I had first come across the 95 thesis that compose the actual Cluetrain Manifesto back in 2000 at the Cluetrain website – anyone doing any kind of work today, for profit or non-profit, from CEO to self-described McJob slave, should read these points. Not everyone will “get it” and that’s the point, if you don’t get it, then your chances of being successful in the first couple decades of the 21st century are going to be much smaller than if you do “get it”.
What’s great is that you can read the manifesto and the contents of the entire book for free at the website so this is a zero investment for you other than time. I bought a copy of the book (on Amazon) because if something is more than 20 pages long I like to read it on paper, plus I bring all the books I buy into the office in order for my colleagues to borrow them at will.
As I posted last month, when I first began reading the book I (finally) put it together that contributor Christopher Locke is _the_ Christopher Locke I had known from 12 years ago via his Entropy Gradient Reversal website and RageBoy newsletters. Back then, Christopher would kindly respond to questions and comments made in reply to his newsletters and sure enough, within a day of my post he posted a very nice comment to me. He notified me about his new(er) philosphy-driven blog, Mystic Bourgeoisie, and I noticed he has a book out, The Bombast Transcripts, which I will have to check out on short order.
The book version of the Cluetrain Manifesto is composed of the 95 tenets of the new global communication (which should be referred to semi-regularly, like a favorite poem) and a set of 7 supplemental essays that expand upon most if not all of the thesis. Christopher Locke’s 3 contributions reveal him to be the cheerleader for the mental revolution necessary for individuals, organizations, and society to be successful at leveraging this required method of communication. More clearly than anyone in the book, Locke points out the fallacy of continuing to function as if the change in attitude hasn’t happened, as well as urging people and groups to not to attempt to “fake” it – charlatanism is transparent and will be rewarded with failure. His enthusiasm is humorous, urgent, and serious at the same time, truly inspirational.
Rick Levine’s essay, “Talk Is Cheap” is the most technically oriented of the bunch, focusing on how email, networks and chat function, and their intrinsic advantages over “traditional” communication methods. As Levine was the contributor who spent the most time actually putting the book together, he deserves a lot of respect despite the fact that his name appears next to only one of the essays.
The most “prolific” of the collaborators in this collection is David Weinberger (see my summary of his book “Everything Is Miscellaneous”) as he worked on 4 of the essays. My feeling is that Weinberger’s contributions feel the most dated because of his emphasis on the corporate intranet as a machine of change. We know that this didn’t really happen as most corporations saw the intranet as the one piece of the online revolution that they could control. Individuality and group contributions and initiatives on the intranet have roundly been stamped out in the years since the Cluetrain came out. Intranets are dead and the products and services that seek to make a dollar in the space are similarly featureless and dead – look at Microsoft Office Sharepoint as a prime example of this, is there a more brainless zombie experience than navigating through Sharepoint? Everyone can see through the charade of the new term “Enterprise 2.0″ as the corporate co-opting of Web 2.0 technologies: let’s squeeze the life out of something good and forcibly insert it into our systems and wonder why it doesn’t take off.
Weinberger’s references to everything other than intranets are relatively timeless and still resonates so no arguments there. He looks at the history of how people and organizations communicated and points to the Web as a massive opportunity for not just businesses, but the entire world to take a big step forward. His essay with Doc Searls, “Markets Are Conversations” is in the middle of this book because it is the meat of the message. Mass markets and mass communication don’t exist any more, customers, wait, no, _people_ will not take corporate BS anymore. Many of their points, such as “the web is not, and will never be TV”, the one way blast of on-message product-driven content are still valid today as many corporations still don’t seem to understand this and have failed to make the necessary adjustments.
Another primary message of this book is that the lack of control and the fear of this lack of control can only lead to failure. The attitudes that will help a company be successful: openness and honesty are requirements, not “nice to haves”. These points can serve as a roadmap for new companies but I’m not sure how well they could practically be applied by the companies of yesteryear. True, these companies _need_ to apply themselves to these tenets, set them as short to medium term goals, but my feeling is that a generation of middle and upper managers need to go into retirement or die off before their organizations can attempt these adaptations. The question is, will they still be around to take advantage of that opportunity?