Friday, January 4, 2008

The ClueTrain Manifesto

"We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal. " Theses #85 Clue Train Manifesto

I read the Clue Train Manifesto some time ago, but recently re-read it and found some interesting insights into Web 2.0 in the book.

The Clue Train Manifesto was written by marketing specialists Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searles and David Weinberger and first posted online in April of 1999 and then published as a book in January of 2001. It proclaimed the coming of the internet and the end of business as usual. Their premise laid out 95 theses that proclaimed markets are conversations, conversations among people, conversations that can't be controlled by business, conversations that change the old mass marketing strategy of control and replace it with the new Web marketing strategy of influence.

The Web has enabled these conversations to happen in ways simply not possible in the era of mass media. The Internet makes it possible for everyone to participate in the "great converation". For business the opportunity is fostering, learning from and understanding these conversations than slicing and dicing these conversations to drive business growth.

The ClueTrain Manifesto states:

"A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies. "

The ClueTrain Manifesto goes on to warn the business owners unwilling to change.

"You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind facile corporate words and happytalk brochures. Or you can join the conversation. "

As Jacob Nielsen puts it a little more drastically:

"The ClueTrain Manifesto lists 95 reasons Internet business is different from traditional business. Much overlap with my own comments on Web design over the last five years. Despite the fact that this manifesto and my own writings are online for everybody to read, I predict that most big companies will still not get it because their internal management structures are too well built and capable of resisting customer-centricity until it's too late. 80% of the Fortune-500 companies will be gone in ten years (unfortunately I don't know which will be the 100 companies to change in time)." Spotlight link March 27, 1999 — Jakob Nielsen

The ClueTrain Manifesto was certainly an insight into the phenomenon of Web 2.0. Although Web 2.0 is hard to define let's look at some of the definitions and how closely they resemble the principles of the ClueTrain Manifesto.

According to Tim O'Reilly,
"Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform."

An IBM social networking analyst, Dario de Judicibus, has proposed a different definition which is more focused on social interactions and architectural implementation:
"Web 2.0 is a knowledge-oriented environment where human interactions generate content that is published, managed and used through network applications in a service-TR

So what we have learned is that if you own a business you have to understand that Web 2.0 is about conversations. These conversations can be about your company, about your employees, about your products or about your products in a blender. Web 2.0 is about product and service offerings that foster conversations. FaceBook (this is who I am), YouTube (video communication) , LinkedIn (this is my network) all of these Web 2.0 phenomenon foster conversations. Microsoft has come great sites that foster conversation for their developer community at Channel 9 and home user community at Channel 10, I think the Channels go up to 11, where you can find a remake of Spinal Tap.

If you are an existing business than your challenge is making your current products available for conversations or creating new products that will foster conversations. A favorite example of a successful company that has made the transition to Web 2.0 is the Motley Fool. The Motley Fool has a simple stated goal: to educate, amuse, and enrich their readers and help them make better financial decisions. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the privately-held multi-media company today has nearly 200 employees in the United States and UK and is a top provider of investment advice and financial information. Recognizing the early power of the Internet, the Gardners moved The Motley Fool online to AOL in 1994. Three years later The Motley Fool migrated to its own award-winning website, Today The Motley Fool reaches millions each month online through its own site and partnerships with such leading portals as Yahoo!, MSN and

The Motley Fool introduced a new feature on their site called CAPS targeted at the market conversations behind the Web 2.0 phenomenon. I believe CAPS stands for Capital Asset Pricing System.

Motley Fool CAPS operates from a simple premise: Working together, we can improve our investing results. This revolutionary new service pools the resources of the Motley Fool Community to help you identify the best stocks at the best times to buy them -- and which stocks to avoid, too!

I am a user on CAPS and it really has all the attributes of the Web 2.0 phenomenon.

So how does CAPS work? (this taken from their site)

1. Players rate stocks.
At the heart of CAPS are thousands of predictions. Players predict whether stocks will outperform or underperform the S&P 500 and over what time frame this will happen.
The Fool compiles the data, showing all the picks you have made and all the picks for individual stocks.

2. The Fool Keeps the score.
As stocks change in value, they evaluate players' predictions. Players receive an accuracy percentage, indicating how often they make correct predictions and a score, which is the percentage by which their picks beat the S&P 500.

3. Players receive CAPS ratings.
Based on the performance of their picks, CAPS players receive a percentile rating (from 1 to 100). This rating indicates the percentage of people that player is outperforming. The higher the rating, the better!

4. Stocks receive CAPS ratings.
A stock's CAPS rating is the aggregation of every prediction for that stock. The rating indicates whether or not players think that stock will outperform the S&P 500.
Important concept to follow... pay attention!! Here it is:
Players with higher ratings have more influence on a stock's rating.
If you're a great investor with a great track record, than you are weighted heavier than others what you think is very important. So, your given more weight. However, if you don't know the difference between a stock and a parking ticket, your not going to affect the company rating very much.

5. CAPS gets smarter
Every CAPS rating is updated every five minutes. And with each additional prediction, CAPS recalculates and recompiles the data, constantly refining the community sentiment.
Over time, the best investors will naturally work their way to the top and will gain more influence over the stock ratings. Conversely, the less successful players will have less impact.
And then the cycle repeats. Players make more predictions, which affect their player ratings, which affect the stock ratings, and so on. The result is a service which will help you find better stocks and follow the best investors.

This is a great example of a company navigating the Web 2.0 world to introduce a new product offering. The Motley Fool has created and is fostering an ongoing conversation with CAPS. This is a conversation in which their customers are fully engaged and has legs to expand into many different areas.

Web 2.0 is also about access, access to your company and products to enable conversations. I'll talk about this in the next blog but some technology to check out before then MS Astoria and MS IM bots.

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