Nordic Track Book Club Review: Cluetrain Manifesto

I opened a presentation on blogging and online marketing at a local Network Consulting group a few months ago with, “It all starts with the Cluetrain Manifesto.  Markets are conversations.”  The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual from Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger is a classic.  Published in 2000 before blogging, it described the interactive, social web of 2007 and beyond.  My excerpts won’t do the book justice, and they’re only a small sampling of worthy excerpts, but here you are.




p.8 We have knowledge of what we do and how we do it.  Our craft.  It drives our voices and is what we most like to talk about.  This whole gamut of conversation, from infinite jest to point-specific expertise, who needs it?  Companies need it.  Without it they can’t innovate, build consensus or go to market.  Markets need it.  Without it, they don’t know what works and what doesn’t.  They don’t know why they should give a darn.

p.20 Companies only think they’re in control.  Feeling their real abilities and contributions have gone unappreciated, many employees simply do what they feel like doing anyway, giving as little as possible to the company.  Relationship is adversarial as hell. 

Top-down command and control management has become dysfunctional and counterproductive. 

p.32 The Internet audience is listening because people are attracted to precisely the difference the net provides, a million conversations whose primary purpose for once is not to sell us something.

p.43 There are many ways to look at what’s drawing us to the web.  None of these are wrong perspectives, but they all come back to the promise of voice and thus of authentic self.

p.79 One problem in marketing, there is no demand for messages.  The customer doesn’t want to hear from business, thank you very much.  The message that gets broadcast to you, me and the rest of the earth’s population has nothing to do with me in particular.  It’s worse than noise.  It’s an interruption.  It’s anti-conversation.

p.99 For companies positioning is about discovering who you, as a business, are.  Discovering your identity, not inventing a new one willy nilly.  Positioning should help a company become what it is, not something its not, no matter how cool it might be.

p.101 Here’s some advice on entering the conversation.  Loosen up, lighten up.  Shut up for a while.  Listen for a change.

Here’s a syllogism.  Your company needs to engage in the new market conversations.  Conversations occur in human voices.  Your voice is the public expression of your authentic identity of who you really are, of where you really come from.  So let’s draw the logical conclusion.  On the net, at least, your company can’t engage in the market conversation without its authentic voice.

Businesses are as real as families and nations, as with all social entities they speak as the sum of the parts, as the individuals who are the parts, and everything in between.  A business has a voice.  You can usually hear it, authentic or unauthentic, most obviously and transparently on its website.  Even before the last graphic finishes downloading, you can usually tell if the company speaks with passion, if its lost or uninterested, or if its online just because some consultant said it has to be.

p.120 Sure, businesses are legal entities, but that’s just a piece of paper.  In fact, the real business is the set of connections among people.  The hyperlinks that replace the org chart as the primary structure of the organization are in fact conversations.  They are the paths talk takes and a business is, more than anything else, a set of conversations going on.  Knowledge workers are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations.  You can only have a conversation if you’re not afraid to be wrong.  Conversations occur only between equals.  The time your boss’s boss asks you at a meeting about your project’s deadline was not a conversation.

p.132 We are seeing then a realignment of loyalties from resting comfortably in the assumed paternalism of Fort Business to an aggressive devotion to making life better for customers.  The business isn’t a machine anymore.  It’s a resource I alone and we together can use to make a customer happy.

p.135 Let’s leave open the possibility that deadlines are frequently a weapon used by managers who assume that workers are basically slackers.

p.148 In a hyperlinked organization, voice plays the old role of the org chart telling you whom you should work with.  That Mary is the under-VP of Expectation Deflations in the Western Semi-Region tells you nothing.  That Mary is wicked smart, totally frank and a trip to work with tells you everything.

If you want understanding you have to re-enter the human world of stories.  If you don’t have a story you don’t have understanding. 

p.150 When you get past the mission statement and start to tell your story, only then do people begin to understand your company.

Mistakes give us something to talk about.  Being wrong is a lot funnier than being right. 

p.158 Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies.  Hyperlinks subvert Fort Business.  Business is a conversation.



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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.