June 11, 2008

The Cluefree Manifesto

Nine years ago, something called the Cluetrain Manifesto appeared. It became a kind of web-geek Declaration of Independence in which online zealots threatened to hold their breath until someone paid attention to them. It is apparently the basis for the "coversationalist/social media" branch of online dogmatism.

Always years behind the times, TAC came across it just last week, and published it on Monday.
It's probably best to read it before you read today's post.

The target was too easy to pass up, so we had to create the "Cluefree Manifesto." Here it is.

The Cluefree Manifesto
95 Theses

1. Markets are conversations. Supermarkets are arguments.
2. Markets consist of aisles and checkout counters and really good stuff like Doritos and Mountain Dew.
3. Conversations among human beings are usually tiresome. You’re better off doing a crossword.
4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically shrill and irritating.
5. People recognize each other and wisely cross the street.
6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible when we actually looked at each other.
7. Hot links subvert haute cuisine.
8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, intrusive international interest in intestines is intentionally and inevitably intense.
9. These networked conversations are enabling really hot pictures to emerge.
10. Markets are getting more organized. Like when they have those good olives in the cheese section.
11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from their IT department.
12. There are no secrets. Except how to change line spacing in Powerpoint.
13. What's happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called "The Paycheck" is the only thing standing between the two.
14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. Especially when all those big shots inhale helium and start talking like chipmunks or something.
15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the "Cluetrain Manifesto."
16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone. Except, of course, their customers.
17. Companies that assume online markets are the same as markets that carry Hot Pockets are kidding themselves.
18. Companies that don't realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are probably confused by the structure of illiterate sentences like this.
19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. Or they can just go there and stand in line like the rest of us.
20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. Especially when you buy a can of Mountain Dew for a buck when you could have bought a whole six-pack for a buck ninety-nine. How stupid is that?
21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor. And stop issuing “manifestos”.
22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. It means hilarous banter about farts and poop and stuff like that.
23. Companies attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Like when the girl is on top...yeah, baby!
24. Bombastic boasts—"Maybe you're impressing your investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us."—do not constitute a position.
25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships. But be careful, those Ivory Steps are slippery.
26. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets and sometimes of their dry cleaners.
27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, their manifestos invite parody.
28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what's really going on inside their pants.
29. Elvis said it best: "Pass the Oreos, darlin’."
30. Going out for Chinese is the corporate version of going steady.
31. Networked markets can change pajamas overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change shirts over lunch. Your own "downsizing initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Who has the mustard?"
32. Smart markets will find check-out clerks who speak their own language.
33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. Unless you’re a ventriloquist or something.
34. To speak with a human voice, companies must not make long lists of “95 things.”
35. But first, they must belong to a community and register to vote.
36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end. And also where the damn stapler went.
37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market. Also, they shouldn’t end before the holiday season because that’s when all the fun starts.
38. Human communities are based on whining. Especially those “senior” communities.
39. The community of discourse is the market. Or haven’t we hit you over the head with this enough yet?
40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die. Or at least get a rotator cuff and need an MRI.
41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against those guys selling magazine subscriptions.
42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines. Also about recipes, and those Viagra emails, and the Yankees. What’s up with them?
43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the phone system is down.
44. Companies typically install intranets top-down, which is silly unless you don’t care about the wind messing up your hair.
45. Intranets naturally tend to route around bedrooms.
46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union. But you don’t get to meet guys named Vito.
47. While this scares companies witless, it doesn’t scare them as much as Vito does.
48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like this kind of pompous bullshit.
49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and deli orders could be handed down from on high.
50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority. That’s why Steve Jobs has to take so much shit from software engineers.
51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping, an overall culture of paranoia, and incomprehensible writing.
52. Raid kills bugs fast.
53. There are two conversations going on. How am I supposed to read?
54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Especially the one about lending money to your sister.
55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets. And also in intrerior-networked networks and work nets.
56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices. They sing the same songs. They dance in the moonlight. They fly on gossamer wings. They kiss and make up. They love, and love to be loved. They find meaning in meaning, and nothing in nothingness. They chant beneath the moon. They laugh and soar and fart and make big fat poopies and write pathetically infantile pseudo-poetic nonsense.
57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner. We, the conversationalists, will take a vacation and try to lose a few pounds.
58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of sperm count, then very few companies are having nocturnal emissions.
59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting. Except when they want to buy something.
60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies. Please send them your phone numbers.
61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is the good looking babes who are stuck in some rotten cubicle doing spreadsheets.
62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want hot babes.
63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you. We are the world. We are the children.
64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge, your wives, your liquor cabinet, your stash. And could you lend us twenty till Friday?
65. We're also the workers who make your companies go. (How? We put Metamucil in the Crystal Geyser.)
66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other? Why can’t we just get together over a drink and then, I don’t know, we could go to my place…?
67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you're not listening. Is it because we’re so fucking annoying?
68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—it's kidstuff compared to this bullshit.
69. Maybe you're impressing your investors. Maybe you're impressing Wall Street. You're not impressing us. But if we could borrow your Beemer for just a few minutes, that would be awesome.
70. If you don't impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Which is something we ought to think about.
71. Your tired notions of "the market" make our eyes glaze over. And our noses run. And that yukky stuff to accumulate between our toes.
72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it. And you’re not invited. And if you tell mom, I’ll kill you.
73. You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel! Ooh, sorry. Didn’t realize it’s your husband.
74. We are immune to advertising. But can we have a little sip of your Coke?
75. If you want us to talk to you, please take those earbuds out.
76. We've got some ideas for you too: but we’re not going to tell because it's for us to know and you to find out!
77. You're too busy "doing your business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Remember to flush.
78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention. Look at me when I talk to you.
79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party. And maybe you can bring some beer.
80. Don't worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as you ignore every moronic thing in this idiotic screed.
81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about? How about that blouse you were wearing on Tuesday? Yeah, baby!
82. Your product broke. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because I tried to stick my wife’s cat in it and he started screeching and biting.
83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal. And you know which one I mean. The one with the “big ones.”
84. We know some people from your company. They’re pathetic dicks, too.
85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. That’s why we’re so clueless.
86. When we're not busy being your "target market," many of us are your people. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. Actually, we’d rather be doing anything online because online is the only place we can criticize everything and everyone without people realizing what hopeless weasels we are.
87. We'd like it if you got what's going on here. You just don't get it, do you? Do you?.
88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get to the Halloween party. I’m going as Mr. Spock. Cool, huh?
89. We have real power and we know it. Don't let this pitiful whining fool you.
90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we've been seeing. And it’s all your fault and I'm telling my dad.
91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—and to the flag of the United States of America.
92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can't they buy us a beer? Just one. Is that too much to ask? Oh, and maybe a sandwich. Nothing fancy. Tuna or something?
93. We're both inside companies and outside them. That’s why there’s that smell.
94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, nicer pencils cases, and watches that tell the hour in three different time zones.
95. We are waking up and linking to each other. Then we are having strawberry Toaster Strudel and going back to sleep. Please don’t slam the door.

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