|a conversation with the
cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of business as
two of seven
chris locke: in alien
People of earth, we come in peace!
I have always wanted to do that.
I want to start with a funny story about stereotyping because David
Weinberger and I had this great radio interview this afternoon with
Richard Littman of Great
Ideas Radio on business radio WWRC
I arrived at this address by cab and went into the lobby. There is
no directory or anything, but there was a guy at the reception desk on
the phone. There is an open elevator, but I'm wondering whether I
should get on it. I don't know where I'm going, so I stood there,
going and back and forth from one foot to the other until he got off
the phone. He said, "Second floor." I got on the elevator
and went up to the second floor thinking, "How did he know?"
I got to the second floor, walked all the way around and there was
nothing there except an alcohol and drug rehab center. I came back
down and said, "No, I'm here for a radio interview." Must
have been my ponytail. Well, it's behind me, like my career.
We are all pretty strange people. We live in a split apart world
where you hear people talking about 'my job' and 'my life' as if those
were two different things. Here's a clue: if you are doing something
that you don't feel is your life, if you are doing it for money, stop
doing it. That's really insane.
Do you know Joe
Bob Briggs? He does this "drive-in movies will never
die" schtick. I'm know I'm chewing up my time here, but I was
reading his newsletter once and he said, "Here's how to get
financially independent." Most people think you save up your
money, then you get to a point where you can quit your job. He says
that's all wrong. Here's what you do. You walk into your boss and you
say, "I quit." Then you get financially independent. I
thought those were words of wisdom from Joe Bob.
Let's go back, because the thing about being split between mind and
body—this is Cartesian dualism, putting Descartes before the horse.
You have been there, right? We have this with commerce, too. We have
it in our whole society. The whole economy of the world is driven by
commerce, yet, when you talk to people, no matter who they are, there
is this notion of filthy lucre lurking someplace in the background.
There is this idea that commerce is not like literature, it's not
really legitimate. There is something wrong with that because it's
what we spend most of our lives doing.
Cluetrain came out of thinking about the Internet and thinking
about the way the Internet was being talked about in the press—the
fact that the big debate was whether it was going to be $4 trillion of
E-commerce by 2003 or $3 trillion by 2004. That was the extent of the
analysis. We were thinking, "You know, there is something there.
There is something wrong with the fact that there is no qualitative
discussion about what's different here." It's more fundamental
What is commerce?
I started flashing back. What was commerce like back around the
Neolithic campfires? People made stuff, they bartered it, they traded
it. By the time you get to the dawn of civilization, you have trade
routes coming together where people are bringing back weird shit from
the East, you know, like parrots, monkeys and snakes. There is a whole
list in the book; it took us a long time to write that part. People
went to the market not to buy snakes and monkeys, but to hear stories
about where they came from. You went to the marketplace to hear
stories from vendors, but also to talk with each other. You didn't
just say, "Let's see I need a dozen eggs and a pound of coffee,
so I guess I'll go down to the market." You went down to the
market because the market was what was happening. All of the news and
information, the entertainment, it was all there. Language grew up
there, and civilization grew up at this crossroads. There was no
separation, at that point, between commerce and culture. Strangely,
significantly and revolutionarily, if that's a word, the Internet
brings that potential back in the 21st Century. Nobody was picking up
on that story, the fact that we could talk to each other directly
David Weinberger will talk about what happened next, but what I
want to say is that from that ancient marketplace things started to
get more distant and separate, and for obvious reasons. Mercantile
trade started to cross large distances, from the craftsmen you move to
the factory and mass production. Fast forward to the Industrial
Revolution. It had two parts. The first part was sort of figuring out
interchangeable parts and steam and waterwheels and stuff like that.
The second part, what we call the Second Industrial Revolution really
started with two dudes, Frederick
Taylor—who I hate; I know the guy is dead, but if he was still
alive I think I would find him and throttle him—and Henry
Ford, who they thought was a communist, strangely enough, because
he wanted to pay people five bucks a day.
The point is, you started with interchangeable parts and moved to
interchangeable workers through the assembly line. Then you had to
sell all this stuff, so we developed broadcasting and broadcast
advertising, which was really what broadcasting was all about, and
that's about interchangeable consumers. You can see that there is a
progression here, except that we are the end of the progression.
It was great for business. From Ford's day through the early 1970s
was the heyday of mass production, sometimes called economies of
scale because, if you could lower the unit price and sell more
widgets to more people, you won, right? That's how mass production
functioned. It was a hegemony of a closed United States, and certain
big players had a lock on it. What's interesting about advertising is
that, in order to sell more of those products, you wanted to reach the
widest possible audience, so you needed the lowest common denominator
of message. You didn't want to have really unique messaging; instead,
you wanted to please all of the people all of the time, if it was
possible. You had this very vanilla sort of mass advertising to sell
Something happened around 1970, the period in which Tom was
reporting in some of the industrial cities that he mentioned. It was
the dawning of the global economy, which simply meant that we had
bombed the shit out of any potential industrial competitors in World
War II—that's not really a political comment, just a fact—but they
had recovered. Who knew? They weren't supposed to be able to rebuild,
but they did. Germany, Japan, Europe, Southeast Asia all of a sudden
started coming into our markets and taking little niches, little
positions here and there. General
Motors, for instance saw Volkswagens
and Hondas and
said, "Oh, those are just for students." Interestingly,
notice that they said that about the Internet, too.
All of these little niches came in from the edges, and, all of a
sudden, you had an explosion of product options. Later, you had an
explosion of service options as well, and the market loved it. Wow,
you have all these choices! Those American companies said, "Buy
American, and be loyal." We said, "Yeah, right. The music
sounds better, the car handles better, the ashtray doesn't fall off,
the gas tank doesn't blow up . . . we like that."
Another thing that happened because of that was there was a
tremendous need for new knowledge. In Henry Ford's day, he knew
everything that went into the car. Everything. He just cut work orders
that went down through tiered layers of lieutenants to drive
production down to interchangeable monkeys who could do the
Tayloristic processes. That wasn't possible after you got all this
competition, because you needed tremendous process knowledge and you
needed innovation. That wasn't in the boardroom; it was in the work
force, and it needed to be pulled up into the organization.
Hierarchical command and control bureaucracies were not good for doing
Guess what is good for doing that? Networks are tremendous ways to
pull that knowledge into an organization and make if more functional.
David is going to talk about how we came to say that there are two
conversations going on—one inside the company, one in the
marketplace—and how these conversations are integral. It's a healthy
thing for them to come together, but corporations have been, in
effect, like the Berlin Wall, preventing the two from connecting. We
don't want these people inside the company talking because PR hasn't
vetted their stuff. We haven't sterilized it yet. But you need them to
talk because that's where you are going to get your new ideas from—the
people inside. You are also going to get those ideas from people
There is great resistance to this within the corporation because it
abridges the long-standing habits of power, and those habits are very
deeply ingrained. In the marketplace, the effect has been to create
this vanilla broadcast messaging that drives everything in our
The content—I have this great story about the word
"content." I used to go to these Catskill Mountain auctions.
The auctioneer had a great sense of humor. Every once in a while he
would grab a box of something, loft it over his head so you couldn't
see what was in it and say, "What am I offered for this box of
contents?" Every time I hear the word "content," I
think about that guy who really captured the essence of what
"content" is all about. Sometimes you get a box of rocks
that way. Anyway, we have had content like television and mass media
of all sorts, the main point of which was not the content, it was the
carrier wave for advertising that said, "Buy our great shit. It's
great shit. It's fantastic shit." We have never been able to say,
"Yeah, but it's shit." Now we can say that. And we can also
say, "No, it's actually great. It's really a good one of those
things." Once in a blue moon, anyway.
The Internet comes along at an interesting historical moment. The
Internet didn't create those trends up to this point; it just happened
to co-evolve in a magical way. DARPA
did not think, "How can we totally f*** up the global
economy?" I don't think they were that advanced. If I had been
there, I would have helped them accelerate it a little bit.
The Internet comes along just at the right moment when you need to
draw as much knowledge as you possibly can out of workers at every
level of the organization. It comes at a time when consumers—there
is a word I was never going to use again, "consumers"—in
every other sphere of life have gotten tremendous breadth of choice,
warmed to it and demonstrated their liking for it. In terms of
information, however, we are still giving them ads and sitcoms.
The Net was embraced not because Marc Andreessen came up with the
graphical user interface (GUI) which you'll hear a lot of people call
the big watershed of the Internet since you could now click on
pictures. I don't think so. I remember installing this stuff back in
1994 and 1995, and it was not easy. There were hurdles to leap and
people leaped them.
The reason for the "hockey stick" style growth of the
Internet and the Web, I really believe, was because here was something
different. There was a delta from television. It's like slow TV, at
best. I mean really slow TV, so that wasn't it. Getting
pictures wasn't the draw; you can get pictures on TV a lot quicker
than on a 56K modem. It was because we could connect with each other.
We could hear what we were saying for the first time. It was
never true that The New
York Times printed "all the news that's fit to
print." Everybody knows that. By the way, Tom Petzinger didn't
make me say that; it's not a Wall Street Journal comment. No,
there was a tremendous desire to connect with other people who had
very specific interests.
Notice, again, that these are niche markets. In fact, what's going
on with the Web, from a market perspective, is that there are
micro-markets emerging from the bottom up. Before, business has looked
at mass markets from the top down. Still, lots of businesses today are
looking down from the top, doing this demographic thinking about who
they can "target," right? In 1960, Ted Levitt said that GM
never did focus groups to ask the market, "What do you
want?" They came up with two product options and asked,
"Which one do you like better?" There is a big difference.
Demographics is about saying, "Here's what we think they will
buy." You design something, then say, "Let's go find out who
we can sell it to." You do the market research and ask, "Who
are they?" You don't have a clue.
I have done a lot of thinking about Amazon.com;
not about its patents, but about books. Think about the people who
bought The New Pioneers by Tom Petzinger. Most of them have no
idea who they all are and have never spoken to each other. They have
no way to speak to each other, but they constitute an emerging
micro-market—a very micro micro-market when compared to General
Motors—but they could be a very significant market for Tom Petzinger.
If he could connect with them, and if they could connect with each
other, they might have a lot of very important things to talk about.
It's not even a self-aware market yet. My next book, by the way,
will be called "Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst
Practices." Look for it. I'm actually serious. It's turning into
a serious book, which is sort of freaking me out. But, anyway, I think
that the next market is going to be news, information and
entertainment from the bottom up. It's going to go to companies and
individuals who can coalesce those markets which don't yet exist, but
which are going to gravitate and come together around kernels of good
writing, good analysis, good insight, good entertainment, good
whatever it is that brings people together. That's going to turn over
billions, if not trillions, of dollars. In the next five years,
something is going to happen again that is as astounding as what we
have seen with the Internet in the last five years. It's going to
happen with respect to these bottom-up micro-markets emerging with a
completely different set of opportunities than what existed in the
top-down, broadcast, mass marketing, mass advertising economy that we
are leaving. And I think we are leaving it for good. Thanks.
tom petzinger, jr.: sharing
I think if somebody did a study of voice on the Internet versus
E-commerce dollars on the Internet, they would find that for every
dollar spent with a credit card swipe—which is what The Cluetrain
Manifesto thinks is how corporate America views the Internet—for
every dollar thus spent, there are 10 or maybe 100 "I loveyou's,"
or "See you later's" or "Go to Hell's." It's
conversation, as well as a marketplace.
In my five years of writing "The Front Lines," I went to
35 states and 120 cities. I took pride in never profiling someone
unless I went into their space and shared oxygen with them. There were
two exceptions to that. One I won't bore you with, the other was with The
Cluetrain Manifesto authors. I dialogued with them by email and a
little bit by telephone. I got to know them as well through those
media, or very nearly as well, as I might have in person. I wrote the
forward to their book without ever having met them. In fact, tonight
was the first time I met face-to-face with these two individuals, but
I feel that not only do I know them and their work, I know their minds
a little bit, and their hearts, too.
Weinberger is somebody I feel as if I knew in advance—somebody I
had that deja vu feeling about. When I learned that he does regular
commentaries about Web culture and about knowledge on National
Public Radio, I immediately remembered three or four different
commentaries I had heard that really stayed with me. He had to point
out to me that I had quoted him in my book and didn't connect him as a
Cluetrain author. It was a quote I had seen in Wired
about the future of organization charts.
David comes to the world of the Web at a very high level, from
philosophy of all subjects. There is hardly any philosophy here
tonight. It's a good thing we don't have any philosophy teachers
in the house. What you won't read about David in the flyleaf of the
book or in his official bio is that he was the guy who went to
Woodstock and said to his girlfriend, "I'll run into you there
somewhere." True story. Talk about a massive conversation! As
soon as he heard Melanie singing "I've Got A Brand New Pair Of
Roller Skates," he decided it was time to get out while there was
He doesn't boast about this fact, but there was also a spell of a
couple of years when he wrote comic material for Woody Allen. The last
time he saw Woody Allen was at the advance screening of Annie Hall.
Allen asked, "What did you think?" and David said, "You
know, it's okay. You have trouble figuring out who to root for, but
it's okay." Seven Oscars later, that was the last time he saw
Let me present David Weinberger.
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