|a conversation with the
cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of
business as usual
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.
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
Mr. Petzinger: Even big business.
Mr. Locke: Even big business.
Mr. Petzinger: What's good for Ford is good for . . . no, never
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
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
Mr. Locke: I think that was RageBoy.
Mr. Weinberger: "RageBoy" is the clinical name for
Chris' Tourette's Syndrome.
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
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 . . .
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 . . .
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