How would you classify a book that begins with the salutation, "People of Earth..."? While the captains of industry might dismiss it as mere science fiction, The Cluetrain Manifesto
is definitely of this day and age. Aiming squarely at the solar plexus of corporate America, authors Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger show how the Internet is turning business upside down. They proclaim that, thanks to conversations taking place on Web sites and message boards, and in e-mail and chat rooms, employees and customers alike have found voices that undermine the traditional command-and-control hierarchy that organizes most corporate marketing groups. "Markets are conversations," the authors write, and those conversations are "getting smarter faster than most companies." In their view, the lowly customer service rep wields far more power and influence in today's marketplace than the well-oiled front office PR machine.
The Cluetrain Manifesto began as a Web site (www.cluetrain.com) in 1999 when the authors, who have worked variously at IBM, Sun Microsystems, the Linux Journal, and NPR, posted 95 theses that pronounced what they felt was the new reality of the networked marketplace. For example, thesis no. 2: "Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors"; thesis no. 20: "Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them"; thesis no. 62: "Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall"; thesis no. 74: "We are immune to advertising. Just forget it." The book enlarges on these themes through seven essays filled with dozens of stories and observations about how business gets done in America and how the Internet will change it all. While Cluetrain will strike many as loud and over the top, the message itself remains quite relevant and unique. This book is for anyone interested in the Internet and e-commerce, and is especially important for those businesses struggling to navigate the topography of the wired marketplace. All aboard! --Harry C. Edwards
From Publishers Weekly
Experienced technology users with a history of communicating over the Web, Levine (Sun Guide to Webstyle), Locke (who has worked for MCI and IBM and written for such publications as Forbes), Searls (a senior editor at Linux Journal) and Weinberger (a regular commentator on NPR) want nothing less than to change the way the world does business. Commerce, they argue, should not be about transactions, it should be about conversations, no matter what the medium. The artifice that frequently accompanies buying and selling should be replaced by a genuine attempt to satisfy the needs, wants and desires of the people on both sides of the equation. Despite their long digressions, the authors occasionally succeed in making solid, clever points that reveal fundamental flaws in the structure of traditional businesses. Consider this comment about business hierarchies: "First they assume--along with Ayn Rand and poorly socialized adolescents--that the fundamental unit of life is the individual. This despite the evidence of our senses that individuals only emerge from groups." So far so good. But their apparent assumption that everyone in upper management, along with anyone who does not embrace every aspect of their utopian ideal, is a dolt may not be the best way to raise an army in support of their cause. Similarly, ignoring examples of companies that are already doing business differently--the magazines Inc. and Fast Company are filled with examples every month--and glossing over the specifics on how to implement their business model undercuts their credibility. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.