On the recommendation of our marketing guy, I’ve recently been listening to the audiobook version of Trust Agents, by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.
The book aims to teach the reader how to become a “trust agent,” an expression the authors use to describe someone who leverages the power of trust in the online word. It’s a far cry from my usual reading material, but since my job requires some level of interaction with an online community, I figured the topic would be worth trying to learn more about.
I’m into the book’s last chapter now, so I feel like I can give my thoughts on it. My initial impression was a bad one, though that’s at least partly because I felt like I already knew everything it was trying to teach, and it didn’t seem like a point was being made. The first chapter is an outline of the current state of social media and how it relates to the concept of trust. The second chapter is an odd one, basically saying “Make your own game!” (as in, don’t try to win by the rules of the existing system) over and over again without ever giving you an idea of what that means in practical terms. And the third chapter essentially teaches you that you should behave in social media the same way you behave in real life, i.e. don’t spam your Facebook friends with messages about your new product. Nothing terribly exciting so far.
The writing is a little dull at times, and a lot of the sentences feel awkward, so I was just about ready to give up at this point. I figured I’d press ahead since the book had been recommended to me, and to my surprise it managed to redeem itself in the second half. It’s given me some good ideas about networking and contact management that I can directly put into practice in my work, and that alone makes it worth the time invested.
So, on the whole, I’d recommend Trust Agents. Even if you only get one good idea about how to improve your online presence from it, it’s still probably worth the read. And all the advice it gives is good, and sorely needed if what we see on the Web every day is any indication.
That said, I can’t recommend the audio version. I love audiobooks in general because they let me get reading done in otherwise “dead” time, but for this title I’d much rather have bought the print version. The central problem is that it’s read by the authors (no offense, guys, but voice actors you ain’t). One of them seems to move his mouth away from the microphone at the end of sentences, leading to missing words. Both of them tend to fall into a very unnatural rhythm of speech, which leads to a repetitious pattern that seems like it’s trying too hard not to be monotonous. Compared with other audiobooks I’ve listened to, which are generally extremely professional and high-quality, this one feels like it was knocked out in one take on a Friday afternoon. Stick to dead trees if you’re planning on picking it up.
As a sort of post-script, I have one more nitpick, which I’m only including here on the off chance that either of the authors (or the editor) reads this: at the end of chapter six, when talking about appearing confident when approaching “web celebrities,” the author says “This also works when approaching an attractive member of the opposite sex.” Now, I understand that’s the kind of sentence that’s easy to write without even thinking about. But if you’re writing (or publishing) a book, assuming that all your readers are going to be heterosexual is a little dickish. Just sayin’