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Cluetrain Manifesto

Hey Joel,

If you're big on people sounding like people in their resume cover letters (no argument from me there), then perhaps the Cluetrain Manifesto should be on your book list.

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738204315

The authors argue (among other things) that the web is forcing office workers to drop the outdated "professional" facade.

Jeremy
Friday, January 30, 2004

Isn't it available online somewhere?

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, January 30, 2004

http://www.cluetrain.com/

Jeremy
Friday, January 30, 2004

...and now the dot com bubble has burst, what are odd of that happening?

AJS
Saturday, January 31, 2004

That odd, I could have sworn I typed odds.

AJS
Saturday, January 31, 2004

This is another one of those "everything's changed because of the internet and we're on the inside track because we're l33t and you're a stupid unemployable turd" books. Look for it at your unloved books reseller at the regional outlet mall near you.

Many of the predictions of this book have come to pass, but most of the information in it that is "strategic" is only useful for large corporations dealing with many thousands of consumers.

On a personal level, the "insights" in the book are readily apparent to anyone who isn't absolutely stupid or autistic and who pays attention to the advent of online shopping and socializing.

Someone who 'really' needs to get a clue - the extreme elderly off in their own world of reminiscing, or the pathologically traditional business types who are fixated on faxing and snail mail and who reject having an email address for their business, as examples -  will absolutely not comprehend this book's message and will find the writing style abrasive and hostile.  (I dealt with an ex- big iron DP manager turned agency recruiter in the late 90s who smirked whenever I suggested he get an email address. He told me email was a toy and useless to him. That's a concrete example.)

As usual, the message has no audience. You either just know, or you "can't" and have no ability to learn. No middle.

And I could do without the 'tude.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, January 31, 2004

...and I could do without people using words like "'tude"

old fart
Saturday, January 31, 2004

And I could do without people who could do without people using words like "tude".

Bored Fart
Saturday, January 31, 2004

See also the "Gluetrain Manifesto":

http://www.gluetrain.com/

Alex Chernavsky
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Bored Bystander, if the stuff in the book is too obvious for you, that's great. No, seriously! It means you can make enlightened decisions. We need more people like you.

However, the fact that there are so many tech companies who treat the customer as the enemey, who build a wall between customers and employees who are both excited about the product, and who only talk to the customer using PR and marketing spin -- I think makes the ideas in this book non-obvious to many people.

I work for a large software company where a lot of this is going on. I chuckle when I see the company news letter because I know it's wrong. The right information is in Bob from marketing's internal blog. I get peeved when nobody wants to share information because information is "power". Then I find someone who can query the database directly.

I've found much of the book to be true to life and very relevant.

Jeremy
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Jeremy, I guess I got impatient with the "everything has to be different" attitude in the book.

You're correct, there are still *many* boneheaded hierarchical top-down organizations even in the technology area. The book makes an excellent point which is that worthwhile knowledge is often organically distributed, not forced through rigid channels.

But - I think what is distracting about books like this is that one is to to believe that nothing worthwhile was invented in the business world prior to the internet, and that there is no conventional wisdom that is worth paying attention to. Many common situations in business still call for a "chain of command", procedures, and a semblance of authority.

IE: Weblogs and BBSs are just dandy for disseminating applied knowledge and qualitative understanding but they're unsuited to situations such as employment, contract negotiation, contracts, or the law in general.

This book is just an adjunct to understanding commercial practice in the internet age, not a comprehensive solution.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, February 01, 2004

True, they're challenging a lot of conventional whisdom, but I didn't get the impression that the authors were pushing the idea "that nothing worthwhile was invented in the business world prior to the internet".

The book tackles a very specific set of topics. Casual emails have replaced "professional" memos. That has an impact on business. Customers discuss your product in online forums. That also has an impact. Internal blogs have made a joke of the corporate newsletter. That impacts business as usual, too. And so on.

I'd also like point out that this isn't a book on "employment, contract negotiation, contracts, or the law in general." I doubt the authors intended to write such a book. Instead, they've put together a very interesting read on how the web has changed business.

Bored Bystander, you expect too much from this book. If you look at "The C Programming Language" (on Joel's book list), you'll realize that it doesn't claim to be the only way to write software and eclipse all that came before it. Nor is Cluetrain the only source of business advice. For best results, use it in combination with other books and a lot of common sense.

BTW, Alex, great link! Very funny.

Jeremy
Sunday, February 01, 2004

Bored: Look for it at your unloved books reseller at the regional outlet mall near you.

Hey, that's where I got my copy!  $AU5.

AJS
Sunday, February 01, 2004

Another issue I take with Cluetrain is that while these changes are pervasive, they are not yet ubiquitous, they are not all for the good, and they are in the process of being shut down and/or controlled.

IE: I dispute the social penetration of blogs and forums beyond youth and geeks. Many people aren't going to be bothered to read blogs to evaluate products or company statements nor to participate in online forums. Most business owners I personally know, and many professionals and affluent consumers, would never spend more than an occasional token amount of time reading blogs or paying attention to web boards.  Most people are busy with survival activities. The internet is a form of entertainment that requires a big time investment to leverage.

I would posit that the internet may simply make some companies more accountable in some instances, because it permits new uncontrolled avenues for knowledge to diffuse. I would also posit that the consumers and the employees of said companies would tend to be in the technology or hip, youth oriented product arenas, and those companies would have to not care too much whether they are being discussed in cyberspace.

IE: more traditional, top-down, basically "intolerant" businesses can track down and discharge employees who author blogs that defy their employee agreements. They can also sue consumers who post disparaging information to online forums, essentially shutting down free speech with superior economics.

Cluetrain discusses the potential of the internet, but it does not address the inevitable countermeasures. What if companies decide to fight fire with fire and set up "stealth marketing" campaigns via supposed grass roots blogs and forums? Then you have the worst of all possible worlds: a supposed "counterculture" that is a paid shill, legitimized by association and not clearly just advertising.

Agreed, Cluetrain is a good entertaining read. But it's describing a culturally marginal phenomenon that is in the process of being co-opted and controlled. 

I would compare the internet to the radio waves prior to the advent of the FCC - that was the "wild west" too.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, February 01, 2004

"They [basically "intolerant" businesses] can also sue consumers who post disparaging information to online forums, essentially shutting down free speech with superior economics."

Bored, this comment (and others) makes me wonder if you've really understood what the authors are saying. I don't care if you disagree, but you seem to have not noticed topics that are covered in great detail -- over several chapters. You're suggesting the book isn't entirely correct because "it does not address the inevitable countermeasures", but it's these countermeasure that the authors ARE discussing.

They spend chapters describing how this kind of activity is very harmful to companies. It's basically building a wall between customers and the employees -- two groups who often care about the same thing. One group spends most of their waking life designing widget X, and the other group is very interested in finding the best widget X available.

Instead of engaging customers in a discussion, they're held at arms length and considered the enemy. Even if a company could find every disparaging comment and point the lawyers at the person, eventually you wouldn't have many customers left. Word would get out that the company likes to sue paying customers... and that's exactly the type of behavior the authors are arguing against.

As for the effect of INTERNAL, personal web sites (I'm not talking about rogue employees posting confidential inforation on public sites), I know its positive because I see it every day. Many people where I work have turned to this because corporate information is either guarded by those higher up, or spun and totally useless. This way they can get work done and be productive.

And don't get me started on "the internet is a form of entertainment that requires a big time investment to leverage." Do a google search on any product name and you'll get back a bunch of comments on it that don't conform to the company's marketing speak. Heck, just go to epinions.com! Total time: 2 minutes.

"Most business owners I personally know, and many professionals and affluent consumers, would never spend more than an occasional token amount of time reading blogs or paying attention to web boards." I hate to point out that affluent business owners make up the minority of consumers. The majority of us (middle and lower class) care which car or camcorder we buy with our money. More and more are turning to the internet for research. That trend is well documented.

"I would compare the internet to the radio waves prior to the advent of the FCC - that was the "wild west" too." Except radio, like television, is a one-way medium where only a select few are given a voice. The internet changes that. Anyone can setup a website and put their opinions and ideas out there. The authors make this exact comparision... but you seem to have missed that, too.

The fact that you've posted these comments in a place where  business owners ask "Has anyone evaluated [the Salamander .NET linker] in depth?" puts you on shaky ground. These discussions happen online thousands of times a day. Business can either embrace that (as Cluetrain suggests), or try to fight it. I don't think any business can successfully fight it.

Jeremy
Sunday, February 01, 2004

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