a conversation with the
cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of business as
Markets are conversations. Talk is cheap. Silence
is fatal. That three-part mantra summarizes an Internet-inspired
business revolution that goes far beyond clicks and bandwidth to
redefine the relationship between markets and people. The Cluetrain
Manifesto is a blueprint for that change, explaining how businesses
large and small, dot com or brick-and-mortar, had better reconnect
with customers as people, not consumers, or suffer the consequences.
It's the end of business as usual, but this glimpse into the future
may have even more in common with the distant past than we realize,
according to authors Christopher Locke and David Weinberger. This
conversation with the Cluetrain Manifesto authors was held March 7,
2000, produced by the Morino Institute's netpreneur.org and UUNET's
Head Start program.
made at Netpreneur events and recorded here reflect solely the views of
the speakers and have not been reviewed or researched for accuracy or
truthfulness. These statements in no way reflect the opinions or beliefs
of the Morino Institute, Netpreneur.org or any of their affiliates,
agents, officers or directors. The transcript is provided "as
is" and your use is at your own risk. Copyright
2000, Morino Institute. All rights reserved. Edited for length and
mary macpherson: welcome
to the conversation
With all due respect to Super Tuesday, Mardi Gras and the Washington
Capitals, this is where it's really happening tonight. That's
because you are here—over 1,100 netpreneurs. This place is rocking.
I'm Mary MacPherson, Executive Director of the Morino Institute's netpreneur.org—a
place where New Economy entrepreneurs come to learn, collaborate, grow
their businesses and be inspired.
On behalf of our event partners, it's my great pleasure to welcome
you to our program tonight and thank you for coming. We hope you
enjoyed the reception and that you will stay for dessert, coffee and
more networking afterwards. Our event producers tonight are the Morino
Institute and UUNET
Technology's new Head
Start program, an accelerator program for Internet businesses
which should be important to a lot of you in the audience tonight.
Our lead partner is one of our community's great success stories, Blackboard,
Inc., an Internet education company whose software products and
Web services are powering more than 1,600 educational institutions and
other organizations in every state and more than 70 countries. We'd
also like to acknowledge our community partners: America
Online—the largest ISP and media company; Network
Solutions—yesterday "the dot.com company," today the
$21 billion dot.com company after being acquired by Verisign;
Company—the workplace solution company; the law firm of Hunton
& Williams; and venture capital and technology practice Steve
Walker & Associates, which provides seed and startup capital
The Morino Institute and the netpreneur.org team are grateful for
the generous support and help from UUNET, Blackboard and our community
partners. They have shown that they truly "get it" by
stepping up with their show of support for the netpreneur community
through tonight's event. Let's give them a big hand.
Welcome, also, to those of you who are joining us live via the
Webcast. We are here in Washington, DC.
For those of you who have not been with us before, and there are
hundreds of you, we'll have an edited transcript and video
of tonight's event up on our Web site.
Since our very first mega-event in June of 1997, The Barons of
the Beltway, we have had The Stars of
Telecom, The Stars Of
E-Commerce, Angels & Revolutionaries and, last June,
you filled this room for From Garage To Gorilla to hear Ted
Leonsis and Marc Andreessen talk about building businesses. Who could
have imagined that the gorilla would go on to become AOL
Time Warner, the Godzilla of the industry, in just a few short
months. You can find summaries, transcripts and videos of those
meetings in our event archives.
Our earlier events featured entrepreneurs who built technology
giants out of their garages. Tonight's characters—and, as you will
see, they are characters—remind us that our world is changing
at blinding speed. The momentum of this change presents gold mines for
some and land mines for others. Are you listening? If you are, you
will hear the voices, and those voices will be talking in a language
that is natural, open, honest, funny, direct and sometimes shocking.
As this conversation unfolds, you will find unprecedented opportunity
for starting and growing your businesses.
Before I introduce our next speaker, I'd like to take care of some
thank yous. First, thanks to the 35 netpreneurs who volunteered to
help us tonight. We would also like to acknowledge all of the
companies, groups, schools, individuals and media outlets who helped
us get the word out for this event, I would also like to thank our
friends at TVontheWeb
and AV Innovations for tonight's Webcast production. Last, but
certainly not least, I'd like to thank my colleagues on the Morino
Institute's netpreneur.org team.
We are fortunate, tonight, to have Chris Locke and David Weinberger,
two of the four authors of the Cluetrain
Manifesto, with us, as well as Tom Petzinger Jr., lately of
Street Journal, as our moderator. Following their remarks and
discussion, we'll take questions from the floor and from the Webcast
audience. We'll end the program with closing remarks from a person who
has inspired many of us in this room, the chairman of the Morino
Institute, Mario Morino.
It's now my pleasure to introduce Peter VanCamp, President of
Internet Markets for UUNET, an MCI
WorldCom company. Peter assumed this role a year ago and oversees
global sales, marketing products and customer support. Previously, he
was president of MCI WorldCom Advanced Networks, the company's
integrated network services division; and, prior to that, he was with CompuServe
for 16 years and named President of CompuServe Network Services in
1996. Please join me in welcoming Peter VanCamp.
peter vancamp: getting
a head start
Thank you Mary, and thank you Mario. It's certainly a pleasure to
be here since UUNET is both a sponsor and a strong supporter of the
Morino Institute. Actually, even as the sponsor, I had no idea this
was really a party. I thought it was a "serious" conference,
but I think we are going to have a lot of fun tonight.
Just a few opening comments before introducing our moderator. You
are all here because the Internet revolution is changing everything,
particularly the way business is conducted today. It's happening in
many forms, as seen by the number of folks in this room. It's creating
many opportunities for all of us, yet something UUNET learned a long
time ago in pursuit of these opportunities is that relationships are
extremely important. The right ones can make all the difference
between success and failure. Certainly, the Morino Institute's efforts
to pull together functions like this is something we believe in
strongly and appreciate. We understand it deeply. UUNET reflects this
in its heritage as a startup. Key relationships along the way took
that startup to a $4 billion Internet services concern, one that
greatly respects the importance of innovation and which greatly
respects the opportunities that many of you can bring to the Internet
future. In that spirit, we have created a program called Head
Start. Head Start is about seeing success for these emerging
companies and allowing you to take advantage of what UUNET is about.
It's about flexibility and billing programs to get you started. It's
about the support of the right services, from broadband technologies
to co-location to international reach in how you take your products
and services to market. We want to be there and provide our services
in such a way that enables your success. All this, and we don't want
to control your company. We don't want to have a strong influence on
your strategy; we just want to see you succeed and get to market as
quickly as possible. With Head Start behind that, we are eager to hear
from all of you about how you might be able to play a role with UUNET.
Enough of that as a commercial. What I really would like to do is
get to the main point—the end of business as usual—and that's the
reality that UUNET certainly understands. I'm pleased to introduce our
moderator, Thomas Petzinger, Jr. From 1995
to 1999, Tom wrote the Wall Street Journal column called
"The Front Lines." It was a weekly case study in
entrepreneurship and cutting-edge management thinking. Tom is also the
author of three books, most recently The New Pioneers: The Men and
Women Who are Transforming the Workplace and Marketplace.
Beyond these qualifications, tonight I'm learning that Tom is a
varied and accomplished guy. His proudest moment as a journalist was
at age 19 when he interviewed the great novelist Vladimir Nabokov. As
an adult, however, his proudest journalistic experience was spending
an entire day on a tour bus with the Go Go's. I also understand that
he continually dabbles in subjects that he has absolutely no training
in, everything from architecture to economics to anthropology. He has
even completed three marathons, albeit somewhat slowly, as I
understand. Tom wrote the forward to the Cluetrain Manifesto,
so he is the perfect moderator for this evening's event. Please help
me welcome Tom Petzinger, Jr.
tom petzinger, jr.: from
zero sum, to zero-to-sixty
Thank you, Peter, and thank you, Mary. What a pleasure to be here.
Thanks to the Cluetrain authors for letting me jump on their caboose.
Actually, I wrote about them before the book was published, so maybe I
was the engine after all.
I lived in Washington until five years ago. I lived in a converted
brownstone at U Street and Florida Avenue. We lost our shirts on it.
That was five years ago. I understand that U Street is red hot now. I
have lost money on every piece of real estate I ever owned.
Washington has changed in some other pretty interesting ways since
I left five years ago. Let the record show that right about now the
exit polls are being released and the coolest people in the nation's
capital are not in front of CNN.
Let me filibuster for just a few minutes before I bring up our real
participants to tell you the story of how one reporter from the
"paper of record for the Fortune 500" found the New Economy.
I'm from a town in northeastern Ohio called Youngstown. Go Penguins!
Youngstown, you may know, is, or was, famous for the manufacture of a
substance known as steel. That's s-t-e-e-l, for anyone who isn't
familiar with it. I killed off the steel industry as a young reporter
in Youngstown. What was the story of the steel industry as it was
collapsing in those days? It was the story of labor versus management.
Every dollar in the steelworkers' pockets was a dollar directly out of
the shareholders' pockets. Every ton of steel that someone purchased
in Japan was an exactly equivalent loss of value or wealth within the
I was covering this economic debacle 22 years ago, and that got me
a job at the Wall Street Journal in Pittsburgh where they put
me on the coal beat. You might remember coal, also. I covered one of
the longest labor strikes in history. Again, it was a dollar in the
miners' pockets or a dollar in the operators' pockets. Then the
Journal moved me to Chicago to cover agriculture. Do you remember the
family farm? It died on my beat. I was ostensibly there to cover the
commodity markets, which are the ultimate zero sum game. In the
commodity markets, at the end of the day, trillions of dollars worth
of face value are literally netted out at zero.
Then I went to Houston. Oil prices were $40 a barrel when I got
there. Of course, I bought a house, pegged to oil at $40 a barrel.
They were $9 a barrel when I left. If it wasn't enough to have killed
off the oil patch, I also covered the airline industry. Do you
remember Frank Lorenzo? He was on my beat. Of course, this was the
1980s and it was all about takeovers, right? Who's in control of the
corporate asset? Talk about another zero sum game—the white knight,
the suitor, the target. While I was in Houston, I also covered the
largest bankruptcy in corporate history, Texaco's. If you have ever
covered or been through a bankruptcy, you know that it's about nothing
but dividing a pie—a pie that gets smaller as time passes.
Then I came to our nation's capital. If you want to know why George
Bush was a one-term president, it's because that's when I was here.
The real truth was that after 15 or 16 years of doing this, and I
don't mean to over-dramatize it, I had a little bit of an intellectual
crisis. Whoa! Sixteen years of writing about business for the nation's
best newspaper, certainly the newspaper of record for business, and I
didn't know anything about how wealth was created. I knew a lot about
the control of wealth, like who's got it, who has the dollar
underneath the shell, but how was it created? In this world where the
most powerful force is entropy, how are phenomena like Michael Jordan
created? How is value created? How is wealth created when, from my
experience, all people seem to do is fight over what somebody else
So I invented an assignment for myself, a column called "The
Front Lines." The intention was to find out who is really out
there on the front lines doing things that make the world better, that
keep us fed, that keep us clothed, keep us happy and keep us in real
estate so we can lose our shirts. Instead of talking to the CEOs and
the analysts—the people who mostly do a lot of officiating and
analyzing—I decided to talk to the scientists sitting at benches and
the salespeople who actually had the nerve to sit down, have a
conversation with a customer and ask, "What do you need and how
can we provide it?"
Some themes became evident in this reporting. One was that the
institution we call "the organization," a thing inside some
boundaries . . .well . . . the boundaries were thinning. Boundaries
are important for creating an inside and an outside. They are
important for creating identities, but, in nature, which invented
boundaries, all boundaries are permeable. The shell of an egg emits a
lot of oxygen, but the organizations I had covered in those years
marching from one disaster to another were hard-shelled organizations.
Certainly, I experienced it as a reporter where queries only went to
the media relations person. Far be it from me to talk to anyone on the
shop floor or in the mine itself! And sales were always conducted by
the sales organization.
Among the organizations that were truly creating value, however, I
was finding that the people within those organizations weren't locked
up inside. They were actually out in the real world, and they were
having conversations about creating value. I'd never really witnessed
this before. I went to a microchip plant, a maker of gallium arsenide
chips in suburban New York. Do you know who the salespeople were at
this firm? The engineers. They sat down at a bench next to a customer
and said, "Let's figure out how to solve this problem." I
went to rural Montana—I guess all of Montana is rural; that's about
like saying I went to urban Pittsburgh—where I spent some
time with the folks at Great
Harvest Bread Co. This is a franchise operation which is so
cross-linked and Web-linked that it looks like the Internet itself
inside that organization. What's more, each of the franchisees is a
node that is sucking up information from customers, sharing it with
other franchisees and innovating on the basis of that information.
Things that work spread, and the things that don't work tend to dampen
out. It kind of sounds a lot like evolution, which is what created us
in the end, doesn't it?
There was also the matter of the boundary between myself and my
readers. I had been at a large newspaper for a long time. I decided
one day to put my email address at the end of my column. With six
million readers and two million copies of that email address, I braced
myself. Man, I got a lot of email. You know what, though? It was
virtually all incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and well-written—with
the occasional flame, but you need that to make life interesting. I
answered every one of those emails, even if it was just a sentence
saying, "I really appreciate your thoughts. Keep them
coming." People who appreciated the response wrote back, and I
wrote back to them and a dialogue began. It actually shaped how I
began to write the column. The boundary between my readers and me had
begun to dissolve. All of these readers were eyes and ears for me;
they were my scouts. That's how I started getting my best stories.
Then, one day, one of them told me to go to this Web site Cluetrain.com.
I went, and I read these so-called 95 theses—hardly pretentious at
all—The 95 Theses of The World Wide Web, including the following
Number 1: Markets are conversations.
Number 2: Markets consist of human beings, not demographic
Number 3: Conversations among human beings sound human. They are
conducted in a human voice.
Number 15: In just a few more years, the current homogenized
voice of business, the sound of mission statements and brochures,
will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th
century French court.
Number 20: Companies need to realize that their markets are often
laughing at them.
Number 53: There are two conversations going on, one inside the
company, one with the market.
Number 56: These two conversations want to talk to each other.
They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's
Number 82: Your product broke? Why? We'd like to ask the guy who
made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a
chat with your CEO. What do you mean she's not in?
Number 84: We know some people from your company. They're pretty
cool online. Do you have any more like that you are hiding? Can they
come out and play?
So, just who were these guys who wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto? Two
of the four are with us tonight, and let me first introduce Christopher
Locke. What it doesn't say in his official bio is that perhaps his
greatest accomplishment, other than family and this book, is the
creation of a doppelganger, a complete alternate personality called
Chris is not insane; he is just weird. He publishes a newsletter
Gradient Reversals, which really resonated with me, as I
thought about where value comes from in a universe governed by
entropy. He is a Web denizen from way back. His 9-year-old daughter
thought that he was so intimate with his computer and spent so much
time with it that she began to refer to his computer as Monitor
Lewinski. Chris was the guy who, when growing up in Washington, as I
understand it, was invited to the White House Easter egg hunt and blew
it off. True story. Not too much later, while living outside of
Washington, he actually made it here for the March on Washington with
his girlfriend. Don't clap too soon, however, because he used the
opportunity to spend all day in a hotel room. This is his first gig in
Washington to which he has actually shown up. Christopher Locke.
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