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The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End Of Business As Usual
by Rick Levine
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How would you classify a book that begins with the salutation, "People of Earth..."? While the captains of industry might dismiss it as mere science fiction, The Cluetrain Manifesto is definitely of this day and age. Aiming squarely at the solar plexus of corporate America, authors Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger show how the Internet is turning business upside down. They proclaim that, thanks to conversations taking place on Web sites and message boards, and in e-mail and chat rooms, employees and customers alike have found voices that undermine the traditional command-and-control hierarchy that organizes most corporate marketing groups. "Markets are conversations," the authors write, and those conversations are "getting smarter faster than most companies." In their view, the lowly customer service rep wields far more power and influence in today's marketplace than the well-oiled front office PR machine.
The Cluetrain Manifesto began as a Web site (www.cluetrain.com) in 1999 when the authors, who have worked variously at IBM, Sun Microsystems, the Linux Journal, and NPR, posted 95 theses that pronounced what they felt was the new reality of the networked marketplace. For example, thesis no. 2: "Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors"; thesis no. 20: "Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them"; thesis no. 62: "Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall"; thesis no. 74: "We are immune to advertising. Just forget it." The book enlarges on these themes through seven essays filled with dozens of stories and observations about how business gets done in America and how the Internet will change it all. While Cluetrain will strike many as loud and over the top, the message itself remains quite relevant and unique. This book is for anyone interested in the Internet and e-commerce, and is especially important for those businesses struggling to navigate the topography of the wired marketplace. All aboard! --Harry C. Edwards
From Publishers Weekly
Experienced technology users with a history of communicating over the Web, Levine (Sun Guide to Webstyle), Locke (who has worked for MCI and IBM and written for such publications as Forbes), Searls (a senior editor at Linux Journal) and Weinberger (a regular commentator on NPR) want nothing less than to change the way the world does business. Commerce, they argue, should not be about transactions, it should be about conversations, no matter what the medium. The artifice that frequently accompanies buying and selling should be replaced by a genuine attempt to satisfy the needs, wants and desires of the people on both sides of the equation. Despite their long digressions, the authors occasionally succeed in making solid, clever points that reveal fundamental flaws in the structure of traditional businesses. Consider this comment about business hierarchies: "First they assume--along with Ayn Rand and poorly socialized adolescents--that the fundamental unit of life is the individual. This despite the evidence of our senses that individuals only emerge from groups." So far so good. But their apparent assumption that everyone in upper management, along with anyone who does not embrace every aspect of their utopian ideal, is a dolt may not be the best way to raise an army in support of their cause. Similarly, ignoring examples of companies that are already doing business differently--the magazines Inc. and Fast Company are filled with examples every month--and glossing over the specifics on how to implement their business model undercuts their credibility. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Beginning as 95 posted theses in March 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto (http://www. cluetrain.com) quickly sparked a lively Internet conversation about the current nature of business. The idea came from a former veteran executive from a now-defunct Fortune 500 firm when he was describing his firm's plummet: "The clue train stopped here four times a day for ten years, and they never took delivery." Authors Levine (Sun Guide to Web Style), Doc Searls (president, The Searls Group), et al., present their view of how the Internet is changing the very way people discuss their business challenges and how it's making markets smarter and faster. As the authors say, business-as-usual is gone forever, and this new "clue train" acts as a wake-up call, offering answers that are often couched in anecdotes and war stories. The narrative rides the razor's edge between glib hype and substance, and though readers may find that it occasionally dips deep into the New Age genre, this is for the most part a weighty work that gets at the heart of the matter: the powerful impact the Internet has had and will continue to have on our fundamental concept of organizational structure, management style, and market success. Highly recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.
-Dale F. Farris, Groves, TX
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Thomas Petzinger, Jr., The Wall Street Journal
"The Manifesto is the pretentious, strident, and absolutely brilliant creation of four marketing gurus who have renounced marketing as usual."
"The chapter called 'Markets are Conversations' alone is worth the price of admission...an educational and entertaining way to pass the time until the old guard capitalists get a clue."
The authors' manifesto is a Web-based reaction to the constraints of brick and mortar corporations, and they use it to cajole and provoke organizational types everywhere to get onboard or be left in the dust of the Internet Age. At its base, this is a rethinking of management and a rabble-rousing invitation to move way outside the box. Though the points made are valid, if not terribly original (remember the 1960s?), the authors' adolescent language detracts from their mission, which seems to be to build organizations modeled on a chat room template. However, the postadolescent rant about organizational life in the Internet Age detracts from the more profound aspectsof the authors' vision. T.W. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
From Kirkus Reviews
The Internet is loosening the corset strings of businesspretty much sloughing off the whole cruel garmentsuggest computer-folk Levine, Locke, Searls, and Weinberger; and businesses that don't get natural soon won't have any customers. At once atavistic and nimble, Levine, Locke, Searls, and Weinberger ring the changes brought by the Internet, which for them have one particular, radiant elementthe humanity of it all: human language, the human love of fabulous stories, the human joy in mingling aesthetics with all aspects of life. The Internet and intranet workstations encourage open, unaffected, uncontrived talk, giving back to business the banter of the bazaar, where laughter and personality were the spices and a person's word the lubrication. The book pokes its finger, repeatedly and deeply, in the eye of corporate business practice, sweeping before it such self-destructive constructs as management pyramids, corporate firewalls, the culture of secrecy and hierarchy, flacks and hucksters, and advertising's jargon and eye candy. Although the Internet may not make people ``smarter,'' it certainly exposes them to more informationif they can wade through all the material and winnow the good from the badand allows in many cases unfettered access to the makers of the goods, which is why it is the godsend for the artisan and a boon for the buyer who still likes the maker's mark upon the product. There are no wall-to-wall answers here, so cherished by quick-fix business books, for all producers must express themselves individually. That unpredictability is also one of the charms of Levine and Co. Playful and leveling in their anti-bureaucratic and non-hierarchical tone, they love plain talk about substance and values. Their manifesto is as demanding as a Bill of Rights, yet so broadly applicable it rubs shoulders with Brownian motion. A different brand of business book, thank goodness: saucy, heartfelt, and warmly appealing in its faith in the commonwealth. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Jeff Angus, Information Week
"The most important business book since In Search of Excellence. Get a clue. Read the book."
"You must read The Cluetrain Manifesto. So: read it, inhale it. If it pisses you off...GREAT!"
"...Cluetrain's authors are right in what they say. Networks-the Internet, intranets, and extranets-are changing everything, and corporations must adapt or become roadkill...an insightful book..."
"A dose of The Cluetrain Manifesto could go a long way toward showing the willing-but-ignorant that for a healthy company, enabling conversations is a business opportunity-not a risk...One of the most refreshing business books ever."
Eric Nee, Context
"If you are a raving radical about the Internet, you'll find the authors to be kindred spirits. Even if you're not, the book provokes new ways of thinking about business. It may even turn you into one of those radicals."
"Read it...these guys are on to something...The Cluetrain Manifesto offers a simple message...and it's turning business right-side up."
"Locke's cooked up a crazy and brilliant and rather hotheaded business book/philosophy called The Cluetrain Manifesto, and with a few e-mail buddies managed to sneak this madness past a lot of corporate entities who ought to have been very, very afraid of publishing something so smart and obnoxious and true. The Cluetrain Manifesto is a highly effective device for kicking out the jams on what you thought you knew about being a consumer and citizen in the year 2000.
The Book Page
Rocky Mountain News
"[An] irreverent book [that] strikes a responsive chord on e-commerce dichotomy...It's honest. It's funny. It makes a whole heck of a lot of sense."
From four of the liveliest personalities on the Web comes a provocative, outrageous, and wickedly smart account of what it will take to prosper in the fast-forward world on the wire. This nationally acclaimed best seller is a spirited, original, and wonderfully irreverent conversation that will challenge, provoke, and forever change your outlook on the digital economy. A rich tapestry of anecdotes, object lessons, parodies, insights, and predictions, The Cluetrain Manifesto illustrates how the Internet has radically reframed the seemingly immutable laws of business--and what business needs to know to weather the seismic aftershocks.
"An earnest plea for a new kind of language and new expectations for the Web.... While others work on turning the Internet into the perfect medium for reaching traditional business goals, these four Net-philes hope cyberspace will give commerce a 'human voice.'" -Harvard Business Review
"For every retail or consumer-products company wondering why its Internet marketing doesn't seem to be working, The Cluetrain Manifesto...offers fresh and sound advice, expressed in entertaining prose. Its oft-repeated premise--that markets are conversations--should be pounded into the collective brain of corporate executives." -Business Week
An inspirational work for the business world, offering a look at what should be, rather than what is. Shows how to develop more dynamic companies that have greater success with online commerce and changed methods of advertisement that reach consumers more effectively. A mission for the business world. Softcover.
From the Author
Christopher Locke email@example.com
Unlike any other business book you've ever read.
Does the cluetrain manifesto tell business where to get off -- or how to get on? A bit of both, actually. The book unpacks the ideas telegraphically presented in our "95 Theses" that appeared on the web in the Spring of 1999. A mere 17 days after the site went live, cluetrain was the focus of an above-the-fold story on the front page of The Wall Street Journal's Marketplace section. Tom Petzinger wrote there: "The Manifesto is the pretentious, strident and absolutely brilliant creation of four marketing gurus who have renounced marketing-as-usual."
We don't think of ourselves as gurus, just as four guys who've thought a whole lot about business and the Internet. By the way, the pretentiousness was my contribution. Much of the brilliance came from my co-conspirators (and co-authors): David Weinberger, Rick Levine and Doc Searls.
The premise of the book is that markets are conversations. However, the industrial revolution, and everything that followed in its wake right up until today, has represented a 200-year-long interruption of this dialogue. We explain how the Internet brings it back -- with a vengeance -- both in the online marketplace and inside wired corporations.
The book as a whole is subtitled: "the end of business as usual." Is it? Read the book to find out. And please: don't reveal the exciting conclusion!
We had a lot of fun writing this. We hope you'll have fun reading it. If you gain penetrating new insights into the dynamics of e-commerce, we'll be very pleased. If it makes you blow coffee out your nose, even better!
About the Author
Rick Levine is co-founder of Mancala, Inc. Previously, he was architect of Sun Microsystems' Java Software group. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. Christopher Locke publishes Gradient Reversals from Boulder, Colorado. A noted speaker, he has also written extensively for publications such as Forbes, Internet World, Information Week, and The Industry Standard. Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal. He has written for Upsde, Omni, and PC Magazine. He co-founded Hodskins Simone & Searls, which became one of the leading advertising agencies in Silicon Valley. He lives in Woodside, California. David Weinberger is the editor of JOHO (Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization). He is a commentator on NPR's "All Things Considered" and has written for Wired, the New York Times, and Smithsonian. He lives in Boston.
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