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The internet gives users a never before seen power of personal reinvention.

While there are more than a smattering of examples of this fact being leveraged for evil, on balance, I’ve generally viewed it as a good thing. Of late, though, my opinion has changed, largely because of the nature of expertise.

Online – especially in PR/marketing world – we are so quick to call ourselves “authorities or experts” who, it’s implied implicitly or explicitly, “possess ideas worth charging for.”

Why is this a problem? For one, expertise takes time to acquire. Second, ethically speaking, charging money for expertise should involve the macro-environment reaching a point at which the charger’s acquired knowledge is useful and helpful to others, or seems likely to become so. (Think about the people who once slung webinars for Jaiku or Google Wave, and now flaunt their Google+ expertise despite evidence that calls into question how valuable a tool it is for business, and the search giant’s dismal record in the social networking space.)

In sum, the trend toward fast “expertise” about shiny new things is troubling due to the harm it can cause, and because it sullies the true definition of the word.

You can call yourself anything you want on the web. Actually being it is a rather different matter.


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