I tripped across this post "Do Thought Leaders Need to Be Practitioners" about a conversation between @schneidermike and @adamkmiec. This debate reminds me a lot of the chatter about 'getting out of the echo chamber' and 'who is really a social media expert'.
I've got a slightly different take on this whole meme... which is this: Why is it so important to define or decide who is/isn't/etc.? For one, we all have different and unique perspectives and experiences. Sometimes that is useful to others and sometimes it is not. Everyone is at a different place on the ramp when it comes to understanding new disciplines, including how to effectively operate on the social web. Sometimes it is helpful to speak with someone who is really enthusiastic, using tools in a personal way to do interesting things. Sometimes it is more helpful to speak with someone who has a lot of experience with really large organizations because the decision-making and operational flow are so different. Sometimes theory is interesting. Sometimes specifics are.
One thing that I do know is that it is extremely hard to have a macro and a micro view of things at the same time - or an experienced view and a new perspective on something. I've been an analyst and in that role you see more technology and companies than anyone in an operational role ever could. See my older post on my perspective on what an analyst does. I've run product groups and been head down for months on end and in those roles you dig in and really understand the ins and outs of customer need and functionality around very specific things... but it is really hard to transition to thinking about theory and the latest greatest thing going on in the market. What I've seen managing groups is that it is extremely helpful to have a combination of experience and newbies - they feed off of each other- the newer people with questions forcing the experienced people to look at things differently or to articulate their thoughts better and the more experienced people guiding the newer people to ask the right questions.
I think we need all sorts of people, in all sorts of roles, to help us figure out how each of our organizations will approach the social web. It is not an either or equation. People who think so are feeling in some way threatened by the emergence of a different perspective or voice. And what about the echo chamber? To me, regurgitation is a form of learning... new people coming into the conversation and rolling the concepts around for themselves - saying very similar things but in slightly different ways. Each of us has the option to decide for ourselves who we listen to - if you don't find someone's perspective useful, there are plenty of ways to stop listening but I for one think we could spend more time trying to understand each other.