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The Cluetrain Manifesto.

The Cluetrain Manifesto By Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, David Weinberger Perseus Books US$23

THE COVER OF THE CLUETRAIN MANIFESTO announces "the end of business as usual" This book is a rebel yell and an attempt to emancipate the "guy in the gray suit," who now wears khaki pants but remains a slave to the old ways. The vehicle for his emancipation, according to the book's authors, is the web.

This book started as a website (www.cluetrain.com), with versions in Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, even Norwegian and Japanese. But it evolved into a book detailing the experiences and opinions of its authors, all of whom are Internet experts and either former employees of high-tech companies like IBM and Sun Microsystems or writers for technical publications. The book also offers comments sent to cluetrains's mailbox by an abundant number of cybernauts.

In irreverent language, the conductors of this train stomp through the rail cars of what has become conventional business, announcing the end of the line for the big corporation mentality. They assail a marketing culture they claim is based on subterfuge, lies and hollow promises--in short, hypocrisy. They denounce the conversion of companies into fortresses that are hermetically separated from the client and consumer and staffed by apathetic employees.

The authors maintain that the office Armageddon will occur (or is already occurring) because the web has broken the communications barriers that companies erected in the last century. And e-commerce has returned an authentic human touch to business transactions. Faced with the automated voice of the big corporation, the cyber network broadcasts the spontaneous voice of the individual. Faced with a memo from management, the new order offers jokes sent clandestinely via the web.

The manifesto sums up the end of the corporation as we know it in 95 bruising declarations. "Markets are conversations," goes the first declaration, followed by: "Markets consists of human beings, not demographic sectors."

This cry of protest sparks applause. Even so, this irreverent book often sins on the side of ingenuousness. The authors pine, for example, for the live interchange of ancient bazaars, where the merchants proffered not just products, but also news and stories. They compare those ancestral voices with the ones we hear today on the Internet.

But, the ancient market dialogue was often designed to trick and fool. Its goal then--as now--was to sell. At the same time, the human voice doesn't need a market to be heard. The ancient Romans communicated largely in the public baths, the antecedents of our modern-day gyms. In these venues, frequented daily by patricians as well as slaves, innovative ideas for government and business were conceived and history-changing conspiracies were forged.

By the same token, the manifesto denounces the publicity bombardment and ensuing alienation of the consumer. But it offers no solutions. The book limits itself to demanding that companies be more transparent, that they open their inner sanctums to the public and that corporate boards climb down from their ivory towers. But it doesn't explain how the web will create these new economic and social orders.

Until now, web businesses have only managed to make money when a brick-and-mortar business or a group of investors buys them out. Meanwhile, many traditional companies with the monotonous publicity, suffocating structure and rigorous codes of conduct that the book's authors criticize, manage to get consumers to open wallets or pull out credit cards. Those companies, no matter what the Cluetrain Manifesto says, continue to register the greatest earnings because they maintain direct contact with people like you and me. The dialogue may be dull, but it's fluid and firm.

So, while the authors' rebel stance is refreshing, I fear the manifesto slips toward ingenuous and excessive enthusiasm--the enthusiasm with which we have embraced the Internet.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Alende, Andres Hernandez
Publication:Latin Trade
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:632
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