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Friday, July 01, 2005

Doc On Conversation

Doc recently posted some more thoughts on the Cluetrain usage of the word conversation.

As for conversation, I have many understandings of the word, as do we all. When we said "markets are conversations" in Cluetrain, we were trying to get past a pile of other synonyms and metaphors for markets: battlefields, arenas, bulls & bears, invisible hands, demand, demographics, regions, categories and so on. We wanted folks to remember what the Industrial Age caused us to forget, which is that markets originally were places where people gathered to do business and make culture. We believed (and still do) that the Net is by nature a place where those kinds of markets can flourish again.

In early-mid 1999, when we wrote the the website and then the book, the dot-com madness was at high ebb. Much of that madness involved leveraging the worst of what we learned in the Industrial Age (e.g."targeting" and "capturing" "eyeballs" with sites we called "sticky" even though they rarely were). It seemed nearly everybody getting venture funding in those days was attempting to extend some industrial supply-side practice (advertising, malls, retailing) into a new environment where — nobody seemed to notice — customers had far more power than ever before. There was a revolution on the demand side, and not just the supply side. Calling what was happening on the demand side (and between the supply and deand sides) "conversation" might not have been accurate in the narrow literal meaning of conversation, but none of the traditional economic descriptions framed it adequately, either.