RMIUG Meeting Minutes - The ClueTrain Manifesto
Dan Murray opened the meeting at 7:00pm.
About 100 people were in attendance.
The speakers are three of the four authors
of the Cluetrain Manifesto:
The first speaker was Christopher Locke
editor-in-chief of personalization.com,
editor/publisher of the widely acclaimed
web magazine, Entropy Gradient Reversals,
and president of Entropy Web Consulting
in Boulder, Colorado. He brings vast Net
and pre-Net experience to exploring how
the real web opportunity differs in kind
from business as usual. As Christopher describes,
"The in-your-face rhetoric of the manifesto
was meant to be challenging to companies
who think the Web is just 'TV with a BUY
The web page was the first Cluetrain Manifesto
in Dec 98. What bothered him was the self-congratulatory
ecommerce trade press saying that it would
amount to a mega trillion dollars by 2004.
It was all a projection of cash register
receipts, without a bit about how different
The Manifesto is just what's known to
those already online. Other companies think
it's TV with a Buy Button (MCI). The Manifesto
cuts through the self-congratulatory rhetoric.
How many have seen Manifesto on web? The
net is not TV. It's more like ancient Mesopotamia.
Cities grew up at the confluence of trade
routes and people went there to buy stuff,
meet, hear stories. It's been hard in the
last 200 yrs to have speech. The Industrial
Revolution was a big interruption in the
human story. Media has been mass marketing,
a special case of mass production. We talk
among ourselves online completely diff than
corporate-speak. Compare email and press
releases, it's easy to tell them apart.
Email is from human beings, press releases
are from a committee. Email is natural communication,
not like the packaged messages we get from
Economic argument: If we are talking to
each other in human speech, we will not
be responsive to the pitch from corporations.
It will create opportunities for companies
that understand it's different. It's not
about 30 second commercials.
The second speaker was Rick Levine email@example.com,
President of Mancala, a Net startup in Boulder.
Previously, Rick was web architect for Sun
Microsystems' Java Software group and was
responsible for the creation of much of
the public web interface for java.sun.com
and the Java Developer Connection. He is
author of the Sun Guide to Web Style, one
of the creators of the ICE protocol for
content syndication on the web, and creator
of the HatFactory e-commerce testbed site.
My dad was a potter. We each have a voice,
real plates have a makers mark, leave fingerprints.
Each one had a unique style. Same thing
in the code we write, spreadsheets, sales.
Our voices identify us as human and unique.
I've been buying lots of software, so
I had to negotiate with a salesman in the
sharkskin suit. The pitch is spouted, but
it's been indoctrinated, poured into the
back of head. He takes them to lunch in
his Dodge Daytona truck. When he talked
about his truck, he became a real person.
If we dampen down our unique voice, people
will stop connecting with us. Java group
had no PR, and budget and time forced the
tech people to have to talk to the customers,
who thought they disappeared when they hired
PR. Trust the people doing the work to talk
to the customers. Conversations between
builders and customers - How do you make
it scale? How do you deal with notion of
liability? We're scared someone will say
something that will get us sued, drive down
stock price, promise something that can't
be delivered. There's nothing we can do
to stop the conversations. When Saturn wrote
a memo that they wouldn't fix the warped
brakes, memo was posted on web, bad press.
When Cannon cam made a feature film, zoom
didn't stay in focus. Canon came out with
a letter saying, you're right, we'll give
you a free replacement or we'll fix it.
How do we get everyone in the business
to understand how important this is, scale
to a million customers. With the net, we
can't stop people talking to each other,
so what do we do?
The third speaker was David Weinberger
the publisher of JOHO (Journal of the Hyperlinked
Organization). He is a regular commentator
on National Public Radio and a columnist
for KMWorld and Intranet Design Magazine.
He has written for Wired, The New York Times,
How is the web changing the insides of
organizations? The same things we talk about
outward communication, happens inside the
organizations. Business first became machines,
now they are webs.
The Industrial Revolution, Age of Broadcast,
Age of Marketing is only possible because
of broadcasting being available. The same
message is delivered to many replaceable
consumers. Consumption used to be bad (tuberculosis).
Market is defined by the fact that you will
respond to a single message. This is the
heart of modern marketing. The flaw in the
ointment is that we're sick of the messages.
They have to be forced on us on lights,
on blimps, on escalators. Marketing knows
that we don't want to hear the message.
It's all war metaphors taking about penetration,
tactics, hostile takeovers, acquiring customers,
28 seconds with a 2 second payload.
What's changed, we're not in mass market
anymore. We hate it and find it degrading,
but we can still sing the jingle. Now we
can hear everyone making fun of it, commenting
on it. But it's not TV like AOL (sloooow
TV). Saturn dealers say they love us, but
we can subvert that by seeing chat, email,
newsgroups to see if they are lying to us
or confirm that they are the best. We can
find out from other customers if Maytag
The book doesn't give the answers to marketing
to figure it out. If you are marketing,
marketing is arson, which means you're competing
with other companies. If you only allow
thin flow of strictly controlled information,
it keeps people out of the company. Others
have figured out that marketing and business
is a conversation. The job becomes trying
to start (and listen) to interesting conversations.
How can you stimulate these conversations
is marketing. What you have in common is
you both like the products. PR Marketing
and management keep you from conversation.
Q&A What are examples of companies that
have the guts to do this? Chris - Microsoft
was the first in '95. MS newsgroup server.
Chris posted that he could read with Netscape
but not MS Internet Explorer. One guy said
MS won't like this. Two MS guys jumped in
and said it was totally legit. Companies
are paranoid with notion of control. Bureaucracy,
mass marketing is ok if you know it all
at the top. Two new ideas in the Manifesto:
1. Markets learn faster than corporations.
There is no legacy, no overhead, little
tools, put them together. The learning curve
has jumped up like a hockey stick. 2. Conversation
in marketplace is mirrored inside the corporation
on same technology: TCP IP. Both speak the
same language, but there is a Berlin Wall
that prevents the movement of communication
outside the company.
David - Western Digital is a hard driver
manufacturer. Their support line was an
unmoderated discussion board. Everyone's
first message says "You suck", in two hours
tech support answers, and also, the enthusiast
answers, yeah that happens, this is how
you fix it. The community jumps in to the
rescue to support the company.
Audience - Amazon doesn't make the product,
but the reviews help decide whether to buy
Q. I didn't read the web site or the book.
What is the Cluetrain Manifesto??? A. Came
from a quote by an executive at a Fortune
500 company. "The cluetrain stopped there
4 times a day but they never took delivery.
" It consists of 95 theses. The two best
are: conversations and links subvert hierarchy.
It's not TV. Conversing with each other
changes the whole equation. They came to
the party late and we're not listening to
the old style message. Trillions of ecommerce
dollars will go into new pockets who get
it. Put the internal and external conversations
together to make it work.
Q. Symantec - That's the only way you
have to communicate with them. It dampens
the communication because people don't want
to feel stupid in public. A. There's a real
potential to expose confidential strategy
by reporting bugs. Used to have one person
who sat in the newsgroups, answered questions
without bs. One person can set the tone
for the whole company.
Q. Disclosure - embrace the fact that
it will reveal strategy? A. Chris - Tear
down the firewalls? Let anyone in? Car companies
have secrets for next year's design, but
why not make it public with everyone's input.
FBI had made everything top secret. So much
was classified that they didn't know what
was really secret. Now they spend millions
to declassify it to find out. Rick - Don't
expose everything in public. But company
should admit that there is a problem and
release in public.
Q. What about hackers? A. There are lots
of gray areas. Secrecy is just paranoia.
Companies are terrified that people will
get past the firewall and find out there
is nothing to steal.
Q. Problem is that lots of people don't
know how to say anything clearly. How to
get them to communicate well. A. Chris -
Kill the MBA's. David - people know how
to talk until they have to imitate a corporate
person. Some people can't write as well
as others. It's more important skill than
ever. You can learn how to write. The problem
is people try to speak like they're not,
not like they are. Chris - Rhetoric is as
tough as C++, but companies don't want it
or don't know that they need it. They fall
into the notion of how to improve customer
service, but that's the wrong approach.
DARPA didn't make Internet for what we do
now: pet cats and Pokemon. We use it not
to check email for offers. It's not customer
service or advertisements, stop the show
and notice that there's something else going
on in the universe. Participate in what
is really happening.
Q. Hot area is personalization at web,
call center forms an image of individual.
Is it good or bad getting it crammed down
our personal throats. A. Amazon - hypertext
network of knowledge buying habits of millions
of people. Collaborative filtering forms
a body of knowledge that we wouldn't know
about otherwise. It goes beyond purchase
circles. Top 10 books at Microsoft, which
organizations are buying this book? They
did that. Opt in email lists for anyone
who likes a particular author. David - Chris
is the only one who uses personalization
that way. I don't mind if they track so
they will tell me more of what I like, not
junk I'll never buy. But I do feel abused
by the bank who sends out offers with automatic
typos. Rick - Imagine a storefront that
changes when it senses you're hungry, and
customized whether it sends the odor of
chicken or falafel. Chris - Is it neat or
a trick? David - Amazon, ATM's are clear,
unlike teller. As long as they don't pretend
that there is someone in the ATM that likes
me. Rick - Can we tell the difference between
real and fake? Chris - we can tell because
they're not trying to sell us something.
Conversations are open.
Chris - If we are wrong, this will be
yet another Internet blip. If we aren't
wrong, there are trillions of dollars riding
on the difference of web from TV. Maybe
the public does want to see Sean Connery
playing Doom with Indiana Jones. Broadband
works like Blair Witch, bandwidth is great
and there will be competition for attention.
Rick - We're not assuming that people always
want conversation. Sometimes need to veg,
or appreciate without comment. Make it easy
to ask a questions and get an answer. David
- We have no friggin idea (last 2 chaps
in book). Cultural desire to rush into answers
is fear and denial because we can't know
yet. Resist the answers cause we don't know.
Chris - we refuse to give a prescriptive
Q. It's going to take up a lot of employee
time. How to manage? A. Rick - Yes it will
take time. Cost of support takes time. There
are other benefits to this. There is cost
and value to conversations. If you don't
record them, you're wasting time. Chris
- Deconstruct the question. We're busy with
real work don't bother us. Market says we
don't care what you're doing, we're the
customer, we won't be here when you release.
Q. Not just customer to company. Also
customer to customer. A. Those will be repeated.
Mesopotamia - what is it about conversation
that we like? There is something very meaningful
that goes on even before we could speak.
Animals have an effect on environment one
animal at a time. Man's evolution lead to
capitalism and democracy. The systems most
successful rely on multitude of small decisions
having a big change. Everyone has a voice.
Chris - There is profundity in conversations.
It's not just marketing value. People want
to communicate to each other more than data
exchange. In Manifesto, we talk about markets,
aimed at business. Something profound has
broken loose in the pipes of 21st century.
Humanity is rising against an aspect of
Q. Is it like Third Voice? A. Sticky notes
are graffiti, not conversation. It got a
lot of discussion, and Third Voice started
a bonfire. This was inconceivable in TV
Q. Not everyone is interested in it ongoing
concern, they want to strike quick and get
out. Short term for the quick fix vs the
longer term where water seeks it's own level.
David - More ATM's are better. But I don't
want to have a conversation about paper
or toner. I'll just buy the cheapest. That's
fine as long as the rules are clear, and
if I can get email if it's broken. Chris
- What about the get rich quick, IPO, get
out, who cares about customer? There are
more businesses where it's still a challenge
to engage the conversation, viral marketing,
provocative conversations, if you don't
do third voice type, you won't get your
Q. The open nature of standards makes
the Internet successful, since its owned
by the people. What about the open source
movement? Customers help design and build
the code. Chris - Eric Raymond says Open
Source is like Cluetrain. Open Source Marketing:
oxymoron or next book? haha. Invite the
competitors in. Rick says it sucks, more
like linux. There's still money to be made.
Q. Isn't that what Netscape did that with
mozilla.org? Chris - I think I remember
that company. It didn't work? or they just
bought Time Warner. It's after the fact,
a year too late, and the code is not that
great. There were other reasons for making
it open. They were in deep doodoo.
Q. Companies aren't asking me the right
questions. The current search engines don't
help me find what I really want in clothes.
They don't have a way of collecting that
information. No one bothers. Rick - The
economics of business doesn't let them react.
It has to be mass produced. So search engines
direct you to what they can provide. Chris
- be careful what you ask for. Privacy concerns
are real. There is cross-tracking across
sites. Rick - Addresses on warranty cards
are sold as a database. Chris - Serve my
needs but keep out of my pants. Chris -
It's actually easier to tell by tracking
because the consumer doesn't know.
Q. Observation: Sounds wonderful but I
don't believe it scales. As a biologist
I know humans are social primates who gossip.
A troupe of humans can't exceed 250. I can't
converse with a million people. The Usenet
and online groups have a signal to noise
problem that is overpowering and getting
worse. I depend on search engines. You can't
have enough employees to answer 1 million
questions. Chris - Four authors was too
many in the conversation. Six billion people
in a room and drop acid and vibe, but it
doesn't have to be like that. Try micro
markets. Mass marketing is not what they're
talking about. Even 250 is too many. Maybe
the companies are too big already. Need
smaller companies to meet the micro needs.
Q. Broadcast works or they wouldn't do
it. Chris we are in a transition period
with some of both.
Q. We need tools not yet invented. David
- Bingo. Search Engines are pretty good
after all. We don't know how it will evolve,
but there is pressure from us the market
to make sure it continues. Rick - We're
not saying a conversation with a million
people. Problem is that the answers aren't
online. Gather the conversations. Dump the
FAQ into a search engine and cut tech support
by 75%. With one million Java registered
users, you get a lot more questions answered.
Chris - It's not the Marx communist manifesto.
It's not a plea to all get on the bandwagon
and make it work. It's already happened.
If you don't get it, you're in deep doodoo.
This is different than anything that came
Q. Any distinction between real conversation
and virtual conversation. What is the difference
between face-to-face and anonymous conversation?
Like the kid from Florida who made the Columbine
threat. A. Chris - It's not that it's digital,
it's a narrative with the story come unbound.
It freaks out those that want it pigeonholed
like corporate paranoia. Lack of control,
creativity scares them. Rick - What if there
is a scale limit to the size of a company?
Q. Where does story telling fit into conversation?
Let the customers tell their story. David
- On a mailing list of a failed company,
every once in a while someone asks "what
went wrong?" No one really knows but that's
the way we understand things. Companies
should think about the company story, not
one to be crafted, but to be recorded. Chris
- Corporate cultures need the historian,
the story teller. John Seely Brown at Xerox
Parc: Xerox techs would work with customer
to fix the machine. Get a cup of coffee,
then they would tell themselves the story
of what they had just done. To go a little
further, humans need to tell it as a story
to try to understand it. Commercially this
idea is unexplored because it doesn't fit
into 30 seconds. If a company doesn't have
a story, it will die.
Q. Compare this with what they said about
Radio, David - Who would pay for it, advertising
was invented, and one-to-many. One-to-one
didn't work; it was too hard. Chris - Could
it be co-opted? Will we fight for it? I
think it would be tragic if they turn it
into TV. David - It will be TV and the underground
will still exist.
Q. There is a parallel to market economics.
How do make sure everyone will get what
they need? Market economy just does it.
We don't have to decide how the right information
gets to the right people, because there's
a magic force that will make it happen.
Chris - It's like an economic argument:
a new economic force in the world that makes
it work. It's going on now, and it changes
the world that corporations think they are
Q. I won't get THE answer, but I'll get
100 answers. Rick - It's changing, it could
be fun if you like the human race, terrifying
if you need control. David - All good fun
Tentative schedule of upcoming 2000 RMIUG
meetings: May 2000 - Serving Customers in
the new Millenium -- How the Internet is
Changing (almost) Everything Jul 2000 -
Is Net Security Possible in a World of Stealthy
Hackers and Destructive Viruses? Sep 2000
- Nonprofits on the Net and How the Web
May Change Charitable Giving Nov 2000 -
"SPAMfest 2000" - Unsolicited email: Who,
What, Why, How, and Guerilla Methods to
Fight it (on and off the RMIUG lists ;-)
TBD - Everything You Always Wanted to Know
About XML (but were afraid to ask via email
for fear of being flamed...)
Dan adjourned the meeting at 9:00 pm.
Respectfully submitted by Tom Bresnahan.