David Weinberger at Microsoft: professionals and amateurs

David Weinberger spoke at a symposium on web publishing here at Microsoft today. He argued that while professionalism is great, we need to be aware of and respectful of the amateur voice on the web as well. He says it’s not really “community” in the sense of people who care more about each other than they really have to, but it is at least about groups. These are going to be impressionistic notes…

“Professionalism: let’s search for clip art on the key word professional in Outlook, shall we? Scary.

“Management and the Web: the Web violates a long standing rule of human efforts that the larger the effort, the larger the degree of control required. This is true for dams, but not for the Web. The control function was taken out in order for it to scale. And it has. But in the back of our mind we know that we are in a permission free zone. Which is part of the joy of the web.

“Then we go to our jobs, which are like forts. We selectively release information to our customers, which is called marketing; to our employees (visualized as Oompa Loompas), which is called managing; and to our partners. But the walls are full of holes, and the company is now one of the worst sources of information about its own products.

“How did we get here? Markets used to be about conversations; now marketing is a verb and it’s done to people. We release as little information as we can to control our customers. It goes back to the industrial revolution. Interchangeable goods, interchangeable workers, interchangeable customers. You know, before the 1920s, consumption was a disease. It meant you were coughing up blood. Now it’s not even an insult any more. We can look at these interchangeable consumers as a way to drive down the cost of advertising. Reduce them to the lowest common denominator, cram the messages down their throats, and sell more stuff!

But as Doc Searls says, there’s no market for messages. We all run from them, Tivo past them. And marketers respond by making marketing even more ubiquitous. So marketing becomes like war; marketing campaigns, saturation marketing, targeted marketing, etc.”