Science & Technology

Twitter for the Goose is Facebook for the Gander (Or Something)


Andrew Keen rose to fame by hating on the kids these days with their Facebooks and their posting of non-expert opinion on Internets, which he chronicles in his book The Cult of the Amateur. He sticks with that theme in an interview today with Reason contributor Meghan Keane from her new perch at Econconsultancy. (No relation, obviously. Keen to Keane: "You've got the Irish spelling. I've got the Jewish one.") As in this sample quote regarding Facebook:

It is a narcissistic product that devalues the notion of friendship. The fact that Facebook is run by a 20-something with no business experience is a hint that it is a hubristic product that will end in tears.

But then the twist: Keen twitters. It's OK, you see, because Twitter is totally different from the bad, leveling, democratizing Web 2.0.

"It's an increasingly small oligarchy on Twitter. There's a small group of people who have an immense amount of followers."

So on Web 3.0 (or whatever) oligarchy is good, since membership in the oligarchy somehow reflects superior contributions to the Internet. Certainly, this oligarch-dominated world is far better than the democratized rabble of Web 2.0, friending each other willy-nilly and then sending around videos of cats that look like Hitler. But when Web 1.0 was becoming Web 2.0, oligarchy was bad because it crushed individual preferences and human interaction, as in this quote from Keen's book about independent bookstores:

"Instead of 2,500 independent bookstores with their knowledgeable, book loving staffers, specialty sections, and relationships with local writers, we now have an oligarchy of online megastores employing soulless algorithms that use our previous purchases and the purchases of others to tell us what to buy."

It's tough to keep track. It seems that Keen's desire to add to his 6,012 followers on Twitter and thus be recognized as a true expert opinion-shaper is totally different than his desire to add to his 459 friends on Facebook. Which is also different from Amazon's desire to, well, have a lot of customers. Thank God we have an expert like Keen around to help us sort all of this out.

Reason on Keen here