Saturday, February 1, 2020

Weekly Book Challenge #3 - Net Gain, by John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong


This is a part of a weekly series of reviews I will post for some of the books I'll read this year. I am accepting suggestions for future books to be read - please send your suggestions to

This review was previously posted on Linkedin, on Feb 1st, 2020.

While no one organization has yet fulfilled the potential of the successful virtual community, the good news is that there is a business model in place and that some organizations have launched promising initiatives in the direction of that model. For the aggressive vendor, this situation represents an exceptional opportunity to launch one or more virtual community initiatives.
- John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong, Net Gain

Michel de NĂ´tre-Dame was a French seer from the sixteenth century, famous for having published a book with 942 poems allegedly containing predictions about the future. I chose to read this book because John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong are seers from our modern times.

Net Gain: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities was written in 1997. For those who don't know how the internet was like back then, a general overview: there was no Google, we only had around 100,000 websites, social networks were something related to Mathematics and graphs - yep, no Facebook, no Instagram. We had ICQ, an instant messenger that predated the Triassic Era, before MSN; and some of us used IRC (if you have used the DALNET, please raise your hand!)

There were many more peculiarities I could list, but this is just to give a general idea. So, why did I choose to read a book from 1997 that talks about virtual communities? Here is the reason: this guys predicted the whole internet marketing and network revolution that we see today after Google, Facebook, Amazon, et cetera back at 1997. And they've published a book giving details about it.

The book is obviously not entirely perfect in its predictions - which is perfectly acceptable. However, many lessons can be drawn from it. For example, their scenario analysis is simply incredible: they have detailed the transition in the world sales business model from a vendor/service-centered to a customer-centered one; they also make a very good analysis on how virtual communities (or social networks, if you prefer) have a value that grows exponentially, following a logic of increasing returns; they provide rich strategies to those who seek to expand their networks, and some other valuable lessons.

I also offer a post-scriptum here, in form of a question, that was banging in my head while I was reading this book: what are the factors that drive one's ability to innovate?


I have two more reviews to write, and I might be able to do it soon. Time is short, and crazy, and I love it!

If you have any book suggestions, please send me a message here or e-mail me at 
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About Ricardo Prins
Ricardo Prins is a Software Engineer who thinks that technology is not the answer to all our problems.

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