Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Leaving the station

Well, I mentioned this yesterday, so I though I'd better post it today: my first biz book review for The Miami Herald from back in September 2000.

I'd joined the paper's creative services department in June of the previous year and was prohibited by company policy from writing for the Sun-Sentinel any longer or for New Times, which had published my first piece a month before my Herald gig began.

If my venues for freelance work were limited — and I really didn't think of blogging then — it only made sense to find a regular thing at 1 Herald Plaza. But Margaria Fitchner, the books editor at the time, said she didn't have the budget for me to write on a weekly or biweekly basis, and the music peeps weren't interested in anything regular from me despite my pitches — though I managed to get a couple of concert reviews in, anyway.

I really enjoyed reading and writing about biz books, so I pitched the executive business
editor, David Satterfield, and he said that they were doing a re-think of Business Monday, the paper's weekly biz tabloid and wanted to include book reviews.

I submitted this one, he told me that "it read well," and I'm still reading and reviewing, almost eight years later.

published 9/11/00 in The Miami Herald

The Cluetrain Manifesto. Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger. Perseus Books. 190 pages.

When you're given a clue, it usually means you already know the answer. The clue helps you make the right connection.

The "cluetrain" in the title is a quote from an unidentified employee of a Fortune 500 company in free fall from its perch: "The clue train stopped there four times a day for 10 years, and they never took delivery."

If you think the value of the Internet is strictly "commerce, " the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto think you really need to get a clue.

"Networked markets are beginning to self-organize faster than the companies that have traditionally served them. Thanks to the Web, markets are becoming better informed, smarter, and more demanding of qualities missing from most business organizations, " the authors say.

Begun as an e-mail round robin among four Web-savvy marketers (for lack of a better term), The Cluetrain Manifesto evolved into a website with their 95 theses, and into a book expanding upon their ideas.

Once past its self-evident pomposity and glibness, The Cluetrain Manifesto makes some serious connections on how the Internet has subverted and undone the corporate construct in particular, and business in general. Its gist is that worker-customer roles created by the Industrial Revolution are unraveling.

E-mail, chat, news groups, official and unofficial websites democratized, if not "anarchized, "the old model. Traditional marketing tools — and the concept of marketing, for that matter — have been superseded by the one-on-one communication (or the illusion thereof) engendered by the Net.

Public relations, advertising, organizational charts and anything else that blocks, controls or distorts direct communication between company and customers (or, as the authors call them, "human beings") are now obsolete, or soon will be. Businesses that fail to adapt to this new reality are doomed.

Much of this may be painfully obvious, but there's still a fair amount of compelling stuff here. The authors' self-deprecating style underscores the issue at hand: the restoration of humanity to commercial relationships.

Where does the clue train lead? To the reinstatement of older business models; the bazaar for example, where buyers and sellers can question, haggle and relate — now on a virtual and global basis. It's like coming home, they say, which is the logical destination of the journey we've embarked upon through the Internet.

No comments: