Yesterday I asked you to answer my Have you read “The Cluetrain Manifesto” poll
The question was based on a quick question I posted on Twitter. I have been thinking about this book and its impact on the web and social media concepts we take for granted.
As you can see from the chart here, most people today haven’t heard of it.
So what is this “Cluetrain” I speak of? Why am I so concerned that nobody who joined the web this decade seems to have heard of it?
In 1999 a group of the webs biggest and brightest got together to write a “call to arms”. A manifesto of 90 some ideas, rants, statements, essays, that together put forward the theme that the internet changes everything and that business had better wake up.
“A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—”and getting smarter faster than most companies.”
You don’t have to buy the book, you can read the whole thing online if you like. But I do like to dip into my much-thumbed dead tree copy.
The “cluetrain” wording is from the famous saying:
“The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery.”
Rather than broadcast, interruption marketing that business up to then focused on, they asserted that “markets are conversations”. How many times have you heard this, or “join the conversation”?
They also talked about the technology, like intranets, but for me it was the impact on marketing thinking that had the most lasting impression.
The ideas will be familiar now. Through social media we almost take for granted some of the ideas that were debated at the time.
I talk a lot about flagship content and authority. This manifesto sums up both! At the time it was huge. Those associated with it were seen as thought leaders on a massive scale. Of course there were lots of people against it too.
That was nearly ten years ago. As we have seen, many barely know the name let alone have read it. Those that have read it have a good number who haven’t read it all the way through or are not terribly impressed.
Is the Cluetrain influence fading? Is it just us oldskool types who remember it fondly?
With that in mind, is it still relevant? I had to ask!
“I haven’t reread it recently, but YES it’s still relevant”
“Yes the Cluetrain is still relevant. Things like that don’t stop being relevant.”
“Cluetrain is relevant, and there are still people who haven’t quite adopted the concepts within, but I think of Cluetrain as an earlier iteration of what is ready for discussion now. If we all accept that conversations matter and that humans are driving the business in new ways, there has to now be an “applications layer” discussion to take what we accept and move it forward as protocols and applications that businesses and individuals can execute against.
Put shorter: once we get it, now what? “
“it’s more relevant than ever. At least the ‘markets are conversations’ part”
“I cant be bothered with the Cluetrain stuff, no one who’s a real player even knows about that stupid sh’t, let alone cares.”
Loren Feldman (to be fair to Loren, this was not in answer to my exact question but seemed relevant so I got his permission to include it here)
This leads me to some questions for you, dear reader!
- Does what I have said above lead you to want to read Cluetrain for yourself?
- Is Cluetrain relevant today?
- Have the authors diminished in authority or will this always be a positive legacy?
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments …