Your advice: Should I debate?

Andrew Keen and his publisher have asked me to debate him about his book, The Cult of the Amateur, in New York in June. I’m asking your advice because I’m torn.

The problem is that Keen’s book is the worst of link bait. It’s link whoring. Or should I say talk-show prostitution? It’s frilly lace tempting those who want so much to dismiss this change. He tries to push every internet button he can. Like others, Keen wants to be the contrarian’s contrarian. But that only makes him a double negative. It makes him a curmudgeon, a conservative trying to hold onto the past, a mastadon growling against the warm wind of change. Now I’d be fine having an debate about what the change means and what’s good and bad about it, but Keen makes it all bad with sloppy generalities and blanket insults — like the very worst blog. It’s simply not a good book or a compelling argument.

Do we give this attention? Do we play wack-a-mole with these tiresome arguments? Or do we just ignore it with the sure knowledge that it will go away in an act of self-extinction?

To give you a few examples from the start of the book (which I’ve not quite finished):

Keen summons up the T.H. Huxley infinite monkey theorem*, of course casting the internet — us — in that role: “Except in our Web 2.0 world, the typewriters aren’t quite typewriters, but rather networked personal computers, and the monkeys aren’t quite monkeys, but rather Internet users.” Just by using this new tool, we are ruining the world. How? “But what had once appeared as a joke now seems to foretell the consequences of a flattening of culture and author, creator and consumer, expert and amateur. This is no laughing matter.” Oh, yes, he’s serious about this. No sense of fine British irony here. He pounds his typewriter with a sledgehammer.

Keen says the internet is used to “publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, reviews, essays, and novels.” But nothing else? No reporting? No fact-checking? No new talent making new video? No thoughtful reviews? No new independent music? No new tools for education? This is the most troubling aspect of his book: He acknowledges nothing good about the internet and we who inhabit it. That’s either blind or intellectually dishonest. Of course, there is good and bad here. I acknowledge the bad on the internet — the unbearable blogs, the flaming fart jokes, and worse, the people who use the medium as their outlet for hate — just as I remind its opponents of the bad books, movies, songs, and, yes, newspapers produced by the old media world. But in either case, does the bad negate all the good? Of course, not. I argue that media old farts and the curmudgeons who feed them pay too much attention to the bad and miss the good, and that is a waste. That is playing deaf.

But to Keen, we are the ruination of everything and we’re too stupid to realize it. “If we keep up this pace, there will be over five hundred million blogs by 2010, collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture.” Hearing your neighbor talk is now corrupting and confusing and Keen knows the difference but we do not. This is his unbearable snobbishness.

He predictably goes after Wikipedia and its articles, “none of them edited or vetted for accuracy.” That’s innaccurate. They are vetted by thousands — as newspapers now can be. He says that Wikipedia is “a more trusted source for news than the CNN or BBC websites” but provides no citation to back up that generality. Introduce me to the people who say that. I’ve never heard it. The book is filled with such as that — like, oh, the worst Wikipedia article. Oh, but Keen might have done well to have looked up a few facts on Wikipedia himself. A few pages later, he makes the cliched reference to cults and Kool-Aid when Wikipedia would correct him: Jim Jones’ poison was mixed with Flavor-Aid. Grape, to be exact. I know because I covered the story. I was on rewrite taking the first stories from Guyana. I’ll vet that. It’s in Wikipedia. Go look it up.

It’s also no surprise that Keen goes after social sites. “It’s hardly surprising that the increasingly tasteless nature of such self-advertisements have resulted in social networking sites becoming infested with anonymous sexual predators and pedophiles.” And a lot of happy marriages. The priesthood is also infested with its share of anonymous predators and pedophiles, but I don’t hear Keen railing against them. This is the worst of tabloid generalization: If one thing is bad, it is all bad. Paint the entire world with the same dark brush. That is the essence of the book’s intellectual dishonesty. There’s more that I may choose to annotate in later blog posts.

Ah, but here’s his real point, is essential conservatism: “But our cultural standards and moral values are not all that are at stake. Gravest of all, the very traditional institutions that have helped to foster and create our news, our music, our literature, our television shows and our movies are under assault as well.” Keen is trying to pass the full-employment act for old institutions — even, at one point in his book, including ad agencies! Now, of course, the old institutions do and still will contribute incredible value. But now we have the means to contribute more, to find more talent, to check their work, to hear more voices. I celebrate that. Keen dreads it: “The monkeys take over. Say good-bye to today’s experts and cultural gatekeepers — our reporters, news anchors, editors, music companies and Hollywood movie studios. In today’s cult of the amateur, the monkeys are running the show. With their infinite typewriters, they are authoring the future. And we may not like how it reads.”

Keen is not just an elitist, he is authoritarian to the point of Stalinism. At the end: “Can we really trust society to behave properly in the Wild West culture of the Web 2.0 revolution? I would argue that we are easily seduced, corrupted, and led astray. In other words, we need rules and regulations to help control our behavior online, just as we need traffic laws to regulate how we drive in order to protect everyone from accidents.” Of course, we already have those laws and they govern life online. That’s a red herring. It’s the gatekeepers he wants, the experts anointed by institutions not by us ignorant masses, the authorities.

If you can’t trust society, then you don’t truly believe in democracy, free markets, reformed religion, art, education, or journalism. Why bother with us if we’re such a bunch of ignorant monkeys?

And why bother arguing with that? So I’ll do just what Keen would apparently abhor: I’ll ask you, the vast zoo of amateurs, whether you think I should take this on in an evening. I’m not handing over my authority; I’ll decide what to do. But I do value your opinion. So tell me what you think about the cult of contrarians.

* CORRECTION: Within an hour after I posted this, I got this email from Sam Huxley:

While my great-great grandfather is highly regarded for many things, unfortunately the infinite-monkey theorem isn’t one of them. In fact if you scroll down the Wikipedia entry you linked to it refers to the TH attribution as a common misattribution- I checked it out as it is the first I’d heard of it. Also, I would pass on the debate as I fail to see how magnifying such an outlandish opinion does anyone but him good.

I thanked Sam and asked him whether I could quote his email. Here is what the Wikipedia entry says:

In his 1931 book The Mysterious Universe, Eddington’s rival James Jeans attributed the monkey parable to a “Huxley”, presumably meaning Thomas Henry Huxley. This attribution is incorrect. Today, it is sometimes further reported that Huxley applied the example in a now-legendary debate over Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species with the Anglican Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, held at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford in June 30, 1860. This story suffers not only from a lack of evidence, but the fact that in 1860 the typewriter itself had yet to emerge.

So Wikipedia is right and a helluva lot more detailed at that.

And note how this correction came: thanks to the internet and its openness. Who would have known that Sam Huxley would read a blog post and point me to correct information — at Wikipedia? And isn’t it wonderful that the technology allowed me to correct that mistake within an hour of publication. I’m going to bet that Keen’s book may already be published and even if not, trying to fix it in an old print book will be difficult and expensive. All that only demonstrates the superiority of this new medium. But that’s another discussion.

  • Of course you should debate him – It Is The Will Of The People.

    Has any blog comment thread of this type *ever* resulted in an outcome of recommending: “No, abide in dignified silence, show by your quiet strength and stoic disposition, what you are made of.”?

    At best, there will be a “Don’t Feed The Trolls” here or there. But I’m confident that the vast majority of replies will be “Flame On!”.

  • I think you’ve done enough debate with this simple blog post. You’ve also disproved his entire philosophy by writing an informative, well written blog post on the internet.

    You’ve also got to notice the irony of him writing a book to air his backward views about something that isn’t tangible. That says it all.

  • I think Keen and his book stand to benefit if you debate him, and there’s no benefit for you or for people who are not gullible enough to swallow his swill. Therefore, you should not do him the honor a debate. Just my 2 cents.

    I’m on the lookout for a good book that covers the whole peer-production and read/write culture spectrum. This would be for graduate students. They already read We the Media and The Anarchist in the Library. Last year we also read The Wealth of Networks (too dense and too long). The year before, we read The Power of Many (too disorganized and too repetitive).

    Any suggestions?

  • Jeff, were this invitation given to me, I would decline.

    The guy is an intellectual loser who would benefit greatly from being on the same level — albeit for a moment — with the likes of Jeff Jarvis. There’s no doubt you’d “win,” but he’s not after the same kind of victory. He’s not interested in debating his ideas, because he has none. His mission is to raise his stature to sell books.

    We ask all the time that media turn away from the relentless pounding of the hyperbole necessary for marketing to the masses, so why should we play the game?

    Keen is like an endangered species at the zoo.

    Please don’t feed the animals.

  • Tough decision, Jeff. Keen’s book is laughable and doesn’t deserve attention. On the other hand, his publisher will inevitably find someone else to debate him if you don’t swallow the bait, and I would hate to tune into the morning talk shows and hear him going up against someone incapable of giving his ideas the verbal take-down they deserve.

    Interesting that on Keen is blogging — yes, blogging — about his book to potential customers. He’s taking full advantage of the Web 2.0 bubble he claims will be our ruination.

  • Why would you debate someone who appears to have little sense of obligation to adhere to the verifiable in favor of emotionally distracting conjecture? Debates among those seeking political office already illustrate how unenlightening that can be.

  • Mr. Keen’s ideas seem small minded and easily countered. If he really wants to take on the world of amateur content producers why is he targeting a highly successful professional? The answer is simple, if Jeff Jarvis is involved it will create great publicity both online and off, which will help his book sales, ad sales on his web site, etc. If Mr. Keen wants to take on the “Cult of the Amateur” then he should put his money where his mouth is and debate one.

    Mr Keen: For nearly a year I have run a community blog for my small town. I have made nearly no money, have devoted thousands of hours to my neighbors, and was a very small part in a successful community effort in to Recall an incompetent Mayor (which was the first successful recall in our county in 25 years). My site isn’t professionally designed, I have no formal training and I make mistakes on occasion (which I identify and apologize for when it happens, in the article it happened in). I am only high school educated (I’ve only taken 2 college level classes so far) and my audience is limited to a town of slightly less than 17,000 residents. I am the quintessential Internet amateur.

    So, where would like to meet sir? Give me a little time to secure a copy of your book and a few days to read it and I’ll pay my own way to meet you on any stage in the continental U.S. Is your debate request to Jeff Jarvis about true intellectual debate, or is it about publicity? If it is about honest debate than you can’t get a better example of a member of the “Cult of the Amateur” you so despise than me, What will it be Mr. Keen?

  • Well, if you do it make them videotape it (they will be into that) get yourself a copy, edit it down to Keen’s greatest hits, show the people on YouTube what he thinks of them, then make the whole tape available for other re-mixes.

  • Harry

    Instead of debating Keen, why don’t you spend the time doing something more likely to be productive, like trying to teach a dog to conjugate irregular French verbs?

    Seriously, Keen and his publisher are just trolling for some cheap promotion for his book. If they want some publicity for his book, let them pay for it like anyone else. You’re under no obligation to help promote it (although you did a good job with this post!).

    And am I the only one who finds it hypocritical—-and more than a little funny—–that a guy who writes a book opposed to blogs has his own blog?

  • At least it has comments.

  • I think you should get over yourself and debate him, Jeff. No doubt you will now angst long and hard over whether that debate should be online or in person (why not both?), but go for it. His arguments are weak but you dissecting them on your blog doesn’t really constitute debate. Keen does represent a wide public feeling out there so it would be worth having a go at bringing those people up to speed. In our zeal to be so avant-garde it is is easy to forget about the value of debating those who are further behind.

  • You must, Mr. Jarvis. You must.

    Not just for today, but tomorrow. It is the power of the infinite link, the need to put voice to collective thought.

    Ought we insist our words confront this intellectual dishonesty immediately, where it stands? You are a proxy voice – and a powerful one – for us all.

    Truth is tireless.

  • I turned him down.

    For many of the reasons you provide, and also to support Dan Gillmor, who he unfairly and personally trashes in the book.

    Ideas are one thing, and some of it might be excused if he were who he presents himself as, but he’s not. He’s trying to make a buck, and doesn’t mind being an idiot and hurting honest people to do it.

    You want to support that Jeff? What’s in it for you?

    The sad part of it is that there was a good book to be written here. Lots of negative stuff about blogs that could have been explored and debated. But that’s not what this book is.

  • I have to agree with others on this. There are real issues here that are worth exploring and discussing. Mr. Keen appears to paint the entire digital age with the same curmudgeonly quill, but literary bigotry should always be challenged.

    Mr. Javis, you should take up this gauntlet. I realize this will be a publicity boon for Mr. Keen, his book and his own web presence, but the potential benefits of a public discussion on these issues is well worth it in my opinion.

    I would love to see Mr. Keen take on a real digital amateur somewhere, but the subject itself deserves more attention, the likes of which come whenever someone of your caliber merely enters the arena.

  • Do it only if you think it would be fun or might generate some useful publicity. Otherwise, he’s an ignorant bore who is not worth your time.

  • Jeff,

    DON’T DEBATE HIM! Seriously, if you love your family, if you have ANY sense of empathy for the 6 million pitchfork and torch bearing OS losers who cling to the hope of a new free world where everyone’s a star and theft is the standard… don’t. Keen will rip you to shreds. You’ll end up doing movie reviews per diem for Channel 3 in Peoria.

    Actually, might not be a bad idea. Surely, the Peoria gig pays more than you’re making blogging and pontificating at endless conferences.

    Just a thought.


    Amanda Chapel
    Managing Editor

  • great post jeff.

    I never heard of andrew until I saw him on a panel last week and then cranked out this post later that day.

    i think you should debate him. he is confused and (worse) inaccurate.

    you’ll probably also have some fun too.

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  • I’ll merely reiterate what others have said. The author is a troll. He’s like one of those guys in in the 1980s — Howard Ruff, for example — who made a career of selling books and seminars warning of the imminent collapse of the U.S. economy. The best thing bloggers can do is ignore and not link to the book, never mention the authors name and whenever discussing the subject, point to Dan Gilmore’s book on I do like Jay Rosen’s suggestions, however.

  • Hmmm… a question for the ages…

    Keen appears to be one of those interesting birds who delights in muckraking in his own backyard, as observed by Connie Reece, here, earlier – he wallows in the very mire he decries.

    This does seem a bit contradictory, but then many have worked from positions of contradiction and have managed to thrive.

    I visited his blog a little while ago and did some quick overview reading. I have to take issue with some of the comments made here: he is not COMPLETELY wrong. Not at all. The Web IS burgeoning with amateurism. BUT his is a ‘glass half empty’ perspective, and this is probably the lynchpin of debating him – not that he’s completely, dead WRONG, but that he’s simply a pessimist and a cynic…and an effete SNOB.

    You’ve argued, Jeff, about the web’s propulsion of our culture into a new paradigm. You argue from a ‘glass-half-FULL” perspective. Our culture is being changed, interactivity is enhancing the democratic process, interactivity is raising the bar (and the information/intelligence level) of all participating, etc.

    I think you should debate him. Read his book cover to cover first. Maybe even write your own before the debate. But don’t give him an inch…not an INCH…of wiggle room, and don’t expect to come away from it a winner, either. You can’t win againt this kind of a mentality. The best you can hope for is to put forth your best case on the ‘pro’ side against his ‘con’ side, and leave it at that.

  • MGL

    I’m in the yes camp.

    Keen’s agenda of selling books is somewhat irrelevant: the audience reached via the debate will also get to see holes shot into his premise. (Besides, I’m completely unconcerned about his bank statements.)

    I actually think its about your (our) agenda: who might see the debate and have his/her mindset altered? The book will get its publicity, but the real question is who you can reach…

  • rod

    Don’t bother with the debate.

    Those who agree with Keen aren’t going to be swayed by anything.

    Those who already know better won’t be watching – they’ll be busy blogging about more interesting and important things.

    The best policy for dealing with trolls? Ignore them till they go away.

  • Jeff,

    Inspired by your Dell Hell posts for my project (see URL), I stumbled across mention to this book looking into the larger topic of consumer-generated media (CGM). Your post is great and you’ve done enough. I don’t believe the conversation warrants more breath, despite an attempt to take it to a more engaging venue. If anything, given the weak premise of his book, he should respect that; you wrote something thoughtful and very
    “unamateur”. By taking it to a live setting, you in theory turn into the conversation into performance art with the lack of quality controls he should laud. I think it’s fine that he’s written a book for polemic purposes and that a publisher thinks it will make money. In the UGC spirit of profit-sharing, his publisher should send you a check for acknowledging/marketing it on your blog; that is why he/they wrote you, right? Forget Revver, I’m starting Plugger and calling his publisher today.

    I genuinely find it a distraction to movements you are helping to create (PrezVid and Voter-GM) and inspire (CGM). You’ve clearly got a full plate (my self-placating rationale for my email attempt to reach out to you not being returned- sniffle;). Your excellent ruminations would best be dedicated to more substantial debates.

  • So I know Jarvis (obviously, I reading the blog) never heard of Keen (should I, am I being out of some loop?). So the debate draw would be seeing Jarvis. If the debater they replaced you with and would give Keen at least as much attention as you, do it. But otherwise let him fade into nothingness.

  • So I know Jarvis (obviously, I reading the blog) never heard of Keen (should I, am I being out of some loop?). So the debate draw would be seeing Jarvis. If the debater they replaced you with and would give Keen at least as much attention as you, do it. But otherwise let him fade into nothingness.

  • Do it. Debate him, take the arrogant snob down a peg or two. We are on the verge of a new culture and he is scared of it, show him that. I heard either him or someone who shares his opinion of the flattening of culture on the radio the other day (it was breakfast show and I was not caffiened up yet) and I thought “what a short sighted prick” (excuse the language).

    Culture is not and never has been defined by the intellectuals and elites of the world, it is defined by the people who consume, generate, and spread it. He, and those who share his views, are frightened that his opinion will no more valid or influential than everyone elses. He rails against all those self absorbed bloggers and accuses them of narcissism and an inflated sense of self-importance, he needs to be shown a mirror.

    Go kick his proverbial.

  • Jeff,

    I think your blog post today on Keen’s book, The Cult of the Amateur, is an adequate response to his quest for a debate on the content of the book. Besides, as Dave Winer asks: “What’s in it for you?” We know what’s in it for Keen. He gets the publicity benefit from the coverage that will result from debating sometimes controversial blogger and Guardian columnist Jeff Jarvis. He knows your blog is called BuzzMachine for a reason

    On that note, I say decline the debate.

  • I spent a deal of time with Mr. Keen at ONHollywood. He’s coming to Video on the Net this fall in Boston, as are you. I’d love to make that the stage for that debate, especially with all my PodCamp Boston unconference friends coming to the event, and in a venue that explores the disruption of the broadband Internet on TV, film, Entertainment.

    “SHOULD YOU” debate? I think so. Otherwise, we get no voice. Better the same old argument than none.

  • After reading all the posts, it seems interesting that the Cluetrain generation, when given the opportunity to interact with “the enemy,” would choose to shun this. I disagree with Keen’s premise, but that’s exactly why I chose to spend some time listening to his point of view and hear his version of the story. Should we all lock down conversations with viewpoints that don’t appeal to us?

    Yes, if it repeats like dogma. Yes, if it’s just giving a platform for hate. But dissent isn’t hate. It’s just disagreement.

    Just a thought to the other comments.

  • Me again

    Decline. Keen’s book is ridiculous. He already did a joint newspaper intvu with the Wired EIC where his arguments were totally demolished. He’s just not interesting.

  • Choose your battles.

    I say that there is nothing to be gained from a debate with him.
    He appears to be without clue, and without a doubt, it would just be a fruitless endeavor.

    You “can” lead a horse to the Internet, but you cannot make them “get it”.

    I think that Keen just doesn’t get it, and he never will, and it doesn’t even matter.

  • rod

    @ChrisBrogan: “Should we all lock down conversations with viewpoints that don’t appeal to us?”

    No, just ignore those in which participation has no upside.

  • I say Do Not Debate.

    Amanda Chapel aka Brian Donnolly and their Troll Brigade have been picking fights all over the web, especially on Twitter, just to get attention for this silly pile of puke “Cult of Amateur”.

    Sales must be very very down.

    They act like they’re at their wits end for media attention. Doc Searls and Robert Scoble are finished fussing with these idiots. Others have wasted time squashing the trolling that is done in the name of this Anti Cluetrain Cluelessness.

  • Doug Lay

    I’d take a pass. Nick Carr would be worth debating but Keen is just a troll. You’re too good for that guy.

  • Trolls can be deconstructed indirectly, without addressing them by name, giving them a nickname of your own choosing…or they can be bashed directly.

    In this case, ignoring the cult pushing “Cult of the Amateur” seems the wisest policy.

    Their warped dream seems to be using Web 2.0 to destroy Web 2.0, using blogs to bash bloggers, using Twitter to stalk and anger Cluetrain Triumphant change agents, as we destroy the MSM and other Domination Systems.

    Lock the jerkbags out.

    They seem to want to “go viral” by relentless trolling and flaming.

  • The potential upside of this conversation isn’t in convincing Keen. He knows his position. But how strong is “our” position? Those of us who get it (or at least believe we do) are certainly in jeopardy of resting on our laurels, should we hang around and congratulate each other while others work on their strategy to minimize what we do.

    At a conference I attended in Indiana last week, I watched the two large Internet pipe providers in the US (phone and cable) show me their view of the future of TV on the Internet. In their world, I can watch the “same great shows” over a new pipe, or I can talk on the phone on the same pipe that brings me the same great shows.

    They talked about Internet TV as if it were ball-kicking videos on YouTube. And EVERYONE nodded, as if “of course that’s what Internet TV is.” Not because they were evil. Because they didn’t know, and what they’d seen the most of was those kinds of examples.

    Sure Keen’s using debate to sell books. That’s his goal. Selling books. But is the conversation wrong to have? I think not. I think the conversation is necessary, not to promote one view or the other, but instead, to bring the conversation as a whole- what’s the value of all this personal media- to the fore.

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  • I agree with one-half of your last statement Chris, but I don’t think that debating Keen is the way to go about it. There are hundreds of ‘Keens’ out there and debating each one as they crop up certainly would waste a bunch of time.

    Not sure what conference that was in Indiana, but it sounds to me like you had a chance to experience firsthand the perception that most people have of the new media space.

    It’s the same thing which I have known for a while, and the same thing I was talking about when I commented on one of your prior blog posts

  • Don’t do it. Keen is just a publicity whore. And who would you be trying to convince, anyway? People are not going ignore IDV (Internet Delivered Video) because some crackpot like Keen tells them to.

    Remember, the facts, the truth and the numbers are already on our side and everyone knows it. Word of mouth from one’s friends has a much greater effect than any self-appointed pundit like Keen. There’s nothing to be gained from debating him. We’re winning anyway. Screw him.

  • Don’t debate him–he’s only trying to bait you and use your credibility to gain some for himself–you’ll legitimize him s a critic. Also, one of te main criticisms of you is that you’re too much of a self-promoter and a publicity hound, even tough I agree with some of what you say. By agreeing to a debate, you will reinforce your image as a self-promoter–willing to do anything to get name recognition. You don’t need this debate of this kind of publicity.

  • Hey, Jeff,

    I really didn’t know much about Keen until your post. So I went over to his blog to see what he has to say for himself.

    He sounds like a lot of people I run into in my daily life.

    So I’d vote for debating him just to get move ahead the national conversation.

    My own analysis about what is happening in the world of media changes almost daily. Maybe Mr. Keen’s will too. Maybe yours could also.

    The executive women’s group in our town had a terrific presentation from one of University of Wisconsin’s Education School professors. The researcher found that videogames such as Warcraft are teaching many kids about diversity and cross-functional teams. This never occurred to me.

    The changes in our lives are so darn complicated that the more debate that exists, the more we learn about media’s good and bad qualities.

  • Dave Kawalec

    I think it would depend on where the debate is to take place. Will it be an honest debate, or will this be some kind of yell-fest talk show?

    A friend of mine said that every time he calls a certain popular national conservative talk show to debate the host on a certain political topic, the host gets into a screaming match and then hangs up on my friend. Just then, the host goes into his final diatribe on his Approved Talking Points, and remarks about how he’s left my friend (who is no longer on the phone) speechless and ZING goes into commercial.

    My friend wonders why the host doesn’t “play fair.” I wonder why he can’t see that the host is just using him in order to make the listeners feel good because once more the enemy has been properly vanquished.

    Just be sure you’re not being set up to be on the defensive.

  • He who sleeps with dog wakes-up with flees

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  • I liked Chris’s question, But how strong is “our” position? Those of us who get it (or at least believe we do) are certainly in jeopardy of resting on our laurels, should we hang around and congratulate each other while others work on their strategy to minimize what we do….

    Resting on our nouns and verbs can be a problem, as well.

  • Not worth the waste of effort, Jeff. As has been mentioned here he stands more to gain and you only give him extra sales. Pass along John Moyle’s offer as gives an amateur a chance to take on the book’s premise head on. Frankly I think it would be a more worthwhile debate and more appropriate to the context of the book.

  • You go “defend” and “argue” with the haters of Cluetrain Triumphant, but I prefer to keep serving clients and making money with Web 2.0 tools and social networking.

    It’s like defending air as a good thing to breathe.

    Do Not Feed the Trolls.

    When a “debate opponent” has been using insults, libel, slurs, and other damaging tactics of abusive personal assault, why dignify their vomit with a debate?

    Note: the publisher, out of ideas on how to promote the crap book, wants the debate. I’ll bet the loser really really craves it.

  • They using trolling as a marketing strategy. Let’s not encourage such vulgar, moronic tactics.

  • Matt

    I hope you caught Keens panel at ON Hollywood Jeff sure Keen is a intellectual but he is also an Elitist that thinks you have to have a degree to make content .

    Can Democratization Kill Professional Mainstream Media?

    * Dan Farber, Editor-in-Chief, ZDNet
    * Andrew Keen, Author: The Cult of the Amateur,
    * Bill Cleary, Founder & Managing Partner, Cleary & Partners
    * Justin Kan, Founder, JustinTV

  • Of course you should debate Keen.

    After a turn at balanced assessment of the influence of amateur writing on the Internet circa 2002-4, you’ve recently gone whole-hog in the cheerleading camp for all things amateur. You wrote one of the best analyses of the toxic effect that bloggers had on the Howard Dean campaign, one in which you acknowledged the echo-chamber effect that cut Dean off from the mainstream and any hope of winning the nomination. Somehow you managed to satisfy yourself that the problems you saw in 2004 have gone away, or never mattered much to begin with.

    So your angle should be “I once thought the way Keen does, but now I don’t, and here’s why.” If you arrived at your current position through a process of reflection, it should be very easy to wipe the floor with Keen and expose him as the real amateur. That will kill his book sales and establish the legitimacy of your new vision.

    The fact that Keen is your opponent and not any of a half-dozen other people who’ve written about the negative trajectory of the Internet shouldn’t bother you, as any old prop will do.

    You once said that Kool-Aid drinking conferences such as O’Reilly’s Emerging Technologies would do well to invite critics and curmudgeons. You can make them part of the debate by engaging Keen.

    Don’t wimp out, stand up for what you believe.

  • Richard Bennett, man with two first names:

    Don’t you mean, wanker, “Don’t shun the debate, it’s the only way this dumpy author can get anybody interested in his whimsical Luddite ideas.”?

    I compare “intellectuals” to Jacques Derrida. Keen is a far cry from intelligent.

    I think this is more accurate, eh? Baiter. Troll.

  • Debate a person who seems enamored with trolling, baiting, flaming, harshing, sliming, and libel?

    Debate a person who thinks an insult or slur is a reply to a statement of theory or practice?

    Debate a person who will simply turn the debate into another dreary pulpit pounding circus of flimsy non-esoteric curses?

    How do you debate a troll? Whose whole goal is simply to say they debated such and such esteemed superior?

  • Tim

    Why doesn’t Keen start a blog, and simply debate you there?

    Oh, right.

  • Oh why not! Just apply a little Frontline and mush him like the gnat he is. Just make it live, okay?

  • SpaceyGracey: you shock me and I find your “remedy” quite disturbing. Sort of.

  • Bill Thompson

    I think you should take him on, if only because his publisher and their PR monkeys will get him lots and lots of coverage – he’s been on Radio 4 over here too – and we need to make sure that he is engaged with and humiliated by some good people who know what they are talking about. You will score some good points, you will highlight his intellectual failings and you’ll do it in an entertaining and witty style that will deflate his pomposity.

    Back in the day I used to debate Microsoft people about whether the Internet could survive under the onslaught of ‘The Microsoft Network’ – remember that? – and I’m proud of the part I played in keeping the discussion honest. You can do the same here, and help bring him down.

    And, of course, you’ll only do it on condition that the whole thing is CC-licensed and put online so the rest of can remix his squirming misery for our own purposes…

  • gb

    “…a mastadon (sic) growling against the warm wind of change.”

    WTH?! Mastodons growling? Against warm winds? This is an insult to metaphors (and mastodons everywhere – which likely didn’t “growl,” since growling is a quality common in carnivores, not herbivores such as the mastodon.)

    Furthermore, warm winds are welcomed – it’s the imbued characteristic of that hackneyed utterance; ’tis the cold winds (even those of “change”) people grumble about (or growl “against,” if you’re a meat-eater, but probably not even then). (Yeah yeah yeah, warm winds may not be too welcome if considering potential effects at the poles, but we’re talking metaphors here, so don’t go the literal route, ok? Thanks.)

    Feel free to debate Keen, but for Pete’s sake, find a couple “go-to” metaphors before you do so so people such as me don’t tune you out immediately for language/metaphor abuse.

    Information and its distributors (such as yourself) are subject to heuristics, more so now than ever due to the sheer volume of media bombarding us moment by moment. Given that fact, it’s not hard to imagine someone thinking “This guy is stupid. I’m not going to read/listen any more” after hearing/reading a statement such as that quoted above.

  • It’s an interesting choice but on balance I’d debate him. Selfishly, I’d love to see it.

    I know this is a morally slippery argument, but if you don’t someone else will and you’ll probably do a better job.

    And who cares if it gives him more publicity and more people buy his book? Why is that a problem? David Weinberger once said the solution to the problems of openness is more opennness and I think that applies here.

    Plus active scorn is way healthier than repressed scorn. Go sock it to him Jeff and take the mickey, that’s my two cents.

  • Eric Gagnon

    Let me be the lone supporter of Andrew Keen’s position on the destruction being wrought on our culture and media by the Internet and Web 2.0.

    When 55 commenters in a row (as on this thread) say that a man’s ideas aren’t worth regard, this tells me that the man in question is probably on to something.

    Jarvis, you should debate Keen–he is as articulate and thoughtful for the “other side” of your arguments as you are for yours.

  • I’d say don’t feed the troll. Your blog post about what’s wrong with his book, attitudes and mind says it all, on your own terms, without having to spend time on someone who is clearly fishing for publicity.

    His ideas are getting undue attention, it’s really hard to know where to start deconstructing his position. That is why a live debate may not be a way to go. It seems that he’s trying to put everyone on the defensive by being a deliberate troll. I believe a better job can be done by ignoring him.

    And if someone does debate him, we can always get the videos and mash them up. In more ways than one. :)

  • Use your global network to unearth someone who honestly and intelligently holds some of those contrarian views, and then debate that person. The trouble with the debate you’ve been invited to is that it will focus not only on ideas, but on motives.

  • “When 55 commenters in a row (as on this thread) say that a man’s ideas aren’t worth regard, this tells me that the man in question is probably on to something.”

    Or it could tell you that he would have been on to something but decided to become a troll instead.

  • MGL

    I still go back to the impetus of the question and how it is taking shape…it has nothing to do with Keen the person. I don’t care if he is a troll, an elitist, smart, stupid, rich, poor, sells one book or one million. It’s the message. Three weeks from today, I wonder how many people will say “I heard this interesting take about the media and the web. I don’t know who wrote it, but it sounded interesting, and scary.”

    And that’s precisely why I believe the debate needs to occur. You aren’t debating the person; you are debating the position.

  • First it was comment spammers that plagued the blessed blogosphere. Then pseudo-bloggery. Now it’s trolls who sling insults and slurs.

    I suggest an iron policy: Do Not Debate Trolls or Other Abusive Crybaby Bullies.

  • P.S. Remember mom’s advice: when you wrestle pigs, like insult slinging trolls, all you do is get filthy, and the pig loves it.

  • Jeff,

    Andrew Keen asked me to host a debate on the topic of his book between him and Dan Gillmor (“We the Media”) at my Berkeley Cybersalon May 20. Rather than focus on the ridiculous Manichean argument framed by Keen’s book, we’ve decided to focus on the issue you identify in your post: the impact of new media tools on journalism, culture, and politics, and possible outcomes. So I decided to include Katie Hafner, longtime technology reporter for the New York Times, as well as Robert Scoble, podcaster and author of “Naked Conversations.”

    I might suggest you add a couple more speakers to your “debate” to give it more substance, or change the focus from one of a subjective argument about the nature of technologically induced change to one about possible outcomes and the nature of scientific revolution per se.

  • Pingback: supporting andrew keen - The Reasonable Man()

  • If you want to debate something with a troll, I prefer to use Derrida deconstruction methods on them.

    Just keep interpreting their trolling tactics, in a non-personalized critique. Not “you keep insulting….” but “trolls tend to insult…”

    Act as though the personality of the troll is absent, and the text of the trollish statements are treated as free floating objects of narrative, unattached to emotional responses or strong belief systems and ideologies.

    Trolls don’t listen to reason. They hate proof and logic. They use insults and abusive comments to try to taunt or upset their stalked target. They hope this strategy will prove “controversial”.


    Debate a troll on Trolling and Abuse as Marketing Strategy, the evils thereof.

    Then burn all their Harry Potter books. heh

  • Debate a troll? First learn what a troll is, how they operate, and what their ultimate goals are (publicity, disrupt online community, sadistically upset nicer, smarter, richer, more popular people).

    The Matrix Guide to Online Trolls

  • The guide to online trolls is great reading. Thanks for the link. I recommend it to all.

  • Eric Gauvin

    This blog is more or less the same as the Jerry Springer show (also wildly successful–but doesn’t give it much value to society). The mob can stone me to death now. I have no idea who Jeff Jarvis is. Should I care after reading this post?

  • Eric Gauvin

    Okay, I just read your bio (slightly fluffed up pr piece, the disclosures thing is bit bizarre), and I was impressed to see that you work at CUNY. I think you should decide for yourself if you want to debate Andrew Keen, and I do think you come off as extremely arrogant if you say in effect, “he doesn’t deserve to debate me.”

  • Eric Gauvin

    Oh yes, one more thing… Since we’re pointing out irony here. I think it’s pretty funny that in your wikipedia entry, your claim to fame is working for “” which obviously is some sort of website, but doen’t link anywhere. It says, “Jarvis consults for” At the present time?? Is still around?

  • Eric,
    No one says you should care.

  • @Eric Gauvin: and you sir seem to be too lazy to research anything, like Keen and abusive comment trolling.

    Shall we also give into every whim of a pampered child when throwing temper tantrums?

    “Extremely arrogant” to not debate a repulsive insult slinger?

    Odd ideology you got there.

    You a PayPerPost slimer?

  • @Jeff Jarvis: you are welcome. Glad you like The Matrix Online: Guide To Trolls. Very nice encapsulation of the increasingly pervasive problem.

  • Eric Gauvin

    @ Jeff Jarvis,

    No one says you should care.”

    …but your obiously care greatly….

  • Eric Gauvin

    sorry for looking like an idiot, but after a little poking around I found out about, but I still stand by my comment that it should link to the site on wikipedia.

  • Eric Gauvin


    you’re the one throwing the temper tantrum… calm down.

  • Is Keen some kind of Andrew “Dice” Clay equivalent whose existence shouldn’t be dignified by acknowledgment?

    Your post seems to suggest he is 1) an easy target, at least for the right adversary, and 2) not easily exposed for what he is to the huddled masses.

    But great debates are about skilled argumentation, not about worthy resolutions. I wouldn’t avoid this challenge. In fact, I’d try to get him to slap you with his glove.

  • Eric Gauvin

    fancy me… I added the links to in wikipedia…

  • Eric Gauvin

    Good luck writing off Andrew Keen as a joke.

  • Trolls of a feather huddle under the bridge together.

  • Forget about him – anyone who genuinely thinks there is nothing good on the net can’t have been on it and if he doesn’t genuinely think this then he will be laughing at you inside as you play into his hands. Really, forget him.

  • Eric Gauvin

    @Jeff Jarvis,

    You’re an associate professor?! Holy crap! Didn’t you essentially just call me “bugger face”?!

    I don’t know how to respond to that.

  • Eric Gauvin

    @Jeff “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I” Jarvis

    just exactly was it that I said that made you call me a troll? simply disagreeing with you??

  • That’s what a troll is, Eric, someone who disagrees with the Group Consensus. How dare you take a different point of view! What are you, some kind of bourgeois individualist? The People’s Common Thought Collective must arrest you and send you to re-education camp, so you can emerge like Jaspers, complaining about “abusive comments” while calling people who disagree with him “wanker.”

    This comment thread is one of the all-time great examples of unconscious hive-mind irony and I’m saving it for posterity.

  • @Eric Gauvin: you ask what makes you a troll, but are too feeking lazy to do your own homework.

    Trolls encourage normals to debate other trolls.

    Eric, if you don’t display your web or blog URL, you have zero credibility. If you have no web or blog, you are lazier and more irrelevant than I initially supposed.

    @Richard Bennett: yet another trollish bucket of sloppy thinking. Consensus has nothing to do with it, and you should know that just from the points raised about how it is a waste of time to “debate” insult mongers and libelous troll brigades.


  • Eric Gauvin

    @Richard Bennett

    your description of being arrested and sent to re-education camp totally makes me picture some very nerdy D&D S&M… please be gentle…

  • @Richard Bennett: your blog is so clueless, you require users to Register to post comments.

    So much for your big belief in “free expression”.

    There is no reason to require comment posters to Register. If you fear spam, abuse, or troll comments, just use comment moderation with delayed posting, or in spambot cases, a captcha word verification device.

    Site registration for comments is usually done to block contrarians and to mine data about users for marketing efforts.

  • Webless Wonder Trolls: use blogs to bash bloggers, use Twitter to bash bloggers, use MSM to bash bloggers…

    then whine when their stupidity and laziness is exposed.

    I also burned your YuGiOh cards today. They were found next to your Harry Potter books, also burned.

    Sorry little boy.

  • Jeff,

    This entire comment thread serves as a great example of why you should not have a debate with Keen.

    After all is said and done, what is the outcome?

    “They” walk away feeling smug, because they got you worked up when trying to show them how they don’t get it, and believe me, you’ll get worked up, simply because you are passionate about this space.

    It will be a futile attempt. Let them write books. There are thousands of books, written by people who have no clue what they are talking about, so what’s the big deal if there is one more?

    Some people might actually read and agree with Keen’s book – who cares? If they are smart readers, they will read other books as well, and his will quickly drop to the bottom of their stack.

    I mean, hell, Al Gore has a following to, but do they really DO anything besides make a bunch of noise?

  • Eric Gauvin

    @Michael Bailey

    “…do they really DO anything besides make a bunch of noise?”


  • @EricGauvin,

    I’m glad that you agree with me.
    How many instructional videos have you made?

    Do you post about the latest trends in technology, so that others might be able to take a shorter road to learning about the best ones?

    Do you volunteer your time to local groups and lead sessions about any topic so that a few people might actually learn something?

    Or, do you simply make passing comments on blogs, where others might get worked up a bit, because you are only being a fool?

  • @Eric Gauvin: go start a free, simple blog or pay a web designer to get your company online, then come to the blogosphere and spout your opinions.

    Without embedding a URL in your name, linking to your site, you have no relevance.

  • Eric Gauvin


    “Without embedding a URL in your name, linking to your site, you have no relevance.”

    How so?

    (and I don’t mean, how do I “embed a URL in my name,” I mean how does that make me irrelevant?)

  • In this blog, I agree that “Relevance is restricted to relationships between utterances and interpretations?”

    All I can find are your utterances, and without a link to your site, I cannot decide how to correctly interpret them.

  • Eric Gauvin

    @Michael Bailey

    If you have any sense of humor at all, you’ve got to read your last post a laugh.

    C’mon lighten up. What are you saying??

  • @Eric Gauvin: can you read English? LOL

    You. Have. No. Relevance. Without. A. Web. Site.

    You webless trolls bash bloggers, champion internet-haters, and act all dopey about why you are irrelevant.

  • Oh this is so gloriously awesome.

    1. Old schooler stabs new schoolers
    2. New schoolers freak the hell out (ironically, showing the power of the amateur)
    3. Old schooler probably smirks at the power/troll/pr/amateur-ness of his efforts
    4. Book will sell
    5. New schooler revolt brings in more new schoolers
    6. Book two in the works (we read the first one)
    7. See #2, then #8.
    8. Book 2 comes out
    9. Vaspers the abrasive (who I lurrv dearly, long time reader first time @’er) will post 34,343,234 more posts about said old schooler.
    10. I’ll say some nonsensical shit on Twitter that tells people to steal from both Jarvis and Keen
    11. Also, moderation rules
    12. I can out Web 2.0 you and probably would find valid points in the book
    13. Fighting / debating / trolling (whatever personal spin term you wanna use ) = profit!
    14. Glad I found the thread late
    15. Debate, do it
    16. See #2

  • @Eric Rice:

    Anti-Internet Trolls are “new skoolers”?

    Hating users, “amateurs”, online forums, bloggers, and Cluetrain web principles?

    That is Old Economy, Old Command and Control, Old Narcissistism.

    Today’s hipster cat coolios are Altruistic, hate trolls and cyber bullies, and will not debate insult slingers.

  • @Eric Rice.

    I’m corn fused. Who is “old skool” vs. who is “new skool”?

    Oh well, no time to ferret it out. Have 34,343, 233 more comments to post on this topic.


  • @vaspers it very well may be, but there are two mobs here and one is bigger than the other.

    Jarvis could so totally make this about him, and us, and our whole thing. But good god enough with the Kumbaya.

    Yes, I’m saying fight fire with fire. Smack him in the face and HARD, but first, read what he has to say, listen to what he has to say, before whipping out the textbook terminology like troll. I’ve always thought that This Thing We Do will make Big Media stronger because of the sheer volume and output of noise.

    Also, let’s stop treating the Cluetrain like the American Constitution. It might need a little updating, otherwise, we can go invite the DiggDotters into this where it’s all funny anyway to copy/paste shoes on heads, and see the value of a horrible mass conversation.

    All I’m sayin’ is, we aren’t as precious as we think, and it’s dangerous to sit around the campfire all day.

  • @EricRice: I use “Cluetrain” and “Web 2.0” as shorthand for a set of working principles.

    There is also Seth Godin, Gonzo Marketing book by C. Locke, Al & Laura Ries, and many others who articulate nicely what the battle is all about.

    I love debate, as you are probably aware. But one thing I do not accept is the troll.

  • Vaspers, you might be a little more credible if you had the balls to use a real name. As for my being a “newbie”, you might enjoy this post from Jarvis in 2002.

    Name-calling may be fun, but it doesn’t really qualify as debate.

  • Richard, his name is all over the place. Are nicknames not allowed? Just askin’.

  • I definitly think you should debate him. Of course is after publicity and of course some of his ideas are ridiculous, but some are not and are worth debating. Because there’s nothing more dangerous than unanimity.

    You are the heavywheight champion of the new world and you are being challenged. Could you say no?

    But, if you do confront him, take care: he’s a sneek smart fellow. I’m sure you know this debate between him and Chris Anderson over at SFGate ( For me, Chris is on your leage of heavywheights and I think he took a beating from Keen on that debate. If I may be so bold as to coach you, my advice is that you go through that debate to learn how to confront him. You may need it.

    But, hey, my dollar is on you!

  • You know life has descended into Trolldom when all the comments are about the commenters and how they comment. Let’s talk substance or get a life, shall we?

  • Ray Lewis

    So if this guy is McCarthy someone needs to be Murrow. Why not you? But his bio doesn’t indicate that he has the power to subpoena or pass legislation. Perhaps he is simple enough to go quickly into the night under scrutiny from people less able than yourself. Still, the vehemence of the response here and elsewhere can only shine more brightly on him for at least a time. Maybe just remove the virus before it becomes a plague.

    Remember, he is a polemicist who is trying to pitch a book in the 2000-naughts. This response seems a little over-threatened. (Haven’t read it, though, just the quotes.)

    It is interesting that in decrying this result of democratization, Keen is choosing a tactic that I would think he would agree is also indicative of the increasingly sorry state of human affairs – he who yells loudest or paints most extremely or calls the most names is the monkey who often gets the brass ring.

  • Have the debate. Why not? You ask if we should give it attention. If we don’t, we’re only giving ‘one’ viewpoint attention, the side that supports Web 2.0 kool-aid in its current form, frankly the only conversation I hear in Silicon Valley.

    Has everyone who commented here with strong insults read the book? I finished it a couple of weeks ago and while the book has a number of flaws and makes attacks I wish it didn’t make, Keen has a few valid points worth hearing. His voice most definitely comes across as elitist but so do many other well-meaning authors trying to support an issue they’re passionate about.

    It is not true that he does not acknowledge anything good about the Internet but it’s close — that’s a main drawback and one reason that reviewers will have a field day once this book hits the market.

    While some of Keen’s stats really resonated with me, many of your digs are spot on Jeff. I agree that Keen is trying to hold onto the past, “growling against the warm wind of change.” I felt that over and over again while ploughing through it, and yes, he had plenty of “sloppy generalities and blanket insults” which is what makes the book lose so much of its power.

    That said, Keen’s argument IS one that needs to be discussed — discussed outside of his personal attacks and nostalgic thoughts that all too often come across as anti-digital revolution and even, anti-democracy as you pointed out.

    Like you, I celebrate new forms of creation and expression on the web and elsewhere. My blog and voice is in fact, a result of new tools available in the new media world. But here’s why we can’t ignore this debate and conversation, whether its Keen’s book or some of the issues he and others raise often in private forums.

    I had (or at least felt I had) more intellectual content from 3-4 TV stations living in South Africa and England at a time when the U.S. had more than a dozen. Now we have thousands of stations between cable, on-demand, HBO, and sites like YouTube, Jaman and others. I love what Jaman and other services like it is doing to bring independent films to my PC screen. (music and film). While these services are perfect examples of the positive outcome of user-generated content rising to the top, I see so much mediocrity that it makes my eyes water.

    He talks about the real challenge in Anderson’s long tail market of infinite shelf space is “knowing what to read, listen to or watch. If you think the choice in your local record store is daunting, then just wait till the long tail uncoils its infinite length.” Overwhelmed isn’t a strong enough emotion for how this transition feels for so many of us. He adds, “the one resource that is challenged all the more by this long tail of amateur content is our time — the most limited and precious resource of all.”

    That and the fact that amateurism rather than expertise is celebrated and revered. While this language is elitist of Keen, the Web 2.0 noise, kool-aid discussions and abundance of more mediocre choices keeps me sifting endlessly through an online maze of choices. The result? It makes it harder to make an intellectual decision and find content that wins me over.

    Does that mean that the unschooled populace can’t come up with an amazingly creative intelligent idea? Of course not. Look all the new incredible plethora of services we can now access. Pandora is a great example of a site that brings new independent creators to the masses in a way that would never have been possible before. Bravo.

    So if we can pull ourselves away from our vehement dislike of Keen’s blanket mostly one-sided views and him personally, extract the valuable nuggets from his book and start a healthy open open dialogue without personal attacks (on both sides), then we can more intellectually, collectively and democratically discuss BOTH sides, which includes the negative impact of this digital revolution.

    In a world where more and more data hits our screens daily and in multiple forms (video, audio, news, informational data), we need more intelligent filters. And while I don’t agree with gatekeepers, anointed institutions and experts, perhaps we have a combination of both to better help people realize what is real, spam, propoganda or other?

    When we read The Economist or The New Yorker, we have its history and reputation to bank on. Ethics behind its editorial content? Most of us think so because of that history. It is NOT that everyone who is now a creator on the web is an ignorant monkey as Keen describes, but that mediocrity and amateur noise is growing, information is growing exponentially, and we’re faced with the pain of sifting through the flood of exploding amateur content.

    I’d love to see a healthy debate, one which talks about ways to solve some of the concerns Keen raises while supporting the growth of independent content we can now take advantage of in our new world.

    Renee Blodgett

  • Eric Gauvin

    @Jeff Jarvis

    You call people trolls (you called me a troll, and I think calling people names is childish). I think just asking the question “should I debate Andrew Keen” is rather troll-like and unprofessional (if not wimpy). As a scholar, you should be honored and priveleged by the invitation. A debate is an about ideas. It’s not like this crazy free-for-all here on your blog. I think you can decide who to debate on your own and enflaming your readers emotions on the topic shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

  • Good post, Renee.

  • Jon

    Chris said:
    But dissent isn’t hate. It’s just disagreement.

    The Internet has given many of us a different perspective on this. When I was a teenager, I was convinced of engaging challengers.

    Many of us have now had plenty of experience with debating people uninterested in facts or in thoughtful argument. The ONLY time it’s a good idea is if you’re feeling annoyed. There’s no hope of persuading the person you’re debating or his coreligionists. In the blogosphere, it’s even worse, because people see there’s nothing there and stop paying attention.

    Worst, trolls have a way of writing/talking at unbelievable length, so it takes lots of time.

  • Jon

    No, the attention bit is incomplete – really, you get less attention from reasonable people, and more from unreasonable people.

  • Eric Gauvin

    I just don’t know what Jeff Jarvis finds so complex (threatening?) about an invitation to debate with Andrew Keen. I think Renee got to the heart of it. We need a healthy debate on the many complex sides of this topic. Let me say that my impression of Jeff Jarvis so far is that he is more interested in maintaining his celebrity status as a “guru” and “thought leader” (just another way to hype being a professor, journalist) and maintaining his fan base (which as I bluntly pointed out earlier reminds me of a Jerry Springer audience). According to your wikipedia entry, he likes “…to talk with people whose opinions don’t align with his views.” Here’s your chance.

    (My prediction: Jeff Jarvis’s “schedule” won’t allow him.)

  • Jeff,
    It’s good that you are asking but I don´t see why you wouldn´t debate Andrew Keen. Web 2.0 is celebrated because it gives everyone a right and practical means to a voice and a platform. They are laudable values but Keen is not alone in questioning their long term effects on society.

    Wouldn´t it be contradicting these values of Web 2.0 to deny a credible blogger and author the opportunity to debate the challenges to society that these values bring?

    Keen asks ‘Can we really trust society …?’ It´s a fair questions. Referenda are so infrequently used because generations of leaders have concluded that we can’t. In the UK, we’d probably have the death penalty and the draft if we did trust society enough for them to vote.

    I happen not to agree with the Andrew´s view that cultural catastrophe is certain (in fact I have created a citizen media site myself) but I do think you should find the time to debate him. If you don’t, then other pro-Internet commentators might not either and then where will we be? Censorship by clique?

  • Jeff,

    You have nothing to gain by the exchange.

    The wrestling with a pig example is spot on.

    Those who claim that humanity will somehow be served by you debating this individual, Keen, whatever, seem to feel that your words will set something right.

    Keen and his ilk, minions. publishers, publicists, whatever will have to content themselves by trumpeting, “Jarvis Refused to Debate Keen”.

    When you refuse to take the bait, any readers will just have to come to the BuzzMachine and your article(s) will say all that needs to be said.
    On your turf.
    At your convenience.
    In your own inimitable style.

    Let Keen and company wail in the outer darkness all they want. They are creating it. Your presence and comments are providing the only light. Spend your energy where it will do the most good.

  • So it comes down to this: if you think you can win the debate, do it, and if you think you can’t, don’t. The people who advise you not to engage Keen are saying you’ll lose.

    PS: Read Plato’s Republic for insight on democracy with a small “d.” Keen’s analysis relies heavily on the classics.

  • Jeff, do the deed. Wear some nice socks. Comb your beard. Bring your mind.

    New Media may have its place, but we all need to get out a bit more, no matter how old-fashioned that seems.

    If the USA will let me into the country (I have a ticket for 35mph in a 30 zone from 1995) I’ll come along too.

    Healthy live debate needs live people.

  • Richard,
    I thought you were above cheap rhetorical sleights. I’m crushed.

  • Eric Gauvin

    People talk about this as it it will make or break Jarvis or “the movement” in some way. I think the point is to have some really smart people discuss an important topic and learn someting in the process. There isn’t really any “winner” or “loser.” It’s about ideas.

    (not like Jerry Springer, Fox News, no name calling–that’s not the way I would expect either of these highly intelligent people to conduct themselves)

  • Eric Gauvin

    Quick question Jeff,

    The fact that you are a professor at CUNY led me to believe you are a professor in the “old school” sense (have a Ph.D.), but all I can find is some info that seems to indicate that you dropped out of college in 1974.

    Hate to sound so rude, but most profs generally have a long list of degrees. What’s your educational background. I can’t find it anywhere. Knowledge College? School of Hard Knocks?

  • What makes you possibly think I dropped out? I have a journalism degree from Medill at Northwestern.

  • Oh, and by the way, who are you?

  • Eric Gauvin

    I’m just a guy in the blogosphere…

    I’m asking because that’s a fairly prestigious degree. Do you mind if I update your wikipedia entry. It says, “In 1974 Jarvis was an undergraduate at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University when he was hired by the Chicago Tribune.” Doesn’t say anything about a degree.

    But I did find some info on the Medill site that states you got a degree in ’75. How did that come about? Did you earn the degree partially through work-study at the Chicago Tribune? The dates don’t line up…

  • Eric,
    Since you asked… I finished high school in three years and then college in three years. By age, I should be the class of 76 out of college but I shaved two years off and graduated ini December, as I recall, of 74. I had been working at Chicago Today (a paper that had no tomorrow) while going to school, from September 73 to Friday the 13th of September 74, when the paper folded. I then caught the lifeboat to the Tribune as I finished off my last classes to complete the degree (including, stupidly, an economics course in the Northwestern night school on Fridays after I got off work for the week at 7a Friday morning; damned near didn’t graduate because I overslept for class). But I finished my requirements and kept working. Northwestern didn’t make it easy for me but I was damned if I was going to give up a job at the Chicago Tribune and so I insisted on night school and won the battle. The next year, as I recall, I became an assistant city editor of the Tribune; if I’d stayed at Northwestern, I’d have been completing my master’s about then. There’s the tale. Since you asked.

  • Eric Gauvin

    How come it’s not more simply stated that you have a BAJ from Northwestern? I’d think that would be a really simple stat you’d include in your bio for sure.

  • Eric Gauvin

    I guess you were a bit of a wunderkind, but I’m not sure if I’m buying your hypothetical master’s degree theory.

  • Jeff — question:

    what has this noble exercise taught you about the efficacy of pure plebiscitory forms of web democracy?

    So you opened up with a provocative original post. We got the inevitable lumpenproletarian insult-mongering. And we got some really fair remarks from Jay, Renee & Chris.

    But are you any closer to making a decision? did this debate sway you one way or another? Did it teach you something that you didn’t already know?

    The only thing it taught me is about the academic origins of your journalistic career. Was that worth such a long-winded, if occasionally amusing debate?


  • How lacking in generosity that is of you, Andrew. Yes, I learned a lot. Some people contributed a lot, some little. But to lump all but three into the lumpenproletariat is too typical of your schtick. You suggested continuing the discussion online and that is how I am leaning so it is in public.

  • Oh, c’mon Andrew – are you intending to learn anything in your debate? Is the whole affair going to teach anyone anything, except perhaps at the level of how to play for media coverage? There’s a certain silly pot-kettle-black aspect of decrying a debate about whether to have a debate. Or maybe the proposed “debate” has just been done in miniature.

    [n.b., I think a better analogy is less Jerry Springer and more at professional wrestling – it’s about the performance of the “characters”]

  • Seth — lol. yes, you are probably right. And I’m the bad guy wrestler, the heartless one who eats babies for breakfast and then limits access to the Internet for only the rich and famous.

    Jeff — delighted that you want you want to do the debate online, in the full gaze of the world’s media. Like the Super Bowl or the World Cup final, shall we do it a neutral digital venue? My only request is that we have a moderator who establishes the rules, keeps the peace and makes it fun.


  • Andrew: You’ve had your say in the book. I’ll likely continue to react to what you’ve said here on my blog. And we can discuss with ourselves and others. The web, you see, enables conversation.

  • Eric Gauvin

    …hmm. This is sounding a lot like that masters degree of yours…

  • I think Wikipedia is a great place to create information, but there is now quite a bit of elitism present. I believe the environment is becoming hostile to casual Wikipedia contributors, which is going to have a substantial impact on the shape it takes in the future. What I’m referring to is the maze of policy doctrine (what I often refer to as Wikipedia Scripture) which one must become familiar with if one would like their contributions to endure.

  • Caylie Pasteur

    There should be a debate and a respectful one. Andrew Keen seems to get a lot of flak for simply posing interesting questions. What are the negatives of Web 2.0? It’s so easy to say “oh the future, it’ll work out — always has” but there’s nothing wrong with questioning the ‘whatever’ we are heading into. Keen has written a book about it, and in the spirit of intellectual curiosity there should be a legitimate debate. So far Keen seems to simply get the chucklehead treatment, where a bunch of debatees chide him for what they think is his backwards thinking followed by condescending pats on the back — “you did good ol’ chap with the effort and all.” Both sides have their pros and cons, but let us not test them because we all have our Egos to protect.

  • john caddidy

    “Now I’d be fine having an debate about what the change means and what’s good and bad about it, but Keen makes it all bad with sloppy generalities and blanket insults — like the very worst blog.”

    Well, while you’re thinking about “having AN debate” (sic), you might consider that Keen is hardly the clueless prankster you make him out to be. It would be an interesting debate.

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  • I find all this very interesting. I only blog because it ranks high in Google. ;) But I think there ARE some interesting blogs out there. I read about all this on Hadn’t read either of you guys’ stuff, although I’d heard of buzzmachine.

    I find it ironic that he slams blogs but then has one of his own, with the comments turned off very quickly! ;) Hmm.

    Also, I’d like to read that book of his – just to see what it’s like… somehow, without having to buy it from him. Hah.


  • John

    Why would you debate something so true? The Web is full of amateurs that is fact. I think everyone needs to understand the real meaning of this statement.

  • David Bernier

    There is a story at CNN from Reuters:

    Apparently, someone has already debated Keen:

    “Clay Shirky, a lecturer on new media technology at New York University, came spoiling for a fight with Keen at a recent online politics conference in New York. Instead, Shirky says he found himself defending Keen.”

    I agree with you that Keen, as far as I know,
    doesn’t mention finding anything good
    from “citizen media”.

    If you don’t debate him, Keen can write:
    “Jeff Jarvis, the famous blogger , was too
    afraid to debate me!” [ not a good outcome
    for those who believe in the value of
    “citizen media”]

    If you _do_ debate him, then there will be
    a _public record_ of this, for the foreseable
    future. Presumably, you can achieve some
    sort of rebuttal, given your journalistic
    experience, etc.

    Debating him might increase his book sales,
    but on the other hand might well
    diminish his credibility.

    On balance, I think a debate is a “good thing”.


  • John Grogan

    Wow, what a hoot!

    To quote Mr. Jarvis:

    “I’m not handing over my authority; I’ll decide what to do. But I do value your opinion.”

    Authority? Your authority over what? Your authority over yourself or do you fancy yourself as Lord of the Bloggers?

    Well, seeing as Mr. Jarvis fancies himself as Lord of the Flies, I think it unnecessary, as Mr. Keen insists, that a set of laws governing behaviour on the net is needed.

    There is definitely a codependent and sycophantic relationship between your Highness, Mr. Jarvis and his subjects.

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  • Sanjeev

    You must go because I want to see you at the loosing end.

    I agree with Andrew on many of his points. I feel like him that the Internet has been a boon to amatures, and it has eroded people’s passion for deep knowledge on anything. The ‘copy-paste’ cuture has marred originality and creativity. I see the Internet as no different from a cheap music television the only interest of which is to sell useless consumer products like lubricated condoms and designer bras.

    You will loose, and I wish you decided to go.

  • ThatGuy

    Keen’s wrong. Flat out. Here’s why: The sort of “New Media” enabled by the Internet is just like any other “Market” – think economic terms here, and I’ll use Internet access points as an analogue. When a Market first opens up, there will likely be only a few players due to high entrance costs, etc. This is the original Compuserve, AOL, etc. As the cost to enter that market becomes less, the number of competitors increases, and profits decline. As the profit declines, competitors go out of business, and we see a consolidation of the players. Many times these survivors are not the original players, or if they do still exist, their form is different than originally seen. By surviving, these organizations have more than likely developed something that customers find valuable – and customers as a block with significant buying power are NOT stupid. Now, let’s look at the “New Media” explosion of bogs, etc. It’s the same thing – the cost to enter the market is extremely low – free in fact. Any amateur – or professional – in the world with a computer and internet access can start a blog in less than 5 minutes, for absolutely no money. BUT – this “New Media” WILL behave like just like virtually every other market – it will eventually begin to consolidate. Certain sites will begin to emerge as the leaders, the “Biggies” of the Market (anyone remember any of the other online auction sites before eBay? There were actually quite a few.), and many, no – MOST, of the other blogs out there right now will fold – they will be no more noticeable than those “Homepages”,or self-made portals that hundreds of thousands of us had 15 years ago which told a little about ourselves, and then listed our bookmarks. Wait a minute – isn’t that a lot of what myspace and facebook and other similar “social networking” sites allow us to do now?

    My point is that nothing is being ruined by ANY amateurs – all that is happening is simply a market in evolution – no more or less.

    In fact, I would argue that in fact EVERYONE/ORGANIZATION currently “playing” in the area of “New Media” are amateurs, as this Market is NOT the same as the so-called “legacy” media because although it deals in information and communications, the differences are in fact large enough as to define a NEW Market. It’s like the sport of Cricket versus the sport of Baseball. They have similarities, but are very different – just like “Legacy” versus “New” media.

  • Prince Albert

    How do you know it was really Sam Huxley?

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  • Ralfy

    What I find interesting is that many of the articulate critics of Keen’s book grew up without Youtube, Wikipedia, and the Internet.

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  • Nancy Brooks (“bluhvn”)

    Oh, debate, debate, Mr. Jarvis!

    I just recently figured out what a blog is. Everyone kept talking about blogs, nonstop, and I could not wait to see one!

    It’s worse than I thought. I agree completely with Andrew Keen, and will buy his book and try to contact him (does anyone know how?) to let him know. Never mind, I will “research” it.

    In the late seventies we started giving everyone a personal computer. That was the first mistake; Andrew Keen may be too young to have been around then … and there were instant writers, layout artists, technical “experts” … oh goody, I can do this myself without having to study or listen to anyone who ever has … The same thing has happened in the crafts, like joinery. Any asshole can go to Home Depot and—instant architect! Instant Master Joiner, Plumber, Electrician! Now I can build my own … McMansion! And don’t study music; just go on American Idol! You do not have to know the scale anymore, dummy. Just imitate whom you like, and ….

    Yes, now the world is full of crap. It would have happened anyway, maybe, but the computer has sped up the process a little. There probably always plagiarism, but now it’s discovered and exposed sooner.

    I would never debate Mr. Jarvis, though, because his internet-origin vocabulary is perfect, and I cannot keep up because I am a full-time reader at 67, trying to catch up on the classics because I was working at the computer to make a living while my contemporaries were students and upwardly mobile. But I do get all my books on Abe. Hardbacks only, and as many first editions as I can afford. My “newest” one is In Defense of Elitism.

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  • All debate is worthwhile.

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