Is the Cluetrain Manifesto, “a spectre haunting the Internet?”  Some of it is very funny, some of it bloody obvious. Its only the retards that thought the ’80s would last forever and that Gordon Gecko was a philosopher that will find some of this hard or revolutionary – the fact it’s all in one place is very good though, and its clearly written in a language that “entrepreneurs” can get!

the Cluetrain manifesto

Is it revolutionary? Not as much as it likes, but to be fair, the book was published in 2000, and the conversations that created it took place the previous couple of years. We’ve had time to catch up. They don’t and won’t adopt an anti-capitalist line and at the turn of century who would, but some of what they say and their polemic states that the human spirit is at the heart of co-operation and the corporation and shareholder value are in contention with it. They argue the internet is on the side of the people and angels.

I also really like the idea that the industrial revolution ( and its current day aftermath) is an abberation. Doesn’t that just give you hope? This reinforces the idea that information is a factor of production, and although the book doesn’t look at knowledge in this way, it strongly argues that People are people and not! Human Resources, they’re not Markets, nor are they Labour. The internet has enabled people to discover themselves again and (re-)establish themselves as Customers/Clients, as people not markets. This is quite counter-intuitive as massive amounts of software R&D dollars were spent on personalisation software to allow vendors to drive human resource/cost out of the distribution channel and increase direct communication. Has it paid back? I don’t think we care (or know) if our suppliers are using Seibel or not, not even through improved customer services! 😛

I think the book is too long. This is probably as a result of the way in which it was assembled over time thorugh e-mails & forums & newsgroups and blogs, so if you get bored towards the end, you won’t be missing much. Like all good internet revolutionaries they created a web site which is here…. Its claimed to be a relic! 😉

The Manifesto does not create a compelling story as to how value is moving from marketing/legal departments to conversations between staff and customer, so who’s at the centre of the “Cluetrain” value proposition and why? We can learn (a bit) from one of Cluetrain’s contemporary alternative polemics “the Office”, David Brent (played by Ricky Gervais) has put on a staff training video for his staff and Peter Purves (ex Blue Peter presenter, ex-Dr Who assistant) is the talking head.

Peter Purves: “What’s a companies most valuable asset?”
Brent: “The Staff”
Peter Purves: “Your customers!”
Brent: “Oh that other one”

Cluetrain agrees in that its both, and not only do customers want to talk to companies, but staff want to talk to the customers and each other. I’m sure that we’ve all met senior managers who are surprised to discover that staff think for themselves, talk to each other and even senior management, as well as their customers. (Quite recently in my case.)

Cluetrain says that businesses will fail if they don’t get it, so will managers if they don’t want to listen. As the Manifesto says,

50. …….Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.

Cluetrain contains lessons for all business people, from CEOs through to company janitors. People are discovering their personality in their market places. The industrial mass-artifices of marketing are dying. Customers, workers and consultants want and need to speak to the authors/makers/shakers/do-ers not the press, or marketing or reviewers (where does this leave financial analysts?), nor do they want to deal with a automated voice activated menu, or a call centre, or glossy adware based web-sites. This also applies to B2B; people buy on their behalf.

This desire and value of talking to other customers has been reinforced for me personally by my experiences on the Dell, “Betrayal at the House on the Hill” (see here…) and the Bioware (or more specifically Baldur’s Gate fan sites. Recently used examples of brochure based web sites, with the concomitant poor experiences are Nokia, Vodafone & O2. (NB I’ve had no cause to use these people’s competitive sites, so don’t assume that I think, or that they are better). I’m sure you can think of examples from your own recent experience. Businesses, Salesmen Managers and other leaders need to talk to people, to treat them with respect and listen. This process has started at Sun at the top, and more recently the reformed UK leadership is showing signs of the same.

Perhaps from a personal point of view, its clarion call is

75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

So is the Cluetrain Manifesto, “a spectre haunting the Internet?”


Originally posted on my sun/oracle blog, republished here in Feb 2016.

Make it something interesting for a change
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