and experts on both sides. There are bound to be plenty of firt-timers in the NIH as well as long-time experts among the amateurs. As mike said, they aren't mutually exclusive. Some amateurs would know that distinction, and some wouldn't. Being an amateur doesn't mean you aren't knowledgeable of a particular field.

          For instance, someone who has just finished med school may very well be an expert on cardiology. However, until they have more experience practicing cardiology, they will still be an amateur, and not an "expert." It doesn't diminish the fact that they know something about what they are doing.

          Furthermore, Wikipedia acknowledges the fact the information there isn't always 100% accurate, and they warn the reader of that. Wikipedia doesn't claim to have the correct answers or information on all of its subjects. It states that it is user-contributed. That should be enough to let people know that the people giving them information could be "amateurs" or "experts"; that alone is enough of a disclaimer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            dorpus, 24 Oct 2005 @ 4:34am

            Re: No Subject Given

            Still, accurate medical information remains scarce on the web. Now we have a billion idiots who presume to understand medicine because they read something that sounded "expert" on the web.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Natholin, 24 Oct 2005 @ 7:37am

              Re: No Subject Given

              What differnace does it make.
              If a bunch of fools want to get on the net and try to self dignose and self treat then more power to them.
              I personaly will get all my medical advice from a real certified Dr. I want to see his cert. handing on the wall when I walk into his office.
              The way I see it is that let all teh stupid people self medacate maybe we will be get rid of a few, and hand hand out a couple more Darwin awards.

              I personally use the Net for information that is not going to cost me my Life, House, or Family, or anything I find vastly important to my survival or success.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Suck It, 6 Feb 2007 @ 3:38pm

            Re: Re: No Subject Given

            Your statement is true under one condition. That is that you are in fact an exceedingly pathetic human being and have a very weak character.
            Ps: you have never done porn. You always found pleasure in lying through your ass to make your miserable life sound more interesting.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Some Random Dude, 24 Oct 2005 @ 10:08am

          Re: No Subject Given

          Senator Orrin Hatch is a well known friend of any industry with large amounts of spending cash.
          Check out http://opensecrets.org for more details.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Riley, 24 Oct 2005 @ 8:07am

    No Subject Given

    The most important "feature" of Web 2.0 or whatever you want to call it is the peer-review system that allows people to validate and filter out bad data. These methods are still being devised and are not really very sophisticated yet. I think the value of the amatuer's contributions is directly tied to how effective this part of the system is. As these methods improve, so will the content that is generated by this type of system. I disagree 100% with the article... the value of Web 2.0 content only increases as more people participate in the system. "Professionals" of course are running scared as they realize that the bar is contiually rising for them to compete with the amatuers. Even if 90%+ of the amatuer content is crap, the bad stuff is filtered out and the quality stuff shines through. Maybe even scarier for them is that their content now has to also be subject to the same peer-review system as the amatuers. The irony here is that Mr. Carr is just another cog in the blogsphere trying hard to rise above the cacpohony.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    slice of pizza, 24 Oct 2005 @ 9:01am

    I have to agree somewhat

    "Too many cooks spoil the soup" is a phrase that speaks the truth. There are simply too many uneducated bloggers spewing forth extremist political drivel and other misinformation these days. even trying to Google for technical information leads you to outdated blog entries that are full of inaccuracies that go uncorrected.

    The big problem is that people are taking things at face value and believing them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Newob, 25 Oct 2005 @ 2:21am

      Re: I have to agree somewhat

      Still, accurate medical information remains scarce on the web. Now we have a billion idiots who presume to understand medicine because they read something that sounded "expert" on the web.

      The big problem is that people are taking things at face value and believing them

      These arguments are disingenuous. If the information is inaccurate then why don't you correct it? If you don't trust the information then why do you assume other people will?

      Maybe increased freedom of information will weed out the quacks and the crooks in professionalism. Who says we need to have a central source of information for educating ourselves?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Newob, 25 Oct 2005 @ 2:22am

      Re: I have to agree somewhat

      Still, accurate medical information remains scarce on the web. Now we have a billion idiots who presume to understand medicine because they read something that sounded "expert" on the web.
      The big problem is that people are taking things at face value and believing them
      These arguments are disingenuous. If the information is inaccurate then why don't you correct it? If you don't trust the information then why do you assume other people will?
      Maybe increased freedom of information will weed out the quacks and the crooks in professionalism. Who says we need to have a central source of information for educating ourselves?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    crystalattice, 24 Oct 2005 @ 2:58pm

    Look at how much "amateurs" contribute

    How many comets are discoverd by amateurs? How much knowledge do ham-radio operators have? Look at the value a "paper" MSCE has in the tech industry vs. 10 years of practical experience.

    Just because you're not a so-called professional or expert doesn't mean you have nothing worth contributing. Amateurs have contributed quite a bit to modern life; heck, think of how many things were developed by accident.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bob, 25 Oct 2005 @ 1:20am

    Content

    I tend to disagree, community content really is the future. Wikipedia is better today than any other information source, published or online.

    It's also quite amusing when a self-proclaimed expert declares everyone else to be an amateur. We can be sure his credentials qualify him to be a foremost authority on any given topic, including an assessment of his own expertise. Laughable.

    Has everyone forgotten that Wikipedia is a work in progress, and will always be.. that's the beauty of it.

    Wikipedia does provide an area for the disputing of content (you can review the dispute and make up your own mind as to the truth of it). Regarding other articles, as part of the community, YOU are responsible for calling attention to errors you might find. Contribute!

    Or would you prefer an 'expert', and trust that you're not being fed a propaganda piece? Personally I'd rather trust solid community content, it irons itself out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John C. Dvorak, 28 Jun 2006 @ 1:48pm

    All Specious BS

    I think there are semantic issues here. Since amateurs CAN obviously be experts we are really talking about professional and non-professionals and the knowledgeable and the ignorant. None of these things have anything to do with anything else. I'm not seeing any sort of perfect definition of amateur, and that, to me, is the problem. The implied definition seems to be floating in-between "someone who does not get paid" and "someone who doesn't really know much." The subtext for the word seems to be "a rube." You can all argue until you a blue in the face, but it's laughable since everyone is using their own homebrew constructs onto which they base their argument. STOP NOW!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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