The Cluetrain Manifesto
We long for more connection between what we do for a living and what we genuinely care about, for work that's more than clock-watching drudgery. We long for release from anonymity, to be seen as who we feel ourselves to be rather than as the sum of abstract metrics and parameters.
We long to be part of a world that makes sense rather than accept the accidental alienation imposed by market forces too large to grasp, to even contemplate.
And this longing is not mere wistful nostalgia, not just some unreconstructed adolescent dream.
It is living evidence of heart, of what makes us most human.
But companies don't like us human.
They leverage our longing for their own ends. If we feel inadequate, there's a product that will fill the hole, a bit of fetishistic magic that will make us complete.
Perhaps a new car would do the trick. Maybe a trip to the Caribbean or that new CD or a nice shiny set of Ginsu steak knives.
Anything, everything, just get more stuff. Our role is to consume.
Of course, the new car alone is not enough. It must be made to represent something larger.
Much larger. The blonde draped over the hood looks so much better than the old lady bitching about the dishes.
Surely she'd understand our secret needs. And if we showed up with her at the big golf game, wouldn't the guys be impressed! Yeah, gotta get one-a those babies.
This isn't about sex, it's about power the greatest bait there ever was to seduce the powerless.
Or take it one slice closer to the bone.
Leverage care. For the cost of a jar of peanut butter, you can be a Great Mom, the kind every kid would love to have.
You can look out on your happy kids playing in that perfect suburban backyard and breathe a little sigh of contentment that life's so good, with not a wicked witch in sight.
Just like on television.
And there's more than one way to get it over with. Advertising has some serving suggestions for your premature burial.
But what's this got to do with the Internet? A lot.
The Net grew like a weed between the cracks in the monolithic steel-and-glass empire of traditional commerce. It was technically obscure, impenetrable, populated by geeks and wizards, loners, misfits.
When I started using the Internet, nobody gave a damn about it outside of a few big universities and the military-industrial complex they served. In fact, if you were outside that favored circle, you couldn't even log on.
The idea that the Internet would someday constitute the world's largest marketplace would have been laughable if anyone was entertaining such delusions back then.
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I began entertaining them publicly in 1992 and the laughter was long and loud.
The Net grew and prospered largely because it was ignored.
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It worked by different rules than the rules of business. Market penetration wasn't interesting because there was no market unless it was a market for new ideas.
The Net was built by people who said things like: What if we try this? Nope. What if we try that? Nope.
What if we try this other thing? Well, hot damn! Look at that!
One of the hottest damns was the World Wide Web. It came out of efforts to create electronic footnotes references between academic papers on high-energy physics that maybe a few dozen people in the entire world could actually understand.
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That's why now, when you turn on your TV, you see www.haveanotherbeer.com.
Well, OK, a few things did happen in between.
One of those things was that the Internet attracted millions. Many millions.
The interesting question to ask is why. In the early 1990s, there was nothing like the Internet we take for granted today.
Back then, the Net was primitive, daunting, uninviting. So what did we come for? And the answer is: each other.
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The Internet became a place where people could talk to other people without constraint. Without filters or censorship or official sanction and perhaps most significantly, without advertising.
Another, noncommercial culture began forming across this out-of-the-way collection of computer networks. Long before graphical user interfaces made the scene, the scene was populated by plain old boring ASCII: green phosphor text scrolling up screens at the glacial pace afforded by early modems.
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So where was the attraction in that?
The attraction was in speech, however mediated. In people talking, however slowly.
And mostly, the attraction lay in the kinds of things they were saying. Never in history had so many had the chance to know what so many others were thinking on such a wide range of subjects.
Slowly at first, a new kind of conversation was beginning to emerge, but it would achieve global reach with astonishing speed.
In the early days, the Internet was used almost exclusively for government-funded projects and the sort of communication that went along with such work.
Here's the new program. It needs some work.
There's a bug in the frimular module. Yawn.
But you know what they say about all work and no play. People began to play.
Left to themselves, they always do. And the people building the Internet were pretty much left to themselves.
They were creating the gameboard. No one else knew how the hell this thing worked, so no one could tell them what they could and couldn't do.
They did whatever they liked. And one of the things they liked most was arguing.
Consider that these early denizens of the Net were, for the most part, young, brash, untrained in the intricate dance of corporate politics, and highly knowledgeable of their craft.
In the prized and noble older sense of the term, they were hackers, and proud of it. Many, in their own assessment if not that of others, were net.gods high priests of an arcane art very few even knew existed.
When disagreements arose over serious matters the correct use of quotation marks, say they would join in battle like old Norse warriors:
"Jim, you are a complete idiot.