Is The Cluetrain leaving The Station?

by Jay Deragon on 02/14/2008

Is The Cluetrain leaving The Station?In the old days when the conductor of the train was ready to leave a station the whistle blew and he shouted “All Aboard!”.

Yesterdays presentation at the SAP Anniversary session of The Cluetrain ignited the blogosphere with conversational rivers that will likely swell for weeks. Doc Searls presentation ripped open minds and made us all think about today’s social web realities and what seems to be the “blinding flash of the obvious” when presented as only Doc can present.

Labeled as provocative, radical and disruptive the comments were aimed at the existing institutional and corporate mindsets that continue to create barriers to the very conversational freedoms afforded us by the enabling technologies of the social web.

Doc’s comments flew through the web as if it were a giant copy machine and bloggers added to the commentary largely in agreement but with an awoken spirit motivated and with passion. The copies magnified, flourished and the conversational rivers turned into a sea full of waves roaring with enthusiasm and energy.

Doc’s says “Groundswell – a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations. Companies sees the one-to-one communication, can’t measure it, but now there are ways to do this at scale. CBS Jericho TV show – what happens after a nuclear bomb goes off near a town. Jericho message boards were active, show went on hiatus came back placed against American Idol, same audience, show canceled. Shaun Daily, on BlogTalk radio, would not accept the cancellation. Collaborated with Nuts online, asked people to send nuts to Nina Tassler at CBS, had 20 tons of nuts that were delivered to the show. Saw that the decision to cancel Jericho was a mistake.”

CBS announced the comeback of the show on the CBS fan message boards, said that they will count on the fans to rally their friends – PS, stop sending us nuts Jericho Wiki, Jericho Widget – things are very 2.0 now. Companies don’t really understand that markets are conversations, but understand that the groundswell is there and that they have to manage it.

Revolutionaries Create Change, Radicals Create Upheaval.

If the social web had a constitution it would read “We the People of the Social Web, in Order to form a free exchange, establish free conversations, insure seamless transactions, provide for the common voice, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our community, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Seamless Web“.

The subsequent articles would address the powers of self governance, self organization and freedom of expression. In essence such a constitution exist in the minds and hearts of those that not only agree with much of what Doc says but desire to unite in one voice and together break down the barriers with our collective influence.

Consider the comment Groundswell – a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations”. How much more productive could we be, could our world be, if we united together and applied influence towards mindsets that try and control our conversations with archaic rules and power plays. Consider what happen when Robert Scoble’s Facebook incident created a groundswell of support from other users. Facebook changed their rules. Examples abound that united we stand, divided we fall.

When Cluetrain first came out in 1999 it did indeed create a river of conversations but the flow of these conversations were constrained by the technology of the moment. Ten years later the technology has advanced, the people are smarter, more adaptive and are embodied in the power of social influence. The empowerment has been self assumed and as mentioned in Doc’s recent speech, Leadership is needed. The definition and assumption about leadership of the past implies one. The past is behind us and the new definition of leadership is many. However to lead one must be willing to stand up united and be heard so that the conversation unites many others and provokes leadership actions.

Based on the ebb and flow of the recent Cluetrain conversations sparked, copied and distributed is seems that the train is getting ready to leave the station and the conductor is yelling “All Aboard The Crazy Train!”. Are you aboard or will you stand by and watch the train leave hoping that the people reach their destination but leave the “nuts” along the way?

What say you?


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Jenny Ambrozek February 19, 2008 at 9:49 pm

Jay, from your post does that mean you were at the NY Cluetrain event and I missed meeting you? I’ve been meaning to blog the event but our Facebook Groups study coming to a close, among other to do’s, is a total distraction.

No doubt it’s appealing to believe there is a “Groundswell” as Josh Bernoff & Charlene Li advocate. However, I have to believe the many empty seats February 13 is suggesting otherwise. Indeed it was miserable weather but how many people in the room were representing companies rather than consultants, bloggers, podcasters? Feel free to tell me I am wrong but reading the “Groundswell” authors Sloan Review piece that admits:

“When we talk with executives about the growing groundswell of customer power, their reactions are mixed. Many are fascinated with the phenomenon but terrified that their companies might become the next Comcast, AOL or Dunkin’ Donuts. Some recognize the powerful potential of the groundswell but have no idea how that force can be turned to their advantage. Behind all of this is a significant cultural issue: Engaging with the groundswell means admitting that consumers are taking power and that corporations are not in control. It’s a scary and difficult first step to take.”

seems to me succintly captures the state of adoption and mindset change or not.

If there was a Cluetrain/Groundswell prediction market I’d be betting it’ll be another 10 years before the Cluetrain ideas are fully manifested.

Carter F Smith February 14, 2008 at 8:41 am

So what should we be doing to get the attention of the people formerly known as the audience? Perhaps we should treat our markets as conversations . . . perhaps we should engage our customers in dialog, getting to know them before we tell them what we have “just for them.” Possibly, we should stop selling, and start listening . . .

In The Relationship Economy, the first step is the relationship. We are sick and tired of the push-marketing model, and are demanding that the pull (our pull) be implemented. The days of build it and they will come are gone. We want you to build, make, and provide stuff that we tell you we want. We’ll only tell you in a conversation. The only way you will get it is if you are listening.

What do you think?

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