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Do Internet Gurus Need Only A Virtual Education?

by Andrea Di Maio  |  July 30, 2012  |  5 Comments

Over the last few weeks, in my financially beleaguered country, Internet and Web 2.0 experts have been debating about a controversial research on the real nature of Twitter followers. As I wrote at the time, this research is hardly substantiated so far, but the debate took a political spin as its author applied it to one of the political raising stars in the country.

More recently the debate has moved to whether the research was or was not associated with the academic institution the author is working for and, ultimately, to his actual academic title. Apparently in his bio he says he has a degree, but there is no detail about the particular subject he mastered in, and he said that it was issued outside Italy and “recognized” in the US (whatever that means).

Far from being interested in the nature and veracity of his academic titles, I spent a few minutes on LinkedIn, looking at the academic titles and relevant experience of a few pretty well-known figures in the Italian Internet scene. And that’s where things get interesting.

I would have thought that most of these self-proclaimed or recognized experts would have a technical degree or training of sort (engineering, computer science, telecommunications and the likes). On the contrary, some of them seem to have no degree at all or no technical degree or little or no experience in actual technical work. CVs are quite interesting as they mention experience as journalists or even radio or TV entertainers, but not much in terms of IT projects. In some cases the degree is totally unrelated to their actual Internet activity: while this is not an issue at all, what strikes me is that there is no information about what they did during the (sometimes many) years before they started working on or with the Internet.

Looking more closely at how their profiles look like in LinkedIn or Facebook, they tend to have plenty of followers and quite a few recommendations. However recommendations tend to be rather generic and sometimes circular: I had no time to follow in any detail where they came from, or to build and run an algorithm, but it was interesting to note that people recommending them often have equally obscure profiles in LinkedIn.

Now, it is entirely possible that I do not understand the new dynamics of web 2.0 and how versatility and the ability to build one’s reputation from nothing is a distinctive trait of the “new economy”. I am sure some people would point me to the incredible cases of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who created an industry and changed the world without a degree. My reply to those people would be that both lived and breathed technology and were not reporters or journalists or historians or accountants or else.

My old way of looking at things implies that before speaking about something and – even more – claiming to be an expert, people get their hands dirty with building a professional experience that gives them – indeed –. the ability to jump from one subject to another. But some of these self-proclaimed gurus who measure their clout through numbers of social media followers and klout indices cast doubt on how healthy and well-informed some of the innovation debates are in my country.

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Category: europe-and-it  social-networks-in-government  

Tags: italy  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Do Internet Gurus Need Only A Virtual Education?

  1. […] weeks ago we focused on some key mobile app best practices developers need to follow. Recently, Gartner published an article that expanded upon our list and may be of use to federal contractors in the […]

  2. Our education system is like we are studying something but in work place we do not need to apply things which we have studied.Some works are entirely different the course we did.

  3. Interesting point Andrea!

    As a newly-retired practitioner with many years experience I argued at the public inquiry into the expansion of the University of York that having gained three degrees whilst working from home and studying remotely and sometimes virtually there was no need for more traditional university land-grabs.

    However, if in Italy, as in England, the politicians and policy wonks have rarely got their hands dirty before pronouncing upon matters of e-government, the chances of winning such arguments about changing the way we work is banging one’s sweat-stained brow upon an ivory tower.

    Good to see you in York last week 🙂


  4. Andrea, I agree 100% and, if I could, I would like to extend your considerations also to the “guru” team chosen by Mr Passera to build up the web future in Italy: in 6 months nothing has been proposed or decided, despite speed is a must on the web business. Why? this team is full of people with a specific skills on web….. I do not add other easy thoughts on the italian situation about internet, but, please, try to build up a web start up and have a trip around to look for money. It is an amazing adventure among gurus……

  5. James says:

    How many industry analysts are equally guilty of circular references when they retweet each other…

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