Started reading Cluetrain

Posted on Tue 03 December 2002

I started reading Cluetrain, a book that explains the changes implied by the internet in companies both internally and externally, simply because people are able to talk to each other without organisational barriers.

And I was very surprised to find myself nearly portrayed in the "Internet Apocalypso" chapter : "... you had thousands of workers with easy access to free web browsers and a smaller set of folks who had figured out how to set up web servers whose only cost was download and tinkering time. Suddenly there was nothing to prevent the expression of their own ideas and creativity".

Back in 1994, I was working for a large company, and we bought some Unix workstations that shipped with an early version of Netscape Navigator (or was it Mosaic ?) to browse some disk-based (won't say "on-line") HTML documents. Something I was missing for a long time was the ability to easily publish some technical material for people in the department I was working in. HTML seemed the way to go : easy to learn and easy to write with my beloved vi editor.

At that time, I also found a "hidden door" in the company's old IBM messaging system to access ftp servers (internet access wasn't available to employees), and used it to download the NCSA http server, which is Apache httpd's ancestor.

And there we go : a web server was running on my workstation, people started to read the docs I published, provided their own, and this quicly became a small but lively web site maintained by a few enthusiasts.

A few months later, someone from the IT department came to me and said : "I'm the IT responsible for studying the opportunity of intranets, and I've been told you have something here". Hey, no more studies here : it's there, live and running !

Still a few months later, the corporate intranet project started, with never-ending discussions on content approval : every single document to be published had to be first approved by a "content manager" which should have been either some documentalist or QA people, but was in fact the departement's manager. Not to say that the boss had other things to do than approving content that was describing what occured inside its department, and that he did not always wanted other people in the same company to know about...

This Cluetrain book is definitely an interesting read...

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