Doc Searls, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and the Call of the Wild Customer

by francine Hardaway on May 29, 2008

Actually, today I am in Silicon Valley. I’m at The Conversation Group’s celebration of the tenth anniversary of “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” and Doc Searls, one of the authors, of the original manifesto is here to lead a conversation on where the manifesto stands now.

He’s talking about what happens when buyer reach exceeds seller grasp, which is an unfinished question from the Manifesto. This was the Call of the Wild Customer: we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. We are human beings, and our reach exceeds your grasp — deal with it.

But it isn’t quite true yet. Ten years later, we’re still in the grasp of the vendors. No new social network is big enough to accomplish what we have to do on our own. And we can’t do it individually: we have to do it with the power of the group.

And it’s dependent on open source, which is a product of human nature. Its wild and free environment is the Net: Nobody owns it, everybody can use it, anybody can improve it.

The metaphors Doc is using are from the construction industry.

There are now more than half a million open source code bases, all of which are building materials growing wild, outside of any corporate silo. The live web is branching off the static web. The branching occurs between space and time. That’s why Google blog search differentiates between searching the web (static), and searching blogs (live).

On the live web, relationships between customers and vendors have to be two-way. Relationships can’t occur unless both parties are equal. This means solutions have to come from customers rather than just vendors, and the two have to help each other.

Example: I should be able to express global preferences outside of anyone’s silo. IF I am calling for tech support, THEN I don’t want to want to hear a commercial message, AND I am willing to pay X to reach a human in <than 60 seconds.

I should be able to inquire and relate to whole markets on the fly

And I should be able to contol my own health care data.

The technology to manage my relationship with vendors is here.

I should bring my own Terms of Service to the relationship. I shouldn’t have to accept the vendor’s. The social contract should let me be trusted if I have money to spend, and I shouldn’t have to give up so much information.

I should be able to take my shopping cart from one site to another. This is now called Vendor Relationship Mangement. It tests the belief that markets can be truly free and open and every customer can be a platform. The first VRM project at the Berkman Center is a new business model for free media (that isn’t advertising).

Obviously, ads can’t pay for everything. Dumb wrong ads will fail.

So: in the beginning is the relationship button. An equal relationship between vendor and customer, with data stored on both sides. There’s no limit to the amount of data that can be stored on both sides to enable transactions.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

PR Communications May 29, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Doc Searls On VRM

Today, a number of social media thinker’s gathered together talk at the Cluetrain at 10 event in Palo Alto, including Doc Searls, one of the Cluetrain Manifesto authors. The Cluetrain is a very influential book and basically makes the point

Graham Sadd May 30, 2008 at 4:48 am

A ‘group’ can be linked by their ‘want list’ (invitations) but remain anonymous to protect their privacy. have a look at to see a perspective from the UK.

Doc Searls May 31, 2008 at 8:49 am


It was great seeing you at the event yesterday, and thanks again for sitting right up front and taking great notes.

One small correction to “..we can’t do it individually: we have to do it with the power of the group”. In fact VRM is about empowering individuals first. As I said in response to one of the questions from the floor, we have avoided the whole “social” thing specifically to concentrate on empowering individuals first and foremost — and to let the assembly and empowerment of groups flow from full empowerment of individuals.

Again, thanks. And hope to see you soon. Supernova, perhaps?

francine hardaway May 31, 2008 at 11:53 am

Thanks, Doc. It was great seeing you, and thanks for calling me out on that. Live blogging is more difficult that I ever think it will be:-)

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