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a conversation with the cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of business as usual

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 and UUNET's Head Start program.

Statements 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, 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 clarity.

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—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 company," today the $21 billion company after being acquired by Verisign; The Staubach 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 and advice.

The Morino Institute and the 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 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 the Wall 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 US.

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 created?

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 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 examples:

Number 1: Markets are conversations.

Number 2: Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

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 voices.

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 RageBoy.

Chris is not insane; he is just weird. He publishes a newsletter called Entropy 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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