April 2008

While writing my earlier post criticising Keen’s Cult of the Amateur, I looked up Pandora’s Box on Amazon. I found the “Customers Who Bought Items Like This Also Bought” list interesting. It mostly included work by or about Dawkins’ radical atheism. From my point of view, not bad company to be seen in.

Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen looked like an interesting counterpoint to another book awaiting my reading, Wikinomics. I’m only about 10% of the way through Cult of the Amateur, and I’m finding it hard going. Not that it’s badly written in terms of the phrasing; that’s probably the best thing about it. Keen had a Saul on the road to Damscus moment and turned against “Web 2.0” a few years ago and this is his poorly researched and badly thought out screed against the Web 2.0 ultra partisans. He makes so many mistakes it’s hard to pick them out for scrutiny. Here’s just a couple (I’m using wikipedia links here because it’s one of Keen’s biggest targets and he fails to acknowledge its utility as a starting point):

  • Zork and Myst are not MUDs. The closest they come is later episodes in the series being MMORPGS. Zork, of course, derives from Colossal Cave Adventure, and the original MUD was partially derived from Zork.
  • He entirely fails to address any real economics, despite the subtitle claiming the book is about how new web technology is “assaulting our economy”. In fact, he follows the typical Broken Window Fallacy in claiming that changes to the economy which undermine the profits of certain players must be bad.