Guy Kawasaki and Gary Hamel produced a pair of lists this week offering tips on Web 2.0 usage that widely missed the mark. <a href="">Hamel published his list in the Wall Street Journal</a>; Kawasaki's is reproduced from a presentation attended by a blogger and Microsoft employee named <a href="">Don Dodge</a>.

Michael Hickins, Contributor

March 27, 2009

5 Min Read

Guy Kawasaki and Gary Hamel produced a pair of lists this week offering tips on Web 2.0 usage that widely missed the mark. Hamel published his list in the Wall Street Journal; Kawasaki's is reproduced from a presentation attended by a blogger and Microsoft employee named Don Dodge.Kawasaki's list was a list of tips and tricks for using Twitter, and the basic problem I have with his approach is the underlying inference that most people use Twitter for the purpose of selling something.

It could have as easily been promoted as a primer on bad marketing, which I define as finding ways to subvert the original intent of something like Twitter and turn it into a forum for marketing pitches.

Kawasaki's approach will only guarantee the destruction of Twitter. He might not realize this, but most people still use Twitter as a means of conversing with their friends, and just because Tweets are searchable doesn't mean people want their Twitter experience to devolve into a searchable database of their interests and predilections.

You can see where he's coming from with his very first point:

Forget the A-Listers. If your goal is to get Robert Scoble or Mike Arrington to write about you or ReTweet your stuff, you will be disappointed. Instead, find the people who care about you and your interests. Promote yourself and they will find you, and become your best evangelists.

Forget the A-Listers, unless of course you're interested in following what Robert Scoble or Michael Arrington have to say. It's pretty 1999 to approach this as uni-directional broadcasting. And it contradicts the next bit of advice: Follow everyone who follows you. According to Dodge, Kawasaki follows over 100,000 people, and has 94,000 followers.

Guy says 'It is arrogant to think you are worth following, but the person following you is not worth following.'

So on the one hand, only follow people who will follow you. And on the other, if you think someone who follows you isn't worth following themselves, that makes you arrogant.

Arrogant? How about simply realistic? Just because a public relations flak decides to follow me doesn't mean I want to follow him or her. They might be, if they represent companies or subjects I care about, but they might also be idiots who came to the mistaken conclusion that I follow pro wrestling because I used the "sport" as a metaphor in one of my posts.

Hamel's list is directed at managers at Fortune 500 companies, with the purpose of helping those companies "get hip with the younger generation" or some impulse equally inspired by the Mod Squad.

He lists a dozen "characteristics of online life" that managers should take into consideration so they don't alienate "young" people just coming into the workforce. The list is a farce.

If Hamel really believes his first point, he's truly naive about the interplay of forces on the Web:

1. All ideas compete on an equal footing. On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a followin--or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.

Just ask Digg users how they feel about that statement. Even on the sanctified Web, people have figured out how to game recommendation engines and link-baiting.

The next idea might be true if there weren't this little thing called Google Page Rank:

2. Contribution counts for more than credentials. When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees--none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.

On the contrary, Gary, Google cares very much about credentials. For example, Google weights links out from academic institutions much more heavily than links from, say, news sites. And sites like InformationWeek have more juice with Google than, say, bloggers who don't work off a major platform.

Here's another whopper on Hamel's list:

5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned. The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.

Way to point people to the edge of the cliff, Gary. I can just see an accounting clerk opting to jump on a plane and make a few sales calls in Las Vegas, instead of doing his assignment. He'll be opting his way to the unemployment line.

The issue I have with both Kawasaki and Hamel is that, by virtue of their authority (yeah, that still exists), they are setting back the real benefits of Web 2.0. Twitter is a tool that connects people, but if used as Kawasaki suggests, it becomes another means of alienating them from one another. Teaching Twitter tricks to marketing people is on a par with selling the secret of the H-bomb to the Soviets.

The beauty of the interactive Web is that it connects and gives people new opportunities to express themselves and connect to others in addition to, not instead of, the organizations to which they already adhere.

Whether at school or work, Web 2.0 can enhance our lives, but not if it's seen as a threat to people over some arbitrary age, or some magic elixir that can free everyone from the constraints of offline life.

I'd much rather see both these guys turn their considerable intellects towards educating us on the real benefits of Twitter and Facebook than distorting or misconstruing their benefits to fulfill a contract with a publisher or a conference organizer.

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