Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Cluetrain Manifesto

Heck, this was initially written in 1999, so it is already seven years old. But I am a librarian, and regularly deal in dusty manuscripts. The Cluetrain Manifesto is partly up on the web, as you can see by following the above link. It also exists in a more fleshed-out version in a book (now out of print). And its authors and radical thinkers have moved on to other projects long since.

But the initial thoughts have not really been absorbed and spread through the culture yet. These guys were writing from the viewpoint of hackers (the good kind, the guys who built the Internet culture, not the kind commnonly mis-called hackers in the media but more properly called crackers, who have a culture of scoring points with their peers for breaking the security at websites and vandalizing them). The Cluetrain thinkers considered the development of the Internet and what it meant for humankind, for corporations, and for marketing. Here is a nutshell summary:

The Internet is inherently seditious. It undermines unthinking respect for centralized authority, whether that "authority" is the neatly homogenized voice of broadcast advertising or the smarmy rhetoric of the corporate annual report.

Wow! What they mean is that Internet allows even regular folks to interact with their entertainment, rather than passively soaking it in. It encourages one to think and speak back, whether you are a corporate worker, or a consumer. And their point mainly was that organizations that don't get this sea change will be big losers. They will lose their work force and they will lose their customer base because the Internet allows unprecedented communication, choice and interaction. It makes it possible to look behind the curtain at the little man running the Wizard of Oz, and laugh at him. And that is very dangerous to those who want to retain their power through fear or pronouncements, whether they are corporate chiefs, university presidents, or possibly even government leaders.


If these guys are right, the Cluetrain has not totally left the station yet. There is still time to get right with the Internet. This image of roadkill on the information highway comes from the Cluetrain Manifesto website.

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