March 30, 2009

The Cluetrain Manifesto -- Ten Years Later

The Cluetrain Manifesto (full text) is one of those books I've always meant to read but haven't. Not sure why, but it's probably due to the fact that when it came out initially I was just beginning library school and wasn't that plugged into the whole social media/internet will change the work business literature like I am now.

There is a copy kicking around the house and now I feel like I have to crack it open and give it a look. Why? Because Simon Owens was kind enough to let me know about his interview with three of the four Cluetrain authors, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke and David Weinberger. The title of the article gives us a strong indication of where both Owens and the authors are coming from: 'Cluetrain Manifesto' Still Relevant 10 Years Later.

From Wikipedia, a bit of what TCM is about:

The Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses organized and put forward as a manifesto, or call to action, for all businesses operating within what is suggested to be a newly-connected marketplace. The ideas put forward within the manifesto aim to examine the impact of the Internet on both markets (consumers) and organizations. In addition, as both consumers and organizations are able to utilize the Internet and Intranets to establish a previously unavailable level of communication both within and between these two groups, the manifesto suggests that the changes that will be required from organizations as they respond to the new marketplace environment.

Owens' piece is interesting in that he talks about both what TCM got right and what it got wrong.

I recently spoke to three of the four authors of the manifesto about the last decade and the relevance of their words today. Does the existence of Twitter merely confirm what they asserted about the near-instantaneous conversational tone of online media? Surprisingly, their individual answers varied widely (some were almost borderline curmudgeonly) but all seemed to agree that, for the most part, the "Cluetrain Manifesto" has continued to be relevant and -- with a few exceptions -- its 95 theses have held up to the test of time.

It's particularly interesting in the context of what Weinberger says about how long it's going to take before we can really see the web's true impact on business and society:
"There's real progress and it's a daily struggle," he said. "I think it's likely to be a daily struggle for a generation. Many of the changes we now take for granted, and thus they are invisible to us. There was a time when if you wanted to buy a car, you had to rely upon the information that the car dealer gave you. These days the car's website is maybe the last place you go to."

When asked why he thought this struggle continues, Weinberger said it was because there are real risks involved with online media.

"Institutional participation in the leading edge of social media is always going to be tinged with embarrassment," he said. "The leading edge is always where they're going to be most exposed and will likely do things in which they look foolish. And I salute companies that are willing to look foolish."

I like that, "a daily struggle for a generation." The real change in academia will come when the kids that are in high school and are undergrads now become the tenured faculty of the future. I hope (and work for every day) that libraries and librarians will be waiting for them, which unfortunately requires that we at least start transforming before the rest of academia.

Maybe I won't dig out the copy I have at home. Maybe I'll wait for the new edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto that's coming out in June.

1 comment:

Jodi Schneider said...

John, I read recently about progress as the enemy of (offline) businesses:
"On the web, we have technology change what we do all the time. But other industries are not used to being threatened by it- having their whole business models be devoured by it."

"We expect it to happen because we’ve adjusted to the rate of change of the modern world. It’s expected. But technology has not always done this to business."