|a conversation with the
cluetrain manifesto authors
the end of
business as usual
Mr. Weinberger: I don't believe that. You might well be right,
but I don't believe it. That's one of the factors. If I go to a site
and it's really hard to use, that's a problem, but I'm also attracted
to a site sometimes by price and frequently by the presence of other
people with whom I can talk or by word of mouth. One of the reasons
why Amazon has done so well is not simply because of the one-click
patent—pardon my sarcasm, but there's something worth patenting—but
Amazon's also done so well, in part, because I can read reviews from
strangers around the world and that's very, very useful. That's
conversation, so I'm not sure that I believe ease-of-us alone is
Ms. Perlmutter: My name is Julie Perlmutter with The
Creative Network. My question is served from an
anthropological perspective which you make a lot of references to.
One of the most meaningful remarks to me was the one about Monitor
Lewinski because it refers to a very intimate kind of
relationship, one that's very interesting to me with all of these
new conversations. Culturally, our country, which is so far ahead
in conversation, is suffering the most loneliness and isolation.
With all that you've talked about, isn't there also a sort of
cocooning through conversations?
Mr. Petzinger: Can I take a stand on that? I'd like to go on
record saying that the Internet is not making people lonelier, and
computers are not making people lonelier. It's exactly the opposite,
but we haven't found the data or haven't found a way to show it yet.
There was a recent study which said that average Americans are
spending so much time online and having less face-to-face interaction.
There was a quote from some guru who said people are involved less
with other people because they are spending so much time online. Well,
they are not shopping online all of that time; they are talking to
other people. I know people who haven't had conversations with other
human beings in years, yet they are engaged. They have friends all
over the world. Present company excepted. I respect your question.
Mr. Locke: I agree with that, but I also think—this is
something I have never really said before in this way—but one of the
reasons we are not really sure we want to shut down the broadcast,
even though it brings us this endless stream of advertising, is that
if you shut off the noise, life is lonely. It hurts in here, and it's
very difficult to cross that space. It always has been difficult to
cross that space, so you do it in whatever way you can. However, the
Net didn't make that loneliness. We have an ability, as human beings,
to confront that lonely space we live in, and that's a different kind
of thing than the commercial world wants to promote because it doesn't
sell the product that fills the hole in your heart.
Mr. Weinberger: It's the same thing for the telephone. I would
think that telephones have increased the amount of communication in
our culture even though it's a very thin line.
Mr. Locke: Notice that people don't object to telephones using
Mr. Weinberger: That's what I meant.
Mr. Locke: It's as useful as it is. In other words, if we can't
be all singing, all dancing to each other . . .
Ms. Perlmutter: I'm just saying that I think you have to look
at it culturally. You are going all the way back to the Neolithic
period and talking about the marketplace, so I think you have to look
at all the dimensions of life if you are going to continue in that
Mr. Keith: I'm Paulo Keith of SAIC.
I want to explore this issue of online communities, how they would
find one another and self-regulate themselves in an organic sense.
Back in 1987, only us geeks had accounts and we had the USENET all
to ourselves so we could talk about things in a very narrow sense
and have very detailed discussions on rendering algorithms without
the riffraff eavesdropping. If you fast forward to now, we have
AOL chat rooms and Raging
Bull stock message boards, but you don't have the
ability to self-regulate and exclude troublesome people without
having a monitor. It's sort of a sponsored environment, but in
real life social cliques, you can self-regulate without a
sponsored forum with a den mother.
Mr. Locke: Well, look at what your problem is. The examples you
use are Raging Bull and AOL chat rooms. Let's talk about Raging Bull.
There are people who are crazy to make fast money, and that's like a
lot of people, right? I don't think there has been as steep an
increase in people interested in rendering algorithms during the same
period. Nobody is going to come bother you. If it is a broad area,
like investing and day trading, and all of a sudden it's got a huge
perceived upside, it also means there's a big enough audience to make
money. That's one way to cut the noise out. You can also have
moderators, and you can start getting more specific in talking not
just about any kind of stocks, but these kinds of stocks or this
specific strategy so that those markets get down smaller and smaller.
If you have to have a big discussion, there is going to be more money
to have lots of different moderation. For instance, we have talked
about Amazon.com a couple of times and the book reviews there.
Actually, one of the reasons they are valuable, although this is not
perfect because a lot of stuff doesn't end up there, but they do get
edited. They get edited by somebody who says oh this is complete
trash, I'm not going to put it up. There are mechanisms, including
financial mechanisms, that lend themselves to less noise, more signal
kinds of discussions.
Mr. Petzinger: Excuse me, but speaking of less noise, our time
has clicked to an end, but there is one more order of business, and
that is introducing someone who in these parts really needs no
introduction, but let's do it anyway. He is many things to many people—entrepreneur,
philanthropist, spiritual leader, rabid about anything to do with
Cleveland—as someone who grew up in Youngstown, I am rabidly jealous
of Cleveland. Hard to imagine, isn't it? Champion of everything
entrepreneurial in this region, and our host for this evening, Mario
mario morino: the pulse of
Thank you. For me, this was like a feast because these gentlemen
were talking about something I really believe in. I want to thank them
for a great performance and some great knowledge tonight, and to note
some synergies—Tom talked about Youngstown, well, my affinity goes
deep since, at Ohio
University, I think I went to school with every Italian from
Boardman. Chris, I share your feelings for Frederick Taylor, and
David, I think people who think that life is controllable are really,
If you believe in David's point, you should read Robert Waterman’s
book, The Renewal Factor. In the first two chapters he
describes how we can no longer define our life in detailed, management
terms. The best we can do is to assume that we are going to cross a
channel in a sailboat. We have to know what our sailboat can do, what
our skills are and where we are going. After that, we are at the mercy
of the current and the wind, and we had better be able to adapt in
order to get from one side to the other side.
I would like to touch on some things I have seen that will
reinforce what was discussed tonight. I can tell by some of the
questions that there is, maybe not a disbelief, but certainly a
questioning of what I think is a very significant point.
The most significant thing I have observed, certainly in the last
10 years and maybe in my entire technical background, is what has
happened in personal communication. Chris described that as people
talking to people, and I think we have just begun to tap what this is
going to mean to us—not just in terms of commerce, but also how we
govern ourselves, how we educate ourselves and how we change our
I want to share with you what occurred to me in 1993 because I
think it's very germane to the points made here. For 30 years of my
life, we dealt with corporations and we knew networks cold. Then they
were called SNA
networks, and they were very quasi-hierarchical, even though they were
meant to be widespread. I didn't really see the Internet until
sometime in 1992. In an attempt to learn what was going on, I went out
to talk to people and I traveled all over. I actually went to
Billings, Montana, also, but in February. I was that crazy and
it was that cold.
Mr. Petzinger: But it was elk season.
Mr. Morino: It was, but I didn't have a gun. The point I'm
getting at is that throughout that year, I kept trying to talk to
people about what was happening. I realized that year will go down as
being the year of transition. You have to go back to 1993—it was the
year Vice President Gore announced the National Information
Infrastructure, the Internet hit critical mass, the media went berserk
in covering the Net and networking was actually realized in the
mainstream through bulletin
board systems (BBS) for the first time.
In that 18-month period, my colleague and I actually met over 700
people from all walks of life face-to-face. They knew we had some
technology background and would start talking about what they were
witnessing. When we heard their stories, we could see something
was going on. I always look for what I call "the life
force," the sparkle in someone's eye. What that was, in almost
every case, was somebody talking about a personal connection made with
another human being. By the end of that year, it was obvious that
something of enormous proportion was taking place. I mean, my
associate and I were technology people. We did email before most
people knew what email was, but now people were talking about it in a
different context. It hit us in January of 1994 that what was taking
place was a fundamental change in how people would communicate. Once
you understand that single premise, you know that everything in our
life will change as a result. It's only a question of when.
To give you an example of some of the data points that we saw, one
was an Alzheimer's network. My dad died of Alzheimer's, and it's
important to understanding this point of personal communication. There
was a woman who had just been given a computer terminal—she defied
all the demographic rules: elderly, female, etc. Her story was so
compelling. She told how at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, when her
husband was awake and bouncing aimlessly around the room, she said,
"I have no one to talk to, so I go to that machine they gave me
and I type in a message. Generally, someone else out there, a
caregiver, another spouse, a sibling or someone whose family member is
doing the same thing talks back to me and we get through another
That's personal communication.
It was a mechanic who comes online out of nowhere to help a person
fix a car. It was how the freenets were born out of a small network in
Cleveland, Ohio, where university doctors talked to their assistants
and bypassed all the administrative processes of hospitals. It was
about a young disabled person who wrote a message and when his parents
came in and asked, "What are you doing?" He replied,
"It's incredible; I'm talking to a professor and he is talking to
me, and he doesn't know that I'm different." That's what you were
hearing about tonight. It's a very personal form of communication,
and, once you begin to realize the implications, you know that we are
only scratching the surface.
To drive home how real this is, there is a company that you all
know very well. Its initials have three letters. I won't go any
further than that, but they did a lot of hardware and software for
many years. The rumor has it that one of the CEOs lost his job,
because of a final straw that broke the camel's back. A debate was
raging about the problems inside the company on internal email.
Instead of responding back in terms of the informal nature of an email
message, this person wrote a corporate-speak memo. In writing a memo,
he slapped the face of the company culture. This disconnect may have
cost him his job.
If you go back to the point that was raised about cocooning, that
concept was developed by Faith Popcorn in the 1980s to characterize a
social problem. We are seeing cocooning today, and that's one of the
problems. Maybe we are going to be Balkanized, but, on the other hand,
let me give you an example from this weekend that I think is anything
but cocooning. We lost a friend who died this weekend and we learned
about it through another friend who sent an email Friday night. We
have since been able to get the word out to a lot of folks, and they,
in turn, have been able to get in touch with his family. That's
anything but cocooning. It's very deep, personal relationships, and
that's what this is about.
When you talk about markets being conversations, yes, that is
exactly right, but it is broader than markets. I believe it's about
"pulsing." There is no longer a need at any point in a
process for any company or organization to ever have to make a
decision completely internally again. Whether you are in development
or research, whether you are in customer support or sales, it's
foolish to think that you have to discuss this in your own conference
room. The fact that you can go out to people and say, "Help me. I
just found something out. What do you think?" That affects every
aspect of our organizations. That's the cultural challenge. Are we big
enough, strong enough and do we have the confidence to carry on that
dialogue? That's not new to business, but we're now seeing it made
possible in a very different way.
I love Chris' point about micro-markets. It plucks a thread that is
very difficult for a lot of people in today's economy to understand.
We see the "gazelles"—companies like Amazon.com and eBay—making
those huge numbers. There will still be those kinds of remarkable
successes, but there will be other phenomena as well that will change
the economic base. One is going to be the return of barter networks.
You are seeing it already but, more importantly, let me give you a
great example of a good friend of mine named Jean Armour Polly. She is
a classic case of somebody who has a craft. Her craft happens to be in
how the Internet is used with children. She took it on as a by-product
of other work, and now she is called net-mom.
She makes a living at home, and she and her husband have a higher
quality of life. She is the new economy, folks, and she is never going
to be a big corporation, nor does she want to be. But do you know
what? Her customers include AOL and Disney,
and that's not too shabby for living in upstate New York and enjoying
your back yard and the forest. That's the new economy.
The fact that consumers are people is something I don't think the
Internet created, although it finally brings it home. Good companies
and good groups always understood that. The shame is that we didn't
have enough of them. We had too many Frederick Taylor mentalities.
Much lies ahead of us. I'm a tremendous believer that these
communities and these conversations are a new form of learning, a new
form of innovation and a new form of development, led by people like
Howard Rheingold and Chris Locke. We are just beginning to scratch the
surface. It's hard to take that knowledge and convert it into cultural
settings of radically different mores and beliefs because of the
confidence it takes to let our souls go online and talk to people that
openly. It's going to take a long time, but I believe this may be the
most significant thing we've witnessed. If you accept that, then
broadband is irrelevant and video is irrelevant—it's the personal
communication. What do you think sells cellular phones and pagers and
personal devices? It has nothing to do with getting information; it's
your personal communication.
Once again, I'd like to thank Chris, Tom and Dave for bringing us
back to what I think are the core elements of what has made the
Internet the phenomenon it is, and why it has the enormous potential
to change life in a positive way moving forward. Special thanks, also
to our co-producer UUNET, to our lead partner, Blackboard and our
community partners AOL, Network Solutions, the Staubach Group, Hunton
& Williams and Steve Walker & Associates. All are good
friends. Thanks to Mary MacPherson, Fran Witzel and the whole
netpreneur.org team, and to the volunteers. You have done a great job
again. Most of all, thanks to our audience. You bring a lot of
excitement, and you are demonstrating why this region is vibrant,
exciting and a wonderful place to be at a remarkable point in time.
Have a good time and drive home safely.
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