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Economy to Give Open Source a Good Thumping

Every “Web 2.0” pundit, “Social Media” pundit, or -insert internet buzzword here- pundit, hates Andrew Keen. They hate him because his ideas go to the opposite extreme of everything the current web culture stands for. There’s no middle ground for him and he never acknowledges that having your own voice on the internet, could actually be a good thing. He pisses people off because he sounds like somebody being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. He probably is. But you know what? I kind of like the guy. We need an opposing view, even if it is extreme. That keeps us in check and out the cloud we usually get on.

I discovered Andrew Keen when I saw the documentary I linked to the other day, The Truth According to Wikipedia. To sum up his bio, he’s very critical and harsh about the idea that everyone should contribute to the interwebs. He wrote a book called The Cult of the Amateur: How Blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values. Talk about a subtitle that gives you and “idea” of what the book is about.

In his blog post that I linked to -the irony is what brings him a lot of hate- he hypothesizes that in hard economic times, with people unemployed, there will be a shift in the way people value their labor. He explains:

One of the very few positive consequences of the current financial miasma will be a sharp cultural shift in our attitude toward the economic value of our labor. Mass unemployment and a deep economic recession comprise the most effective antidote to the utopian ideals of open-source radicals.

He’s dead wrong on “open source” being a strictly “utopian” thing. Being open source makes a lot of business sense to a lot of web companies.

But I think he has a good point though when he writes this:

So how will today’s brutal economic climate change the Web 2.0 “free” economy? It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), TheAtlantic.com over the HuffingtonPost.com, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc. , Playboy.com over Voyeurweb.com, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism… The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.

Boing Boing’s Mark Frauenfelder wrote about the power of egoboo, but if you’re in a situation were you have to cancel your internet service to make ends meet, comments and public recognition aren’t going to be enough to keep on doing it for free.