|a conversation with the
cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of business as
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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?
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
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.
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