After the relative disappointments of the last two books I’ve read (Grown Up Digital and Free) this one by Clay Shirky really does stand out. I’ve known about this book for a while and even bought a copy as a present for somebody, so I decided it was time to take a read for myself. I wasn’t disappointed.
The text has a real “warm” feeling to it, with the odd splash of humour. You feel that Shirky has really thought about what he wants to say and has taken time to express his ideas. He puts his ideas forward very clearly and there are many moments when you go “yes, that’s true” or “I hadn’t thought of it that way.” His main point is that people will come together (for whatever purpose) if you remove the barriers to that happening – and that is what is occurring now with the use of technology and online social tools (email, blogs, wikis and more.)
One area where he excels is looking at the media, in particular newspapers and journalism . His chapter “Everyone is a Media Outlet” sums up the main points incredibly well, especially in relation to the effect of amateurization on the profession of journalist. What is a journalist these days – who qualifies? – now that anyone can publish their own content to the world, effectively for free. Where others can spend countless thousands of words dealing with the plight of newspapers, Shirky can seemingly simply conclude:
If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.
And when you think about it, that is one of the core problems news organisations are facing, pure and simple.
This book easily joins the group of iconic “technology / business” books such as The Long Tail, The World is Flat, Wikinomics, The Search and (for me) Outliers. Read it today, sleep on it and feel more informed tomorrow.