t byfield on Sat, 27 Mar 1999 03:12:16 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> fwd: 'cluetrain' 95 theses

     [From <>, or <http://www.cluetrain.com>
      when the domain name propagates. Courtesy of Keith Dawson's
      TBTF (1999-03-26) <http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-03-26.html>]

     people of earth...

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are
discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding
speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter
faster than most companies.


"The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and
they never took delivery." — Veteran of a firm now free-falling
out of the Fortune 500

"...companies so lobotomized that they can't speak in a
recognizably human voice build sites that smell like death."
—"Fear and Loathing on the Web" The Industry Standard and CNN


These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in
language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often
shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious,
the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in
the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement,
marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal.
Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no
respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor
will corporations convince us they are human with lip service
about "listening to customers." They will only sound human when
they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

While many such people already work for companies today, most
companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge,
opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the
intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.

However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are.
Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to
get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse
directly with internetworked markets.

Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart
markets out. It's going to cause real pain to tear those walls
down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it
will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged


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

Online Markets...

Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the
companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the web,
markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding
of qualities missing from most business organizations.

...People of Earth

The sky is open to the stars. Clouds roll over us night and day.
Oceans rise and fall. Whatever you may have heard, this is our
world, our place to be. Whatever you've been told, our flags fly
free. Our heart goes on forever. People of Earth, remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

51.  Command-and-control management styles both derive from and
reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of

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

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

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 flaks 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

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 website. 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

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

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.  
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on condition that this page remains intact. 
Rip it, steal it, web it, mail it, post it. 
This message wants to MOVE!
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