Amateurs vs ProfessionalsMar 14, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
This editorial is in response to an excellent piece titled "Amateurs and Lovin' It! But What's an Amateur?" (http://www.epinions.com/user-review-5CA9-A685D3-38CA42A1-prod2), by frazzledspice.
The core of that editorial revolves around the distinction between amateurs and professionals.
Traditionally, amateurs do something for the love and fun of it, whereas, professionals do it to for the money. Of course, the best professionals also love and enjoy what they are doing. The line between amateurs and professionals is a function of the markets in place to monetize the efforts. As marketplaces evolve, the lines disappear. Some examples of this from history include :
Scientific Research: Until a hundred years ago, scientific research was largely in the amateurs realm. The best scientists recieved stipends from kings, but this was in the same spirit as artists being supported by the kings. Even great scientists like Einstein and inventors like Guttenberg had "day jobs" for a significant part of their careers. It was only around the turn of the century that scientific discoveries started driving products which could be sold, thus providing a mechanism for monetizing the discovery, which in turn set up a marketplace for scientific discoveries. Soon, "scientist" went from being an avocation to being a profession.
Sports: We are all familiar with the transition in sports like Tennis, where until a few decades ago, tournaments like the Wimbledon were only open to amateurs. As it became easier to monetize sporting events, we saw a blurring of the lines between amateurs and professionals.
Coming back to Epinions : Most of us are experts in one thing or another. For example, I think I know a bit about High End Audio equipment. My friends ask me for advice before buying stereos. However, I have never made any money from giving advice on audio equipment. The only way to do this would have been to quit my day job and start writing for some audio review magazine, something I was not going to do. Now, with Epinions, I can actually make some money by giving advice on audio equipment.
Does it matter to someone reading my reviews whether I wrote the review to make some money or whether I wrote it for the love of it? I don't think it does. All that matters is the quality of the review. (I would like to believe however that in the long run, those who love writing reviews will produce the best reviews, but that is a different story).
The creation of markets for scientific discoveries had a very profound impact on science. Creating a marketplace for opinions and reviews will also have a significant impact on the sharing of ideas. Imagine being able bring the best and most relevant opinions to bear on pretty much any decision you take!
So, in conclusion, I believe that the line between amateur and professional is an arbitrary one that is based on the structure of the marketplace for that activity. In an efficient system, that line disappears. Epinions is attempting something very very ambitious --- removing that barrier in something as fundamental as the exchange of ideas and opinions.
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