Kryptonite’s Task And The Real Cluetrain Lesson

For those of you following the Kryptonite – Bic Pen story (where customers found their supposedly impregnable bike lock could be opened with a cheap plastic pen, and quickly told the world about it via their blogs, while the company pretended it wasn’t happening) — it seems the company’s return program is getting into swing.

A message on its website on Friday says “thousands of replacement locks have been sent out to customers in the last few weeks. Kryptonite continues to manufacture and ship new products to consumers on a weekly basis. The whole process of the Lock Exchange Program is a complex one with manufacturing and transportation all coming into play. We are building and air shipping the new locks to get them out to our customers as fast as possible.” You can’t help feeling sorry for them, although, as plenty of folk have pointed out, their slow response only made it worse.

One thing that deserves a closer look are reports that the Bic pen information was not new — it was just better disseminated. The problem, some websites have said, was first highlighted by British freelance journalist and cartoonist John Stuart Clark in 1992. His methods — collaborating with a ‘professional villain’ undermined his story and the vulnerability was largely forgotten (except by the professional villain community, presumably). The original article is worth a read (PDF only).

In fact, although he mentions Bic pens, nowhere in the article can I find specific mention of its usage in opening locks (I’ve read mention of other British media picking up the Bic Pen issue at the time, but haven’t found any exact evidence of this yet). What does come across, however, is that there is really no such thing as a secure lock. If you know your Bruce Schneier, this is not surprising. A lock is simply a deterrent which the user hopes would keep the bad guy busy long enough for it not to be worth his while. Most locks, the article points out, can be broken within a minute or two, so the calculation for the owner should be: Is my bike in a place where a thief could not afford to take that long to break the lock?

If this Kryptonite case is a Cluetrain ‘markets are conversations’ moment, maybe that is the lesson we should all be taking away, not just that some locks are hopeless? After all, other manufacturers and vendors are being quick to claim their products are Bic-pen safe…

14. November 2004 by jeremy
Categories: Blogs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Pingback: Micro Persuasion

  2. You might be interested in this chunk of video (http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/video/eBcSeminar3.mov, 5 MB, 5 minutes) from a business blogging seminar I recently did, in which I discuss the convergence of the Kryptonite bike lock business and Cluetrain-type relationships with customers. The posting which contextualizes that video is here: http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/archives/001389.html.

  3. Hi Jeremy, I am a consultant working in London. The Kryptonite debacle did appear in the UK press. I included it in an article I wrote for the Financial Times called Publish and be Damned. There’s a link here http://news.ft.com/cms/67acabd8-20c7-11d8-81c6-0820abe49a01.html (subscription).