Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 8, 2009 1:30 PM

There Is Nothing New Here

It's almost hard to believe that there are some New Media pundits who actually say, "there is nothing new here" when reviewing their peers. It's shocking (and a little bit sad).

Last week, there was a Blog post here titled, 10 New Business Books Worth Checking Out. As I was sorting through which books to list, it was interesting to read the reviews surrounding these titles (both on the book retail websites and on Blogs, Twitter feeds, etc...). You could tell which reviewers were regular people (the silent majority, the mass population, etc...) and which were the ones who were neck-deep into New Media (those with their own Blogs, thousands of followers on Twitter, etc...). It should come as no shock, that when it comes to Bloggers we like to eat our own. We're quick to judge, comment and attack, but in seeing countless semi-nice reviews with lines like, "there is nothing new in this book" or "I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know," it wound up becoming somewhat comical.

The real experts, the ones who really are superstars don't do this.

After spending countless years in the music industry, it was plain as day who would be a successful artist/musician and who would disappear quickly into obscurity. The real geniuses, the real experts and the real artists were the ones who knew this one golden rule: you can learn something new from anyone at any time. The trick is in leaving yourself open to this experience. The trick is in always being a student.

It's a sure sign of inexperience when you don't see an opportunity to learn at every turn.

At one point, I was interviewing a well-established artist. They happened to be one of the most respected guitarists in the world. I asked him who teaches him or who inspires him to learn more, to which he said, "some of the greats, some are alive and some are dead. The truth is that you can pick up something from someone who just started playing last week as much as you can pick up nothing from some of the other greats." The point was, that when it comes to creating art or something that is still a very new media, there is learning at every corner and only those with insecurity, inexperience and a bloated ego can't see it.

Be open to everything because everything is new. 

Beyond the potential to learn something new, it's also kind of humorous to think that "there's nothing new" in some of these books when, if you look at the space with a critical eye, everything is brand spanking new (five years or newer). Everything is so new in fact, that one person's rules is another person's faux-pas. In fact, if you really dive deep into some of the people who are most critical, you'll note that they were inspired by those who they now critique. When something is new - especially New Media, Social Media and Web 2.0 - it's easy to get up-to-speed and think you know it all.

In the end, it's not about you... it's about your clients and peers.

On a personal note: I didn't write the book, Six Pixels of Separation, for those who are passionate about this Blog or follow me on Twitter. I wrote the book - like most of these other authors did - for those who don't read Blogs. The point was (and still is) to introduce them to these new media channels using language that they are more accustomed to, and in a media channel that they are more used to (printed business books). Avinash Kaushik (author of Web Analytics - An Hour A Day, Web Analytics 2.0 and Blogger at Occam's Razor) used to always marvel at why so many people would buy his book, when all of the content was available for free on his Blog. He soon realized that the majority of people buying his book never read his Blog, and those that had been following the Blog wanted something more tangible that they could either refer back to or pass along to clients and peers.

Yes, we need to be critical of one another and open to divergent thoughts and perspectives, but we also need to be extra careful when spouting off sentences like "there's nothing new here" or "there's nothing that has not been said before" simply because most people are not following a bunch of Bloggers and spending their days on Facebook. This channel is new, and most books on the subject are giving their own unique perspective and, ultimately, what's old to you in this space, is brand spanking new to the rest of the global population.

What do you think? Or has this conversation become old too?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Steve Jackson
    Mitch Joel

    When I've trained people in the past or passed my experience onto juniors one of the biggest things I tell them is to never stop learning.

    When I naively left University in the early 90s with my new shiny qualifications I thought "Now I get a job and start changing the world".

    One month into my first job and I realized that really I didn't know anything.

    20 years on I still don't know anything! Yes I have more experience and I understand a lot more about where I need to go and why. I've written one book, sold one company, just started another and am currently helping to build this business. So yes I know more than when I left university, especially about my subject.

    But I read more now than I ever did at university and spend thousands per year on books and education. So I must be really dumb because I always need to read books!

    Your book is now on my list just because of this line "you can learn something new from anyone at any time. The trick is in leaving yourself open to this experience. The trick is in always being a student."

    Respect.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mr. Tunes
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting to know you came from the music business. I am very immersed in web development and social media, but i came here from music.

    Recently I got fed up with music technology because i said - "there is nothing new". i decided that the same technology was getting recycled every year into new products, and therefore was bored. I was also annoyed with the education market, all the tutorials put me to sleep.

    So I started my own tutorial series where I am trying to "clear out" my knowledge, and challenge myself to discover new techniques. So far it is working great.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwECLttXq60

    Reply
  • Posted by Will Burke
    Mitch Joel

    A timeless message, that everyone needs to hear every now and then. But for the record, among the parenting blogs, there is plenty of mutual support, from the Comments, and referals, to meme awards. Found your Blog through Josh at http://jmuirheadblog.com/

    Reply
  • Posted by Stephen Bath
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I agree wholeheartedly with this openness. It's more fundamental. An orientation to lived experience. Philosophically, one tradition most relevant to "social" media, calls this way of being "hermeneutical consciousness" (Ricoeur and gadamer). Reticence has to be one's gesture -- which strident critics, by definition, lack.

    Reply
  • Excellent observation. As you say, even if "there isn't anything new here," surely it's worth a look to see if it's a new perspective on an old topic?

    With the speed of change in today's world, it's always worth having a second look.

    Reply
  • Posted by Steve Mast
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch ... great post. I never understood why people in the new media space are so quick to jump on each other. Is it really that hard to support each other? Instead of saying "there is nothing new here" how about adding "something new" to the conversation? Please share a little of your great wisdom with the rest of us. Many organizations and corporations are just beginning to embrace their website let alone social media or other forms of digital communication.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nick Usborne
    Mitch Joel

    In my experience, people who say "learned nothing new here" are often trying to raise themselves above the author. Like, "Interesting book, but I'm smarter than the author." That's too bad, because they diminish the value of both the book and themselves. Truth is, a smart person will always learn something new, even if it is only to view the familiar from a slightly different perspective.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rick Cheslo
    Mitch Joel

    Count me as one for who you wrote your book. While I am not infamiliar with blogs, the net and such; I was very much unaware of the full potential and reach of social media until I heard your explanation and reasoning in the audio version of your book. For me, Twitter never made sense, and Facebook was a place where college kids shared their most embarassing moments with the world. Through Six Pixels, you have flipoped the switch for me, so also count me as one who continues to learn from new and unexpected sources where ere they may be. Thanks for the insight!

    Reply
  • Posted by Endy Daniyanto
    Mitch Joel

    "Be open to everything because everything is new." This post gave me goosebumps.

    I agree that the real experts are the ones who actually stay silent most of the time, because they are constantly learning and re-learning their craft. When they come up with an insight or an opinion, it's then that they speak.

    I too have much to learn. Always and always. Thanks, Mitch.

    Cheers,

    Reply
  • Posted by Ian M Rountree
    Mitch Joel

    There's certainly nothing new in the debate about closed-minded high-handed sniping. People have been doing that for ever. Still, your argument about the nature of the people who commonly say things like this is quite valid. My own knee-jerk reaction is to write off the person making the comment, before writing off whatever the comment's been made about.

    Reply
  • Posted by Samad Aidane
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    Thanks for the great post.

    I see similar attitude in my field of Project Management as well. There is constant debate nowadays about methodologies between the traditional and new agile practices. The debate gets very heated and you often see people using the same comment/argument of "there is nothing new here". Your post gave me inspiration to keep an open mind.

    By the way, I am a long time listner to your podcast (six pixels and Media Hacks). I also enjoyed your book. Looking forward to your next podcast.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kevin Behringer
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch:

    I agree wholeheartedly.

    My answer to those people who will review a book and say, "I learned nothing new from this book," would be - then why didn't you write the book? If you already knew everything in there, why didn't you write it?

    While I have read many books in which I knew much of the information, I always learn something. If nothing else, I often learn a new way to present the information I was already familiar with to someone who isn't. Even if I understand the concepts, the author/presenter/speaker/whatever may present the information better than I could.

    I think that negative reviews of a book or any product can be useful - if they are genuine. But, to simply puff yourself up by saying you know more than the author is dangerous.

    Kevin

    Reply
  • Posted by Mark Dykeman
    Mitch Joel

    I think some of the "I don't need to bother with this now" attitude comes from people who don't believe in "sharpening the saw" (as per Stephen Covey). In some fields you're not going to get game-changing ideas ever single day, week, month or year. At best you may only get tweaks or adjustments that make things better. To me, looking at things differently, even if it's considered to be old news, can be a form of challenging and clarifying your own thinking if you do it while keeping your mind open. Obviously, this could be taken to an extreme, but I'm reminded of magician Stewart James, a prolific inventor of magic tricks who strongly believed in looking for inspiration virtually everywhere.

    Reply
  • Posted by Vaishnavi
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, Thanks for this great post! I just had an aha moment reading it.

    I could'nt agree with you more. To feel "I know it all" is the riskiest thing that can happen to you. And honestly, the more you know, the more you know how much you don't know.

    Though the content of the post - closed minded Vs Open minded, was not something new, it was a great reminder!

    Reply
  • Posted by Tamara Gruber
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,
    Sometimes those of us that are on a continuous quest to learn spend a significant amount of time reading blogs, listening to podcasts, going to conferences, following Twitter conversations, and yes, reading business books. To those of us that do that, some books don't have an "aha" moment of something new, but is rather a validation of thoughts and experiences. For others that are not as immersed, a book can be a perfect intro course to a new subject matter. It must be hard not to be sensitive to criticism but I know that some of the reviews I read of Six Pixels clearly pointed out that there wasn't much new to someone that spends a lot of time following your other content, but that it was good for others. They did try to point out that differentiation.

    On Six Pixels, I thought it was well written, fast read, good summary, some interesting food for thought, and I loved that you included a section on mobile. Mobile has been missing from many conversations about "new media" or "New marketing" so I thought it was very forward thinking of you to include that topic and isn't something that I have heard you dig into previously.

    Reply
  • Posted by Deni Kasrel
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,
    Well put. It's too bad that some people must put others down in order to elevate themselves.

    Many teachers say they learn a lot from students. How is that? Students come in with less preconceived notions and are more likely to think about possibilities rather than stick to codified structure.


    In my other life, as an arts critic I interviewed a theater director who did some pretty far-out over-the-top stuff. He made the comment that there are only seven stories to be told about the human condition and the Greeks did all of them. He went on to say that those same seven stories can be told in so many different ways that they become else entirely. So new (or old) is in the eye of the beholder.

    As for reviews, I read one about your book by a British bloke who used the "nothing new here" line, and I thought, sheesh, what a full-of-self peacock.

    Meanwhile, I too have reviewed you book for my own blog and yes, there were some things in it I had knowledge of, along with much that was new (to me, at least). Even for topics with which I was familiar you added new dimensions. It was not just the information, but how it was conveyed, along with your real-life examples which brought the ideas to life. On top of that, you offered a genuine sense of excitement about what all is going on in digital marketing today. You presented different options and approaches and basically said, there are a lot of ways to go it, so give it a go.

    Reply
  • Posted by Bill Wren
    Mitch Joel

    The criticism "there is nothing new here" is kind of ironic one since it's not very original itself. In many ways, it's the lazy, default one. Reading your post reminded me of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Prospero's daughter Miranda says, "O brave new world, That has such people in't!" And Prospero says, "'Tis new to thee."

    Perspective is everything. This touches on one of my favourite social media hobby horses: our perspective. The one that most disturbs me is how we forget that most people in the world don't have computers, much less Internet access. It is still an arena that is largely western and middle class, so when we speak of it's democratizing aspect, we need to place an asterisk beside the word. But I'm off on another topic ...

    Maybe the originality, or new-ness, we speak of lies less in what the writer/artist brings to the material and more in what the reader does. More likely, however, it lies in the interchange between the two.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Most of us who live and breath social media entered the field not all that long ago. When we entered the field, we eagerly ate up every bit of information we could get our hands on and soaked up the knowledge. It's true there is a turning point when you are no longer the target audience for the social media business books. This resonated with me because I realize I'm at that point right now. The last couple books I've devoured on social media, had only a nugget or two for me instead of a whole gold mine of information. It's not because the books are not valuable, it's because I no longer fit that audience. We need to adjust our expectations and move forward.

    Reply
  • Posted by Cynthia
    Mitch Joel

    I appreciate how you explain your point and the examples you used. The most talented ballet dancers that I know always pay attention to the fundamentals and are eager to receive a different approach or view on a basic technique that all dancers know about. Their receptiveness makes them the best in their field. When it comes to business, marketing, blogging,etc., we need to have the same attitude!

    Reply
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  • Not having time is a choice from Broadcasting Brain

    Mitch Joel writes about people who complain that there is nothing new here. These are the people who take the time to express their opinion, in public, that a particular book has no new content in it, or that someone’s blog post is just a rehash ...