A Conversation with Rick Levine
I first crossed paths with Rick Levine shortly after I started publishing chocophile.com back in 2001. We had occupied different parts of the new media/Internet worlds in the 1990s and Rick came to my attention as a co-author of something called The Cluetrain Manifesto. Not just a something. A book.
For many, it’s difficult to imagine what the world was like before the Internet made the World Wide Web possible. [ I remember my first online account: Compuserve in the early 1980s and dialup modems with a top speed of 1200 baud (bits per second). My first experience remotely connecting to a computer was in the late-1960s. My father was head of the academic computer department at UC Irvine and we had a teletype machine in the living room that connected to UCI’s Burroughs mainframe via a 300 baud acoustic-coupled modem. ]
Cluetrain was a revelation for many, including me, in the way it helped frame the changes in the nature of communications among and between participants. One key observation Cluetrain made was that all marketplaces are fundamentally conversations, and the WWW was going to change where and how (as well as why) these conversations took place.
Fast forward to the late 2000s and I ran into Rick at a Fancy Food Show where he was representing Seth Ellis Chocolatier, a company he’d help start and grow in Boulder, CO. The world is a small place, but this was one of the few times I discovered someone from either my art or high tech past had also made the leap to chocolate. [ Another example is Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossetto, the founders of Wired magazine. I met them the first time at TED2 in 1990, and then reconnected with them because of their involvement in TCHO. ]
The next time I connected with Rick was on Kickstarter. He’d left Seth Ellis and for one reason or another had decided to get into the sock business here in the US. Knitting socks. Here in the US. What intrigued me about the socks was they’d figured out a way to knit creating wild colorways. I supported the successful Kickstarter but the only contact I had with the company (xoab.us) was in monthly emails – the conversation was one-way.
Fast forward to about a month ago and Rick contacted me out of the blue. He’d moved to Portland, OR and wanted to know about my chocolate network there. Out of that correspondence grew the idea for a series of conversations that would examine the intersections of Cluetrain and Chocolate. And oh, so much more.
Over the coming weeks and months I will be posting our conversations online - edited only to remove awkward pauses, technical glitches, and sirens emanating from the police and firehouse around the corner.
That said, there will be a main topic to be covered in each conversation but otherwise I’ve decided (at least for now) to eschew heavy production values for immediacy and intimacy. No scripts involved. My goal is turn these around in a week or less. Warts and all. All the ums and ahs and likes and sos.
Over time I will be expanding the series to include Conversations with other colleagues and friends in the world of chocolate.
Please comment below. Let us know what you think about anything that came up in this Conversation, questions you might have, and ideas for topics for future conversations.