Category: open source (page 2 of 3)

Stop making cows. Quit being calves.

The World Wide Web that invented in 1990 was a collection of linked documents. The Web we have today is a collection not just of documents (some of which we quaintly call pages), but of real estate we call sites. This Web is mostly a commercial one.

Even if most sites aren’t commercial (which they probably are), most search results bring up commercial sites anyway, thanks both to the abundance of commercial sites on the Web, and “search engine optimization” (SEO) by commercial site operators. Online ad spending in the U.S. alone will hit $40 billion this year, and much of that money river runs through Google and Bing.

But that’s a feature, not a bug. The bug is that we’ve framed our understanding of the Web around locations and not around the fabric of connections that define both the Net and the Web at the deepest level. That’s why nearly every new business idea starts with real estate: a site with an address. Or, in the ranching-based lingo of marketing, a brand.

The problem isn’t with the sites themselves, or even with the real estate model we use to describe and undersand them. It’s with their underlying architecture, called client-server. What client-server does is subordinate visitors to websites. It does this by putting nearly all responsibility on the server side, so visitors are just users, rather than participants with equal power and shared responsibility in a full-fledsged relationship. Thus the client-server relationship is roughly that of calf to cow:

calf-cow

From the teats of the cow-server, the calf-client sucks the milk of HTML, plus cookies.

are text files deposited by a website’s server in a visitor’s browser. Their original purpose was to help both the site and the visitor (the cow and the calf) remember where they were last time, and to retain other helpful information, such as logins and passwords.

Cookies are also a way for commercial cows and their business friends to keep track of their calves, regardless of where those calves travel, and what other cows they might suckle. Based on what they learn from tracking, these cows can, for example, produce much more “personalized” milk. So can third parties working with the cows. This motivation is all the rage today, especially around advertising.

But nearly all the investment is still on the sell side: the cow side, because that’s where all the power is concentrated, thanks to client-server. So we keep making better cows and cow-based systems, forgetting that the calves are actual human beings called customers. We also overlook opportunity in helping demand drive supply, rather than just in helping supply drive demand.

But some of us haven’t forgotten. One is Phil Windley, a Ph.D. computer scientist, former CIO of Utah, co-founder of , and the inventor and lead maintainer of a language called , plus the rules engine for executing KRL code. (Both are open source.) The rules are the individual’s own. The rules engine can go anywhere. No cow required.

To describe the box outside of which Phil thinks, he gives a great presentation on the history of e-commerce. It goes like this:

1995: Invention of the Cookie.
The End.

To describe where he’s going (along with Kynetx and the rest of the VRM development community), Phil wrote a new book, The Live Web (a term you might have first read about here), and has been publishing a series of blog posts that deal with what he calls . Think of your Personal Event Network as the Live Web that you, as a human being (rather than as a calf) operate. Live. In real time. Your own way. You can take advantage of services offered by the servers of the world (through APIs, for example). But it’s your network, and it’s built with your own relationships. It doesn’t replace client-server, but it gives servers lots to do besides being cows. In fact, the opportunities are boundless, because they’re in wide-open virgin territory.

A Personal Event Network puts you at the center of your Live Web, with your own apps, and your own rules for what follows from events in your web of relationships. “Personal event networks interact with each other as equals,” Phil says. “They aren’t client server in nature.” Here’s how Phil draws one example:

Personal Event Network

Look at the three items indside the personal cloud:

  • At the center are apps. We’re already familiar with those on our computers and mobile devices. While they might have connections to outside services, they are personal tools of our own. They are neither calves nor cows.
  • On the left is an RFQ, or a Request For Quote, also called a .
  • On the right are rules, written in KRL.

Together those control how we interact with all the devices and services on the outside, on the Live Web. Note that those outside items are not functioning as cows, even though they also live in the commercial Web’s client-server world. They are being engaged outside the cow function, mostly through s.

Here’s how Phil explains how this works for a guy named Tim, who has a relationship with a flower shop, described here:

Tim’s personal event network has a number of apps installed. It’s also is listening on many event channels. These channels are carrying events about everything from Tim’s phone and appliances to merchants he frequents.

REI and the flowershop both have separate channels into Tim’s personal event network. Consequently, Tim can

  • Manage them independently. If REI starts spamming Tim with events he doesn’t like, he can simply delete the channel and they’re gone.
  • Permission them independently. Tim might want to get certain events from REI and other’s from the flowershop. Which events can be carried on which channels is up to Tim.
  • Respond to them independently. Tim might want to get notification events from the flowershop delivered to his phone today because it’s his wife’s birthday whereas normally merchant communications are sent to his mail box.

Tim is in charge of whether and how events are delivered. He manages the channel, delivery, and response while the publishers of these event choose the content.

This cannot be done within the bovine graces of any one company — not Apple, Facebook, Google or Microsoft — no matter how rich their services might be, and no matter how well they treat their users and customers. And not matter how much they might insist that they’re not really treating their users and customers as calves.

But they’re still playing the cow role, and we’re still stuck as calves. That’s why we keep looking for better cows.

For example take The Real Problem With Google’s New Privacy Policy, in . The subtitle explains, “The tech giant owes users better tools to manage their information.” Well, that might be true. But we also need our own tools for managing relationships with Google — and every other site and service on the Web. And we need those tools to work the same way with every company, rather than different ways with every company.

(We have this, for example, with email, thanks to open, standard and widely deployed protocols. Email is fully human, even if we submit to playing the half-calf role inside, say, Gmail. We can still take our whole email pile outside of Gmail and put it on any other server, or host it ourselves. Email’s protocols and standards support that degree of independence, and therefore of humanity as well.)

Another example is The Ecommerce Revolution is All About You, in . Here’s the closing paragraph:

So shoppers, be prepared to give up your data. In the coming year, we’re going to see many more retail sites ramping up data-driven discovery. And e-commerce sites who aren’t thinking about how to mine social and other forms of data are probably going to be left in the dust by the Amazons and Netflix’s of the next wave of personalization.

Credit where due to Amazon and Netflix: their personalization is best-of-breed. Their breed just happens to be bovine.

As it did in 1995, Amazon today provides their own milk and cookies for their own calf-customers. As a loyal Amazon customer, I have no problem being its calf. But I can’t easily take my data (preferences, history, reviews etc.) from Amazon and use it myself, in my own ways, and for my own purposes. It’s their data, not mine.

The problem with this — for both Amazon and me — is that Amazon isn’t the whole World Live Web. I don’t shop only at Amazon, and I would like better ways of interacting with all sellers than any one seller alone can provide, even if they’re the world’s best online seller. (Which Amazon, arguably, is.)

So sure, the Ecommerce Revolution is “about us.” But if it’s our revolution, why aren’t we getting more of our own tools and weapons? Why should we keep depending on sellers’ personalization systems to do all the work of providing relevance for us as shoppers? Should we give up our data to those companies just so they can raise the click-through rates of their messages from one in less than a hundred to one in ninety-eight — especially when many of the misses will now be creepily “personalized” as well?

Shouldn’t we know more about what to do with our data than any seller can guess at? And if we don’t know yet, why not create companies that help us buy at least as well as other companies are help sellers sell?

Well, those kinds of companies are being created, and you’ll find a pile of them listed here, Kynetx among them.

VCs need to start looking seriously at development on the demand side. Kynetx is one among dozens of companies that are flying below the radar of too many VCs just looking at better cows, and better ways to sell — or worse, to “target,” “capture,” “acquire,” “lock in” and “manage” customers as if they were slaves or cattle.

The idea that free markets are your-choice-of-captor is a relic of a dying mass-market-driven mentality from the pre-Internet age. Free markets need free customers. And we’ll get them, because we’ll be them.

We — the customers — are where the money that matters most comes from. Driving that money into the marketplace are our own intentions as sovereign and independent human beings.

In the next few years we’ll build an Intention Economy, driven by customers equipped with their own tools, and their own ways of interacting with sellers, including their own terms of engagement. This was the promise of the Net and the Web in the first place, and we’ve awaited delivery for long enough.

Time’s up. The age of captivity is ending. Start placing your bets on the demand side.

SOPA and Customer Commons

Imagine that Customer Commons had been created a year ago. To guide that imagining, here is the copy that matters from the placeholder page:

Customer Commons is about us.

  1. We are a com­mu­nity of customers.
  2. We are funded only by customers.
  3. We serve the inter­ests and aspi­ra­tions of customers.

We are the 100%

Customer Commons is the successor organization to ProjectVRM. Think of ProjectVRM as the launch pad and rocket for getting VRM development and research into orbit — and of Customer Commons as the rest of the universe.

So the future is wide open.

SOPA, however, is about enclosing some of the Universe’s commons, which is essentially NEA:

  1. Nobody owns it
  2. Everybody can use it
  3. Anybody can improve it

What would we — the 100% who are customers — be doing about SOPA?

Customer Commons is just in the planning stages now. We want it up and running by the time The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge comes out in May. What should it be and how would it work?

All thoughts welcome.

P.S. ProjectVRM is a Berkman Center project, and therefore does not take an advocacy position on matters of public debate, such as SOPA — which is why this blog is not offline or blacked out today.

FWIW, my own (naturally optimistic) point of view is well expressed by Harold Feld in SOPABlackout And the “Internet Spring”.

Customers are personal, cont’d

There are so many excellent comments and questions following my last post, Consumers are social, Customers are personal, that I decided it would make more sense to address them in a new post than in comments under that one. So here goes.

Joshua Marsh, the CEO of Conversocial, writes,

I’m interested in your comment that social media is only semi-personal – could you expand on that point?

I think what you could be getting at is the current lack of tie up between social identity and customer records, which is a challenge (but one that can be overcome), and one we are working on. Or do you mean something else?

There can be additional benefits to customers for taking their customer service issues into social media over other channels. Once companies wake up to the fact that there are public complaints and issues on their Facebook pages, in tweets when people search for their company names etc, they will often start delivering better customer service over social than they do through other channels. The fully public nature of the issues and resolutions forces them to deliver the best service they can. I believe this will drive a virtuous circle – as companies deliver better service through social, more and more customers will begin to use it as a service channel.

First, I want to make clear that when we talk about “social media” today we mostly mean Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other commercial services. Not telephony, email, texting, instant messaging and other social activities that have been around for a long time but tend not to get included in the “social media” category.

Three things make social media less than fully personal:

  1. As CRM Software said in another commment, “your conversations are personal yet public.”
  2. We don’t own social media. Yes, we use them, but they are not ours. They belong to Twitter, Facebook, Google or whomever. For what it’s worth (and it’s a lot), we can own domains on the Web and elsewhere. We can own email systems. We can own IM systems. We can be our own publishers, syndicate our own postings. Standards and protocols such as TCP/IP, HTTP, IMAP, POP3, SMTP, RSS and XMPP make that possible. Those standards and protocols give us independence, which is a founding virtue of the Net, of the Web, of blogging, of instant messaging. Those standards and protocols are used by social media, but we remain dependent rather than independent within social media environments. So it is critically important to remember and preserve the distinction between independence and dependence on the Net.
  3. Social media are designed to be personal, but in a social context. Facebook is for sharing with friends. Twitter is for following others and being followed. Linkedin is for sharing personal profiles. Google+ is for “real life sharing,” they say. Sure, we can get personal benefits out of social media, but as a collateral benefit more than as a core purpose.

The thing is, when all you’ve got are social hammers, even personal problems look like social nails. And this is what we are doing when we use social media to fix the problems of CRM and customer service, on either the vendor’s side or the customer’s. Yes, lots of progress has been made on the sCRM front, Conversocial is a leader in that movement, is clearly doing a good job, and should continue doing that. Yet, as individual customers we still lack a box of tools that are ours alone, and that help us relate personally with the companies whose goods and services we buy and use.

This is why a community of developers has been working on building out the tools called VRM, for Vendor Relationship Management, to work as customer-side counterparts of vendors CRM — Customer Relationship Management — systems.

About identity: yes, it’s critical. The quesitons around it are huge. For example, are we — as sovereign, independent and self-actualized human beings — who we say we are? Or are we reducible to our @-handles and “social identities” on the likes of Facebook? When Mark Zuckerberg introduced Facebook Connect in 2008, he said it would make it easy “for you to take your online identity with you all over the Web.” Note the presumption: that your handle with Facebook is “your online identity.” Sorry, but it isn’t. It’s handy as a shortcut, but it’s not who you are.

But in fact I was talking about something other than identity in that last post. I was talking about working on what’s personal in more than just social ways.

Louis Columbus writes,

1. The depth and breadth of personal information being shared on social media is creating advertised-based business models that will surpass Google AdWords’ revenue within five years or less. That’s coming thanks to the torrent of data that streams into social networks daily.

2. Improving customer service systems is indeed not enough because it still doesn’t strike to the center of what really needs to happen. Companies need to translate process efficiencies into more relevant, timely and focused customer experiences. The dividend of process efficiency needs to be spent on greater empathy for the customer. Profits will follow if a company can get its head around the concept of delivering an exceptional experience.

3. VRM shows potential to make each interaction more relevant, focused and over time, trusted.

Bottom line: the companies who will emerge stronger for all this turbulent change will stay focused on customer experience, empathy and intimacy as their compass and not waiver from that course.

Louis’ predictions about the future of advertising may be true. But remember: even highly personalized advertising is still guesswork. And no amount of personal data can empower any company, no matter how smart, to guess what I want or need next. Nor do I want that. First, most of the time I’m not buying anything. Second, when I am ready to buy something, I need instruments that help me express my intentions more than I need ones that are guessing what I might want and pushing something at me through a medium that’s paid to do the pushing.

This is why I believe what will emerge over the next five years is not a more personal attention economy (led by social media) but an intention economybased on what customers actually want. This is why I wrote The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge, for Harvard Business Review Press, which is due to hit the shelves on May 1.

I agree with Louis’ second point about what companies need to do; and will add that the customer experience should be one for which the customer is at least partly responsible. Also that the experience of relationship should extend across many vendors in the same way, rather than working in isolation with each vendor. For example, I would like as a customer to experience changing my address with many vendors at once. No vendor working alone with one CRM system can deliver this experience. VRM is required for that, along with CRM systems that welcome simple and standard address-changing methods that work the same way across many different vendors.

I also agree with Louis’ bottom line: that vendors will have to be “focused on customer experience, empathy and intimacy.” And I believe this will require that customers welcome VRM tools when customers carry their own weight on their own sides of relationships.

Don Peppers writes,

One additional thought about the future of social media: Today, social media is funded by advertisers (the real “customers”), and provides a mechanism for giving them access to consumers. But this will almost certainly change as more and more social media services and platforms become open source. An open-source, community-developed platform for social interaction will unify consumers and customers, no?

When Twitter first appeared on the scene, for example, it took many months before the first commercial money began funding it. The consumers it served all worried that without some kind of external funding, the service might disappear. Sooner or later, we’ll find that IT and communications costs have become so low that very little, if any, commercial sponsorship will be required to sustain a genuinely consumer-oriented social media platform.

I believe we won’t get fully-developed one-to-one relationships (that link goes to the seminal work on the topic, buy Don Peppers and Martha Rogers) without significant contributions of code and standards from free and open source developers. You’ll find many in the roster of VRM developers and developments, but we need many more.

I also think we need to free ourselves from the knee-jerk belief that commercial sponsorship is the first-option business model for popular services on the Net. The successes of the Net, the Web, email, RSS and much else have long since disproven that belief.

In the long run far more economic activity will be supported by free and open standards, protocols and other building materials, than by commercial services paid for by advertising.

As for the promise of both social media “big data” for better customer relations, I like what Alan Mitchell said in his comment:

…there is a vast difference between the sharing of unstructured information on a one-to-many basis (social media), and the sharing of structured information on a one-to-one basis (VRM). As you point out, only the latter allows for real personalisation.

Alan has been a leading figure in VRM development, by the way.

Hanan Cohen writes,

Many people say that “Social media users are not customers of them, they are the product being sold.”

I think that we are the suppliers and try to prove it here;

http://info.org.il/english/The-Users-are-the-Suppliers.html

Can you please get in touch with an economics scholar you trust and ask her to sort out the difference in definitions?

It is quite true that we are upstream suppliers of valuable content to social media, and not just consumers of services, and Hanan makes many good points at that link.

As for distinctions between consumers and customers, I like what Doug Rauch — the former President of Trader Joe’s — told to me when I was working on my book: that consumers are “a statistical category.” “We believe in honesty and directness between human beings,” Doug said. “We do this by engaging with the whole person, rather than just with the part that ‘consumes.’”

Hope that helps.

Prototyping a new business model for everything

For IIW next week, and I have been working on a prototype demonstrating , using on the  app from .  The description at the EmanciPay link is minimal so far, but the model has a great deal of promise, because what it puts forward is a new business model for all kinds of stuff: easy voluntary payments from anybody for anything, to escrow accounts where the money can be picked up by the intended recipient with no strings attached. The first target is public radio (as it has been, ever since the earliest ProjectVRM meetings at the ), but it could easily apply to and other media as well.

We still need financial institutions to weigh in and take up a new business model for themselves, and it would be cool if some of them showed up at IIW next week for that, but in any case we’re taking one small step in the direction of a major sea change in the way markets for media work.

I’ve been making test contributions to different public radio stations, using the EmanciPay prototype. Craig has hacked a way for this to show up in my Twitter stream. You can see those here.

Google’s Wallet and VRM

Yesterday Google opened the curtain on Google Wallet. I think it’s the most important thing Google has launched since the search engine. Here’s why:

Reason #1: We’ve always needed an electronic wallet, especially one in our mobile phone. And, although others have tried to give us one, it hasn’t worked out for them, because…

Reason #2: We’ve needed one from somebody who doesn’t also have a hand in our pocket. Google WalletGoogle is the only company in the world that can pull this off, because it’s the only company in the world that lives to commodify exactly the businesses that desperately need commodification, and to await interesting consequences. I can’t think of a single company that’s better at causing tsunamis of commodification so they can join hundreds of other companies, surfing them to new shores. List the things Google does but doesn’t make money with, and you’ll have a roster of businesses that needed commodification. What Google looks for is what JP Rangaswami and I call because effects: you make money because of those things, not with them. (Note, not talking about “monetization” here. A subtle distinction.) A Google lawyer once told me this strategy was “looking for second and third order effects.” Same thing. Either way, they’re out to give us — and retailers we do business with — a hand. (But they will need to keep it out of our pockets, which includes data we consider personal. We’re the ones to say what that is, and others — including Google, Sprint, Citi and the retailers — need to respect that.)

Reason #3: This reduces friction in a huge way. It’s not an exaggeration when Google says this on their Vision page for the project:

In the past few thousand years, the way we pay has changed just three times—from coins, to paper money, to plastic cards.

Now we’re on the brink of the next big shift.

What weighs your wallet down? What slows you down at checkout? Sometimes it’s pulling out cash, but most times it’s dealing with cards. In the last few years every store, it seems, has been piling on with loyalty cards and keyring tags. This last week Panera Bread started, and watching the results have been a clinic in business fashion gone wrong. The poor folks behind the counter are now forced to ask customers if they have a Panera bread card, and the customers have to either say no (and feel strange), or to produce one from their wallet or key ring. Yesterday I asked the person behind the counter how she liked it. “We don’t need it, and customers don’t want it,” she said. “We’re only doing it because every other store does it. That’s all.” That’s a pain in the pocket nobody needs.

Says Google,

Google Wallet has been designed for an open commerce ecosystem. It will eventually hold many if not all of the cards you keep in your leather wallet today. And because Google Wallet is a mobile app, it will be able to do more than a regular wallet ever could, like storing thousands of payment cards and Google Offers but without the bulk. Eventually your loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, even your keys will be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet. And every offer and loyalty point will be redeemed automatically with a single tap via NFC.

This assumes that the ecosystem will continue to support the kind of loyalty programs we have today. It won’t, because we won’t and that brings me to…

Reason #4: Now customers can truly relate with vendors. That is, if Google Wallet and participating retailers and other players welcome it. See, CRM — Customer Relationship Management — has thus far been almost entirely a sell-side thing. It’s how companies related with you, not how you related with them. They set the rules, they provided the cards, they put up the websites where you filled out long complicated forms, they send you the junk mail, and they do the guesswork about what you might want, usually because you’ve bought something like it before. But what if your phone has your shopping list? What if you want to advertise what you’re looking for, as a personal RFP for something you need right now, and may never need again? Think of this as advertising in reverse, or what Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) calls “Broadcast Shopping”. This is one example of how …

Reason #5: Now demand can signal supply in great detail. Until now, about the only signals we could send were with cash, cards, and whatever might percolate up the corporate CRM chain from “social” CRM. There’s a lot here (see Brian Solis’ Converation Prism, for example, or follow Paul Greenberg). But those all depended on second (vendor) or third parties (all the petals in Brian’s prism, which actually looks more like a flower). They weren’t your signals. I see no reason why the open commerce ecosystem shouldn’t include that. Why should customers always be the dependent variables and not the independent ones? Speaking of independence…

Reason #6: Now you have your own pricing gun. You can tell a store, or a whole market, what you’re willing to pay for something — or what you might offer along with payment, such as information about your other relationships, or the fact that you just moved here and are likely to be shopping at this store more. (Or that you’re a high-status frequent flyer with another airline, and considering the same for this one.) Why not?

Reason #7: You can take your shopping cart with you. Back when e-commerce began, in 1995, my wife’s sister was the VP Finance for Netscape, so that company was something like family for us, making my wife (not a technical type) an early adopter. One of her first questions back then was one that exposes a flaw that’s been in e-commerce from the start: “Why can’t I take my shopping cart from one store to another?” At least conceivably, now you can. Let’s say you want to shop at Store B while you’re at Store A. This already happens when you scan a QR or a barcode with your smartphone to see if it’s cheaper at Amazon or something. But what if you want to be more sophisticated than that? The implications for retailers can be scary, but also advantageous. After all, retailers have physical locations, which Amazon doesn’t. Retailers can earn loyalty in ways that are as unique as each store, and each person working at a store.

Reason #8: Now you can bring your own data with you. Inevitably, you will have a personal data store, vault, lockerdata wallet (yes, it’s already called that), trust framework — or other combination of means for managing and selectively sharing that data in secure, trustworthy and auditable ways. And your data doesn’t just have to be about shopping. Personal tracking and informatics are getting big now (read Quantified Self for more). That’s stuff we bring to the market’s table as well. The wallet in one’s phone seems a good way.

Reason #9: Now you can actually relate. When a customer has the ability to shop as well as buy, right in his or her wallet — and to put shopping in the contect of the rest of his or her life, which includes far more than shopping alone — retailers can discover advantages other than discounts, coupons and other gimmicks. Maybe you’ll buy from Store B because you like the people there better, because they’re more helpful in general, because they took your advice about something, or because they help your kid’s school. Many more factors can come into play.

Reason #10: Now you’re in a free and open marketplace. Not just the space contained by any store’s exclusive loyalty system. Nor in a “free” market that’s “your choice of captor” (which is one of the purposes of loyalty programs).  Along those same lines…

Reason #11: You don’t have to play calf to every store and website’s cow. The reason you can’t take your shopping cart with you from store to store on the Web is that e-commerce normalized from the start on the calf-cow, slave-master architecture of client-server computing. This is what turned the Web from a peer-to-peer, end-to-end egalitarian greenfield into fenced-off ranchland where vendors built walled gardens for “consumers” who fed on the milk of each site’s exclusive offerings, and also got cookies that helped calf and cow remember each other, but which sometimes also tracked the calves as they wandered off into other gardens. It was a submissive/dominant system from the get-go, and has been flawed for exactly that reason ever since. Google Wallet, at least conceptually, gives you ways in which you can relate to anybody or anything, on your terms and not just theirs. And not just in the old commercial-Web-based calf-cow system. You can divine the bovine right in your pocket, and avoid or correct vendors trying to feed you tainted milk or tracking cookies.

I could go on, but I have a book to write and not much time left. But I consider Google Wallet a move of profound importance, even if it doesn’t work out, so I’m putting this list out there for us to correct, debate or whatever else we need to do . At the very least Google Wallet gives us one thing a BigCo is doing that can mesh well with what the VRM development community has been working on for the last few years. I hope the synergies will get everybody excited.

[Later, in August...] Some additional news:

Stay tuned.

IIW dev job: ListenLog

Craig Burton has a nice tutorial on developing VRM applications, using ListenLog as both an example and a challenge for next week at IIW.

ListenLog is the brainchild of Keith Hopper and the collaborative result of efforts by folks from NPR, PRX and other public radio institutions, as well as the Berkman Center and volunteers from the VRM community. It’s a form of self-tracking (see The Quantified Self for more on what that’s about), and also part of a larger effort that includes EmanciPay.

You’ll already find it on the Public Radio Player for iPhone, which is free and a great app. If you’re using an iPhone, download it, then go (as the tutorial says) to the settings and turn on logging. What you’ll have is your own growing pile of personal data, that you control. (No, it’s not yet in your all-purpose personal data store, locker or vault, but that’s another step and we can talk about that too. It is, for sure, in your Personal Data Ecosystem.)

Here’s where the tutorial pauses, for now:

to be done

One of our jobs next week is fulfilling those needs. This is light-duty hacking of the sort we can do around a table in one afternoon. (For those of us who can hack. Alas, the only code I know is Morse.)

Here’s where moving forward on this will lead:

  1. Better knowledge for listeners about what they actually value.
  2. Necessary groundwork for EmanciPay, which is a new listener-driven business model for public radio — and for everything else thats available for free but worth more than that.
  3. More money for public radio (because the old models won’t go away).
  4. More money for every business that produces free goods that are worth more than that. (For example music, newspapers, magazines, blogs and so on.)
  5. Experience and modeling for other similar projects.

Should be fun work.

Bonus thought: This might also work as something that ties in with the Knight-Mozilla News Innovation Challenge. (Keith will be there, I think.) Hey, let’s connect the two. Should be fun. Just tweeted this as well.

To your owned self be true

After getting this provocative tweet, I checked the source (@NZN), and found Ready to make change? A sample:

…my son BELIEVES he OWNS the Internet. His Internet. His Facebook.

And in case you think that is not how reality works, I suggest that you also consider that my son also BELIEVES that he OWNS his government.

We all know that we are a part of a fucked up socio-economic system that has been designed over 1000′s of years by countless contributions into what is, in my arrogant Human perspective, true Genius. We are surviving, we are struggling, we are prospering, we are becoming….

We are becoming something new. The Internet will increasingly come to be seen by the Individuals within our species as an inherent element of their lives, indeed, of their freedom. As a result, a new royalty is emerging on our planet. There is good reason for the mad dash to wealth and power we are experiencing in our bubble-forming industries; strategic positioning in the face of rampant change. It is both a rational and immature way of dealing with the substance of change we are all confronting.

He (I’m assuming it’s he, but I dunno) concludes,

Facebook, Inc. today has constructed the relationship it has with its data sources as secured assets under its incorporated control. Modern law will substantiate that position.

Thus, we have two positions to contend with:

1. Facebook: that data you are building tools to service as a social utility, has been co-opted due to the present ignorance of the general public which willingly constructs itself as “data slaves” within most public relational database constructs. This dynamic is easily changed, and Rights will be afforded the General population today representing your customer base that changes the nature of the relationship that you now possess as a private asset. This is important for any investor in Facebook to recognize, as it points to the finite temporal nature of the ROI formula Facebook is today using to evaluate its market valuation, which I believe stands at $65 billion?

2. Modern law was formed upon a foundation that is no longer represented within its construct; Individual Sovereignty was an implied Right and natural feature of Human existence as demonstrated by the signatures which founded our Declaration of Independence and Constitutional Democracy. Individual Sovereignty is the only force standing behind ‘John Hancock’ meaning anything, as written on these legal documents. And either that Individual Sovereignty is part of the inherent structure of my IDENTITY as a citizen, or CITIZENSHIP has co-opted my Individual Sovereignty without acknowledging the recursive nature of that original signature moment. Either way, something needs to change. And in every case, its the structure of our governmental bureaucracy. I own America as a citizen. I own myself, pre-citizenship. If anyone wants to say different, lets get that started asap.

I’m ready to create change. Are you?

So there ya go. I’ve got a book to finish, but maybe one of the rest of ya’ll can engage. (I will eventually, just not right now.)

State of the VRooM

A lot has been happening in VRooMville lately. (Testimony: over there on the right at the moment we have three different #VRM tweets, in three different languages.) Rather than summarize things, I’ll let writers and developers in the VRM community give us a rundown. In no special order, here goes…

Reverse the Paradigm, by . Excerpt:

What if we asked: How can we deliver a product/service that people want? We could stop the insane guessing game all of us are engaged in. We wouldn’t have to battle for the attention of people; they asked for our attention. That’s the basic idea of Vendor Relationship Management. I’ve written many times about VRM before.

What baffles me is that many people believe this is an utopian dream. “It’ll never happen.” They tend to forget, it’s already happening. Not in the marketing world yet but it happened to the publishing industry. The desire of people to get customized media whenever they want it lead to the sale of Newsweek for $1. And the sale of Huffington Post for $315 million. It changed the recording industry forever. Or, rather, wrecked it. People revolted against getting their information top-down. They wanted customization, filters and control. It was a quick transformation because Web 2.0 made publishing so easy for everyone.

What makes you think the same won’t happen to marketing and advertising?

The Customer is Center, by . Excerpt:

THE BIG IDEA: “Cookies and tracking software? Who needs em? People are creating taste-signals daily with what they choose to buy. Why not let the customer go directly to the brand/vendor and get rid of this guesswork?”

C3 Commentary : Welcome to VRMville! by Dan Miller. Excerpt:

Adding VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) to the picture adds a more “user-centric” set of possibilities. Each person who generates all this metadata is also given adequate means to control release of the data or to attach terms and conditions governing how and to whom the information can be released. That’s where companies like Sing.ly and its closely related Locker Project come into play.

In Bridging the Marketing/Customer Care Divide – Thoughts from #C32011, Lou Dubois of The Social Customer wrote that “Dan Miller (@dnm54) and Greg Sterling (@gsterling) from Opus Research (@opusresearch) put on a unique, intimate and thought-provoking conference last week in San Francisco built around the challenges and opportunities facing different companies as they try to close the gap and get folks from marketing, customer service and PR to work towards the larger organizational strategy.” He added that one take-away was, “The next big step for Social CRM is VRM — and 2011 will mark it officially moving from theory to practice for most intelligent organizations.”

The Personal Cloud, by . Excerpt:

When the VRM’rs on the panel first explained the concept of the personal data store, Mark Plakias, VP Strategy and Design at Orange Labs in San Francisco, immediately referred to it as the personal cloud. Although I’d heard the term a few times before, Mark’s usage suddenly rang true for me. He was referring to everything that the VRM community has traditionally defined a PDS as encompassing, plus personal storage, backup, connectivity, and other options that will clearly be part of the overall value proposition as the concept goes to market.

A little Google searching this weekend showed that a number of vendors including Iomega and Tonido are already using the term for cloud storage of personal data assets. And last May Forrester analyst Frank Gillette predicated that the personal cloud will replace the traditional personal computing OS.

That all seems to fit.

Then, The Personal Cloud, Take 2:

…neither the idea nor the term “personal cloud” is really new — all of this was 18 months ago. And the VRM community has been talking about personal data stores since 2004.

But, as with almost everything in tech, it’s all about timing. The hadn’t formed yet. And, in my personal opinion, the technologies that can actually implement the personal control that all these authors agree will be necessary for personal clouds wasn’t there yet (hint: Internet identity is only the start). For example, Jeremie Miller hadn’t created the Locker Project or protocol yet, nor his new company based on it, which just won best-in-show at the O’Reilly Strata Conference Startup Showcase.

So maybe it’s finally time to seed personal clouds for real.

Then,  Personal Cloud Take 3: Thomas Vander Wall’s Personal Infocloud:

When I first heard the term “personal cloud” from Mark Plakias at C3, I knew it sounded vaguely familiar, but it wasn’t until I started this series of blog posts that Kaliya Hamlin (Identitywoman) reminded me that Thomas Vander Wal named his blog Personal InfoCloud some years ago. Instantly I recalled the dinner that Kaliya and Thomas and I had in Washington D.C. a few years ago wheree he explained his vision for a personal information cloud, and how it was a superset of what the VRM community has been calling a personal data store.

In retrospect, I am quite sure this was one reason a subconscious bell rang for me when the term “personal cloud” came up again. And, reading recent posts from Thomas’ blog, including one about lessons to be learned from Yahoo’s threat to close Delicious, I point to it as even more evidence that the term works well for expressing what we all mean by this collection of personal data and relationships that will become the hub of your digital life.

Speaking of hubs, that reminds me of yet another pioneer thinker in this space: Jon Udell and his concept of hosted lifebits.

Riftstalker‘s VRM vs. RPG Excerpt:

When Doc Searls couldn’t explain what VRM is, he turned to RPGs. Wait, what’s VRM? VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management.

So, as I was explaining VRM to some people this morning, and how we were equipping individuals with tools for both independence and engagement, an analogy came up: role playing games. Dungeons & Dragons. World of Warcraft. Final Fantasy.

I was blown away. Not because it’s a great analogy, but because I … just didn’t know. I’ve never played any of these games. But the people I was talking to had (or still did) play these games. And they were getting something about VRM that I wasn’t saying.

Well, Doc, RPGs get immediate response. Often emotional and sometimes even dramatic. Everyone has their favorite archetype, everyone has their favorite game. So who knows, maybe it’s like talking about your vendors… the Warrior vendor, the Mage vendor, and of course, the Rogue vendor.

Startups in the personal data ecosystem, by The list (all of which are also in the VRM space):

Data Storage,  Collection and Sharing

is a Community Interest Company based in the UK that has begun a community prototype that connects individuals’ personal data store accounts to local government agencies.

has raised 7 million in venture funding and although it does not yet have any services their website articulates clearly how personal data under the control of the user is valuable.

Jeremy Miller’s startup to build 3rd and 4th party apps based on data from data stores build using the Locker Project code base an open source project for collating, securing and sharing personal data .

is a startup that supports you pulling in your information from different service providers including Mobile phone record, Energy and utility records, Health and fitness, Shopping and payment, Transportation.  Statz gives you instructions on how to go into your mobile carrier or electric company and export your statements – often this involves a dozen steps and is very labor intensive – not something easy or that everyone will do.

Greplin Does Personal Cloud SearchWhen people set up their accounts they give the service access to a range of accounts – LinkedIn, Gmail, Basecamp, Flickr, etc. Then you use their engine to search across them.

Backupify is an all-in-one archiving, search and restore service for the most popular online services including Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and more.

helps manage user-driven searches across multiple search providers and websites, creating a powerful new way to explicitly express search intent anywhere on the Internet.  Joe Andrieu

provides Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) infrastructure. Businesses use CRM to manage customer relationships, while VRM lets individuals manage their relationships with businesses. TrustFabric writes Open Source software and gives customers a platform to represent their side of the VRM+CRM relationship. TrustFabric is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

helps you to stop unwanted marketing and to get in control of the way your data is used.

Consortium for Local Ownership and Use of Data, Inc.  A non-profit technology standard consortia started in early 2009 that believes that a new era of ME 1.0 is at hand, an era that looks beyond Web 2.0, while simultaneously looking to the founding principles of the Internet as the solution to many of today’s most vexing issues of privacy, security and data.

DataInherit online safes from Switzerland offer individuals around the world highly secure online storage for passwords and digital documents. You can access your online safe using any Internet browser or an iPhone from anywhere and at any time. In addition the unique data inheritance functionality will protect your data in emergency situations. Simple and convenient.

New Application Building and Design Tools

Kynetx is developing a new language that looks at data from personal data stores and public datasets and can do real time matching based on rule sets created by the individual to surface relevant content.

EmanciPay is a relationship management and voluntary payment framework in which buyers and sellers can present to each other the requirements and options by which they are willing to engage, or are already engaging. Including choices concerning payment, preference, policies.

Open Source Projects

Speaking of Jeremie Miller, and Sing.ly, Marshall Kirkpatrick put the scoop in Creator of Instant Messaging Protocol to Launch App Platform for Your Life on ReadWriteWeb:

Called The Locker Project, the open source service will capture what’s called exhaust data from users’ activities around the web and offline via sensors, put it firmly in their own possesion and then allow them to run local apps that are built to leverage their data. Miller’s three person company, Singly, will provide the corporate support that the open source project needs in order to remain viable. I’m very excited about this project; Miller’s backgrounds, humble brilliance and vision for app-enabling my personal data history is very exciting to me.

Here’s how The Locker Project will work. Users will be able to download the data capture and storage code and run it on their own server, or sign up for hosted service – like WordPress.org and  WordPress.com. Then the service will pull in and archive all kinds of data that the user has permission to access and store into the user’s personal Locker: Tweets, photos, videos, click-stream, check-ins, data from real-world sensors like heart monitors, health records and financial records like transaction histories.

Where data extraction is made easy already by APIs or feeds, Lockers will pull it that way. Where the data is appealing and the Locker community is motivated to do so, data connectors will be built.

Searching those data archives has been a technical challenge for many other startups, but the Locker team says it is trivial for them – because they only have to build search to scale across your personal data and the data you’ve been given permission to access by members of your network.

Seach and sharing across a user’s network will be powered by Miller’s eagerly-anticipated open source P2P project called Telehash, described as “a new wire protocol for exchanging JSON in a real-time and fully decentralized manner, enabling applications to connect directly and participate as servers on the edge of the network.”

… and here’s in O’Reilly Radar:

Singly, by giving people the ability to do things with their own data, has the potential to change our world. And, as Kirkpatrick notes, this won’t be the first time Jeremie has done that.

I was drawn over to the Singly table when an awesome app they were demonstrating caught my eye. Fizz, an application from Bloom, was running on a locker with data aggregated from three different places.

Fizz is an intriguing early manifestation of capabilities never seen before on the web. It provides the ability for us to control, aggregate, share and play with our own data streams, and bring together the bits and pieces of our digital selves scattered about the web.

, by . Excerpt:

Personal data assets are fast becoming a new asset class, traded among these companies and marketing departments of enterprises around the world. That’s a shift in how personal data is conceived and exploited. The Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) community could bring another shift as start-ups begin invading this space, switching the emphasis to managing personal data assets on behalf of users.

Facebook as a personal data store, by Joe Andrieu. Excerpt:

To this veteran VRM evangelist, Facebook has done more in 2010 to usher in the era of the personal data store than anyone, ever. In one fell swoop, Facebook launched a World Wide Web built around the individual instead of websites, introducing the personal data store to 500 million people and over one million websites.

Unexpectedly, Facebook has moved VRM from a conversation about envisioning a future to one about deployed services with real users, being adopted by real companies, today. We still have a lot of work to do to figure out how to make this all work right—legally, financially, technically—but it’s illuminating and inspiring to see the successes and failures of real, widely-deployed services. Seeing what Amazon or Rotten Tomatos or Pandora do with information from a real personal data store moves the conversation forward in ways no theoretical argument can.

There remain significant privacy issues and far too much proprietary lock-in, but for the first time, we can point to a mainstream service and say “Like that!  That’s what we’ve been talking about. But different!”

The Case Against Data Lock-In, by Brian W Fitzpatrick and JJ Lueck of Google’s Data Liberation Front in ACMQueue. Excerpt:

What Data Liberation Looks Like

At Google, our attitude has always been that users should be able to control the data they store in any of our products, and that means that they should be able to get their data out of any product. Period. There should be no additional monetary cost to do so, and perhaps most importantly, the amount of effort required to get the data out should be constant, regardless of the amount of data. Individually downloading a dozen photos is no big inconvenience, but what if a user had to download 5,000 photos, one at a time, to get them out of an application? That could take weeks of their time.

Even if users have a copy of their data, it can still be locked in if it’s in a proprietary format. Some word processor documents from 15 years ago cannot be opened with modern software because they’re stored in a proprietary format. It’s important, therefore, not only to have access to data, but also to have it in a format that has a publicly available specification. Furthermore, the specification must have reasonable license terms: for example, it should be royalty-free to implement. If an open format already exists for the exported data (for example, JPEG or TIFF for photos), then that should be an option for bulk download. If there’s no industry standard for the data in a product (e.g., blogs do not have a standard data format), then at the very least the format should be publicly documented—bonus points if your product provides an open source reference implementation of a parser for your format.

The point is that users should be in control of their data, which means they need an easy way of accessing it. Providing an API or the ability to download 5,000 photos one at a time doesn’t exactly make it easy for your average user to move data in or out of a product. From the user-interface point of view, users should see data liberation merely as a set of buttons for import and export of all data in a product.

Google is addressing this problem through its Data Liberation Front, an engineering team whose goal is to make it easier to move data in and out of Google products. The data liberation effort focuses specifically on data that could hinder users from switching to another service or competing product—that is, data that users create in or import into Google products. This is all data stored intentionally via a direct action—such as photos, e-mail, documents, or ad campaigns—that users would most likely need a copy of if they wanted to take their business elsewhere. Data indirectly created as a side effect (e.g., log data) falls outside of this mission, as it isn’t particularly relevant to lock-in.

Another “non-goal” of data liberation is to develop new standards: we allow users to export in existing formats where we can, as in Google Docs where users can download word processing files in OpenOffice or Microsoft Office formats. For products where there’s no obvious open format that can contain all of the information necessary, we provide something easily machine readable such as XML (e.g., for Blogger feeds, including posts and comments, we use Atom), publicly document the format, and, where possible, provide a reference implementation of a parser for the format (see the Google Blog Converters AppEngine project for an example1). We try to give the data to the user in a format that makes it easy to import into another product. Since Google Docs deals with word processing documents and spreadsheets that predate the rise of the open Web, we provide a few different formats for export; in most products, however, we assiduously avoid the rat hole of exporting into every known format under the sun.

GeekTown.ca‘s What if Flickr Fails? Excerpt:

Wouldn’t it be nicer to have a ‘bucket’ of storage where all your files are kept, and then make those files available to third party services that can add snappy interfaces, clever sharing mechanisms, tagging, and other Web 2.0 tools to the mix without touching the files directly?

That’s the concept now being floated by a growing collection of people that want to take back control of their data. Searls is working on ProjectVRM (vendor relationship management), which preaches self-hosting, among other things. Aleks Cronin-Lukas is working on the Mine! project, which advocates separating data owned by the user from third party applications. In models such as these, the data is stored in a single place on the Internet. The user can then expose that data to third party sites (like Flickr, etc), who can add functionality to it. But if the content site gets shut down, the original data is untouched. Another advantage to this concept is that the user can decide exactly what data gets shared, and how.

The folks have a post by Sebastian Reisch titled Otras maneras de definir VRM: la Nube Personal o Relaciones Manejadas por Consumidores, which Google Chrome translates to Other ways to define VRM: Personal Cloud or Managed by Consumer Relations. The translation, slightly edited:

…ultimately what we want to achieve with VRM is that each individual has an identity in the network by using myinfo.cl, and therefore has a personal space in the cloud… to keep your personal information that will help you to manage relationships with their suppliers. Ultimately to have a digital identity, which will receive the messages and offers that meet the needs we have at the right time.

Ultimately, VRM is the application we’re building.. to lead consumers to take a more active role, and thus manage their relationships…

Also in ReadWriteWeb, Kynetx gets coverage in Nevermind Google, New Extensions Block Spam Across Browsers & Search Engines:

Yesterday, Google released a Chrome browser extension that lets users block certain websites from showing up in their Google search results. That way, if you never want to see an eHow article again, you don’t have to. Kynetx, a company that offers developers a single platform for building extensions for multiple browsers, saw the announcement and immediately offered $500 to the first person that could create an extension “with the same functionality for all 3 browsers and all 3 major search engines.”

Less than a day later, the company has announced a winner and released the extensions.

Those wishing to be involved in development efforts should also check out the and at .

Last but hardly least, both and are in the second round of the . Go to those links and vote ‘em up.

And if I’ve missed anything (and I’m sure I have), let me know and I’ll add it on.

1 to Every

I have here at my left elbow an original 1993 edition of The One to One Future, by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers — the inaugural book in the authors’ , and one that had no small influence on , written six years later by , , and myself. From its pages protrude little plastic flags that I started sticking there, seventeen years ago, to mark quotable passages. The book was, and still is, ahead of its time. Dig some of the chapter titles:

  • Collaborate With Your Customers
  • Engage Your Customers in Dialoge
  • Take Products to Customers, Not Customers to Products
  • Make Money Protecting Privacy, Not Threatening It
  • Society at Light Speed.

This was two years before the arrival of the commercial Web (via the graphical browser).

I look at that chapter about not threatening privacy, and I think Geez, people were getting 1:1 wrong long before they started getting Cluetrain wrong. So I go to check and find David Weinberger talking about 1 to 1 and how people get it wrong, in The Cluetrain Manifesto itself. (Most of the original book is online here, but its sidebars are not, and that link goes to one of those sidebars, courtesy of Google Books.) For Wired, David also gave the book a thumbs-up review in 1995 and  interviewed Martha Rogers in 1996.

Look around and you’ll find other connections. There are plenty.

The latest is 1toEverything: innovation through a customer’s eyes, by , who worked with Don and Martha for many years. His post could hardly bowl a better strike, right up the VRM alley. One pull quote:

Nearly anything you see out your window – cars, office buildings, people, the weather, birds, restaurants or billions of other possibilities – can and will be differentiated on your behalf by applications that haven’t yet come to market.

Yeessssssss!

In fact the VRM development community has brought some of those applications to market. Others are on their way. Others are open source projects that will be in continuous development, because that’s how open source works. The growing list is here.

I love this chart in Bruce’s post:

Everything in there can be remembered in your (aka — or either), which is in turn part of the . At the first of those links is this helpful graphic by of :

So this is to welcome Bruce, Don (who kindly pointed to VRM to in the first comment on Bruce’s post) and everybody else from the 1 to 1 community who wants to weigh in and help out with VRM development and (at last, because we’ve been holding off waiting for code) evangelism.

It’s still early. What we have so far is just the beginning of what we expect to be quite huge by the time it becomes established. But this stuff has been a long time coming, and it’s important to recognize our earliest and best pioneers.

And while I’m spreading gratitude around, the biggest props go to the , for giving us four years of runway to get VRM off the ground. Hats off to the faculty, staff and fellows who have done so much for us — and still do. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Knight News Challenge entry for EmanciPay

Below is a copy of our entry to the Knight News Challenge. It actually hadn’t crossed my mind to put one together until last Monday, when I saw that they have a category for sustainability. It says here,

Sustainability: Considers new economic models supporting news and information. New ways of conducting and consuming journalism may require new ways of paying for it. We’re open to ideas for generating revenue as well as ways to reduce costs.

EmanciPay is exactly that.

Three years ago, when ProjectVRM was new, we applied and made it to the second round. Back then EmanciPay was still called PayChoice. (We changed it because we wanted a better name with a URL we could buy, which we did.) Sustainability wasn’t front-burner for Knight then, I guess. Now it is. And, in the meantime, much VRM development has been going in the sustainability direction, including work behind the r-button (some context here). Special thanks for that goes to David Karger, Oshani Seneviratne and Adam Marcus of CSAIL at MIT,  our Google Summer of Code student, Ahmad Bakhiet of Kings College London and Renee Lloyd (a fellow veteran Berkman Center fellow) for their good work on that.

That work is built on code Adam and Oshani had already done on Tipsy, which has its own Knight News Challenge entry as well. (This is all open source stuff, so it can be leveraged many ways.) I met Adam and Oshani through David Karger, who I met through Keith Hopper of NPR, a stalwart contributor to the VRM community from the beginning. Keith is the brainfather of ListenLog, an application you’ll find in your Public Radio Player, from PRX, which is run by Jake Shaprio (another Berkman vet, and a star with the band Two Ton Shoe). When I ran the idea of applying again past Jake (who has an exceptional track record at winning these kinds of things), he said “Go for it,” so we did.

Another VRM effort in the Knight News Challenge  is Tom StitesBanyan Project. Tom has forgotten more about journalism, and its business, than most of us will ever know, and has been hard at work on Banyan for the last several years, rounding up good people and good ideas into one coherent system that could use support. Here’s the Banyan application to the News Challenge. It seems not to appear on the roster at the KNC site right now. I’m told that’s just a glitch. So check it out at that last link in the meantime.

Meanwhile, here are the parts of the EmanciPay entry that matter:

Project Title:

EmanciPay:
a user-driven system for generating revenue and managing relationships
Requested amount from Knight News Challenge:

$325,000

Describe your project:

EmanciPay is the first user-driven revenue model for news and information media. With EmanciPay, users can easily pay whatever they like, whenever they like, however they like — on their own terms and not just those controlled by the media’s supply side.

EmanciPay will also provide means for building genuine two-way relationships between the consumers and producers of media, rather than the confined relationships defined by each organization’s default subscription and membership systems .

EmanciPay is among a number of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) tools that have been in development for the last several years, with guidance from ProjectVRM, which is led by Doc Searls at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Here is a list of VRM development projects.

Starting early this year, Doc and other members of the VRM community have been working on EmanciPay with developers at MIT/CSAIL and Kings College London. The MIT/CSAIL collaboration is led by David Karger and ties in with work he and others are doing with Haystack. This work includes developing a UI called r-button for offering payment and for creating and managing relationships between users and producers.

The r-button is the first Web UI element that allows a site to signal openness to the user’s own terms of engagement. Toward this end work has also begun on terms-matching, which will allow engagement to go forward without the user being forced to “accept” terms on a site’s take-it-or-leave-it basis — thus eliminating a major source of friction in the marketplace. (Note: These one sided agreements are increasingly coming under fire by courts and regulators, thus creating a higher risk profile for organizations using them. EmanciPay seeks to lower or eliminate that risk altogether.)

As with Creative Commons, terms will be expressed in text and symbols that can be read easily by both software and people.

While there is no limit to payment choice options with EmanciPay, we plan to test these one at a time. The first planned trials are with Tipsy, which is itself the subject of another Knight News Challenge application, here. (Note: EmanciPay is not a micropayments system. It is a way for users to choose whatever amounts and methods of payment they like, whenever they like, with maximum ease.)

ProjectVRM has also been working with PRX and other members of the public radio community on ListenLog (the brainchild of Keith Hopper at NPR), which can currently be found on the Public Radio Player, an iPhone app that has been downloaded more than 2 million times, so far.

Other VRM development efforts, on identity and trust frameworks, and personal data stores (PDSes), will also be brought in to help with EmanciPay.

The plan now is to step up code development, get the code working in the world, test it, improve it, work with media and their CRM suppliers, and drive it to ubiquity.

How will your project improve the delivery of news and information to geographic communities?:

Two ways.

The first is with a new business model. Incumbent local and regional media currently have three business models: paid delivery (subscriptions and newsstand sales), advertising, and (in the case of noncommercial media) appeals for support. All of these have well-known problems and limitations. They are also controlled in a top-down way by the media organization, and cannot be managed from the user’s side, using tools native to the user. Thus they lack insight into what buyers really want. Accordingly, what we propose is a new supplementary system that makes it as easy as possible for anybody to pay anything for whatever they like, whenever they like, without going through the friction of becoming a “member” or otherwise coping with existing payment systems.

The second is a system for creating and sustaining relationships between the consumers and producers of news and information. EmanciPay is one among a larger box of VRM (vendor relationship management) tools by which individual consumers of news can also participate in the news development process. These tools are based on open source code and open standards, so they can be widely adopted and adapted to meet local needs.

CRM software companies, many of which supply CRM (customer relationship management) systems to media organizations, are also awaiting VRM developments. (The cover and much of a recent CRM Magazine were devoted to VRM.)

What unmet need does your proposal answer?:

EmanciPay meets need for maximum freedom and flexibility in paying for news and information, and for a media business model that does not depend only on advertising or the frictions of subscriptions and membership systems.

Right now most news and information is already free of charge on the Web, whether or not it costs money to subscribe or to buy those goods on newsstands. Meanwhile, paying for those goods voluntarily today ranges from difficult to impossible. Even the membership systems of public broadcasting exclude vast numbers of people who would contribute “if it was easy”.

EmanciPay will make it easy for consumers of news to become customers of news. It will allow customers to pay for what they want, when they want, in ways they want, and to initiate actual relationships with the news organizations they pay — on users’ own terms as well as those of news organizations.

How is your idea new?:

Equipping individuals with their own digital tools for exerting and controlling their means of engagement with suppliers is a new idea. So is basing those tools on open source and open standards.

There have also been no tools for expressing terms of engagement that match up with — and reform — those of sellers, rather than just submitting to what are known in law as contracts of adhesion: ones in which the dominant party is free to change what they please while the submissive party is nailed to whatever the dominant party dictates. Contracts of adhesion have been pro forma on the Web since the invention of the cookie in 1995, and EmanciPay is the first system developed to replace them. This system is entirely new, and is being developed by legal experts on the ProjectVRM team, aided by friends at Harvard Law School and other interested institutions. Once in place, its implications and reformations are likely to exceed even those of Creative Commons, because they address the demand as well as the supply side of the marketplace — and (like Creative Commons) do not require changes in standing law.

EmanciPay is also new in the sense that it is distributed, and does not require an intermediary. As with email (the protocols of which are open and distributed, by design), EmanciPay supports any number of intermediary services and businesses providing services to assist it.

What will you have changed by the end of the project?:

First, we will have changed the habits and methods by which people pay for the media goods they receive, starting with news and information.

Second, we will have established a new legal framework for agreements between buyers and sellers on the Web and in the networked world.

Third, we will have introduced to the world an intention economy, based on the actual intentions of buyers, rather than on guesswork by sellers about what customers might buy. (The latter is the familiar “attention economy” of advertising and promotion.)

Fourth, we will have introduced relationship systems that are not controlled by sellers, but instead are controlled and driven by the individuals who are each at the centers of their own relationships with many different entities. Thus relationships will be user-driven and not just organization-driven.

What terms best describe your project?:

Bold, original, practical, innovative and likely to succeed.

(I left out stuff where I was asked to flatter myself. Not my style; but hey, they made me do it.)

So far the place has 207 views and 20 ratings. It would help us if you could view it too, and rate it kindly. Recommendations going forward are welcome too.

And do the same for Tipsy and Banyan.

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