Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Cluetrain disconnect?

I've been following the Kathy Sierra ordeal as has everyone else this week. I think Lewis has penned one of the better posts on the topic, and I explained in his comments why I haven't blogged about the topic yet. There's just too many unknowns at this point, and I think the entire matter is best left to the authorities to sort out.

But in trying to get a better idea of what likely happened, I noticed that Chris Locke's name was mentioned by Kathy as being involved. Chris, as many likely know, is one of the four authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto. I was scanning blogs to see what others were writing on the subject, and noticed that someone mentioned that Chris had addressed the situation on his blog.

So I clicked over, really being more interested in what the comments were on what he had said. When I arrived, I discovered that Chris' blog doesn't allow comments. A co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto doesn't allow comments on his blog? The book that's been credited by some as being the work that gave birth to blogging, and that coined the phrase 'markets are conversations' doesn't want to join the conversation himself? Struck me as odd.

So I moved on, and noticed that someone said that Doc Searls had commented on the situation, so I clicked over to his blog to read his thoughts. After doing so, I wanted to check to see what others were saying, and noticed that Doc has apparently turned off comments to his blog. As we all know, it has always taken nothing short of an Act of Congress to leave a comment on Doc's blog in the past, apparently you can only do so if you are a pre-approved member of his fan club or something. But now it appears that he's blocked the abilty for anyone to comment. I guess.

Now I'm really confused. Two co-authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto are purposely opting OUT of the conversation. So at this point I'm not even sure who the other 2 co-authors are, but decide to look it up. Rick Levine is the third co-author, and he apparently doesn't even blog. David Weinberger is the fourth and final co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and he is also the ONLY author of the book that coined the phrase 'markets are conversations', that apparently has a blog that lets 'anyone' comment.

To recap, of the four authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the book that gave birth to blogging, and told us that 'markets are conversations', only ONE of those authors actually has a blog that allows readers to comment. Chris doesn't allow comments, Doc has currently turned off comments (it appears), and Rick apparently doesn't blog at all.

Does this seem like a monumental disconnect to anyone else?

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Bob G said...

Its a huge disconnect for me, Mack. A little bit creepy and a whole LOT contrary to everything I understand about blogging, community and humanity. My beliefs are pretty firm that humans do good - I'm also not naive enough to understand there are bad people among us. It's perplexing at the very least.

Mack Collier said...

No one should go through what Kathy has been recently, and as I told her in a comment on CPU, her strength in addressing the threats head-on is inspiring. Again, I think we need to let the authorities do their jobs, and bring any guilty parties to justice.

But it seems to me that at least 2 of the authors of the book that evangelizes companies 'joining the conversation', aren't following their own advice. I posted recently about how the conversation continues whether or not companies participate, and the same can hold for bloggers. Especially those that opt-out of a conversation involving them.

Anonymous said...

Moving off of Kathy (bless her) and onto disconnects...others range Seth's blog not having comments and Scoble keynoting Pay-Per-Post's PostieCon (and yes, I read through the 150 comments on this debate on his blog way back in Feb).

It's just that these are all such examples for this industry that I respect. Sigh.

gianandrea said...

we do talk about conversation, to create a relationship, to engage. so why do not allow comments? sounds ridicolous, even if all these guys are blog heroes. heroes?

Anonymous said...


Me thinks the book title should have been "The Clueless Manifesto."

Anonymous said...

Okay, within seconds of clicking publish, I started feeling badly about what I said. Meant as a joke, this probably is not a good time to pick on these guys.

On the other hand, one wonders how we write a book about something we aren't passionate about. Seems fraudulant, even if just committed on oneself.

Anonymous said...

While being on the outer banks of this whole marketing blogosphere, and while not agreeing with what was done to Kathy, I felt compelled to comment on the disconnect.

I would like to first say that while Seth Godin doesn't allow comments, if you e-mail him, he will respond (at least he has responded to every one of mine, and I basically have no clout). I would argue he has conversation, but in a different form.

To the disconnect. Certainly it is rather appalling that 3 of the 4 authors of Cluetrain are not permitting comments. But is that really /that/ big a deal? What I mean is, their book itself is what they wrote- a conversation, or an entry point into one. I don't support their actions, but irregardless of whether they live by what they once wrote (or the conversation they were a part of), it has been a transforming, powerful ideal. And it's not theirs. It's all of ours. By removing themselves from the conversation, they make room for others who want to be in it. So while it's silly they are in a sense abandoning what they helped start- we here are a community that still supports it, and proves its validity.

Hope that came off appropriately.

Anonymous said...

What's more scary is that these are big names in the industry. I never thought such high profile people would foster such a hostile environment.

Mack Collier said...

Nathan, I am somewhat ok with Seth not allowing comments, since he apparently does an excellent job of replying to emails, and he is one of the few A-Listers that I've actually seen leave comments on blogs with less than 500 links. So while I still think he should be allowing comments, he does make an effort to interact with his readers.

As for Chris and Doc not allowing comments, it's not that they don't, but rather that they aren't RIGHT NOW. Chris apparently has never allowed comments, from what I can tell. But apparently Doc is turning his on and off by the day. For example, yesterday he left a couple of posts specifically about the Kathy Sierra situation, and turned off comments. In one post, he made an already bizarre situation worse, by posting what he claimed was an email from one of the parties named by Kathy as being involved, and the email claimed that the guy had been set up. Doc closed by saying "If Alan is right, everybody on this giant thread has been taken for one of the oldest rides in the park." And remember, he drops this 'bombshell', then turns off comments to the post.

Again, this is all contrary to the ideas he and the other authors profess in The Cluetrain Manifesto. This isn't breaking down barriers to open communication, it is putting up walls to add to confusion. This IMO is making an already violatile situation, worse.

Doc said...

I have never turned off comments on my blog. The design of the blog puts the comments link at the end of the day rather than after each post, so the option isn't as obvioius as it should be. I wish I could change that, but I can't. It's been like that for many years. You can see comments here. Click on the word "discuss" and you'll find yourself in the comment space.

Doc said...

For what it's worth, I don't think having or not having comments on a blog is a measure of conversational willingness or cluefulness. I prefer my comments open. Others don't. I respect many bloggers whose choices are in both camps. And I don't consider any of them more or less "conversational". When we wrote "markets are conversations" we hardly meant it only in its most literal sense.

And Lewis, what makes you think we would write a book on a subject we're not passionate about?

You're right that this is a bad time. I'm not excusing anybody's choices or behavior in this mess, but I also don't want to rush to judgments in the absence of facts.

Even now we don't know who wrote the offending posts. But that doesn't stop the blame and the judgment and the piling-on. What's "conversational" about that?

The most important conversation happening right now is the one between Chris Locke and Kathy Sierra. And I'm holding off on saying anything more until I know the outcome of that.

Anonymous said...

Kathy is not only a victim, but she made one out of others...

Mack Collier said...

"I have never turned off comments on my blog. The design of the blog puts the comments link at the end of the day rather than after each post, so the option isn't as obvioius as it should be."

Doc I'm looking at your blog now, and the 'discuss' portion isn't present for yesterday's posts you left, including the email you printed. I see the 'discuss' button for the other days. Maybe it's possible to leave a comment on those posts, but I'm hunting for it and I can't find it.

"I prefer my comments open. Others don't."

I just tried to leave a comment, and it asked me to 'join now'. Is that join your blog, or your blog's platform?

Anonymous said...

These jerks -- Chris Locke, Doc Searles et al -- write a really lame book ("Ooh! Look! The internet is . . . INTERACTIVE!!!!") that mostly tells us how deeply in love they are with themselves, and they they go on a "we hate nice, legitimate people" binge, and now we get this. I hope they spend a lot of sleepless nights rethinking their positions.

Mack Collier said...

And Doc you're exactly right, I agree that we all need to take a deep breathe and let the authorities investigate what happened to Kathy.

BTW I've made a Barney Fife-type decision and decided to nip the anonymous comments. If you want to say something about this topic from here out, you have to be willing to sign your name to it.

Gavin Heaton said...

Great post, Mack ... and it is a tricky subject. I am often interested to see how people perform under pressure -- and the way in which we behave while under fire says much about our character and ethics. This is a fascinating opportunity to scratch beneath the surface of some of those with the highest profiles in the blogosphere.

And ... interestingly I can't recall seeing Anonymous comments on TVG before -- says a great deal doesn't it.

Lewis said...


I don't know you and am not taking an unfair shot or making assumptions. However, I, too, am an author and have been both a book editor and a magazine editor with large publishers.

I believe text in our books are merely ink on paper; the actions show the passion and commitment. Not allowing comments or making them difficult to submit shows me a lack of passion for encouraging discussion and conversation. It falls into the category of do as I say not as I do.

This is not meant to be personal; I just disagree with your definitions of passion and commitment to your written words.

Mack Collier said...

Lewis that was a concern for me as well. Given the ideas proposed in The Cluetrain Manifesto, I would have thought that the authors would have not only all blogged, but would have gone out of their way to embrace commenters, doing everything they could to get feedback from their readers. That's obviously not the case as a whole for the group.

What happens when you give a presentation to companies about the power of blogging, and afterwards an audience member comes up to you and says 'Hey you mentioned how we should solicit comments from readers, and you also mentioned The Cluetrain Manifesto as being an influential work in furthering blogging. I checked out the site on my laptop after you said that, and noticed the authors either aren't blogging, or aren't allowing comments. What's up with that?'

Lewis said...


And I don't want to pick on Doc, because he's a bright guy and posts some good stuff. However, I don't buy that there is nothing he can do about his comments set up. The first idea that came to me was to change providers.

Mack Collier said...

I just left a comment on a post Tara Hunt made about how could anyone disagree with Kathy. I pointed out that even though Doc seemed like a super-nice guy, I disagreed with many of his ideas on marketing. Just because you disagree with someone's ideas doesn't mean that you disagree with them as a person.

Anonymous said...

Since the web is becoming more and more database driven it makes sense that comments should begin to become more and more level 5 normalized. That is they should reside in one place and be referred to from there.

What Seth and others have done is allow trackbacks. If you want to make a comment and link it back you can. This reduces anonymity and logging in at the same time. It also give s you a bit more time to think before you post - we could all use that. It also lets you edit your comments in the event that you had a bad day and later want to take it back.

Just my observations from lurking about the blogs of the MVB crowd. The old New Yorker magazine cartoon said that on the Internet no one knows you're a dog. I'm not sure that is so true anymore.