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

Mr. Weinberger: Our aim was not to focus on the new opportunities where you could behave like a human being instead of a shithead; the aim was to talk about business in general and business as usual—to point out what we think is the obvious fact that whether you are a Fortune 10 or a fortune gazillion company, you need to make some changes from the way you are doing business, whether it's for sealing wax or it's for toilet paper.

Mr. Mandel: And you do a great job of it, so thank you. One last thing. As far as the fear storms that come from new media like the Columbine message you mentioned, that's nothing new or specific to the Web. I'm sure you all know about Orson Welles and the invasion from Mars when radio first went national. It seems like that might pass as an example. Thanks.

Mr. Locke: Thanks for the EGR plug, too.

Mr. Cooper: I'm Barry Cooper of Cooper Associates. I really enjoy the optimism that I hear tonight, but I wonder what you gentlemen expect to happen when broadband becomes ubiquitous; when the Web and the geeks on the Web are overwhelmed by people who are watching TV and don't know that they are really segmented and marketed to through their soap operas, etc. I'm looking at a "vast Web wasteland" potential.

Mr. Locke: Well, I think there is so much of the broadcast mentality in this question, and I'm not blaming that on you, but I think everybody I have heard talk about broadband is like, "Well, when the big boys arrive . . ." Broadband is just a lot of bandwidth, unless I'm reading it wrong, right? So every time there is a lot of bandwidth, we are going to get a chunk of it, right?

Mr. Petzinger: You mean we, the human beings?

Mr. Locke: We the human beings are going to get some of it, so instead of Hollywood having control of movies, we are going to be doing movies. We are nomadic and we are very flexible. We learn this stuff very quickly, so I don't think there is going to be the lock on the media that has existed within the strictly broadcast world. I think we will be sharing movies with each other and other rich bandwidth stuff.

Mr. Cooper: And you don't think that Madison Avenue will mature and learn how to use the DoubleClick-type technology to manipulate us?

Mr. Weinberger: The Web is an infinite space. It's not like Wal-Mart comes in and drives out all the business from downtown so everything else shrivels up. If AOL Time Warner decides that, in addition to the conversations that AOL has been magnificent at spawning in their chat rooms, this is the opportunity to do broadband broadcast—build a mega-mall with 100,000 stores and 150,000 virtual Starbucks and everybody will come to it—they are just wrong. We may go to it at times. I may go to it for whatever reason. I like broadcast. I watch TV and I also like shopping, so I may go there, but it's not going to take anything away from the rest of the landscape.

Mr. Locke: Here's an example. What about in the command line days when the notion of being able to do graphics and sound was unbelievable. When that happened, people said, the corporate world would take over. Well, guess what took over? The dancing hamsters page.

Ms. Sclarsky: I'm Kimberly Sclarsky, President and founder of 2s2i and my business very much revolves around helping companies understand the conversations that their customers are having currently about their products. What do you think will have to shift for corporations to understand that these conversations taking place are not just rumors, misinformation and gossip? For the most part, that seems to be the perception that large organizations have about what people are talking about online.

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Mr. Petzinger: Because they can't control it.

Ms. Sclarsky: Exactly.

Mr. Weinberger (to Mr. Locke, laughing): Why do you point to me when I don't have anything to say? All those questions, I was ready to jump in.

A couple of those corporations may have to fail, you know?

Mr. Locke: 500. Let's say 500 of them have to fail.

Mr. Petzinger: David said earlier, I'll put it in slightly different terms, that one of the skills we are going to have to evolve in order to live in this era and partake of this cornucopia, is the skill of sorting out fact from fiction. Maybe the big organizations have to recognize that the fiction is going to be part of the story, and that the more stories that get told, the more skillful we are all going to get. That's not going to satisfy a VP of Marketing tomorrow, and it's not going to satisfy one of your clients, but it's probably the reality of where we are headed.

Mr. Locke: I have a great analogy for this. You saw it, Tom, because you covered manufacturing, right? There was this thing in the 1970s and 1980s, this sort of, "duh," the light bulb went off at these large manufacturing organizations. It was called concurrent engineering. Guess what this meant? It meant that the manufacturing engineers and the design engineers should talk to each other. Let's start a journal. Wow! It's just amazing that they should talk to each other at the outset of a project instead of the design engineers working for two years and then showing the manufacturing guys, then the manufacturing guys saying, "You can't build that, I'm sorry." I went to this conference on concurrent engineering and this guy had a chart laying it out. After his talk I said, "What about the shop floor?" He said, "Oh, those guys don't even have college degrees."

This is equivalent to what you are describing about businesses saying, "Well, all that conversation down there, those people don't even have college degrees." Ford, for instance and Motorola and the companies that won the Malcolm Baldrige Award when the Quality movement was real, that was the result of pressure from the global economy and all this competition. The ones who lived through that realized that people on the shop floor had a tremendous amount of knowledge. If they didn't get it, get it fast and incorporate it into what they were doing—what the Japanese were really, really good at—they would die. The inspiration is not ever going to be altruism or doing the right thing, it's going to be terror and paranoia. Go out there and leverage as much terror as you possibly can.

Mr. Alexander: I'm Jeff Alexander. Among other things I'm a graduate student in a department of management science, so how's that for arrogance? Just as the American system of management is a result of the mass production economy, so is our system of education. What happens when you pour The Cluetrain Manifesto from business into the culture of education and academia?

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Mr. Locke: Nuclear war.

Mr. Petzinger: As long as we have those porno filters in place, we'll be okay. Just don't have a class assignment on breast cancer.

Mr. Locke: Actually this is a question that came up many times in the signatory page on the site. One email we've gotten is: why not education or why not government or medicine or a lot of things? One of the reasons we . . . am I buzzing?

Mr. Weinberger: That's just inside you. Nobody else hears that. It's okay, Chris. Keep going.

Mr. Petzinger: He is going to start itching soon.

Mr. Locke: One of the reasons that we went for abstraction in the book is because we are trying to get the principles that are broadly applicable. One of my answers to the question of why not education, besides the fact that education is really stupid, is that business has a lot deeper pockets. It can respond quickly when you leverage the terror. The academy is built on these medieval foundations. They are still trying to come to grips with the Paris Commune.

Mr. Kim: My name is Ed Kim and I'm a founder of AZN Media. If markets are conversations and broadband is coming, when it does come, how will people converse, through video or through text? Is one going to phase out? Is one going to handle the real truth and the other the untruth?

Mr. Locke: I have been hearing for so many years that text is old-fashioned—it's just ASCII. Language is the richest descriptor we have. I have gotten used to . . .

Mr. Petzinger: This is a writer talking.

Mr. Locke: I have gotten used to graphics. I'm not as much of a text elitist as I used to be, but I think that the setup of one versus the other, that once we have lots of pictures we won't really need language anymore... I like to say, "A picture is worth 1,000 words, but it takes 1,200 to describe it."

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Mr. Weinberger: I basically agree with what Chris said. I do think it's because I'm primarily a writer, so I'm very comfortable at a keyboard crafting words. I think that's not the entirety of the universe, however, so who knows? It seems certainly the case—saying "certainly" always indicates that the speaker actually means "I am not at all certain about this"—that there will be people who will put up the $15 video cameras and chat using their visual image. There will be people who prefer avatars and people who prefer typing in messages, and there are going to be people who prefer microphones that translate into text. It's going to be every possible way that human beings like to communicate.

The premise of your question is, and I completely agree with it, that there are huge differences between talking into a camera and typing at a keyboard. It changes the nature of the conversation. There have been studies, that show that's the case. You will see, I believe, a flourishing of every type and they will vary from culture to culture and community to community.

Mr. Petzinger: People still write and people still write snail mail.

Mr. Locke: I don't think we are going to have passive video. I think we are going to have video and movies, but people are going to want to tweak that creatively. They are going to want to play with it. As we have had more movies, have we had fewer reviews? No.

Mr. Kim: Which medium do you think will be closer to the actual act of purchasing and commerce, the text or the video?

Mr. Locke: Who cares? There was a point that was made before by Tom Mandel, or a criticism, saying this was about be nice to your customer, talk to your customer, permission marketing and all that bullshit. That's not what we are talking about. This is not about commerce. What we are talking about is what people do when they get together, which is that they want to talk with each other. If you want to sell stuff, figure out that this is what's going on in this world and learn how to talk. I don't care how you tell me stuff, but if you get in my face, I'm going to turn you off.

Mr. Rubenstein: I'm Herb Rubenstein, President of Growth Strategies. Following that question, what happens when our information appliances and our computers allow us to talk and activate our email and other communications? Do you see any better uses for it after we are able to have more of a voice-activated Web than we have now?

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Mr. Weinberger: Sure. It includes a whole bunch of people who are excluded now because they type with two fingers or they don't have hands. I'm not a big believer that as the unwired world gets wired we should be looking forward to having big desktop machines and QWERTY keyboards. It seems much more likely that over the next five to ten years they will be wired with all sorts of applications and appliances that don't require typing, as well as some that do. The voice stuff is enabling for tons of people, and some people who can type may prefer it. We are inventing types of conversation all the time on the Web, so who knows what people are going to come up with? Avatars have a terrible name, as they should, because it's sort of a science fictiony thing, but it's also a way of displacing yourself. Some people are going to find that extremely attractive. Who knows? Can we see what happens?

Mr. McCall: I'm Nathan McCall of The Adrenaline Group. I'm glad that was asked and I enjoyed a lot of the conversation that's gone on tonight, but I'm a little concerned that usability hasn't been mentioned that much, such as how easily are people going to be able to use this? Where does the human/computer interface factor in?

Mr. Locke: Again, in terms of what we are talking about, it's not how should it be, but how it is. We know that there are a surprising number of people in this medium who came to it despite all the hurdles that already existed, and which were worse a few years ago than they are now. I think things will get easier, but I don't have a tremendous insight into exactly how they should.

I just want to follow up on the question you were glad was asked before. Yes, we all have this ability to be spontaneous and to converse, but I don't think that all of that conversing is equally compelling. One of the reasons for writing is a process called editing, because you don't always get it right the first time. The "audience attracters" for these micro-market communities, which are going to emerge, are going to be extremely well done voices that are not just off the top of the head. You are going to go back over it and make it better. Even if you write stand-up comedy, you don't really get up on the stage and just do it. You probably had six writers in the background.

Mr. Weinberger: Do you see something coming that prompts this question about usability?

Mr. McCall: Ideally, I hope to see, in the current context of E-commerce in particular, that the winner is going to be decided by how easy somebody can find stuff on their Web site.

[continued]

Page six of seven | Next page

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