The Cluetrain Manifesto

The Cluetrain Manifesto


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780738204314
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 01/28/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.04(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 1060L (what's this?)

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. Chris Locke is author of The Bombast Transcripts, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and editor/publisher of the Webzine Entropy Gradient Reversals. He has worked for Fujitsu, Ricoh, the Japanese government's "Fifth Generation" artificial-intelligence project, Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, CMP Publications, Mecklermedia, MCI, and IBM. Named in a 2001 Financial Times Group survey as one of the "top 50 business thinkers in the world," he has written for a wide variety of publications, including Forbes, The Industry Standard, Information Week, Harvard Business Review, and Release 1.0. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. 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. David Weinberger is the publisher of JOHO (Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization). Co-author of the best-selling The Cluetrain Manifesto, he is a commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and has written for a wide variety of publications, including Wired, the New York Times, and Smithsonian.

Read an Excerpt

The Manifesto

95 Theses

  1. Markets are conversations.
  2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
  3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
  4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
  5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
  6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
  7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
  8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
  9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
  10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
  11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
  12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
  13. What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called "The Company" is the only thing standing between the two.
  14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.
  15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business -- the sound of mission statements and brochures -- will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
  16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
  17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
  18. Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation, are missing their best opportunity.
  19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
  20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
  21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
  22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
  23. Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
  24. Bombastic boasts -- "We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ" -- do not constitute a position.
  25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
  26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
  27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.
  28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on inside the company.
  29. Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."
  30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable -- and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
  31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"
  32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
  33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be "picked up" at some tony conference.
  34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
  35. But first, they must belong to a community.
  36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
  37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
  38. Human communities are based on discourse -- on human speech about human concerns.
  39. The community of discourse is the market.
  40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
  41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
  42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company -- and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
  43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
  44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
  45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
  46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
  47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations.
  48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.
  49. Org charts worked in an older economy, where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
  50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
  51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
  52. Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.
  53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.
  54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
  55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
  56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.
  57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.
  58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
  59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
  60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
  61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false -- and often is.
  62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
  63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.
  64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
  65. We're also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
  66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
  67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.
  68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around -- in the press, at your conferences -- what's that got to do with us?
  69. Maybe you're impressing your investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us.
  70. If you don't impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don't they understand this? If they did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.
  71. Your tired notions of "the market" make our eyes glaze over. We don't recognize ourselves in your projections -- perhaps because we know we're already elsewhere.
  72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
  73. You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
  74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
  75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
  76. We've got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we'd be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
  77. You're too busy "doing business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.
  78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
  79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.
  80. Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.
  81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?
  82. Your product broke. Why? We'd like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she's not in?
  83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
  84. We know some people from your company. They're pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you're hiding? Can they come out and play?
  85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to.
  86. When we're not busy being your "target market," many of us are your people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing's job.
  87. We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.
  88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
  89. We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
  90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we've been seeing.
  91. Our allegiance is to ourselves -- our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.
  92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can't they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
  93. We're both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to take them down.
  94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
  95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
Copyright © 1999 Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The Website
Chapter 1: Internet Apocalypso
Chapter 2: The Longing
Chapter 3: Talk Is Cheap
Chapter 4: Markets Are Conversations
Chapter 5: The Hyperlinked Organization
Chapter 6: EZ Answers
Chapter 7: Post - Apocalypso
About the Authors

What People are Saying About This

Eric Severson

Like Zen masters, these four irreverent visionaries produce startling insights by first confronting our most cherished but often misguided beliefs about business. Seeing the Internet as forcing profound and deeply humanistic change, this book lights the way into the 21st century for e-businesses large and small.
— (Eric Severson, Executive Consultant, IBM Global Services)

Esther Dyson

These troublemakers are going to get what they deserve—a huge and enthusiastic following!
— (Esther Dyson, Chairman, EDventure Holdings)

Don Peppers

When people in networked markets can get faster and smarter information from one another than from the companies they do business with, it may be time to close shop. Or, maybe it's just time to get on The Cluetrain and fully understand that your customers are living, breathing creatures who want one-to-one relationships with your company, not just one-way rhetoric.
— (Don Peppers, co-founder Peppers and Rogers Group, co-author of Enterprise One to One)

Michael Wolff

The Internet changes what we mean when we say we mean business. The Cluetrain Manifesto explores the profound depths of this change to deliver an analysis that will enlighten and challenge you, make you laugh or drive you crazy. Love it or hate it, no one with a stake in the online scene can afford to ignore what this book is saying.
— (Michael Wolff, author of Burn Rate)

Steve Larsen

Exceptionally compelling and brilliant! This train hurtles at high speed into your perception of business theories and explodes out the back of your brain with exhilarating ideas that engage, energize and enlighten. Anyone connecting with the Internet-as seller, buyer, surfer or stroller-should heed these four exceptional writers the way a law student studies for the bar.
— (Steve Larsen, EVP Marketing, Net Perceptions)

David Siegel

The Cluetrain Manifesto is required reading for the new millennium. It will make you question just about everything you're doing online. It will make you sad for the way companies perceive the web today and joyous for the possibilities to come.
— (David Siegel, author of Futurize Your Enterprise)

Seth Godin

If you don't think you need this book to better understand your market, that's your second mistake!
— (Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing)

Thomas A. Stewart

The Cluetrain Manifesto is brilliant and impossible at the same time. It's magnificently overstated and yet entirely correct: The Web changes the way people and markets meet and work in almost every way, and a remarkably high percentage of companies just don't get it -- yet. The Cluetrain Manifesto gets it, and the authors aren't shy about shoving it down our throats.
— (Thomas A. Stewart, author of Intellectual Capital)

John Hagel

The Cluetrain Manifesto is an in your face warning to all businesses as they seek to adapt to the spread of electronic markets. It delivers a "tough love" message: embrace the conversations enabled by electronic networks or become road kill. Embracing these conversations means rediscovering our passion and our voice. All managers must heed this message, even though it will require wrenching changes across all elements of the business.
— (John Hagel, III, Partner, McKinsey & Company and co-author of Net Worth and Net Gain)

Mitch Ratcliffe

The Cluetrain Manifesto is the purgative for the corporate soul your company and career need to make success on the Internet possible. You may want to put this book down, because it tells hard truths, but you'll never stop coming back to it in order to obliterate your old ideas.
— (Mitch Ratcliffe, VP of Programming & Editor-in-Chief, ON24 Network)

Eric S. Raymond

The Cluetrain is to marketing and communications what the open-source movement is to software development-anarchic, messy, rude, and vastly more powerful than the doomed bullshit that conventionally passes for wisdom.
— (Eric S. Raymond, President, Open Source Initiative, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar)


An Interview with Christopher Locke

The Cluetrain Manifesto began as a fairly simple yet potent and thought-provoking web site launched in early 1999 by four professionals who set out to challenge all things status quo. Now these same four voices also put together a enlivening book for all businesspeople looking to understand the collective human voice that is driving the Internet economy. Barnes &'s Amy Lambo interviewed Christopher Locke, one-fourth of the writing team behind this new title.

Barnes & One of the hardest-hitting arguments you make in the original Cluetrain Manifesto is the fact that "corporations do not speak in the same voice" as the open, uncontrived, and natural conversations that the Web makes possible. With that in mind, is it possible for you and I, each representing large corporate business entities, to conduct this conversation in the same kind of human voice that you embrace in the Manifesto?

Christopher Locke: Of course! It goes without saying that two individuals can and do, millions of times a day, have exactly such conversations. There isn't a problem with individuals being able to speak with each other. What's difficult is, if you don't know someone in the corporation that you're trying to reach, and you hit that corporation's web site, for example, it usually bespeaks the same broadcast mentality with language and messages that are vanilla and characterless. In the days of broadcast media, the whole objective was to reach the largest possible audience with the lowest common denominator or message. What that translates into is, "Never offend, never be funny, because it might not appeal." That is not the way people online talk. We have very strong opinions, very strong likes and dislikes. That's why during these still very early days of the medium, there is this ebullient reaction against broadcast. People are so happy to be heard. They are so opinionated and gung ho, and everything has so much hyperbole. There is this joyous reaction.

B& Is television, along with its counterparts in the broadcast realm, all negative? Is it always going to consist of one corporate messenger force-feeding an agenda to the masses?

CL: Corporations and large broadcast entities are not all about negativity. One anecdote that demonstrates what I'm talking about is from 1997. Microsoft made a $1 billion investment in Comcast, and I just happened to hit the Microsoft web site that day. Someone working there put in a slug line about the investment that said, "We found some extra cash lying around in a sock drawer." It just floored me. And I thought, "Oh my god, there's life on Planet Microsoft." I went back for weeks and weeks and weeks, hoping to find some of that voice. But I suspect that that moment of playfulness ended up getting that person transferred to a job as a shipping clerk for the Encarta CD collection. But anyway, there's an instant connection that comes along with that sort of playfulness.

A good test of voice that anybody could do is to snip a dozen random paragraphs from email that you get or send to other people. Put them in a hat. Then snip out a dozen paragraphs from annual reports or press releases. Shake them all up, give them to any human being -- whether they've been online or not -- and say, "Who wrote these?" Everybody I've said that to can really relate to the difference in voice. When we get online, we're passionate. We're saying that that passion is possible within companies. If all you've got is the broadcast-style web site and it doesn't look any different than a BusinessWeek ad or an infomercial, there's a glaring mismatch of the kind of voice and communications you're used to with peers, friends, and colleagues online. It ain't gotta be that way.

B& How can huge companies with millions of customers efficiently engage in such passionate conversations with their customers?

CL: The ability of the market to speak amongst itself has tremendous economic and financial ramifications for the e-commerce world. And it should be noted that the Web isn't just a place for people to scream at companies. It's also a tremendous source of innovation, where customers will say, "You know, perhaps you could get your product to do 'x.' " That's gold, that sort of stuff. Companies have to engage that conversation, or they're leaving their money on the table.

A lot of people argue that and say, "But get real. If you have a million customers, how do you have these conversations without driving your burn rate into the stratosphere?" I'm editor-in-chief of a site called that's underwritten by Net Perceptions. It's an attempt or a test bed for the idea of market conversations. Their underlying technology is called collaborative filtering. This is a really interesting case, because here's a company that's spent a lot of money, and they've got no product promotions on their site. Plus, they've invited in their competitors and invited conversation about the whole suite of personalization technologies, including negative views that say things like "personalization sucks." We worked together and did all of this, then we burned the mission statement, because if you want to have a conversation with the marketplace, conversations don't have mission statements. Net Perceptions is obviously selling things, but they didn't want this to be just a promotional site. They wanted it to be a content-rich site that brought together lots of voices and perspectives. And they thought the best way to achieve that was not to use the normal approach that you'd expect companies to do, which is bang the drum louder than everybody else. The site has been extremely well received because it does that, invites conversation. How can a corporation get advantage from engaging in these kind of discussions? is one model for hosting those conversations in a smart way.

The other answer to the question is the personalization technologies themselves, which can provide potent clues and help you understand the market from the bottom up, not top-down, old-school demographics. But how can you even begin to characterize the interests of these emergent micromarkets? The thought of hiring thousands of people is a pretty daunting proposition. The first thing is to get rid of any quality testing models that you may have had and make quality everyone's responsibility. Instead of having communications be for the communications department, make it everybody's job. The corporation is this sort of Berlin Wall separating these conversations. Take that wall down, and let people talk across the divide.

B& Your Internet message is drastically different than all of the media coverage lately, which focuses on the latest IPO madness.

CL: That was the whole impetus in the first place for me. About a year ago, I was getting so frustrated hearing how many trillions of dollars of e-commerce there would be by 2004 -- this technology cheerleading exercise with everybody patting each other on the back. For many, many years, I've been saying, "You need to get mind share before you get market share." So, sure, there are going to be these trillions of dollars in e-commerce, but which pockets they go into is not a foregone conclusion. Look at how fast the Internet came on, and look at how deep and fundamental and shocking the changes are that have taken place. I think there are a lot more surprises coming.

Look, if we're wrong and the whole Cluetrain premise is flawed, then you can look back and say you were safe to have ignored it. But if we're right, trillions of dollars will flow in different directions based on this message. You might want to take this seriously even if it has a slight chance of being the case. This is not model theoretics. This is based on hundreds of person years among the four authors, who have been in this medium for 70 to 80 collective years. And it's not just us, it's people on the Cluetrain web site, all the signers of the Manifesto whose most common reaction to it is, "It's about time." That's why I looked for the biggest two-by-four I could find to smack business over the head with The Cluetrain Manifesto. It's just to get the business world's attention and point out that there's an enormous opportunity here. And we've been skating along with these business practices, and the Internet questions them all at so fundamental a level. It helps to step back and say, "What the hell are we doing?"

About the Author

Christopher Locke is editor-in-chief of, editor/publisher of the webzine Entropy Gradient Reversals, and president of Entropy Web Consulting in Boulder, Colorado. He launched Internet Business Report for CMP Publications in 1993 and was president of MecklerWeb Corporation in 1994, editor and publisher of the Net Editors segment on internetMCI in 1995, and program director for Online Community Development in IBM's Internet division in 1996. He has written extensively for Forbes, IEEE Internet Computing, Internet World, Information Week, Byte, Network Computing, Microsoft's Internet Magazine, the Public Relations Society of America's PR Tactics Journal, and The Industry Standard. His work has been reported on by The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, The Economist, Advertising Age, Inter@ctive Week, and NBC Nightly News.

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The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Cluetrain Manifesto was one of the seminal books of the bubble era, but reading it now is like waking with a hangover and looking at all of the empty bottles, each of which seemed like a great idea at the time. The Internet changed everything, all right. Those who can bite back the irony long enough to see the big picture and keep reading will find some valuable practical advice on using the now-not-so-new-technology of the Web to do business more effectively. We recommend this pivotal book for the sake of your sense of perspective (or to give you a critically necessary background if you are too young to remember when Amazon was just a river.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
the cluetrain manafesto is one of the best books i have ever read i recomend it to every one