on May 1, 2000
This is one of those books that people either love or hate. My guess is that its the delivery people don't like, not the message. Personally, I tend to think its just plain common sense but I won't pretend I had a clue before reading. After reading, its painfully obvious.
There are several extremely valuable realizations about how the internet changes business (and much more) which you likely ought to consider as you think about your business.
If you want better insight into what is so exciting and empowering about the internet for customers this is worth the read. Some of you can probably get enough by just reading the manifesto. Status quo corporations, you need to be on your guard (chances are you're not reading this anyway).
I would have preferred a little less 60's "revolution is in the air" hype. If you're looking for a revolution, take another hit of acid and wait. This book simply describes what inevitably happens when better communication and information is available in a free market economy.
I also think the book could have been written in about 30 pages but those 30 pages were powerful enough to deserve 4 stars.
on April 18, 2000
The Cluetrain Manifesto could have been called The Emperors New Clothes, because of the authors' similarity with the little child of the fable, who blatantly and courageously tells it like it is. Cluetrain is less a book, or even a collection of essays, than a collection of ideas. Often fascinating and insightful in its challenge to unmask "business as usual", its real strength lies in two of its collaborators: Christopher Locke and Rick Levine. Their chapters are by far the strongest, whereas David Weinberger and Doc Searls seem more out of place (you'll do best in skipping David Weinbergers disastrous ramblings "The Hyperlinked Organisation", it cost this book a star in its rating). Messrs Locke and Levine, however, carry every trait of the business world's answer to Tom Waits and Vic Chestnutt: Angry, outsiders, intelligent and provocative. Their chapters savour with a wonderful blend of cynicism and a "we- want -change- now"-attitude. As a source of inspiration, Locke and Levine will provide cannon fodder for many a young, ambitious, corporate up and comers. That is, sadly, where Cluetrain runs into the usual management literature-trap, "the consultancy tongue". Their thoughts, inspirational and insightful as they are, have little if any relevance when it comes to applying them in the real world. Yes, it is important to be honest and open as an organisation (Peter Drucker taught us that in the 1950's), yes corporate-speak is ridiculous (Scott Addams has made a career out of this for the past decade) and yes, everything that the net is used for today is out of sync with its original intent (similar to Einstein's molecular theory not being intended to be used to nuke Hiroshima). Cluetrain is a book for the slightly cynical individual of the modern organisation (i.e. most people from New York to Newcastle), the kind of people who find delight in challenging bourgeois ideals (sit up straight, eat with your mouth closed, talk only when asked to do so). Tom Waits tears apart Prada-jackets on stage; Vic Chestnutt laments in his wheel-chair; Locke, Levine et al. rip apart traditional corporate jargon. Unfortunately, their nostalgic-oozing want for the early days of the Internet becomes far too obvious in the 250 or so- pages. The result is a book that struggles and ultimately fails to get past the "interesting thoughts by angry academics"-category.
on April 12, 2000
I discovered the Cluetrain Manifesto through Wired magazine, visited the Cluetrain website, then bought the book. For maximum value, I recommend either visiting the site or reading the book, but not both -- they reinforce each other more through repetition than by complementing each other.
The book contains some interesting anecdotes that can't be found on the site, and of course can be read on a plane or bus. There are some additional insights in the book, and things are covered in a little more depth.
The fundamental message is a good one: consumers will find each other and interact more than ever (mostly thanks to the Internet/Web). As they do this, these conversations will seem more "real," "honest" and "authentic," and that will erode carefully prepared marketing messages, branding, positioning, etc. (which will be viewed for what they are -- BS) For companies to be successful, say the authors, companies have got to come to terms with this, and realize that well-connected consumers are immune to rhetoric, and in fact may rail against it.
The hyperbolic book and manifesto may be overwrought, but there's truth at their heart, and they are entertaining reading. ("Magnificently overstated and yet entirely correct" it says on the jacket)
on April 3, 2000
I really wanted to rate this book higher than three stars. In fact, if it were only thirty or forty pages, I would have been trying to rate it at ten stars! It starts out by making bold, mostly clear, sometimes odd statements. All of which are hugely entertaining and frequently provocative. The book does drone on a bit though, and I found it tedious towards the end.
I was surprised at the content, however. To me it was much less about how the Internet is changing the economoy and business, and more about how it is changing how people connect. Far beyond a clinical explanation (this is a Manifesto after all), it postulates about the changes this newfound, hyperlinked communication has made in employee, customer, and vendor expectations.
I happen to agree with almost every message. Down with empty happy-talk and command and control management...long live capability, knowledge, and real, heart-felt communication.
This book would certainly have received full marks from me had it been less repetitive.
on March 29, 2000
Like medicine, this book is good for you, despite tasting bad when going down.
Essentially, it's a long, repetitive rant about business, commerce and formalness, making three key points (markets are conversations; genuine word-of-mouth is more effective than advertising; business communication is out-of-touch) over and over again. And again and again. For 200 pages. On and on and on.
Bits of it make you want to punch the air and shout 'YES!', and other bits of it make you want to skip a few pages - and the anecdotal style is so short of examples you get the impression that the authors sat down in a room with some coffee and wrote it in a single session, straight from memory.
As such, it's not much fun to read (you'll get bored quickly, and [...] contains most of the best content), although that doesn't mean that it's 'bad' - think of it as a forceful guide to a new way of thinking and it works perfectly. entertainment.
Essentially, it's a long, repetitive rant about business, commerce and formalness,
on March 24, 2000
The commercialization of the internet for the masses largely done by the very businesses that the authors heckle and flame is really no more than a taking away of the internet from the academics and other elites who controlled it through about the mid-90s. This book is largely a diatribe against business, mass markets and mass media. Their writing is anecdotal, repetitive and frankly boring. The underlying theme and theses; however, is right on the mark. The internet will tend to flow power back in the hands of workers and consumers and take it away from the corporate, academic and government elites. Interestingly, it was the corporate elites taking it away from the academic and government elites that created this possibility. If you can get beyond the heckling and flaming style and tone their basic message is interesting. I wish they had focused more on how consumers and workers will use this new-found power and how it will transform and shape our society rather than a cynical tongue-lashing of corporate elites.
on February 23, 2000
In The Cluetrain Manifesto, we see the classic sign of a revolution. Even the reviews here show it. The sign is this: controversy. Loosely quoting some dead guy, "If an idea does not at first seem absurd, it is doomed to failure." Marketeers, execs, and PR Heads all agree, the idea of actually letting your marks and your worker bees communicate freely is absurd. Yet, given the demand for it, maybe the market is on to something.
That something is not new, just as the Manifesto will tell you. That something is a return to business in a networked market, rather than a disconnected, you'll-never-see-who-made-this market. The similarities between Omar needing a new flying rug, and asking his neighbor (who's in the business) what he should look for in a quality flying rug, and me looking for a computer and looking at what other consumers had to say about the company I found a great price from, are obvious. If I need information on a product, the first place I go is to my computer. If need be, I then go to the phone (a form of market equalization that was never fully exploited).
If the web had been prevalent twenty years ago, my father wouldn't have bought a PC Jr, because he would have known what people on the inside were saying. And hey, make it a two-way street, and people on the inside will know what we require from their company. Nice, eh? That's the core of the book, and while the truths are fairly self-evident, the Cluetrain Manifesto goes all-out to explain them in the gonzo-est way possible, to the people who need to open up most: the companies.
on February 23, 2000
The Cluetrain Manifesto reflects something I believe strongly: the people I sell my services to are not numbers, or demographic pockets, or targeted audiences.
There's no magic here, just common sense. The book talks about the meeting of modern marketing and old-fashioned craftsmanship through the medium of the Internet. Instant email, one-click searches for information and global, real-time, affordable communications...news travels fast in this environment
If a marketer can't stand behind what they sell, or the claims they make, the whole world will have access to this fact. If there are skeletons in the closet, they will soon see daylight...
Read the book, and think about it: consumers who get their information from other consumers, directly, and not from the marketing spin of the seller.
To be part of the conversation, the seller had best be willing to answer questions in real time, and discuss issues without that hidden agenda of placing a marketing spin on every phrase. Tell me what you have to sell, but don't try to talk to me like I am your own personal test subject for the latest brainwashing technique.
Listen to what I say, because I've already heard all the pre-scripted fluff, and I will find someone else who is willing to risk being real..
Talk to me honestly, because I will find out if you don't.
And I will tell others.
Thank you, Cluetrain Manifesto. Maybe the business that won't listen to me will listen to you. If not, there's another business one click away...
on February 22, 2000
What makes a brilliant web page does not make a brilliant book. The authors are right about certain things: networked markets learn fast. Buzzwords prevent actual communication. But... the book is a big sloppy mess. The authors unfortunately are clueless about the history of business, of economics, or about how most people actually live. The book is long rant, repeating the same thoughts over and over, but terribly short on substance. The only example of the power of their new way of thinking is a story about how United made some people on a newsgroup like them. That's about it, folks. The biggest problem is the idea that before the web, we were all big slugs absorbing info from the TV, and since the web, we are all zooming around reading newsgroups and talking to people about every purchase we make. I wish the authors had spent more time talking to actual everyday people, instead of their fellow hardcore webheads. A bit of perspective would have helped them a lot.
Their take on industrialization is also pretty silly. A little time spent reading about the history of business would have helped them a lot. The last section of the book goes totally off the deep end, offering the bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima as examples of why they're right. Whatever, guys. It can be fun to read (and some of the contributors are a whole lot smarter than others) but ultimately, there's nothing there. The ideas are appealing, you *want* to believe the whole thing, but when you start noticing the really bad assumptions the authors have made, the lack of concrete examples of anything, the incredibly repetition, you just can't. And it's a shame, because there are some really provocative ideas here that shouldn't be dismissed, however badly the authors have presented them. Read the web site and think about what it says; don't waste your time and money on the book.
on February 8, 2000
Over the last several years, I've come to the conclusion that "business-as-usual" had to come to an end--that the world, culture, technology have changed so much that a new business paradigm is not only required but desperately needed. And it can't be simply a change of rules--the entire *game* has to change.
So finding the on-line Cluetrain Manifesto last year was a real pleasure. Here were these four guys with 95 wild-eyed idealistic theses for overthrowing the business world order--and setting up a new paradigm based upon (of all things) human interaction and conversation. I signed right up.
So you can imagine my delight when I found "The Cluetrain Manifesto" book had been published. I bought it in a millisecond.
Inside, you'll find the reflections of the Cluetrain's originators--in more detail, with more reflection than their Website provides. The Manifesto's background and philosophies are brought into a clearer focus--*not* crystal clear, mind you, but clearer than before. And it's a *very* enjoyable and provocative read.
It's not a flawless work. There's redundancy, for example, in the multiple essays within. Some chapters (Chapter 1 especially) are outstanding, others are so-so. One might even be called elementary. But there's always food for thought.
And don't expect to find some kind of "formula" or "strategy" or "plan" to prosper in the brave new world we live in. It's not there. In fact, such a plan, the authors remind us, would be *counter* to the Manifesto's assertion that honest human conversation is the key to success in the future.
But you will be stirred to find your voice and to add it to the voices of the revived marketplace called the Internet. Heck, you might even be inspired enough to try to help your company find *its* honest, human, authentic voice (rather than brochureware and doublespeak). And I think that's what would delight the Cluetrainers most.
This book is one of several that dramatically affected my life and career. I heartily recommend it!