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

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 compelling.

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 this argument.

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 . . .

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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 realm.

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 Morino.

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mario morino: the pulse of the market

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, truly jerks.

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 destiny.

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 and X.25 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.

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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 night."

That's personal communication.

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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.

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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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Page seven of seven 

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Statements made at Netpreneur events and recorded here reflect solely the views of the speakers and have not been reviewed or researched for accuracy or truthfulness. These statements in no way reflect the opinions or beliefs of the Morino Institute, Netpreneur.org or any of their affiliates, agents, officers or directors. The transcript is provided "as is" and your use is at your own risk.  

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