Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cluetrain Manifesto at 10 Years

This blog is for people who are finding their way into social networking and personal learning online. Much of the Cluetrain Manifesto addresses the same issues. They say that networked users of the Internet support each other and know more than the "experts" on almost every topic. They say clearly, "we are getting smarter, more informed and more organised". In 10 years that reality has been demonstrated over and over, but sadly 80% of all the Internet users who should be an active part of this communication revolution are reluctant to be engaged.

Rick Levine,  Christopher Locke,  Doc Searls and  David Weinberger published the Cluetrain Manifesto ten years ago. When I first found that text some six months later, I was amazed and deeply inspired. The text seemed to speak to me.

Since that time I've always had a page in my site that promotes the Cluetrain Manifesto, a page like this one, An Introduction to the Cluetrain Manifesto. I've invited hundreds of people to consider the value of the text, but it frightens people, and they back away. That's sad, because the writers of the Cluetrain Manifesto had the message mostly right, and the last 10 years have vindicated their optimism about the power of all of us together.

My own research tells me that while 80% of people in the developed world have access to the Internet, only a tiny number of people use the Internet in a way that makes an important difference to their lives. That's a problem, a new digital divide between confident Internet users and poorly informed users. Read previous posts in this blog to learn more about that. (See networking principles,  Internet literacy and joining  social networks)

With the benefit of hindsight, I've discovered in the rather repetitive 95 Theses, three general themes that concern people who are new to the Internet. They are:

Networking and Network Groups. The Internet allows people to speak to each other in ways that were never before possible. But to have access to these other people we need to JOIN online networks or social groups. Back in the previous posts on this blog there is lots of help on the process of joining groups and social networks. NOTHING is more important to enhance your ability to do things online. When you are a member you can ask questions and get answers that make sense to you that are not contaminated by propaganda. Together we know a great deal about almost everything. The power of the Internet to make group forming easy is one of the keys to it's success. Your ability to find the right groups to join, is one of the keys to your own success. To find out more about that you need to join some groups; become a member.

The Power of a Human Voice. In real conversations people speak with a human voice and in language we can all understand. When you join social networks or become engaged with list mail, you'll discover that people have learned to talk quite naturally to each other. Such conversations encourage trust and honesty and an open sharing of our time and our knowledge. By the sound of the human voice we recognise other "members" of our community. There may also be outbursts of angry language, tirades we used to call "flaming". Thankfully today such behaviour is very rare. It's amazing to me how disciplined people are, even when the level of disagreement is very sharp. The human voice is normally very respectful of other people.

The Value of Conversation. Conversations cannot be forced to continue. The glue that holds a conversation together is a genuine sharing of points of view about a topic of mutual interest. Conversations are remarkable because nobody can control the direction of the dialogue. Whoever speaks next can take the discussion to some different domain. The other participants ca then choose to follow that lead, or to return to the previous topic. Conversations occur between peers, none of whom have the power to control what comes next.

There is a revolution going on. A quiet insistent progressive shift in the quality of what we all know. Too often this knowledge starkly contradicts what leading government officials and professional advisers tell us. So who do we believe? Our online experience tells us that our friends may not have PhD's or high office, but they do tell us the truth as best they know it. The track record of people in social networks getting the message right isn't perfect, but it is still by far the most reliable guide.

John Stephen Veitch
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

No comments: