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The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual

4.2 4
by Rick Levine, Doc Searls, Christopher Locke

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The Cluetrain Manifesto burst onto the scene in March of 1999 with ninety-five theses nailed up on the Web. Within days, www.cluetrain.com had ignited a vibrant global conversation challenging sacred corporate assumptions about the very nature of business in a digital world. Soon, executives across the country were lining up to sign the manifesto. This is


The Cluetrain Manifesto burst onto the scene in March of 1999 with ninety-five theses nailed up on the Web. Within days, www.cluetrain.com had ignited a vibrant global conversation challenging sacred corporate assumptions about the very nature of business in a digital world. Soon, executives across the country were lining up to sign the manifesto. This is the book that delivers on that buzz.

Written by four of the liveliest voices on the Web, The Cluetrain Manifesto illustrates how, through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter-and getting smarter faster than most companies. Today's markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny, and often shocking. Companies that aren't listening to these exchanges are missing a dire warning. Companies that aren't engaging in them are missing an unprecedented opportunity.

The Cluetrain Manifesto gets its name from a veteran executive from a now defunct Fortune 500 firm describing his company's plummet by saying: "The clue train stopped here four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery." In other words, they didn't seize the opportunities that were before them, fell out of touch with their market, and lost to the competition as a result.

The Cluetrain Manifesto takes you deeper into the new order of business than any other book this decade, presenting a stunning tapestry of anecdotes, object lessons, parodies, war stories, and suggestions, all aimed at illustrating what it will take to survive and prosper in the fast-forward world on the wire. Business as usual is gone forever-this is your wake-up call.

About the Author:

Rick Levine is the author of the Sun Guide to Web Style.
Christopher Locke has worked for MCI and IBM, and has written extensively for Forbes, Information Week, Internet World, and The Industry Standard.
Doc Searls is the senior editor for Linux Journal.
David Weinberger has written for Wired and is a regular commentator on NPR.

Editorial Reviews

Business Week
For every retail or consumer-products company wondering why its Internet marketing doesn't seem to be working, The Cluetrain Manifesto...offers fresh and sound advice, expressed in entertaining prose. Its oft-repeated premise—that markets are conversations—should be pounded into the collective brain of corporate executives.
Advertising Age
If you are in advertising, I urge you to Barnes & Noble it immediately and acquire yourself a copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual.
Harvard Business Review
An earnest plea for a new kind of language and new expectations for the Web...While others work on turning the Internet into the perfect medium for reaching traditional business goals, these four Net-philes hope cyberspace will give commerce a "human voice."
Provocative food for thought for companies in this Internet age.
The Cluetrain Manifesto is unique...in its refreshingly humanist orientation. Whereas many books attempt to analyze Internet phenomena in economic or cybernetic terms, the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto take an unabashedly narrative approach...But the most striking feature of this book is its sheer exuberance.
Cluetrain is great! This is the best "business" book I've read since The Peter Principle back in 1969...Buy Cluetrain Manifesto. Get two copies. One for yourself and one to give to your company's CEO.
Michael Wolfe
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.
Wall Street Journal
Thomas Petzinger
The Cluetrain Manifesto is about to drive business to a full boil. 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.
Wall Street Journal
Laura Tiffany
The Cluetrain Manifesto invites you to take a new look at the impact of the Internet on both your business and society.
Library Journal
Beginning as 95 posted theses in March 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto (http://www. cluetrain.com) quickly sparked a lively Internet conversation about the current nature of business. The idea came from a former veteran executive from a now-defunct Fortune 500 firm when he was describing his firm's plummet: "The clue train stopped here four times a day for ten years, and they never took delivery." Authors Levine (Sun Guide to Web Style), Doc Searls (president, The Searls Group), et al., present their view of how the Internet is changing the very way people discuss their business challenges and how it's making markets smarter and faster. As the authors say, business-as-usual is gone forever, and this new "clue train" acts as a wake-up call, offering answers that are often couched in anecdotes and war stories. The narrative rides the razor's edge between glib hype and substance, and though readers may find that it occasionally dips deep into the New Age genre, this is for the most part a weighty work that gets at the heart of the matter: the powerful impact the Internet has had and will continue to have on our fundamental concept of organizational structure, management style, and market success. Highly recommended for all academic and larger public libraries.--Dale F. Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Fast Company
You might not agree with everything these web provocateurs say, you might not like their tone, but you will ignore their ideas at your peril.
The Cluetrain Manifesto [is] the most important business book since In Search of Excellence...Get a clue. Read the book.
Information Week
Business 2.0
...Cluetrain's authors are right in what they say. Networks—the Internet, intranets, and extranets—are changing everything, and corporations must adapt or become roadkill...an insightful book....
Publishers Weekly
[The authors]...succeed in making solid, clever points that reveal fundamental flaws in the structure of traditional businesses.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 5 CDs
Product dimensions:
4.93(w) x 5.68(h) x 1.02(d)

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. ringleaders@cluetrain.com All rights reserved.

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)
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)
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)
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)

Meet the Author

Rick Levine is web architect for Sun Microsystems' Java Software group. He is responsible for the creation of much of the public web interface for java.sun.com and the Java Developer Connection. He is also the creator of www.hatfactory.com and author of the Sun Guide to Web Style.

Christopher Locke publishes Entropy Gradient Reversals from Boulder, Colorado. He has worked for Fujitsu, Carnegie Mellon University, Mecklermedia, MCI, and IBM, and has written extensively for publications such as Forbes, Byte, Internet World, and Information Week.

Doc Searls is the senior editor for Linux Journal, the first and only magazine for the Linux space. He is also president of The Searls Group, the Silicon Valley marketing consultancy. He has written on technology and business for OMNI, PC Magazine, and Upside. His own Web 'zine is Reality 2.0.

David Weinberger is 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, and Smithsonian.

Read Fatbrain.com's exclusive interview with David Weinberger.

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