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the following are excerpts from

The Cluetrain Manifesto:
The End of Business as Usual

Copyright © 1999 Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger.
All rights reserved.


    Foreword (Thomas Petzinger, Jr., The Wall Street Journal)
    The Cluetrain Manifesto
1. Internet Apocalypso (Christopher Locke)
2. The Longing (David Weinberger)
3. Talk Is Cheap (Rick Levine)
4. Markets Are Conversations (Doc Searls & David Weinberger)
5. The Hyperlinked Organization (David Weinberger)
6. EZ Answers (Christopher Locke & David Weinberger)
7. Post-Apocalypso (Christopher Locke)

if you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get...


by Thomas Petzinger, Jr., The Wall Street Journal

Take a pot of water that's just above the freezing mark. Now, crank up the heat and wait. Temperature rises. Wait some more. Go all the way to 211 degrees Fahrenheit and nothing looks much different. But then, turn it up one more tiny degree, and wham! The pot becomes a roiling, steamy cauldron.

Don't look now, but you're holding such a catalyst in your hands. The Cluetrain Manifesto is about to drive business to a full boil.

Let me tell you how it took me to the tipping point. Not long ago I was sitting in the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco on a reporting mission for "The Front Lines," a weekly column I spent four years writing for The Wall Street Journal. Between interviews, I was checking e-mail from my readers. (The Internet puts me in touch with thousands of them who act as my scouts.) On this particular day, one of my correspondents urged me to check out a new site at

I was dumbstruck. There, in a few pages, I read a startlingly concise summary of everything I'd seen in twenty-one years as a reporter, editor, bureau chief, and columnist for my newspaper. The idea that business, at bottom, is fundamentally human. That engineering remains second-rate without aesthetics. That natural, human conversation is the true language of commerce. That corporations work best when the people on the inside have the fullest contact possible with the people on the outside.

And most importantly, that however ancient, timeless, and true, these principles are just now resurging across the business world. The triggering event, of course, is the advent of a global communication system that restores the banter of the bazaar, that tears down power structures and senseless bureaucracies, that puts everyone in touch with everyone.

Scrolling through the hundreds of signatories who had endorsed the manifesto, I realized this if nothing else: The newspaper gods had just blessed me with one of my favorite columns ever, enabling me to articulate much I knew to be true but never previously had the words to say.

Because "The Front Lines" was usually a narrative tale, I bored into the manifesto's origins. Befitting its message, the document, I learned, was born in an extended electronic conversation among four Internet denizens spread from coast to coast. The authors were not the ultra-hip, just-outta-college webheads I had imagined. One was Rick Levine, a Boulder-based engineer for the giant Sun Microsystems. Another was a Boulder consultant named Christopher Locke, late of such hoary outfits as IBM, MCI, and Carnegie Mellon. There was a well-known Silicon Valley publicist named Doc Searls and a longtime high-tech marketer from Boston whose name, David Weinberger, I recognized from his commentaries on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

They were, in short, fixtures of the high-tech establishment — but being establishment made their renunciation of business-as-usual all the more powerful.

The manifesto URL leaped between cubicles like mononucleosis through a co-ed dorm. Some readers found it pretentious, bordering on smug. (To those of delicate sensibility, it was.) Some found it nihilistic. (It wasn't.) But all found it arresting and impossible to ignore. The manifesto became a kind of user's guide to the Internet economy —a world of new online communities; of self-organizing corporate employees; of Linux and other "open source" movements that seem to erupt from thin air.

So now, for anyone who missed it the first time and for everyone else who wants more, we have The Cluetrain Manifesto, one of the first books written as sequel to a Web site.

I look at a huge number of business books. I actually read some of them and have published reviews on more than my share. I'll mention a few ways The Cluetrain Manifesto is like no other.

First, this is no feel-good book. Though the broad theme is overwhelmingly optimistic, the details will make you squirm. This is an obituary for business-as-usual. It shows how your Web strategy may be minutes from obsolescence. It reveals how the Internet has made your entry-level employees as powerful as your senior vice president of marketing. Recall what The Jungle did to meat packing, what Silent Spring did to chemicals, what Unsafe at Any Speed did to Detroit. That's the spirit with which The Cluetrain Manifesto takes on the arrogance of corporate e-commerce. (Notably, some of the best material comes from the authors' own experiences within big companies, and they name names.)

Second, this is not a how-to book, unless you need a remedial lesson in being human. For all their righteous self-assuredness about the Internet revolution, these authors don't presume to tell you how to run your business or your career. One-size-fits-all "programs" and "methodologies" are just ways for consultants to gouge clients and book buyers. Instead, this book simply describes business as it really is and as it's really becoming. You'll come away from these pages with a new set of eyes for redirecting your career or rehabilitating your company according to its own unique circumstances.

Third, this book is not boring. The whole message here, after all, involves speaking with a human voice. That means stories instead of lectures, humor instead of hubris, description instead of PowerPoint pie charts. (Imagine In Search of Excellence crossed with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) When was the last time you laughed out loud reading a business book?

And why not laughter? It's one of the signature melodies of human conversation. This book shows how conversation forms the basis of business, how business lost that voice for a while, and how that language is returning to business thanks to a technology that inspires, and in many cases demands, that we speak from the heart.

To rip off what rock critic Jon Landau once said about Bruce Springsteen: I've seen the future of business, and it's The Cluetrain Manifesto. At first you may be tempted to hide this book inside the dust jacket for or something equally conventional. But in time you'll see the book spreading. It will become acceptable, if never entirely accepted. It will certainly become essential. Why am I so sure? Because like nothing else out there, it shows us how to grasp the human side of business and technology, and being human, try as we might, is the only fate from which we can never escape.

Thomas Petzinger, Jr.
The Wall Street Journal

[back to table of contents]


What if the real attraction of the Internet is not its cutting-edge bells and whistles, its jazzy interface or any of the advanced technology that underlies its pipes and wires? What if, instead, the attraction is an atavistic throwback to the prehistoric human fascination with telling tales? Five thousand years ago, the marketplace was the hub of civilization, a place to which traders returned from remote lands with exotic spices, silks, monkeys, parrots, jewels — and fabulous stories.

In many ways, the Internet more resembles an ancient bazaar than it fits the business models companies try to impose upon it. Millions have flocked to the Net in an incredibly short time, not because it was user-friendly — it wasn't — but because it seemed to offer some intangible quality long missing in action from modern life. In sharp contrast to the alienation wrought by homogenized broadcast media, sterilized mass "culture," and the enforced anonymity of bureaucratic organizations, the Internet connected people to each other and provided a space in which the human voice would be rapidly rediscovered.

Though corporations insist on seeing it as one, the new marketplace is not necessarily a market at all. To its inhabitants, it is primarily a place in which all participants are audience to each other. The entertainment is not packaged; it is intrinsic. Unlike the lockstep conformity imposed by television, advertising, and corporate propaganda, the Net has given new legitimacy — and free rein — to play. Many of those drawn into this world find themselves exploring a freedom never before imagined: to indulge their curiosity, to debate, to disagree, to laugh at themselves, to compare visions, to learn, to create new art, new knowledge.

Because the Internet is so technically efficient, it has also been adopted by companies seeking to become more productive. They too are hungry for knowledge, for the intellectual capital that has become more valuable than bricks and mortar or any tangible asset. What they didn't count on were the other effects of Web technology. Hypertext is inherently nonhierarchical and antibureaucratic. It does not reinforce loyalty and obedience; it encourages idle speculation and loose talk. It encourages stories.

These new conversations online — whether on the wild and wooly Internet or on (slightly) more sedate corporate intranets — are generating new ways of looking at problems. They are spawning new perspectives, new tools, and a new kind of intellectual bravery more comfortable with risk than with regulation. The result is not just new things learned but a vastly enhanced ability to learn things. And the pace of this learning is accelerating. In the networked marketplace it is reflected in the joy of play. On company intranets it is reflected in the joy of knowledge. But it's getting difficult to tell the two apart. Employees go home and get online. They bring new attitudes back to work the next day. Enthusiastic surfers get hired and bring strange new views into corporations that, until now, have successfully protected themselves from everything else. The World Wide Web reinforces freedom. The Internet routes around obstacles. The confluence of these conversations is not only inevitable, it has largely already occurred.

Many companies fear these changes, seeing in them only a devastating loss of control. But control is a losing game in a global marketplace where the range of customer choice is already staggering and a suicidal game for companies that must come up with the knowledge necessary to create those market choices.

While command and control may have reached a cul-de-sac, the intersection of the market conversation with the conversation of the corporate workforce hardly signals the end of commerce. Instead, this convergence promises a vibrant renewal in which commerce becomes far more naturally integrated into the life of individuals and communities.

This book tells a story. Four times. Many times. It is the story of how these things have happened — and some powerful hints about what could happen from here on out.

[back to table of contents]

from Internet Apocalypso

by Christopher Locke

NOTE: The entire first chapter of the book — Internet Apocalypso — is now available on the site. Click here to read it.
Waiting for Joe Six-Pack

A few years ago, you could make an interesting distinction between people who thought there was something special about the Internet and those who saw it as no big deal. Now of course, everybody sees it as a big deal, mostly because of those weirdball IPOs and the overnight billionaires they've spawned. But I think the distinction is still valid. Most companies with Net-dot-dollar-signs in their eyes today are still missing the "something special" dimension.

Yahoo has already made it, financially speaking, but forms a good example nonetheless. Despite the funky hacker roots of the initial directory Yang and Filo built, Yahoo now describes itself as a "global media company," thus claiming a closer spiritual kinship with Disney and Murdoch than with the culture that originally put it on the map.

To this mindset, the Net is just an extension of preceding mass media, primarily television. The rhetoric it uses is freighted with the same crypto-religious marketing jargon that characterized broadcast: brand, market share, eyeballs, demographics. And guess what? It works. If nobody was getting rich off this stuff, you wouldn't hear about it.

It's the fast new companies that are reaping these monetary rewards. But guess what again. They're reaping them from an even faster market — one that, for the most part, has only discovered the Internet in the last year or so. The people who make up this new market naturally bring a lot of baggage from their previous experience of mass media. To someone who just got an AOL account last Christmas, I suppose a Web page looks like a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w TV show.

But this is where the something-special effect comes in. It is assumed in some quarters that if you missed the early days of Usenet and didn't use Lynx from a Unix command line, you missed the Magic of Internet Culture. I don't think so.

Sure those were very different days and there was a certain fervor — almost a fever — that was hard to mistake for sitcom fandom. But I think the Internet still has a radicalizing effect today, despite all the banner ads and promotional hype and you-may-already-be-a-winner sweepstakes.

The something special is what the Manifesto calls voice.

Imagine for a moment: millions of people sitting in their shuttered homes at night, bathed in that ghostly blue television aura. They're passive, yeah, but more than that: they're isolated from each other.

Now imagine another magic wire strung from house to house, hooking all these poor bastards up. They're still watching the same old crap. Then, during the touching love scene, some joker lobs an off-color aside — and everybody hears it. Whoa! What was that? People are rolling on the floor laughing. And it begins to happen so often, it gets abbreviated: ROTFL. The audience is suddenly connected to itself.

What was once The Show, the hypnotic focus and tee-vee advertising carrier wave, becomes in the context of the Internet a sort of reverse new-media McGuffin — an excuse to get together rather than an excuse not to. Think of Joel and the 'bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The point is not to watch the film, but to outdo each other making fun of it.

And for such radically realigned purposes, some bloated corporate Web site can serve as a target every bit as well as Godzilla, King of the Monsters. As the remake trailer put it: size does matter.

So here comes Joe Six-Pack onto AOL. What does he know about netliness? Nothing. Zilch. He has no cultural context whatsoever. But soon, very soon, what he hears is something he never heard in TV Land: people cracking up.

"That ain't no laugh track neither," Joe is thinking and goes looking for the source of this strange, new, rather seductive sound.

So here's a little story problem for ya, class. If the Internet has 50 million people on it, and they're not all as dumb as they look, but the corporations trying to make a fast buck off their asses are as dumb as they look, how long before Joe is laughing as hard as everyone else?

The correct answer of course: not long at all. And as soon as he starts laughing, he's not Joe Six-Pack anymore. He's no longer part of some passive couch-potato target demographic. Because the Net connects people to each other, and impassions and empowers through those connections, the media dream of the Web as another acquiescent mass-consumer market is a figment and a fantasy.

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.

And Internet technology has also threaded its way deep into the heart of Corporate Empire, where once upon a time, lockstep loyalty to the chairman's latest attempt at insight was no further away than the mimeograph machine. One memo from Mr. Big and everyone believed (or so Mr. Big liked to think).

No more. The same kind of seditious deconstruction that's being practiced on the Web today, just for the hell of it, is also seeping onto the company intranet. How many satires are floating around there, one wonders: of the latest hyperinflated restructuring plan, of the over-sincere cultural-sensitivity training sessions Human Resources made mandatory last week, of all the gibberish that passes for "management" — or has passed up until now.

Step back a frame or two. Zoom out. Isn't that weird? Workers and markets are speaking the same language! And they're both speaking it in the same shoot-from-the-hip, unedited, devil-take-the-hindmost style.

This conversation may be irreverent of eternal verities, but it's not all jokes. Whether in the marketplace or at work, people do have genuine, serious concerns. And we have something else as well: knowledge. Not the sort of boring, abstract knowledge that "Knowledge Management" wants to manage. No. The real thing. We have knowledge of what we do and how we do it — our craft — and it drives our voices; it's what we most like to talk about.

But 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; don't know why they should give a damn. Cultures need it. Without play and knowledge in equal measure, they begin to die. People get gloomy, anxious, and depressed. Eventually, the guns come out.

There are two new conversations going on today, both vibrant and exciting; both mediated by Internet technologies but having little to do with technology otherwise. Unfortunately, there's also a metaphorical firewall separating these conversations, and that wall is the traditional, conservative, fearful corporation.

So what is to be done? Easy: Burn down business-as-usual. Bulldoze it. Cordon off the area. Set up barricades. Cripple the tanks. Topple the statues of heroes too long dead into the street.

Sound familiar? You bet it does. And the message has been the same all along, from Paris in '68 to the Berlin Wall, from Warsaw to Tiananmen Square: Let the kids rock and roll!

So open the windows and turn up the volume. If the noise gets loud enough, maybe even CNN will cover.

[back to table of contents]

from The Longing

by David Weinberger

We don't know what the Web is for but we've adopted it faster than any technology since fire.

There are many ways to look at what's drawing us to the Web: access to information, connection to other people, entrance to communities, the ability to broadcast ideas. None of these are wrong perspectives. But they all come back to the promise of voice and thus of authentic self.

At the first Internet World conference, the vendors were falling over one another offering software and services that would let you "create your own home page in five minutes." Microsoft, IBM, and a hundred smaller shops were all hawking the same goods. You could sit in a booth and create your own home page faster than you can get your portrait sketched on a San Francisco sidewalk.

While the create-a-home-page problem proved too easy to solve to support a software industry, there was something canny about the commercial focus on the creation of home pages. Since you could just as adequately view the Web as a huge reference library, why did home pages seize our imaginations? Because a home page is a place in which we can express who we are and let the world in. Meager though it may be, a home page is a way of having a voice.

The Web's promise of a voice has now gone far beyond that. The Web is viral. It infects everything it touches — and, because it is an airborne virus, it infects some things it doesn't. The Web has become the new corporate infrastructure, in the form of intranets, turning massive corporate hierarchical systems into collections of many small pieces loosely joining themselves unpredictably.

The voice that the Web gives us is not the ability to post pictures of our cat and our guesses at how the next episode of The X-Files will end. It is the granting of a place in which we can be who we are (and even who we aren't, if that's the voice we've chosen).

It is a public place. That is crucial. Having a voice doesn't mean being able to sing in the shower. It means presenting oneself to others. The Web provides a place like we've never seen before.

We may still have to behave properly in committee meetings, but increasingly the real work of the corporation is getting done by quirky individuals who meet on the Web, net the two-hour committee meeting down to two lines (one of which is obscene and the other wickedly funny), and then — in a language and rhythm unique to them — move ahead faster than the speed of management.

The memo is dead. Long live e-mail. The corporate newsletter is dead. Long live racks of 'zines from individuals who do not speak for the corporation. Bland, safe relationships with customers are dead. Long live customer-support reps who are willing to get as pissed off at their own company as the angry customer is.

We are so desperate to have our voices back that we are willing to leap into the void. We embrace the Web not knowing what it is, but hoping that it will burn the org chart — if not the organization — down to the ground. Released from the gray-flannel handcuffs, we say anything, curse like sailors, rhyme like bad poets, flame against our own values, just for the pure delight of having a voice.

And when the thrill of hearing ourselves speak again wears off, we will begin to build a new world.

That is what the Web is for.

[back to table of contents]

from Talk is Cheap

by Rick Levine

Every Web page we see has a person behind it. Sometimes their individual decisions are eroded and digested by being passed through a corporate colon of editors, gatekeepers and other factota, but there are clear signposts to individual care and concern on much of today's Web. While all print and broadcast media have at least some indirect personal authorship, there's a key difference on the Web. The percentage of "raw" content published, direct from a creator's fingers to our eyes, is much higher than in traditional media. The Web's low cost of entry to publishers, both small and large, and the amount of unfiltered chat/newsgroup/e-mail text finding its way into search engines guarantees our daily browsing experience has a very strong flavor of individual authorship. Inevitably, our heightened awareness of distinct, individual voices engenders the urge to talk back, to engage, to converse. The software and mechanisms developed helter-skelter for the Net cater to these urges. Chat, free e-mail, automatic home pages — all reinforce our feeling that not only is it easy to enter into discourse with others, but also that we're by-god entitled to wade into the conversational stream. Heaven help you if you get in my way, or try to stifle my voice.

The good or bad news, depending on your perspective, is that it's hard to fake your end of one of these conversations. Ever been on the phone with a friend or coworker while sitting in front of a computer and trying to read or respond to e-mail when your wire addiction gets the better of you? I'm very good at multitasking, and can fool many folks some of the time, but I get caught more often than I'll admit. (By my wife, for instance. Every time.) We can tell when someone is engaged, listening, responding honestly, and with his or her full faculties. We're wired to interpret subtle clues telling us whether a person is all there, if we're the center of their attention, if we're being heard. No matter how starved for detail our communication channel, our brains manage to get a gestalt reading on the other party's presence.

In the same way we distinguish personal attention from inattention, we can tell the difference between a commercial pitch and words that come when someone's life animates their message. Try snipping paragraphs of text from press releases and a few pieces of printed person-to-person e-mail. Shuffle the paper slips. Hand the pile to your office-mate, your spouse, or your next-door neighbor. Can they sort them? Of course they can, in short order. People channel from their hearts directly to their words. That's voice. It comes of focus, attention, caring, connection, and honesty of purpose. It is not commercially motivated, isn't talk with a vested interest. Talk is cheap. The value of our voices is beyond mere words. The human voice reaches directly into our beings and touches our spirits.

Voice is how we can tell the difference between people, committees, and bots. An e-mail written by one person bears the tool marks of their thought processes. E-mail might be employee-to-employee, customer-to-customer or employee-to-customer, but in each case it's person-to-person. Voice, or its lack, is how we tell what's worth reading and what's not. Much of what passes for communication from companies to customers is washed and diluted so many times by the successive editing and tuning done by each company gatekeeper that the live-person hints are lost.

Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what's successful on the Web. Its egalitarian nature is engendering a renaissance in personal publishing. We of genus Homo are wired to respond to each other's noise and commotion, to the rich, multi-modal deluge of data each of us broadcasts as we wade through life. The Web gives us an opportunity to escape from the bounds imposed by broadcast media's one-to-many notions of publishing. Nascent Web publishing efforts have their genesis in a burning need to say something, but their ultimate success comes from people wanting to listen, needing to hear each other's voices, and answering in kind.

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Markets Are Conversations

by Doc Searls and David Weinberger

An extensive selection from this chapter appeared in The Industry Standard on January 17, 2000. In the same issue, see Get A Clue and The Wrong Kind of Buzz, also by Doc Searls and David Weinberger.

[back to table of contents]

from The Hyperlinked Organization

by David Weinberger

The Hyperlinking of the Organization

Your organization is becoming hyperlinked. Whether you like it or not. It's bottom-up; it's unstoppable.

Despite the wet stink of fear, you ought to be delighted. Hyperlinked organizations are closer to their markets, act faster, and acquire the valuable survival skill of learning to swerve.

Of course, they also are impossible to manage — although they can be "unmanaged" — and you'll have to give up your pretense of power, status, and lordliness. But, then, as the old saying has it, you can't make an omelet without nuking the existing social order.

Here's the drill for the rest of this chapter. We've just discussed seven key characteristics of the Web. Now we're going to go through them one at a time, in order (no talking in the hallways and please stand to the right to enable those in a hurry to pass) to see what's happening inside organizations touched by the Web — that is, all organizations to one degree or another.

Let's put the hyper back into hyperlinks

Here's one example of how things work in a hyperlinked organization:

You're a sales rep in the Southwest who has a customer with a product problem. You know that the Southwest tech-support person happens not to know anything about this problem. In fact, she's a flat-out bozo. So, to do what's right for your customer you go outside the prescribed channels and pull together the support person from the Northeast, a product manager you respect, and a senior engineer who's been responsive in the past (no good deed goes unpunished!). Via e-mail or by building a mini-Web site on an intranet, you initiate a discussion, research numbers, check out competitive solutions, and quickly solve the customer's problem — all without ever notifying the "appropriate authorities" of what you're doing because all they'll do is try to force you back into the official channels.

It's a little thing. But it's a big change in the ground rules of work. The official structure is of little use to you. Instead, your network of trusted colleagues becomes paramount. Your effectiveness depends upon how networked you are, how hyperlinked you are.

The hyperlinked teams you form may not be as project-centered as in the example above. As organizations become hyperlinked, they spawn hyperlinked committees, hyperlinked task forces, hyperlinked affiliations, hyperlinked interest groups, hyperlinked communities, hyperlinked cheering squads, hyperlinked pen pals, and hyperlinked attitudes. Humans seem to fill up every available social niche just as nature itself abhors an ecological vacuum.

These hyperlinked relationships are, like the Web of hyperlinked documents, a shifting context of links of varying importance and quality. They are self-asserting, not requiring anyone else's authority to be put in place. And the value of the individual "node" to a large degree depends upon the node's links.

This last point is a big shift. Links have value by pointing away from themselves to some other site. All Web pages derive some value from the links on them. (A page with no links is literally a dead end on the Web.) In fact, the single most-visited site on the Web, Yahoo!, derives almost all of its value not from what it contains but from what it points to. Yet our understanding of the nature of knowledge, education, and expertise is bound up with things that contain value, not with things that point you out of themselves to find value elsewhere. Books get their value from their content. Education is the transfer of content into the receptacle that is the student. And an expert is someone who contains a lot of information, like a book contains information. In fact, experts are people who can write books. But, with today's huge increase in the amount of information, you can be an expert only in something sliced so thin that often it's trivial. Increasingly, a useful expert is not someone with (containing) all the answers but someone who knows where to find answers. The new experts have value not by centralizing information and control but by being great "pointers" to other people and to useful, current information.

In short, your most valuable employee is likely to be the one who, in response to a question, doesn't give a concrete answer in a booming voice but who says, "You should talk to Larry. And check Janis's project plan. Oh, and there's a mailing list on this topic I ran into a couple of weeks ago — "

How could you hope to capture this on an org chart? And how do you compensate people fairly if their value depends upon their participation in a shifting set of hyperlinked associations? How do you hire great hyperlinked people? How could this ever be expressed on a resume?

Great questions — because there aren't clear answers yet. Epochal changes are not Q&A sessions. We're at the beginning of the biggest Q since the Industrial Revolution. It's a time to make things up, try them out, fail a thousand times, and laugh at how stupid you look.

The urge to "solve the problem" is nothing but the voice of the old command-and-control psychosis trying to reassert itself. ("Premature elucidation": the plight of men who come to answers way too soon.)

[back to table of contents]

from EZ Answers

by Christopher Locke and David Weinberger

Hit One Outta the Park

Business-as-usual being what it is, the questions never quit. Companies have said yes, the Cluetrain ideas are interesting, but give us a place to start. A methodology. A suite of best practices maybe. A set of guidelines. For God's sake, something!

"What's the bottom line?" they want to know. "How can my company profit from the coming transcultural train wreck? How can we leap tall buildings in Internet time, innovate faster than a speeding data packet, and establish Peace, Justice, and the American Way in hyperlinked global markets?"

Well... OK. Because you've been so patient and read so bloody much, we'll let you in on the Secret of Our Success. Just follow the twelve easy steps below and you're sure to be on your way to fame and fortune in the exciting new world of Webusiness. (Caution: It is vital that you follow these steps precisely in the order given. Otherwise, we are not responsible for the mutant hellspawn you may inadvertently call forth from the realm of the undead.)

The Cluetrain Hit-One-Outta-the-Park Twelve-Step Program for Internet Business Success

  1. Relax
  2. Have a sense of humor
  3. Find your voice and use it
  4. Tell the truth
  5. Don't panic
  6. Enjoy yourself
  7. Be brave
  8. Be curious
  9. Play more
  10. Dream always
  11. Listen up
  12. Rap on

Do these things and you just can't miss.

Of course, there's as much distance between this advice and the decisions you make every day as there is between "Go forth and multiply" and "100 Ways to Pick Up Hot Chicks and Radical Dudes." Still, we yearn for easy advice. It's so hard to give up the old wish for stimulus-response marketing and management. Hard to go back to the days of the "talking cure" when psychotherapy meant years of slogging through memories and dreams instead of a slap on the back, and instructions to "nurture the inner child" and eat two bran muffins every day. Hard to forget the televised version of Anna Karenina that goes from start to finish in two hours (the train comes to a screeching halt just in time) and reopen the musty volume and soak into every snow-flecked page.

Look, we'd love to derive twelve happy instructions from the wash of ideas swirling around us. Really. We could market those puppies like Tang in a sauna. Seminars, workbooks, T-shirts, coffee mugs…

But it doesn't work that way. This is an existential moment. It's characterized by uncertainty, the dissolving of the normal ways of settling uncertainties, the evaporation of the memory of what certainty was once like. In times like this, we all have an impulse to find something stable and cling to it, but then we'd miss the moment entirely. There isn't a list of things you can do to work the whirlwind. The desire to have such a list betrays the moment.

There may not be twelve or five or twenty things you can do, but there are ten thousand. The trick is, you have to figure out what they are. They have to come from you. They have to be your words, your moves, your authentic voice.

The Web got built by people who chose to build it. The lesson is: don't wait for someone to show you how. Learn from your spontaneous mistakes, not from safe prescriptions and cautiously analyzed procedures. Don't try to keep people from going wrong by repeating the mantra of how to get it right. Getting it right isn't enough any more. There's no invention in it. There's no voice.

Maybe we'd have more luck with the Cluetrain List of Don'ts than with a List of Dos. The first ninety-four items would be things like: don't snoop on your employees, don't build knowledge management systems and corporate portals that are nothing but funnels for the same old propaganda. Don't hire people who claim to be experts at increasing morale. And right at the bottom of the list, number ninety-five, would be the most important one: don't rely on lists, self-styled "gurus," or business books.

Scary, isn't it? Good. You ought to be scared. That's a realistic reaction. You want comfort? Invent your own. Exhilaration and joy are also in order. But face the facts: the tracks end at the edge of the jungle.

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from Post-Apocalypso

by Christopher Locke

"What do I know of man's destiny? I could tell you more about radishes."

Samuel Beckett

More About Radishes

So whaddya think? Will Cluetrain be the Next Big Thing? Not if we can help it. Deep-six the bumper stickers. Forget the catchy slogans and the funny hats. Let's not write the bylaws and pretend we did. Let's not start another frickin' club. The only decent thing to do with Cluetrain is to bury the sucker now while there's still time, before it begins to smell of management philosophy. Invite the neighbors over, hold a wake. Throw a wild and drunken orgy of a party. Because only death is static. Life moves on.

How do you speak in a human voice? First, you get a life. And corporations just can't do that. Corporations are like Pinocchio. Or Frankenstein. Their noses grow longer at the oddest moments, or they start breaking things for no good reason. They want to be human, but gosh, they're not. They want the Formula for Life — but they want it so they can institutionalize it. The problem, of course, is that life is anti-formulaic, anti-institutional. The most fundamental quality of life is something the corporation can never capture, never possess. Life can't be shrink-wrapped, caged, dissected, analyzed, or owned. Life is free.

And so, finally, the question we've all been waiting for. In the newly humanized and highly vocal global marketplace the Internet has helped create, can corporations survive at all? Not if they're unable to speak for themselves. Not if they're literally dumbfounded by the changes taking place all around them.

But maybe — and it's a big maybe — companies can get out of their own way. Maybe they can become much looser associations of free individuals. Maybe they can cut "their" people enough slack to actually act and sound like people instead of 1950s science-fiction robots. Gort need more sales! Gort need make quota! You not buy now, Gort nuke your planet!

Easy there, Gort. Calm down boy. Here, chew on this kryptonite.

Everybody's laughing. No one gives a rat's ass. So here's another question. Perhaps you even thought of it yourself. How come this book ended up in the business section of your local bookstore instead of under Humor, Horror, or True Crime? Hey, don't look at us.

Fact is, we don't care about business — per se, per diem, au gratin. Given half a chance, we'd burn the whole constellation of obsolete business concepts to the waterline. Cost of sales and bottom lines and profit margins — if you're a company, that's your problem. But if you think of yourself as a company, you've got much bigger worries. We strongly suggest you repeat the following mantra as often as possible until you feel better: "I am not a company. I am a human being."

So, no, at the end of all this we don't have a cogent set of recommendations. We don't have a crystal ball we can use to help business plot its future course. We don't have any magic-bullet cure for Corporate Linguistic Deficit Disorder. Did that much come across? OK, just checking.

However, we do have a vision of what life could be like if we ever make it through the current transition. It's hard for some to imagine the Era of Total Cluelessness coming to a close. But try. Try hard. Because only imagination can finally bring the curtain down.

Imagine a world where everyone was constantly learning, a world where what you wondered was more interesting than what you knew, and curiosity counted for more than certain knowledge. Imagine a world where what you gave away was more valuable than what you held back, where joy was not a dirty word, where play was not forbidden after your eleventh birthday. Imagine a world in which the business of business was to imagine worlds people might actually want to live in someday. Imagine a world created by the people, for the people not perishing from the earth forever.

Yeah. Imagine that.

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Copyright © 1999 Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger.
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