Category: social (page 1 of 2)

The VRM perspective

The VRM perspective is independence.Liberty Bell

This isn’t new. In fact, it’s as old as the Net. It is also nearly forgotten. Billions have never experienced it.

When the Net first came into common use, in 1995, independence was what anybody felt who started up a browser and surfed from place to place, or who built a site on a domain of one’s own, with its own name and email addresses.

To do anything substantive on the Net today, we use personalized services that require us to live inside corporate walled gardens. We have these with Google apps and Drive, Apple’s iCloud, and “social” systems such as Facebook and Twitter. Adobe and Microsoft are also now pushing hard for us to rent software as a service (SaaS), so we no longer own and run software for ourselves on our own machines.

Bruce Schneier compares today’s walled gardens to castles in a feudal system. We are vassals within these systems. Our job with VRM is not to fight these systems, but to equip individuals with their own tools of independence and engagement: to make them the points of integration for their own data, and of origination for what gets done with it.

To cease being vassals requires that we possess full agency: the power to act, with effect. We cannot do that without tools that are ours alone. Just as our bodies and souls are ours alone, yet also work in human society, we need tools that are ours alone, yet also work in the world of connections that comprises the Net.

To operate with full agency we need a full box of VRM tools — plus two other things. One is substitutability of the services we engage. The other is freedom of contract.

Substitutability means we have a choice, say, of intentcasting services, of quantified self gizmos and service providers, of health care data and service providers, and of trust networks and personal cloud service providers — just as we have a choice today among email service providers, including the choice to host our own email.

Freedom of contract means we don’t always have to subordinate our power and will to dominant parties in calf-cow ceremonies (e.g. clicking “accept” to one-sided terms we don’t read because there’s no point to it). We can design automated processes by which both parties come to mutually respectful agreements, just as we have with handshake agreements in the physical world.

Both of these virtues need to be design principles for VRM developers. If they are, we can save the Net by empowering ourselves.

 

Linklings

Here’s an overdue compilation of stuff I’ve been saving up to share. Many items have slipped through the cracks, but I want to get at least these up.

The plural of personal is social, by JP Rangaswami. The punchlines (read through — there are many):

Business is personal. It’s about relationships. It has always been so. Until we tried to forget it and concentrated on making money, not shoes. [As Peter Drucker said, people make shoes, not money]. Then, for a short while, business became not-personal.

As the Cluetrain guys signalled way back in 1999, the web was changing all that. Business was becoming personal again.

It comes as no surprise to me that salesforce.com was born during those heady times, as business started becoming personal again. It comes as no surprise to me that Marc Benioff understood that the plural of personal is social, and that it’s in the DNA of the company that he and Parker Harris founded. That’s why I went to work for them.

“Social” is not a layer. “Social” is not a feature. “Social” isn’t a product.

Social is about bringing being human back into business. About how we conduct business. About why we conduct business.

Social is something in people’s hearts, in people’s beings, in their DNA.

Man is born social.

Many companies were not.

And the companies that weren’t, they can’t just become social by buying layers or features or even products. Porcine unguents, nothing more.

You need to be reborn social.

You need to start thinking of the customer as someone to have a relationship with, to get to know, to invest in, to trust, to respect.

And you need to get everyone in the company to think that way, to act that way, in everything they do.

And you need to do this everywhere, not just with your customers. Not just with your supply web or your trading partners. Not just with your staff and your consultants.

Everyone. Everywhere.

The plural of personal is social.

Proof That Loyalty Is For Suckers: Best Customers Get Penalized With Higher Bills, by Brad Tuttle in Time. It begins,

We appreciate your business. And as thanks for being a loyal customer all these years, we’re going to overcharge you.

Auto insurers and other service providers don’t say this explicitly, of course. But that’s the message sent via the rates they charge different customers.

The curious, but obviously profitable business model, in which new customers get wooed with discounts and special deals, while the oldest, most loyal, best customers are “thanked” with bills that escalate over time, is standard practice among pay TV and wireless providers. The companies play up the idea that their products and services come with special introductory rates for new customers, rather than noting that there are penalties for customers who stick with the business for the long haul and don’t complain. But no matter which way the rate changes are spun, the results are the same.

Some VRooM-ish tools and services:

  • YaCy: “Web search by the people, for the people.” Some copy:  “YaCy is a free search engine that anyone can use to build a search portal for their intranet or to help search the public internet. When contributing to the world-wide peer network, the scale of YaCy is limited only by the number of users in the world and can index billions of web pages. It is fully decentralized, all users of the search engine network are equal, the network does not store user search requests and it is not possible for anyone to censor the content of the shared index. We want to achieve freedom of information through a free, distributed web search which is powered by the world’s users.”
  • Tails: “The amnesiac incognito live system.” Copy: “It helps you to use the Internet anonymously almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leave no trace using unless you ask it explicitly.”
  • Silent Circle: “Private encrypted communications tools.” Email, mobile phone, VoIP, text. Scroll down to founders & leadership. One is Phil Zimmerman, father of PGP.
  • Request Policy is “an extension for Mozilla browsers that increases your browsing privacysecurity, and speed by giving you control over cross-site requests.”

Market Research (MR to its denizens) gets an earful about VRM and The Intention Economy in
The 21st Century Battle for the Future of MR has begun: Empowered Consumers Versus “Darth Data”, by Kevin Lonnie in The Greenbook Blog.

I see some hope for getting more digital books out of silos in An RDF for Books, by Brian O’Leary.

For the privacy corner of VRM, dig Privacy, Masks and Religion, by Omer Tene in Concurring Opinions. It begins, “One of the most significant developments for privacy law over the past few years has been the rapid erosion of privacy in public.”

Klint Finley in TechCrunch makes some right-on observations about The Cloud, though he says “there being a few examples of … “vendor relationship management” idea in the wild, it still feels like vaporware to me.” Obviously I think he’s wrong, but we report the negative stuff here too. On the positive side, Scott Merrill wrote Doc Searls Would Like You to Join Him in the The Intention Economy, also in TechCrunch, back in May.

From Selling You: Not Just on Facebook, by Haydn Shaughnessy writes this in Forbes:

The reality is we need a different way of thinking about data, and in an age marked by innovation we shouldn’t find a reframe too difficult. We shouldn’t but we do. Generations of marketers have been brought up on an adversarial view of the customer, the target, the win…

In all the discussions we’ve had here in Forbes about social business we have yet to stray into the use and purpose of social data, as if we too largely accept that the adversarial view is the only one.

A couple of days back I tried to reflect an alternative view in for, example, how we might use LinkedIn data – it’s not only my view of course and I don’t want to claim any originality in it. For five years or more, maybe as far back as The ClueTrain Manifesto, people like Doc Searls have been arguing that the web makes a better commerce engine if we recognize all the power symmetries it brings. And there is an increasing number of projects that are taking up that logic.

CRM type data is old school – Tesco in the UK had signed up more than 15 million people to its ClubCard by 2009, that is over a third of the adult population of the country. It’s what companies did before the web. But it seems to be continuing even now that we have new possibilities.

There is no need to collect inference data on people and their possible choices. There is no adversary called customer. We have scaled up human interaction online where we can get closer to asking people, suggesting to them, and interacting with them.

So the future actually belongs to companies that take a symmetrical view of power…

From Another Bubble; Not Housing, by Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Blog in Business Insider:

Guys, we ARE in a bubble. I don’t care what you say. As an outsider, I can see it…

Like Facebook, Pinterest and Instgram have valuations that are guesses about the future of advertising.Will they be the next great places to advertise as we shift to mobile?

Pinterest may be worth more “nothing” than Instgram, however, because as Scoble pointed out, women have buying power, which is why brands cozy up to mommy bloggers. But they haven’t bought BlogHer, the platform on which those women express opinions, have they? Lisa, Jory and Elisa were pioneers in bringing women’s voices to the marketplace, and no one has offered them a billion. That’s because BlogHer is not a tool. But it should expose also the fact that simply being favored by women doesn’t confer $7b in value on a company.

More worrisome is the supposition that these apps will someday be good carriers of mobile advertising, even though as yet the advertising industry hasn’t solved the online ad effectiveness problem and even Facebook reported diminished revenues this quarter.

The advertising industry is in upheaval, over the value of online advertising per se, before it even tackles mobile. Publishers are going under right and left because customers don’t want to see ads online, and truly hate them on mobile . Here, especially, the user will control the conversation.

So the valuations of Pinterest and Instgram/FB are merely expensive guesses about the future of advertising, about whether the ad tech industry will figure out mobile in a non-invasive way. Yes, the open graph will be part of it, and the advertising will be targeted. But I am guessing that Doc Searls will be quoted here gain and again: markets are conversations, and customers will control them.

In Vendor Relationship Management: Making the Customer King, Stephen F. DeAngelis visits both The Intention Economy and The Customer As a God (my Wall Street Journal essay from July)

 

Let’s turn Do Not Track into a dialog

Do Not Track (DNT), by resembling Do Not Call in name, sounds like a form of prophylaxis.  It isn’t. Instead it’s a request by an individual with a browser not to be tracked by a website or its third parties. As a request, DNT also presents an interesting opportunity for dialogue between user and site, shopper and retailer, or anybody and anything. I laid out one possibility recently in my Inkwell conversation at The Well. Here’s a link to the page, and here’s the text of the post:

The future I expect is one in which buyers have many more tools than they have now, that the tools will be theirs, and that these will enable buyers to work with many different sellers in the same way.

One primitive tool now coming together is “Do Not Track” (or DNT): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_Not_Track It’s an HTTP header in a user’s browser that signals intention to a website. Browser add-ons or extensions for blocking tracking, and blocking ads, are also tools, but neither constitute a social protocol, because they are user-side only. The website in most cases doesn’t know ad or tracking blocking being used, or why. On the other hand, DNT is a social gesture. It also isn’t hostile. It just expresses a reasonable intention (defaulted to “on” in the physical world) not to be followed around.

But DNT opens the door to much more. Think of it as the opening to dialog:

User: Don’t track me.
Site: Okay, what would you like us to do?
User: Share the data I shed here back to me in a standard form, specified here (names a source).
Site: Okay. Anything else?
User: Here are my other preferences and policies, and means for matching them up with yours to see where we can agree.
Site: Good. Here are ours.
User: Good. Here is where they match up and we can move forward.
Site: Here are the interfaces to our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, so your VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) system can interact with it.
User: Good. From now on my browser will tell me we have a working relationship when I’m at your site, and I can look at what’s happening on both sides of it.

None of this can be contemplated in relationships defined entirely by the sellers, all of which are silo’d and different from each other, which is what we’ve had on the commercial Web since 1995. But it can be contemplated in the brick & mortar world, which we’ve had since Ur. What we’re proposing with VRM is nothing more than bringing conversation-based relationships that are well understood in the brick-and-mortar world into the commercial Web world, and weaving better marketplaces in the process.

A bit more about how the above might work:
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/vrm/2012/02/23/how-about-using-the-no-track-button-we-already-have/

And a bit more about what’s wrong with the commercial Web (so far, and it’s not hard to fix) here:
http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/vrm/2012/02/21/stop-making-cows-stop-being-calves /

So, to move forward, consider this post a shout-out to VRM developers, to the Tracking Protection Working Group at the W3C, to browser developers, to colleagues at Berkman (where Chris Soghoian was a fellow, about at the time he helped think up DNT) — and to everybody with the will and the ways to move forward on this thing.

And hey: it’s also our good luck that the next IIW is coming up at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, from October 23rd to 25th. IIW is the perfect place to meet and start hashing out DNT-D (I just made that up: DNT-Dialog) directions. IIW is an unconference: no keynotes, panelists or vendor booths. Participants vet and choose their own topics and break out into meeting rooms and tables. It’s an ideal venue for getting stuff done, which always happens, and why this is the 15th of them.

Meanwhile, let’s get in touch with each other and start making it happen.

Life Management Platforms

Kuppinger Cole, an analyst firm headquartered in Germany, has been hip to VRM for a long time.EIC award They gave ProjectVRM an award (that’s it there on the right) at the EIC (European Identity Conference) in 2008, and have been following VRM developments closely ever since. A number of VRM developers were there again at this year’s EIC, where I gave a keynote titled “Free Customers: The New Platform”, and the topic was front and center.

In fact VRM has always been about more than relating to vendors, which is another thing Kuppinger Cole has believed as well. It’s been about personal empowerment, and better means for dealing with all kinds of organizations. There are also many more VRM developers now than there were back then, with many different labels for what they do. We have personal data stores, lockers, vaults, clouds, services and networks, for example. We also have and much activity in overlapping and adjacent development areas, such as with quantified self work, which includes self-hacking, personal informatics, self-tracking and much more.

Martin Kuppinger now throws a loop around all of these with Life Management Platforms, which is also the subject of his paper here. I like the term, and think it does a good job of encompassing both the internal (self-managing) and external (relating with others) sides of VRM.

Martin’s latest post is Intention and Attention – how Life Management Platforms can improve Marketing, in which he notes the main thrust of The Intention Economy, and adds,

Taking this view, the one of Doc Searls, and the idea of Life Management Platforms the way we at KuppingerCole have it in mind shows that this is where things become really interesting: A Life Management Platforms allows expressing your Intention. The Intention is nothing other than a vital part of where your current Attention is focused. In other words: Knowing the Intention is about knowing at least an important part of the current Attention, which is much better than trying to change the Attention. Furthermore, Life Management Platforms could provide more information about the current Attention in real-time, but in a controlled way – controlled by the individual. That allows getting even more targeted information and makes this concept extremely attractive for everybody – the vendors and the individuals.

Control by the individual is what VRM has been about since the start. What I’d like to know now is how Life Management Platforms sits with VRM developers, and others who have been following or involved with VRM from the start.

VRM at IIW

VRM was a hot topic at IIW last week, with at least one VRM or VRM-related breakout per session — and that was on top of the VRM workshop held at Ericsson on Monday, April 30, the day before IIW started. (Thanks to Nitin Shah and the Ericsson folks for making the time and space available, in a great facility.) Here’s a quick rundown from the #IIW14 wiki:

Tuesday, May 1, Session 1

Tuesday, May 1,Session 2

Tuesday, May 1, Session 3

Tuesday, May 1,Session 4

Tuesday, May 1,Session 5

Wednesday, May 2, Session 1

Wednesday, May 2,Session 2

Wednesday, May 2,Session 3

Wednesday, May 2,Session 4

Wednesday, May 2,Session 5

Thurssday, May 3,Sessions 1-5

On Friday, May 4, I also visited with Jeremie Miller, Jason Cavnar and the Locker Project / Singly team in San Francisco. Very impressed with what they’re up to as well.

Bonus IIW linkage:

Your actual wallet vs./+ Google’s and Apple’s

Now comes news that Apple has been granted a patent for the iWallet. Here’s one image among many at that last link:

iwallet

Note the use of the term “rules.” Keep that word in mind. It is a Good Word.

Now look at this diagram from Phil Windley‘s Event Channels post:

event channels

Another term for personal event network is personal cloud. Phil visits this in An Operating System for Your Personal Cloud, where he says, “In contrast a personal event network is like an OS for your personal cloud. You can install apps to customize it for your purpose, it canstore and manage your personal data, and it provides generalized services through APIsthat any app can take advantage of.” One of Phil’s inventions is the Kinetic Rules Language, or KRL, and the rules engine for executing those rules, in real time. Both are open source. Using KRL you (or a programmer working for you, perhaps at a fourth party working on your behalf, can write the logic for connecting many different kinds of events on the Live Web, as Phil describes here).

What matters here is that you write your own rules. It’s your life, your relationships and your data. Yes, there are many relationships, but you’re in charge of your own stuff, and your own ends of those relationships. And you operate as  free, independent and sovereign human being. Not as a “user” inside a walled garden, where the closest thing you can get to a free market is “your choice of captor.”

Underneath your personal cloud is your personal data store (MyDex, et. al.), service (Higgins), locker (Locker Project / Singly), or vault (Personal.com). Doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as it’s yours, and you can move the data from one of these things into another, if you like, compliant with the principles Joe Andrieu lays out in his posts on data portability, transparency, self-hosting and service endpoint portability.

Into that personal cloud you should also be able to pull in, say, fitness data from Digifit and social data from any number of services, as Singly demonstrates in its App Gallery. One of those is Excessive Mapper, which pulls together checkins with Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. I only check in with Foursquare, which gives me this (for the U.S. at least):

Excessive Mapper

The thing is, your personal cloud should be yours, not somebody else’s. It should contain your data assets. The valuable nature of personal data is what got the World Economic Forum to consider personal data an asset class of its own. To help manage this asset class (which has enormous use value, and not just sale value), a number of us (listed by Tony Fish in his post on the matter) spec’d out the Digital Asset Grid, or DAG…

DAG

… which was developed with Peter Vander Auwera and other good folks at SWIFT (and continues to evolve).

There are more pieces than that, but I want to bring this back around to where your wallet lives, in your purse or your back pocket.

Wallets are personal. They are yours. They are not Apple’s or Google’s or Microsoft’s, or any other company’s, although they contain rectangles representing relationships with various companies and organizations:

Still, the container you carry them in — your wallet — is yours. It isn’t somebody else’s.

But it’s clear, from Apple’s iWallet patent, that they want to own a thing called a wallet that lives in your phone. Does Google Wallet intend to be the same kind of thing? One might say yes, but it’s not yet clear. When Google Wallet appeared on the development horizon last May, I wrote Google Wallet and VRM. In August, when flames rose around “real names” and Google +, I wrote Circling Around Your Wallet, expanding on some of the same points.

What I still hope is that Google will want its wallet to be as open as Android, and to differentiate their wallet from Apple’s through simple openness.  But, as Dave Winer said a few days ago

Big tech companies don’t trust users, small tech companies have no choice. This is why smaller companies, like Dropbox, tend to be forces against lock-in, and big tech companies try to lock users in.

Yet that wasn’t the idea behind Android, which is why I have a degree of hope for Google Wallet. I don’t know enough yet about Apple’s iWallet; but I think it’s a safe bet that Apple’s context will be calf-cow, the architecture I wrote about here and here. (In that architecture, you’re the calf, and Apple’s the cow.) Could also be that you will have multiple wallets and a way to unify them. In fact, that’s probably the way to bet.

So, in the meantime, we should continue working on writing our own rules for our own digital assets, building constructive infrastructure that will prove out in ways that require the digital wallet-makers to adapt rather than to control.

I also invite VRM and VRooMy developers to feed me other pieces that fit in the digital assets picture, and I’ll add them to this post.

Consumers are social, Customers are personal

Social media are a partial and temporary solution at best to a pair of linked problems that are essentially personal:

  1. dysfunctional customer relationship management on the vendor’s side; and
  2. minimal vendor relationship management on the customer’s side.

In the absence of solutions to both problems, vendors still see customers as consumers, and that too is a problem that hasn’t yet come to a head, because we still don’t fully grok the difference between consumers and customers. As a result, we think social media looks like a the good answer rather than a better question. That question is, How can we get companies and media to stop treating us as consumers and start treating us as real customers?

To see what needs to be done, check out Consumers Punish Companies that Ignore Them, by Eric Sass in MediaPost. In that piece Eric sources a pair of Conversocial studies that contain plenty of grist for social media and marketing mills. Here they are, from the Conversocial blog:

Here are some samplings from Eric’s gleanings:

  • “…more than 60% of complaints and question about retailers posted online on social media are ignored, in part because of the sheer volume of content created on sites like Twitter and Facebook.”
  • “30% of the retail chains surveyed don’t respond to any questions or complaints posted on social media, effectively choosing to ignore issues mentioned in these forums.”
  • “…78% believe that social media platforms will soon replace other means of customer service altogether or at least become one of the top ways to communicate with corporations.”
  • “…among the group which has communicated with companies via social media, 32.5% said they were either neglected or totally ignored; that works out to 16.5% of the total…This included ‘inadequate response times, unanswered queries, and overall unmet expectations.’
  • “What’s more, ‘respondents were also adamant that such corporate behaviors would have some or much effect on their future decision to do business with offending corporations.’
  • “27.3% of respondents said being ignored by companies on social media makes them ‘very angry,’ and 27.1% said they’d stop doing business with the offending company altogether.”
  • “88.3% of respondents said they’d be somewhat or far less likely to do business with a company that has visibly ignored other customers’ questions or complaints on social media. That includes 49.5% who said they would be ‘far less likely, and 38.8% who said they’d be ‘somewhat less likely.’”

Note that the blame here is on offending companies; not on social media, or on the absence of something better.

This is understandable because social media offer radically new and helpful avenues both for customer feedback one one side and customer support on the other. Also, social media is where Conversocial is coming from, and what MediaPost reports on. The problem for both — and for all of us thinking and talking about this stuff inside the social media framework — is that consumers are a statistical category while customers are individual human beings.

Individual human beings are all different. They are not categories, and they cannot be treated with full respect only by templates, which is what vendors — especially those serving mass markets — tend to use.

And, while social media do provide ways to get personal (say, though one’s @-handle on Twitter), they don’t have personal relationships with their users. That’s because social media users are not customers of them, because they don’t pay for them. And if you don’t pay, you’re the product being sold.

The actual customers of Facebook and Twitter are advertisers, not users. Because of this, social media has exactly the same un-visited problem that commercial broadcasting has had for the duration: its consumers and its customers are different populations. Financial accountability is to those that pay, which are advertisers, not users. Yes, there are moral and operational obligations to users, but economically speaking those obligations are lesser ones. They are those of a farmer to crops, not of a store to actual customers.

For now social media are a useful and popular way for customers to send messages to companies — and to route around inadequate customer service systems (or, in the vernacular of the trade, using sCRM routing around or to improve CRM) — the failures listed by Conversocial are not just those of companies ignoring social media, but of social media itself.

There is a structural problem as well, because social media are still only semi-personal. They are a weak substitute for direct contact — meaning that, in a person-to-person sense, even email and telephony are better.

Improving each company’s customer service systems and policies (which the Conversocial studies call for) also isn’t enough, because each company’s system is different, and all of them are silo’d. Thus the way you deal as a customer with Nordsrom, Safeway, Amazon and Apple are all different, and incompatible. If you want, say, to change your address or your phone number with all of them at once, you don’t have a single way to do that. You also don’t have a standard way to publish your own terms and conditions of engagement, to say for example “don’t track me outside of your own store or site” or “any data you collect is mine as well as yours, and should be available to me in the standard way I describe.”

Tools for doing that would have to live on your side of the relationship. Not the vendor’s, not the CRM cloud’s, and not Facebook’s. If you are a real customer, and not just a consumer or a user, you need your own tools. You need VRM — Vendor Relationship Management — tools, to work together with vendors CRM tools, not to replace them. The demand chain and the supply chain will work together.

The only case against VRM is that companies serving mass markets can’t afford to be personal, and just won’t go there. This was also the argument against PCs and the Internet. History and enterprising developers proved both cases wrong.

In fact enterprising developers in the VRM community have been working on personal tools for the last five years or more — tools that make customers both independent of vendors and better able to engage with vendors. It helps that the CRM community is aware of VRM developments, and has been awaiting them for some time. This is the year that wait will pay off. We’ll finally see VRM developments mature and start to become useful, both for customers and for vendors. So, watch the space.

Bonus link: Alan Mitchell’s comment below. I love how he says social media marketing is among “the grandest imperialist invasions of them all. The attempt to occupy day-to-day human interaction and turn it into a profit centre.” Indeed.

Also, to answer questions raised below, I have posted Customers are personal, cont’d.

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.

Personal RFP

Terry Heaton just pointed me to . A couple paragraphs:

Any wasting asset–a restaurant table, a seat at a conference, a wasting box of fish–can be efficiently used instead of wasted if we use technology to identify and coordinate buyers.

Synchronizing buyers to improve efficiency and connection is a high-value endeavor, and it’s right around the corner. It will permit mesh products, better conferences, higher productivity and less waste, while giving significant new power to consumers and those that organize them.

Seth’s talking about aggregation here: people getting together in groups to assert demand. This is a good idea, but I don’t think it’s VRM. Not exactly, anyway.

VRM starts with one customer, expressing demand in his or her own ways, rather than in aggregate, or in ways provided by one commercial system or another. (For example, this blog is my own way of publishing. I’m not using Facebook or Twitter or anybody’s system.)

We don’t yet have a single, canonical VRMmmy way to issue a personal RFP, or to have it heard. Rather than explain what a personal RFP is, let’s just lift the whole entry from the page by that title in the ProjectVRM wiki:

Personal RFP

An RFP is a buyer-initiated procurement protocol used by businesses, governments and other large organizations. It is, literally, what the letters stand for: a Request For Proposal. Among a suite of similar TLAs (three letter acronyms) that begin with “Request for” — RFI (Request for Information), RFQ (Request for Quotation), RFT (Request for Tender) — RFP is the most familiar.

RFPs, however, are about as personal as heavy construction. They’re something only big organizations do.

In a VRM context, however, an RFP is something an individual should be able to do in the open marketplace. An individual should be able to issue an RFP that says, for example,

- “I need a stroller for twins in Glasgow in the next three hours.” – “I need a ThinkPad T60 power supply near SFO this afternoon.” – “I need to rent a minivan that seats six and has a roof rack in Salt Lake City next week.” – “I need wheel rims for a 1967 Peugeot 404.” – “I need a 200 watt 220-110 volt power converter in Copenhagen this afternoon”

[Scott Adams calls this] “broadcast shopping.”

The customer can also provide a sum he or she is willing to pay. He or she should be able to do this in a way that is secure and involves minimal disclosure of personal information.

There are many ways this can be done now, through non-substitutable websites and services. Craigs List and eBay both provide means for requesting products. Twitter does too. And Etsy.

What makes a personal RFP a VRM protocol is the substitutability of the services answering the request. The customer should be able to express demand in the open marketplace rather than only within a single intermediary’s silo or walled garden.

Personal RFPs can be thought of as a form by which demand advertises to supply, rather than vice versa. It involves no guesswork about what the customer wants, or whether there is money on the table.

As matters currently stand, there is an enormous sum of demand — such as the RFPs mentioned above — that can result in MLOTT (Money Left On The Table) if the supply side fails to hear the demand and complete a sale. There is no equivalent of the RFP, RFI and RFQ for individuals. Yet the demand exists. Money is there. What we need is the table.

That table is a set of protocols, rituals and systems for routing requests from demand to supply, and responses back. Setting up that table is a primary challenge for VRM.

There are sites that do this. RedBeacon is one. But can we imagine issuing a personal RFP without an intermediary like RedBeacon?

We’ve visited this question before. Wondering what we’ve learned in the (nearly) two years since then.

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.
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