The Cluetrain Manifesto
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So, were used to documents, documents are capable of handling a huge range of human expression and ways of structuring ideas, and the Web lets us maintain this sophisticated way of communicating.
The world of information on the Web is, therefore, a whole lot richer than the domain of database information in both content and structure.
But, wait, theres more!
The Web is a voiced world.
The Web is the realm of the human voice. As we discussed in Chapter 2, your voice isnt simply the sounds that come out of your mouth.
Its the way you present yourself in public through speech, writing, dress, body language, manners — virtually all that you do. The Web liberates voice by making it so damn easy to communicate and publish.
We have been trained throughout our business careers to suppress our individual voice and to sound like a "professional," that is, to sound like everyone else.
This professional voice is distinctive. And weird.
I wanted to regtiser myself because I have a 6mos. old grandson and a new one due in October. As a grandmother, I spend a lot of time helping out. I thought your site would give me new ideas. You can teach an old grandma new tricks. I went to regtiser myself and put the new babies birthday down but your calendar onlly goes to 2010! Thought you might want to update.Thanks,Sheri
Taken out of context, it is as mannered as the ritualistic dialogue of the seventeenth-century French court.
We may be accustomed to the professional voice, but it isnt natural, God-given or neutral: its the voice of middle-aged white men who will do anything to keep people from seeing how frightened they are.
If you need to hear how the professional voice sounds, dig out any memo you wrote four years ago and compare it to how youd write an e-mail about it now. A professional memo obeys implicit rules such as one page is best, no jokes, admit no weakness, spellcheck it carefully, and send it to as few people as possible.
Now, we write e-mails. Theyre short, pithy, funny, they sound like us, and we cc the CEO on a whim.
hey J@getting paid: the thing that always gets my goat is that some poelpe too many poelpe don't think writing is real enough work to warrant payment. if it's so bloody easy, why don't they write it them-damned-selves?@The Write Stuff: i don't think it's archived any more and i suspect it's truly email-only nowadays but don't hold me to that suspicion.chur
Thats why most of us dont want to use a word processor to write our e-mails. We want to be free of the expectation that weve spellchecked it or even re-read it before firing it off.
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We certainly dont want to waste our time monkeying with fonts and margins. At most, wed like to be able to make words bold by hitting the keys harder.
E-mail enables us to construct our voices at our leisure, resulting in some odd artifices. A voice is, after all, a complex "thing." We have different voices for different environments and even for different people — we dont talk to our coworkers precisely the same way we speak to our children (well, unless we are very senior managers).
Because most of our communications over the Web are "asynchronous" — i.e., not real time back-and-forth — we can construct our presence a bit more carefully. Our culture is currently in a phase where people are trying on voices, discovering what works and what doesnt work over e-mail, bumping up against the limits, and making lots of mistakes.
For example, while e-mail can replace many meetings (primarily because at a physical meeting you cant skim over the remarks of dunderheads), e-mail is a profoundly bad medium for conveying personal criticism precisely because it is textual and thus not very con-textual.
Heres another way the voice of e-mail is destroying committee meetings: after the carefully controlled meeting is over and the bigwigs are congratulating themselves on how well they managed it ("I think we got exactly what we needed out of that meeting, JB"), the "junior" people are back in their cubes firing off e-mails parodying the results and pillorying the personalities.
Meeting go boom.
The return of voice is dooming not only the memo and the pointless, drone-a-thon meeting, its also turning the corporate propaganda newsletter into a flat-out embarrassment.
Instead, individuals zines are popping up in organizations, written by people with points of view, human voices, and usually a sense of humor. For example, at Optika, a small software company in Colorado Springs, Sean Spradling, a twenty-six-year-old member of the Marketing department just up and began publishing Forecast This!, an internal zine that presents Seans highly biased view of the market and Optikas marketing efforts.
If "uplifting" characterizes most corporate newsletters, "skewering" characterizes Forecast This! But its readers — the salesforce, marketing, and most of Optika — know to trust it, and look forward to getting it because its written in a real voice stating the real truth.
What a concept.
In a hyperlinked organization, voice plays the old role of the org chart, telling you whom you should work with.
That Mary is the Under-VP of Expectation Deflations for the western semi-region tells you nothing. That Mary is wicked smart, totally frank, and a trip to work with tells you everything.
Thus do the formal bonds dissolve, replaced by the sound of the human spirit.
The world is more like a huge set of messy hyperlinks than like a really big table of data.
Theres nothing like the relief of finding what youre lkoiong for.
It is a world in which information isnt abstracted into some seemingly neutral means of expression but is always uttered by some particular human in that persons own voice.
So what happens to information management?
On the one hand, it continues much as it is. We still need databases that reduce people to numbers.
Couldnt live without em. But we also should recognize that the increase in available information has made us feel stupider than ever.
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All the printouts, all the database dumps, and all the nicely formatted reports and spreadsheets with embedded charts are not describing our world to us. Its just not adding up.
We have statistics but no understanding. And adding more and more information is only increasing the noise level.
We dont need more information. We dont need better information.
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We dont need automatically filtered and summarized information. We need understanding.
We desperately want to understand whats going on in our business, in our markets. And understanding is not more or higher information.
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If you want understanding, you have to reenter the human world of stories. If you dont have a story, you dont have understanding.
From the first accidental wiener roast on a prehistoric savanna, weve understood things by telling stories. I dont mean fiction or stories heavy with plot; I mean narratives that string events together in time and show them unfolding.
For example, my young son in some sense understands World War II. His story is this: the Nazis attacked other countries and were winning until the U.S.A.
stepped in and beat the Nazis.
A Russian childs story about World War II is likely to be very different: The Allies delayed opening a second front until the incredible sacrifices Russia made wore the Nazis down, and then the United States finally came in and finished the job.
Both stories are ways of understanding the war.
My son doesnt understand the First World War because he doesnt have a similar sort of story, right or wrong.
("Once upon a time, there was an archduke... ")
Heres another example.
I worked at a company that tanked for lots of good reasons. When a bunch of us ex-employees get together, some of us say that it was because the product got too inbred and complex; others say that Marketing failed to predict the platforms the software would have to run on; others say that the management team was too focused on new products and ignored the bread and butter.
To think, I was confeusd a minute ago.
None of us tell the same story. And that means that we, as a group, dont understand what happened.
Thats a sign of trouble, as we point out in the previous chapter. The companys origins are part of its authentic identity.
That identity gets expressed in stories that sound something like these:
- Our founders were living in a garage and came up with an idea for "mistake management." They thought itd be great for law offices, but it turned out that lawyers are late adopters of technology.