Adventures in Missing the Point of the Generous Web

kinnon —  June 2, 2006 — 7 Comments

I keep coming back to this Generous Web meme that I began to write about in April.

My first post on it was in response to a post by Tim O’Reilly based on a Doc Searls email, as well as the Pinko Marketing concept that my fellow Canadian, Tara Hunt, was trying to promote as the next Cluetrain. (Tara is full of brilliant ideas – she might only need to work on their branding.) In fairness, I should note that another Canadian, Kate, responding to the same Searls post came to the same concept (Generous Web) the day before me. (Must have something to do with being Canadian.) The simple reality is that the real progenitor of the Generous Web and one of its best examples is Doc Searls. From the Doc to Tim email:


"…relationship is what actually makes markets. I’m talking about real markets here: places where we do business and make culture. Relationship takes the passions we put into creating businesses and makes them work in the social context we call a market. (Did anybody ever go into business because they were looking for a way to please stockholders?)

You have to be generous in relationships.

I learned this from a Nigerian theologian named Sayo Ajiboye, by the way."

Further, I promised to write an essay on it, that never materialized. My good friend, Ed Brenegar filled in many of the holes in my thoughts with his well written post here. And Kami Huyse wrote a great post, called the Culture of Generosity – which I found through Shel Israel’s post that both appreciated and expressed concern with Tara’s Pinko Marketing while positively commenting on Kami’s post.

So why do I write about this again this week. What investment do I have in it that causes me to respond to what I see as an attempt to create The Generous Web™ – a response to what some see as an Us and Them Blogosphere, with "them" being "A-listers" and The Generous Web™ owners, the "us". I’m not really interested in this bifurcated blogosphere, and neither do I buy it. Further, "them" appear to be looking for a way to montetize the Generous Web meme. It seems to me be an adventure in missing the point.

Without the ubiquity of the web there wouldn’t be a blogosphere. (Thank you, Sir Tim.) There wouldn’t be a sea of people generously sharing their ideas, thoughts, fears, stories, emotions and more. Some of the best blog writers might appear in Main Stream Media outlets – but many great ones would not. Either as a result of their fear of rejection (that the seeming anonymity of the web has helped them overcom)e, or because their "real jobs" wouldn’t give them the time to pursue an outlet for their creativity. (I doubt Robert Scoble would have the voice he has today – and I, for one, would miss him.)

The Generous Web has unleashed a sea of voices in the blogosphere – voices we might not otherwise have heard. And what of the power of these blog writers – A blog is merely a tool that lets you do anything from change the world to share your shopping list." according to A-Lister, Jeff Jarvis.

"Blogosphere A-Listers" has become a pejorative phrase, at least for some of those lessor-read blog writers. As if somehow the success of the A-List blogs in attracting an audience has automatically made them arrogant. Proud, perhaps – arrogant, certainly not my experience. (I love this David Freeman quote on the difference between Arrogance and Pride – ‘Arrogance is "I’m valuable, you’re nothing." Pride, or dignity is "I’m valuable, you’re valuable.") I have had email and blog conversations with many A-Listers. They are open and accessible in my experience – which is partly why they are as successful as they are.

It’s rather obvious that I resent the attempt to hijack the Generous Web meme. It is not mine to control or direct (as it wasn’t mine to begin with*) but I am ticked that some seem to want to use it as a way to seperate from – rather than embrace the Open Source sharing of much wisdom, knowledge and even humour across the entire blogosphere.

Written from a desk in Imbi’s and my temporary flat in Nairobi, Kenya.

BTW – "Adventures in Missing the Point" is shamelessly stolen from the title of a book by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo.

*If you do a Technorati search of "Generous Web" in quotes, you’ll find Kate first mentions it on April 7th, me on April 8th – both of us in response to Doc Searles, as mentioned at the top of the post. Others, much later to the party, have claimed it as their own.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

7 responses to Adventures in Missing the Point of the Generous Web

  1. This whole A-lister phenomenon is an interesting one, and I think it is something that is inherent in human nature.

    There are those that feel their ideas are locked out of the process or minimalized, and sometimes they are. It takes a little skill to network, but mostly it takes reaching out, commenting, and making connections with others. Even this doesn’t always get your ideas noticed.

    For instance, you mention my post here, but you also say you found it through Shel, who you could easily call an A-lister. However, my experience with Shel is that he has been VERY generous to me, and he has nothing to gain from me besides a link or two.

    Since very few blogging voices are making little, if any, money from this, they are certainly being generous with their time, knowledge and resources.

    I guess the question becomes, what is their motive? To which I answer, we all have a motive of some kind for participating in this community of ideas.

    He or she who doesn’t can feel free to throw the first stone.

  2. Bill and Kami,
    Blogging is first of all personal. Secondly, it is social. And far down the line, third, it can be a source of income. The first two trump the third. I believe this whole A-list deal is simply a mechanism of the marketplace. A way to distinguish those who the marketplace deams worthy of financial investment.

    The interesting question is if you could assure every blogger that they could substantially supplement their income by blogging, if their blogging would change. When there is no financial incentive, the purpose of the enterprise is more personal, more social, less financial.

    Do I want my blog read by millions of people. Sure. But what am I willing to sacrifice to make that happen? I see the A-list as media creations. And we all know just how fickle the allure of media creations is. I don’t want to be a media creation. I want to blog as a place to learn how to think and write, a place to exercise my curiousity, and finally, a place to engage people in interesting conversations. Bill if this was about money, our interactions would be very different.

    In the final analysis, I don’t see blogging as my job. It doesn’t have the breadth of potential that what I currently do as a speaker, consultant and facilitator allows me. It is another tool on my belt. It is a very fun one, but also not the most valuable one.

  3. Ed; I agree with what you say, save one point, even some so-called A-listers don’t get a finacial incentive beyond the occasional speaking engagement and maybe some ad revenue. Even then, you aren’t going to get rich off of this stuff. It’s very rare. Maybe some credibility, which is priceless in its own way, and personal growth, which is even more important from my perspective.

  4. I should note that when I wrote this post, I’d put a TM (as in Trademark sign) after the The Generous Web™ – which would have worked much better if it hadn’t gotten lost in translation. One of the hassles of posting from Nairobi, I guess.

    I’ve fixed the missing ™’s.

  5. No offense, but how generous is trademarking the term The Generous Web? Hmmmm.

    Bill Responding:
    Sorry that I have to respond within your comment, Kami – the joys of the net in Africa. Your point would be my point exactly. Which only shows how poorly I made my argument. The issue for me is that others are attempting to “trademark” the Generous Web meme. And that is the problem. That is the “Adventure in Missing the Point” for me.

  6. Ed, so it goes like this?

    1) Personalize

    2) Socialize

    3) Monetize

    I think #2 is the greatest reason most of us blog. We socialize.

    We create social impact, social value, and social networks. There’s an economy of community occurring here. The beautiful thing is that community creates culture and this gives us another opportunity to influence the development of that culture.

    So, maybe “socialize” isn’t the best word. Maybe what we’re really doing is “communitizing.”


Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Leading Questions - June 2, 2006

    Capability meets Competence in the Generous Web

    The advance of technology and humanity have never been in tandem. They have been in relationship to one another. When a inventor creates a new technology, the affect upon people is not immediate. We humans have to adapt, catch up,

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