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.

This, to me, is one of the most powerful examples of the Cluetrain. When we are considering buying something, taking a trip or going out most, if not all of us, take to the Net and search.

We still are mindful that there are no gatekeepers, but after a scant few minutes, we have decided whether the electronic item we are considering, the restaurant we want to take our spouse to or the car we want to drive is all it is cracked up to be.

Reading reviews, people’s opinions and what folks share about hotels and holiday venues shape our decision-making process.
With years of corporate culture and the rule of hierarchy and marketing as a damn verb, we have turned the tables. This new frontier is bold and it is fresh. We like to share our opinions. And we tend to share our negative opinions a lot more. An old saying is if I like something I tell someone about it. If I hate something I tell hundreds of people about it.

In days gone by we used to rely on the ads, the pitchmen, and the marketing bumpf. The corporations are still churning out happy-talk brochures, but a 5-minute session online with Google cuts through to the meat.

I love that “Your brand is what Google says you are!” Chris Anderson

And you can control it – not by, as some CEOs have been heard saying – “We have to get these negative comments removed!” But by answering the comments and taking positive action.

The Cluetrain sums this up …

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.

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.

This I believe is the foundation of the Social Webs. We rely on each other, we relay to each other and seek out the truth from each other. We can cut through the advertising and marketing baffle gab and seek recommendations, referrals and knowledge.

This is also where Brands live. They are promises by the manufacturers to us the consumers and when we can share and hear what other consumers “feel” about a brand, that is the true nature of sharing.

Imagine the “over the backyard fence” chats only connecting millions of people from all over the world.  And as each of us is the gatekeeper we can personally judge what we read hear and see. I personally love that aspect. I am left to my own devices to sort through and judge what I believe is true. Not just what is fed to me through the media. At one time the media held weight for me – but not anymore. And as we know this Net thing moves at the speed of light.

These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge. 

As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally. 

This is the essence and the foundation of the social web. What used to be a place that served up documents, the social structure allows your data to talk to my data. This is the true power. We now see that it is “utilities and tools” that are the real king of online, not content.

We also now can build apps that are mobile, that are powerful and shutterstock_215120503are rich in user experience. I would image the authors of the Cluetrain had visions of the future when they wrote this, but I bet they did not see what we had in store as we enter 2016.

Image courtesy And a great article.

UnknownAnd following the recent tragedy in Paris Anonymous has demonstrated the potential power of these social webs, if in fact what they have claimed is true.

The power, I believe, has just begun to be realized. I predict that in the next 5 years we will see an exponential growth and development of technology – like we have never seen before.


  • More people, and more women are interested in IT
  • Cheaper hardware costs
  • Better access between  people developing new tech
  • Market demand greater than ever
  • Overall awareness and tech becoming mainstream

I think we are just entering the New Era of the Net.


These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

When I discovered The Cluetrain, signed the 95 Thesis in 1999 and later was granted use of this powerful book and its message for my courses and lectures, what really resonated with me was the power held within. True individual power to enact change.

Innovation, sharing, 2 + 2 equalling way more than the sum of 4, and the sheer power we all have … real power. Each one of us having a voice and an ability to be as loud, with that voice, as a huge multinational, a large media company or any company for that matter. To me, that is what makes the Web so damn inspiring.

I have been online since the mid-eighties and am a Netizen. I am as inspired today as I was when I first discovered it almost thirty years ago.

No, there are no gatekeepers. You have raving lunatics (You may think I am one!) right next to poet laureates and great thinkers. You have amazing discoveries next to cat pictures and you have absolute, complete rubbish next to genius. But, that is what makes this great. You can decide. You have the power. No one is distilling, choosing or editing what you read. I have long been against censorship. I can curate my own content. I can decide. I alone have the power to read and discern if something is true, or right. Or what I want. We also can teach our children this. Question everything!

From InfoWorld

“A small band of provocateurs calling their project “the Cluetrain” issued a challenge to corporations late in March: Wake up to the fact that the Internet is anarchic and beyond your control, learn how to use the Net to talk with your customers and employees like real people, and lighten up a bit.”

In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

There have been so many attempts to port over known modalities onto the Web. Most have been fraught with disaster. I believe you have to elegantly engineer for the Web. We talk about 200User Experience and User Interface and lots of other geeky terms, but when you understand it is me at one end and you at the other all the jumping bunnies and throbbing gristle fall away.

From the Cluetrain … true in the late 90s … true today!

What’s the Web’s character? You can slice it into seven basic themes:

  1. Hyperlinked. Before the Web, computer networks were laid out in advance like well-planned cities. Who got connected to whom and how was all part of the master plan. And once you were connected, there was a recognizable central authority responsible for the whole shebang. The Web isn’t even a little like that. The Web literally consists of hundreds of millions of pages hyperlinked together by the author of each individual page. Anyone can plug in and any page can be linked to any other, without asking permission. The Web is constantly spinning itself — many small pieces loosely joining themselves as they see fit.

  2. Decentralized. No one is in charge of the Net. There is no central clearing house that dispatches all requests and approves all submissions. No one ordered the Web built. There is no CEO of the Web. There is no one to sue. There’s no one to complain to. There’s no one to fix it when it breaks. There’s no one to thank.

  3. Hyper time. Internet time is, famously, seven times the velocity of “normal” time. And yet we use the leisurely verb browse to describe our behavior on the Web


    in the virtual world, I feel I can move about at my own pace, exploring when and where I want. I can take a quick look at a site and come back later without having to find another parking space, go to the end of the line, or pay a second entry fee. The Web puts the control of my time into my hands.

  4. Open, direct access. The Net provides what feels like direct access to everyone else on the Net and to every piece of information that’s ever been posted. If you want to go to a page, you just click on the link and, boom, you’re there. (The fact that this might have required, beneath the surface, thirty “hops” among servers in places you never heard of is completely irrelevant. You don’t see the hops; you just see the page.) There’s nothing standing between you and the rest of the world of people and pages.

  5. Rich data. The currency of the Web isn’t green bar printouts of facts and stats. It’s pages. Humans have been creating pages since the invention of paper and dirty water. Pages — or “documents” as we sometimes say — are extraordinarily complex ways of presenting information. Typically, they tell you as much about the author as about their topic, a big change from the pre-Web information environment that aimed at generating faceless data.

  6. Broken. Because the Web is by far the largest, most complex network ever built, and because no one owns it or controls it, it is always going to be, in the words of Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, “a little bit broken.”

  7. Borderless. Because traditional networks were concerned as much with security as with access, it was usually made clear where your stuff ended and other people’s stuff began. The Web, on the other hand, was designed so that you can include a link to a page without having to get the author’s permission. Thus, on the Web it is often hard to tell exactly where the boundaries are.

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

There is a reason organizational charts are a pyramid shape and at the top is one person.

In fact, the org chart is an expression of a power structure. It is red tape. It is a map of whom to avoid.

Modern business almost universally has chosen a particular type of togetherness: a hierarchy. There are two distinguishing marks of a hierarchy: it has a top and a bottom, and the top is narrower than the bottom. Power flows from the top and there are fewer and fewer people as you move up the food chain.
(The Cluetrain)

And people in business that get a door think it is a sign of success.

I just received a letter from my insurance company. To be clear, my ex-insurance company. It was terse, it was unfeeling and as I expected from my insurance company – in their favor. And, they wonder why we hate them? Something went terribly wrong with business and companies. Casual Friday’s and massage rooms will not cure the ills of most companies. They’re fucked.

I have been musing with the idea for a book called – The Era of the Amateur. I have it mapped out and the Cluetrain opened my eyes to see this horrible trend. As we entered the first of numerous recessions companies adopted strict Standard Operating Procedures and a slate of transactions – especially for their front line folks – to stop them from thinking. This allowed companies to hire and promote amateurs. The legal departments love this. Here is an example. last summer I was in MY and picked up a case of beer at a shopping mall. The young girl at the cash asked me for ID. As someone who has not seen 21 for over 40 years I asked … “Really?”

She told me it was company policy to ask everyone as to not get sued.

Come on …

This is where hyperlinks come in. They do more than link documents and pictures of cats. They link people. You can now connect with anyone.

Your pyramid-like org chart is being replaced by hyperlinks.

A story …

You are a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON! And in a meeting with staff you bluster and harumph around a bit. Off they go after the meeting. Not only are there large laughs about you at the water cooler there are even more in emails. “Who does that asshole think he is?” “Do you believe that!” and on and on and so on and so forth. You see the new organization is based on conversations. And in business because of the hyperlinks this is going on. Right now. You are either laughing with us, or we are laughing at you!

To have a conversation, you have to be comfortable being human — acknowledging you don’t have all the answers, being eager to learn from someone else and to build new ideas together.

You can only have a conversation if you’re not afraid to be wrong. Otherwise, you’re not conversing, you’re just declaiming, speechifying, or reading what’s on the PowerPoints. To converse, you have to be willing to be wrong in front of another person.

Conversations occur only between equals. The time your boss’s boss asked you at a meeting about your project’s deadline was not a conversation. The time you sat with your boss’s boss for an hour in the Polynesian-themed bar while on a business trip and you really talked, got past the corporate bullshit, told each other the truth about the dangers ahead, and ended up talking about your kids — that maybe was a conversation.

Conversations subvert hierarchy. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. Being a human being among others subverts hierarchy.

The Cluetrain


The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

When the Cluetrain came out in 1999 and shaped what was to be the foundation of the Social Webs, mass media was still grappling with this “new thing.” They either wanted to own it, control it or exploit it.

Those of us who have been online since the beginning saw the trends; the ISPs who thought they could be “vapor-malls;” the magazine publishers who thought they could automatically jump to digital versions and make a killing; the direct marketers who thought this was a perfect DM channel especially for SPAM and the newspapers looking at a way to fight dwindling circulation and fight broadcast.

Digital is unlike anything we saw before and marketers who are not  digitally savvy engaged in what Michael Strangelove coined as “Shovelware.”  (Taking all their shit and shoveling it online.) The existing modalities for marketers cannot simply be transposed to digital. At least not easily. You have to strategize for online and rejig your business.

What online allows is for us to connect one-to-one like never before.

You at one end and me at the other. And, anything that gets in the way diminishes and devalues that connection.

Mass media unfortunately, has tried to take over the digital world.  On  SM sites, the celebs from the entertainment world have truly lessened the value of the Social Web and the value of their personal Brands. If you look at a Jon Stewart, or Bill Maher or other TV personalities on SM they have teams of people that post tidbits and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people (sheep) flock and retweet and “like” and comment on this banality. It is no more real than “Real Housewives.”  It certainly is not what the online world is meant to be.

This leaves the Social Webs in the same state as mass media – except the laugh track is us laughing together at this side show.

We are supposed to engage, we are supposed to interact.oto

The Net and all things digital are for interactivity. The reason the digital age works is that it is not facile, nor static. If a company still insists on putting a brochure online that says volumes on that company’s strategy. We are connecting faster than companies.

I love this quote from the Cluetrain:

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.

I personally believe we do not have to change the corporations. We merely have to change ourselves.

From Rick Levine:

Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what ís successful on the Web.