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a conversation with the cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of business as usual
page five of seven | previous page

Mr. Locke: Open source nukes. I like this.

Mr. Weinberger: Open source weaponry, open source military strategy, maybe they don't want to do that, but it's hard to imagine a place that wouldn't benefit from having some type of conversation with its market about what's going to work. Not only do they have the benefit of talking with people who are going to buy their product later on so that it's more likely to please them, they also bring customers in. They are, in effect, selling people on these products early. They are getting people tied to the product production process while their competitors are holding back waiting to pull the curtain on a finished product that it turns out nobody wants. As more and more companies do this type of open source development I think it will become quite widespread.

Mr. Locke: Let's talk about Ford.

Mr. Petzinger: Henry or Motor Company?

Mr. Locke: Ford Motor Company. In February, and this time I do mean February, Ford announced that it was giving a computer and Internet connections to 350,000 of its employees worldwide. If there was ever a Cluetrain move, boy, that was it. The next day, Delta Airlines announced that it was doing the same thing.

To tell you a little background story, in June, Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson, Hill & Knowlton, Alexander Communications and others invited me to New York to talk to the various public relations elements. I met this woman who was the main point of contact here in DC with Ford's Internet group, and she said, "I'm spamming Cluetrain all over these guys and they are digging it. They are really responding to it." A couple months later I got an email from this analyst who said, "I'm at this internal Ford conference and I'm falling asleep. It's endless Powerpoint slides, it's after lunch, I'm fading out and all of a sudden I looked up and there was the Cluetrain home page in this guy's presentation."

Mr. Petzinger: You mean with the animal . . .

Mr. Locke: With the roadkill, yes.

Mr. Petzinger: It was a Ford car.

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Mr. Locke: So we have at least apocryphal evidence that Ford was looking at this stuff very early, and it totally fits with this move that's going to cost them $30 million. When this was reported in the front pages, above the fold, The Washington Post and New York Times talked about the value of the equipment. They talked about how this will be technology savvy for the new work force and blah, blah, blah. None of them said what Ford CEO and President Jac Nasser said when he announced it, that it will basically give them 350,000 ears in the marketplace listening to new trends about what people want in cars. He also said it's bi-directional. In other words, it will be 350,000 voices in the marketplace able to talk not like PR people, but like mechanics or secretaries or whatever they do, and talk about a company that they now love because they got that Berlin Wall out of the way and said, "We trust you. Go out and make sure you are out there and say the right stuff." I think that's cool. What are they, a Fortune 10 company?

Mr. Petzinger: Yes.

Mr. Locke: You can't say I never said anything good about business.

Mr. Petzinger: Even big business.

Mr. Locke: Even big business.

Mr. Petzinger: What's good for Ford is good for . . . no, never mind.

Mr. Locke: Conversation is job one.

Mr. Petzinger: Of course, what Ford didn't announce is the astonishing amount of additional, unpaid productivity it will get from its workers who will now bring work home with them and say to their kids, "Don't touch that computer, Mommy hasn't saved that yet."

Let's move to another subject. Ninety-nine percent of the computers in the world are in Europe and North America, so what happens to the remaining 99% of the world that doesn't have computers?

Mr. Locke: I don't know. Let's keep it that way; it's the only edge we have.

Mr. Weinberger: Chris does not speak for The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Mr. Locke: I think that was RageBoy.

Mr. Weinberger: "RageBoy" is the clinical name for Chris' Tourette's Syndrome.

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Mr. Petzinger: The Wall Street Journal conducted a Millennium Summit along the way to our millennium edition, which I edited. I participated in the Summit, which was a cool event. A question came up about getting the developing world wired, and one of the participants said that the cost of a computer is plunging towards zero, so it's all a matter of economics. Ultimately, chips will become ubiquitous across the planet, and we are going to have computers absolutely everywhere. However, there was no discussion of fuel cell technology or anything like that. What keeps occurring to me is, where are they going to plug them in? Where are you going to jack them into the local telco? What is the local telco, and how many hours a week does it work?

Mr. Locke: Let me take a shot at that because I was on this Washington Post chat this morning and this question comes up frequently—what about the rest of the world? I said, "Well, first of all, Cluetrain doesn't cure cancer or have a solution to nuclear war either."

Mr. Petzinger: You are allowed to answer as an individual.

Mr. Locke: Two points beyond that. One is that we are focusing on the first world in what we are talking about here, clearly, but, if you look at the biggest export of the first world, it's culture. If what we are exporting is the culture of broadcast and the culture of vanilla pablum bullshit advertising—the argument in Jihad Vs. McWorld: How the Planet is Both Falling Apart and Coming Together, a book by Benjamin Barber and Andrea Schulz—it's a great line, too. Personally, I'm for Jihad, but we'll go into that later. If that's our export to the rest of the world, then an international sitcom is going to be the result. It's important what we do here, now.

The other argument is Moore's Law and the falling price of the equipment, but I think the other driver is business. There is a tremendous advantage in having as much of the market online as you possibly can, so part of the answer, possibly, is that if there isn't a telco, we'll build you one. Not just give you the computer, we'll put the infrastructure in and give you electricity. We'll build the dams for you so you can have Internet connections because this is the driver of the world economy and it's to business' advantage to have its market accessible. I think there are some unsuspected effects of this. That's a very optimistic view. The other view is that you can freeze in the dark, but . . .

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the audience: more voices

Mr. Petzinger: We have a number of questions that have come in from the Web, including one from Rajeesh who says, "By engaging in conversations using the Internet, it seems to me that the privacy of individuals will be reduced." This is a perennial argument, just like the one about the developing world, but my personal view is that we kind of have to get over it, but maybe I just don't embarrass easily.

Mr. Weinberger: I have nothing to be ashamed of, so what's the big deal? I think I agree. Part of the answer is in the ongoing political struggle over what is the right amount of privacy balanced against the realistic protections that can be afforded or routed around. That's a really hard problem, and we'll struggle with it as a culture over the next decade or maybe more. There is another issue which is that the Web is changing our notion, not just of privacy, but of the self and what we are being private about. In the meat world, the dirt world, the real world—whichever you prefer—we have a very strict line between our public self and our private self, and we identify our "real" self with the private self. That is completely weird. If anything, it gets it backwards. "I'm most who I am when I'm by myself." We are social creatures, aren't we? Isn't that sort of the point? You get on the Web and you have a totally different type of society with a different type of public.

I'll give you two quick examples. One is that in the real world we stay in one spot pretty much. We live in a place—except for you, Tom, because you keep driving the property values down then you flee—but most of us live in a spot and we generate some consistency. If we are one way during most of our time in this spot—and I will except you from this, Chris—it's very hard for us suddenly to become completely different. People look at you like you are genuinely psychotic. Being in a physical location where we don't move around a lot makes us be more consistent in ourselves. If you get on the Web, you can be a different person in every chat room. You find people who play . . . this is going to come out totally wrong . . .

Mr. Locke: Now let me give you the real answer.

Mr. Weinberger: No, no, no. I have to rephrase the part that I was going to say—they play with their selves on the Web. Not, they play with themselves. So an 18-year-old kid who was in a chat room and talking with somebody from the Columbine High School in December of 1999, I believe, and casually said to a student, "Oh, don't go into school tomorrow because we are going to finish the job we started." This was totally irresponsible. I heard him interviewed on TV and he said something to the effect of, "Well, I'm an actor. I'm in the local stage productions and I was channeling. I was seeing what it would be like to be my favorite actor, John Malkovich, and I had no idea this was going to be taken seriously."

For a moment, I'm going believe this guy because it's such a wacky story—it's really hard to believe this was a good excuse. So here is a kid who is playing with a self. He is trying out different selves and he happened to pick a really, well, let's say, evil one in this situation. It was a pretty hideous thing to do. That's a sense of freedom that you get on the Web that in some ways may be pathological, but it's there and it's one of the things that appeals to people. Chris with RageBoy is, I think, actually a very good example. Maybe a little bit over the top but . . .

Mr. Locke: Yes. Actually, an example of that is that I wrote a review of The Cluetrain Manifesto. You can find it on RageBoy.com, it's called "Clues You Can Lose," and it's a scathing review in which I said that we really didn't need more conversations; we needed an alien intelligence to carpet nuke planet Earth.

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Mr. Weinberger: It's a type of conversation, too.

Mr. Locke: I was just kidding.

Let me speak to the question about privacy. I think it comes down to this adversarial relationship that you very well ranted about up here on the stage, David. There has been this barrage of messaging at people. We don't like that, and there is not a lot of love lost in these relationships.

I am editor-in-chief of a site called personalization.com—disclaimer: I created this for my client Net Perceptions. Come visit. I'm sort of on the firing line of this issue because these are technologies like collaborative filtering and the sort of stuff that Amazon.com uses to say "people who bought this book also bought these other books..." and that CD Now and others use. There is a tremendous concern about privacy abridgement. DoubleClick, right now, is getting sued six ways to Sunday, and there is a great debate about using people's information against their will to target them and do all kinds of stuff. However, you can use the same kind of collaborative filtering information to define these emergent micro-markets that I was talking about earlier. Amazon.com knows who bought your book, Tom, as does Barnes & Noble and some of these other big sites that have been selling your stuff. They know a lot about these communities, but they haven't connected the dots yet. If what we get from companies is "connecting the dots" and facilitating the conversation, there would be far less concern about being targeted for spam and advertising, and maybe the actual possibility of gratitude—"Thanks for introducing me to Tom or Joe or Sally whom I never would have known if you hadn't brought your customers together around what they are clearly interested in." I think that's a better answer, but there is no perfect answer.

Mr. Petzinger: On the theory that nobody is as smart as everybody, I would like to invite folks to come to the microphone and give us a question. Please give us your name and, notwithstanding the fact that you have already heard a few shameless plugs, none from the audience. I guess that's a rule of the house.

Mr. Mandel: I'm Tom Mandel, one of the founders of Caucus Systems, and have been involved with the idea of markets as conversation since meeting Doc Searls, one of my buddies, in 1997. I just want to say that I think RageBoy is probably the best writer on the Internet. If you do not subscribe to his 'zine, please don't because there are too many people who are into it already.

I have a little bit of a problem with what I'm hearing. For one thing I'm hearing a lot of what appears to be nostrums "let's talk to the customer, let's turn customers into friends" and so forth. I would be interested to hear more about what sort of new companies or organizations can respond to these new opportunities we are seeing, especially regarding Chris' idea of the micro-markets.

Mr. Locke: I'm a sort of an abstract thinker, so I always have a hard time coming up with very point-specific examples, but, in the Web micro-markets I mentioned, a few minor industries like news, information and entertainment. There is a lot of money there. Take David's 'zine, the Journal Of The Hyperlinked Organization or my Entropy Gradient Reversals or Tom's Petzinger Report. Right now we have these tiny beginnings of voices, not the sort of global opportunity to speak, but people who are saying specific kinds of things. Think of the beginning of television. The medium evolved and stars came out of it. I think that there are going to be stars in very specific areas. They are never going to get to be the size of Microsoft or Yahoo! or General Motors, but they will support people. If you look at a huge company like Procter & Gamble or IBM, for instance, they spend billions in advertising. Some of these kinds of companies, going quite far down from there, instead of putting out a $30 million media buy, are going to say, "Here are the 100 Web sites that we want to support. We want to be aligned with the audiences that these sites are bringing together because they represent the kind of people we think will be interested in what we are doing." Then the opportunity is not to advertise there, but to go participate. I'm sorry. I can't say that sealing wax and salmon canning are good markets for this, but in general . . .

[continued]

Page five of seven | Next page

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