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Come to VRM & Personal Cloud Day

Tomorrow, Monday 21 October, is VRM and Personal Cloud Day at the Computer History Museum. Register at that link. It’s free. Or just show up. (Registering gives us a better idea of head count.)

It’s the time and place to brainstorm about both topics, plus what we’ll be discussing and moving forward the following three days at IIW, also at the CHM.

More details here.

It’s all about leverage on the future. So be there.

Cracks in the walls of the online advertising castle

On the advice of @SteveLohr and @michikokakutani ‘s review in The New York Times, I just ordered Dave Eggers‘ The Circle — a tale of the dystopian present taken to its future extreme: a world where we are all fully devolved into data, and one big company serves us exactly the poop it knows — and helps — us want.

Provided, of course, that there is still money in it.

But there won’t be. The most vulnerable big money game in the commercial Web today is advertising — and it’s headed for a dive, if not a crash. That’s the case @TimHwang and @AdiKamdar make in The Theory of Peak Advertising and the Future of the Web. It’s also the one @DonMarti makes in Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful, and that I make too, in both The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge and Beyond the Advertising Bubble, a post I put up earlier today at Customer Commons.

In addition to the evidence compiled in those sources, there’s Flash Ad Takeovers Drive 55% of Consumers Away (by Tyler Loechner in MediaPost). The headline actually understates the case. Here’s the opener:

Adblade, a content-style ad network, commissioned a study carried out by research company Toluna which found that 82% of consumers feel that online ads are “detrimental” to their online experience at least some of the time. The report focused on questions revolving around the obtrusiveness of ads…

The emphasis is mine, not that it’s required. More stats:

When it comes to ads causing one to navigate away from content, an overwhelming majority (55%) of respondents said flash ad takeovers are most likely to do the trick. The ad type that is second-most likely to drive consumers away from a page are right-side banner ads (10.4%). Pre-roll (9%), top banner (8.5%), and middle-of-the-page ads (7.1%) round out the top five.

The source might be a bit self-serving, though. See here:

Over 66% of respondents believe middle-of-the-page ads to be the most obtrusive, compared to just 4% for end-of-article ads.

Adblade specializes in end-of-article ad placements, so those particular results play into their hands.

Still, we’re talking about least-aversive stuff here.

That’s always been an imperative of sub-optimal advertising, though not of advertising that actually appeals. And indeed, appealing advertising does exist. Every fat magazine testifies to the fact of advertising that appeals in some settings at least as much as does the editorial. Note that those ads are not personal, and depend not at all on surveillance of privacy invasions of any kind. They simply do a good job of sending strong signals — economic and otherwise — to populations that are interested in them.

The other breed of in-demand advertising, I would ad, are classifieds. The success of Craigslist and Google’s (search-results) Adwords  attest to that as well. Note that those don’t creep us out. At their best, they just work.

And that’s what always wins in the long run.

Why Google and Facebook need to go direct

In Google sets plans to sell users’ endorsements, and describe new ways that Google and Facebook are taking liberties with users who have had nice things to say about companies’ products and services in the past, in contexts where they didn’t expect their words to turn into personal endorsements (especially ones for which they are not paid). Specifically,

Google on Friday announced that it would soon be able to show users’ names, photos, ratings and comments in ads across the Web, endorsing marketers’ products. Facebook already runs similar endorsement ads. But on Thursday it, too, took a step to show personal information more broadly by changing its search settings to make it harder for users to hide from other people trying to find them on the social network.

(on the left) An example of a Google shared endorsement…

The problem, privacy advocates say, is when Web companies use or display the personal information of users in ways the authors did not expect when they originally posted it.

“People expect when they give information, it’s for a single use, the obvious one,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, a psychoanalyst and founder of Patient Privacy Rights, an advocacy group. “That’s why the widening of something you place online makes people unhappy. It feels to them like a breach, a boundary violation.”

“We set our own boundaries,” she added. “We don’t want them set by the government or Google or Facebook.”

There is a simple reason why Google and Facebook feel free to take these kinds of liberties: we pay them nothing, so they feel free to make us the product they sell, rather than the customers they serve.

This kind of abuse (and it is exactly that) will cost more value than it adds, for example with the Times story and this post. Even if the costs aren’t obvious on bottom lines, the negative externalities are large, and growing.

So here’s a simple suggestion for both companies: go freemium. Charge for value-added services, such as genuine, accountable privacy, within circles that customers (no longer just “users” or “consumers”) help define. We are legion, and you are increasing our numbers every day.

Online advertising is already post-peak and possibly headed toward oblivion, at least for ads that aren’t whitelisted by the likes of Adblock Plus. Ad and tracking blockers and enlightened browser makers, all working for the demand side of the marketplace, have their fingers on a pulse that Google, Facebook and the other ad-supported Web companies ignore. Enlightened as they are about their algorithms, analytics and infrastructures, they are literally senseless toward the consumers they sell to their customers — and the far greater return on investment they would get if lots of those consumers were customers as well.

A couple years ago I heard a Google executive say the company would never “go direct” because it was an “engineering company” and that didn’t want to make less than $1 million per employee. The implication was that going direct would require lower-wage and lower-skill workers in call centers — and other forms of non-engineering-type overhead. Yet there are plenty of highly profitable companies that do high quality service (call centers and all) with plenty of margin. For example: Apple and Amazon.

The writing is on the wall, big guys. Time to wake up and smell the demand for respect, privacy and genuine service. It’s huge.

And, if you’re ready to talk about it (or anything), come to IIW the week after next, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. It’s cheap. (Heck, Google is already a sponsor — and we do thank them for that.) It’s an unconference, so we can easily make “going direct” a topic there. (Hey, if you don’t, one of us will.)

Speaking of negative externalities, here’s the bonus linkage recommended by Zemanta:

Link-o-rama

VRM

  • There is an interesting correlation happening right now between online advertisers and adblocking technology: they’re both growing. By Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus, in RealBusiness. Pull-quotage…”Our ultimate consideration, however, should lie in keeping these decisions in the users’ hands. So, adblockers should not rid the Internet of all advertising, they should give users the choice to rid their version of the Internet of annoying advertising. Giving the public control is the crux on which the entire issue pivots.”On this front we are not alone. We’ve found common ground with user-rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and researchers like Doc Searls and his Harvard-based VRM-Project. In addition, groups like Mozilla and news outlets like CNET have recommended this approach.”We believe in an Acceptable Ads initiative to provide a middle ground for a sustainable advertising landscape. Websites that wish to do so apply to be whitelisted and if their ads conform to the established guidelines, users see the ads they serve under default settings.”
  • Till also wrote this piece, in French for Rue89. I believe it’s the same one, but not sure.
  • Mobile Is Huge — But Two Key Elements Could Slow Its Growth. By Terry Heaton in StreetFight. Sez Terry…”We’re weary of running a relentless gauntlet of jumping, screaming, frantic warnings, hands grabbing, voices shouting, noise-making, disjointed movements, and the almost demonic reaching for our wallets coming from advertising. This is Madison Avenue’s idea of perfection, and the only way you can get there is to completely ignore the effect of advertising on the very people you’re trying to influence. The Web is, at core, a pull mechanism, not one that pushes. It’s why all those big projections of advertising “potential” have turned into a commodified “pennies for dollars” reality.”Doc Searls is onto something with his “Vendor Relationship Management (Project VRM)” concept at Harvard, for it fits the postmodern cultural shift like a glove. VRM is all about empowered consumers who send advertising messages back to the market, where they are bid on by service and goods providers, and you can bet that it will be primarily a local experience (although let’s not underestimate companies like Amazon). In the VRM model, there are ‘fourth parties’ who work on behalf of consumers to send the messages to third parties representing the manufacturers, retailers, or whatever.”
  • Fundamental Features of Persistent Compute Objects by Phil Windley.
  • My Dryer: A SquareTag Case Study By Phil Windley.
  • CRM Meets VRM: How a Personal Cloud Network Will Enable Real Vendor Relationship Management. A Respect Network event. Watch that space for a recording of the webinar.
  • Bill Wendel, Real Estate VRooMer, on the above. In answer to “How can homeowners who are watching the housing market to decide when to sell,” “How would they issue that IntentCast?” and “Right now, there is a shortage of inventory, so seems the opportunity for intentcasting (in real estate) is at hand,” Bill writes,  Eager to pursue answers to that question at IIW, and glad to Hangout on Google before that event with others interested in real estate use cases, or what we call reVRM.  For 22 idea starters, see reVRM-Minifesto on slides 13-15: http://bit.ly/reVRMgameChanger
  • #datatuesday, a #VRM event in Paris.
  • Personal Clouds Are Rolling In, by Elizabeth Glagowski of Peppers & Rogers Group. A flattering short piece. (Small correction: I am no longer a fellow at the Berkman Center — which I was from 2006-2010 — but remain involved while continuing to run ProjectVRM.)

Intention Economy

  • The Art and Science of Creating a Psychic Brand, by BusinessWire, for Peppers & Rogers. It begins, “Many companies today are still trying to scale relationships with their customers – by minimizing actual human contact, scripting human interactions and treating customers according to antiquated stereotypes and profiles. In reality, brands should be ‘treating customers like the gods by whose grace every company exists.’ Those words, chosen by Doc Searls, author of The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge, may seem a bit excessive, but they are as true as they are shocking to hear. Customers are the gods of any brand, they can give it life or banish it into obscurity – in order to thrive, it is important for a brand to be psychic, so it can anticipate the will of the gods and avoid their wrath.”
  • Everything you think about big data is wrong! By Tracey Parsons in Social Media Explorer. Pull-quotage: “We must change the way we think about customers“When we remember that our customers are people and not “consumers” or “targets” we can better treat them like people. Brands desperately want relationships with their customers. Customers just want their toothpaste. They don’t want big data, but they might want a coupon for toothpaste. They are not thinking about us in the same way we are thinking about them. In fact, customers are getting wise to our trickery and it is having quite the opposite effect. Instead of thinking about our products, they are thinking about ways to block our product messages. They are looking for ways to hide from us. They are feeling stalked.”Trust me when I say that I understand that tracking and building shopper profiles allow us to measure our work. Measuring our work is one of the most critical challenges marketing leaders face today. Showing a return on investment keeps many awake at night. But if the data is bad and turning off our customers, it is time we look for new ways to reach customers. We need to be thinking about small data, personal data, one person’s data, not big data. We should be thinking about intentions and how we can allow our customers to share their intention with us in a way that is not creepy. People are not ones and zeroes. They are more than that, and we need to start treating them that way.”Project VRM inspired this post. If you have some time this fall, do read The Intention Economy.”
  • If ad-blockers threaten revenue, then what’s the solution? By Colin Strong in Newsline. Pull-quotage: “Just as robotics expert Masahiro Mori first suggested in the early 1970s, perhaps there is an ‘Uncanney Valley’ where automated systems get too human like and leave us feeling ‘creeped out’. If we accept this premise then there comes a point at which targeted advertising ceases to improve in effectiveness and consumers get turned off. And this is perhaps an indication that a new era of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) may start to replace the current authority of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This is a world in which consumers are actively managing their relationship with brands rather than being the passive recipient of advertising. The term for this shift, created by academic and commentator Doc Searls, is the Intention Economy. In the Intention Economy consumers take responsibility for holding their own data about themselves in personal clouds, collecting it from a variety of government agencies and brands – which forms a fundamentally new value exchange between brands and consumers. So consumers are placed firmly at the centre of their own personal data, being able to collect and integrate it from a multitude of different sources. Consumers may choose to provide brands with selected parts of this data when they wish to engage with them on a purchase decision.”
  • The Cost of Identity in the Personal Data Economy. By John C. Havens in Huffington Post. Writes John,’We have to rethink our institutional structures.’ John Henry Clippinger is a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab Human Dynamics Group and the cofounder and Executive Director of ID3, (the Institute for Institutional Innovation & Data Driven Design). He and his ID3 cofounder, Alex “Sandy” Pentland have created The Open Mustard Seed Project (OMS) to combat the existing model of data exchange for the Internet economy. ‘There’s a logic among companies that collect data which is, If I can get away with something, I can do it,’ notes Clippinger. ‘But they don’t understand the ecosystem they’re creating.’”OMS is building a data banking methodology through a technical architecture they call the, ‘Trustworthy Compute Framework’ (TCF). This allows users to create their own personal data cloud that reverses the current transactional nature of the ‘freemium’ Internet economy. Instead of individuals sacrificing their data in exchange for services, they create general preferences around which companies they’d like to engage with and how. Here’s how the Open Mustard Seed wiki describes the need for this new paradigm:

    Users have not had an easy or reliable means to express their preferences for how their personal data may be accessed and used, especially when one context (a bank) differs so much from another (a health care provider) and still others (family and friends). A user may not know with whom they are really transacting, nor can they readily verify that their privacy preferences are actually respected and enforced.

    “OMS lets users curate their digital personas and manage the data they collect, produce and distribute. They can also pre-determine privacy and other settings for social networks or transactions with brands. This is a critical idea regarding personal data banks — they don’t hinder transactions with companies looking to communicate with consumers. Relationships are actually enhanced via increased trust since people know what organizations will do with their data, and will be more likely to volunteer specifics about their lives in this new transparent framework. (This is an idea known as Vendor Relationship Management, or VRM, eloquently elaborated in the book, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge, by Doc Searls.)

    “Clippinger is evangelistic about the timing for a solution like OMS, noting what will happen if we don’t change the tide of how our data is managed in the current Internet economy — ‘If you don’t have an open platform, you don’t have an open society.’

    BTW, John was for a long time a Senior Fellow at the Berkman Center, and brought me in as a fellow there, back in 2006.

Trends

Advertising and Marketing

VRM at IIW

We’re coming up on the 17th Internet Identity Workshop, better known as IIW. It takes place on 22-24 October at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

While IIW’s title suggests a focus on identity, there are as many different foci as there are subjects to discuss, and the participants choose those. That’s because IIW is an un-conference. It has no speakers, no keynotes, no corporate agenda. There are sponsors, but they just cover the meals and the free espresso bar. Topics are suggested by participants at the beginning of each day, and then everybody heads to breakout rooms to talk about those topics and move them forward. Sometimes code gets written too.

VRM as a topic grew to a large degree out of conversations at IIW — and many VRM topics have moved forward at IIW breakout sessions. If you want to move your own topic(s) forward, there is not a better instrument for doing that than IIW. Last time we talked about these, among many other topics:

  • Identity
  • VRM
  • Personal clouds
  • Better “social” login
  • Authentication (e.g. Oauth2)
  • Data portability
  • Mobility
  • Surveillance
  • Security
  • Legal issues
  • Business issues
  • Cultural and social issues
  • Cool new and old devices
  • Trust frameworks

You can register here.

In addition we will have VRM and Personal Cloud Day, also at the Computer History Museum, just before IIW. Register at that link. It’s free.

While this day has usually been free-form, this time we are structuring it to get maximum leverage for VRM topics and projects heading into IIW. Kaliya (Identity Woman), who also organizes IIW (with Phil Windley and myself), will facilitate the day’s proceedings. She explains on the registration site,

Our overall goal is to support all those working in the VRM and Personal Cloud space knowing who else is there, what they are working on, find key synergies and opportunities for collaboration, and coordinate and brainstorm about ideas for sessions during IIW.

Opening and Context Setting
We are inviting T.Rob to give us a presentation about the industry landscape as he sees it along with future challenges and opportunities.

Community Landscape Mapping
We will spend an hour or two figuring out who is doing what in the emerging ecosystem.
The goal will be to have a comprehensive map that clusters key projects and efforts to collaborate and prevent folks from re-inventing wheels.

Please bring an 8.5×11 print out to the Day with the
* Logo of your Company or Project
* Name of your Company or Project
* Description of your product
* Description of other ecosystem components that your product needs to work

Both this day’s activities and IIW are designed to maximize leverage on the future. So be there.

Why reduce yourself to a qualified lead?

I have almost 46,000 photos in my main Flickr account. Most of them face the public rather than just friends and family. All of my public-facing photos encourage re-use and re-mixing, through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license. And frankly, if Flickr made public domain dedication available as a choice I would use that, because I want the photos to be maximally useful in the world.

As a result of this policy, more than 350 of those photos have found their way onto Wikimedia Commons. Many — perhaps most — of those also find their way into Wikipedia, where they are used to illustrate the topic of articles there. The Wikipedia article Upheaval Dome (an ancient crater in Utah), for example, uses this photo in Wikimedia Commons, copied from  this one I put up on Flickr. This one, of Denver International Airport’s toothy roof, is in about thirty different Wikipedia articles, in many different languages. It’s not a great photograph and far from my favorite, but I’m glad it’s proven so useful.

Now, what is this data worth? In terms of money, some of the photos have brought me hundreds of dollars, even though I didn’t ask for a dime. Those using the photos simply wanted to pay me. But, overall, the value of any one photo — or hell, the whole corpus — rounds to $0.

Now, if I had wanted to, I could have reserved all rights to these photos, or granted some to, say, Getty Images, and made money that way. It’s possible I could have made quite a bit, if not a living. For example, I could have sold my photos of ice crystals to NBC for its Winter Olympics in 2011, instead of giving them away. (And maybe I could have gotten some perks out of NBC, perhaps for tickets or a hotel room. But I didn’t do that either.)

What matters to me about my photos is their use value, not their sale value. (A difference Eric S. Raymond unpacks nicely.) This is true of everything we own or rent. Every once in awhile we might toss or sell off stuff that has more sale than use value to us, and in those times we’ll take either nothing or far less than we paid for it in the first place. My point here is that we possess and share stuff  almost entirely for its use value. Not because we might be able to sell it as well.

Yet because a lot of our data — or data about us — is collected by other parties, the question of sale value comes up. So, the question goes, If Facebook Can Profit From Your Data, Why Can’t You? That’s the headline of an MIT Technology Reviewpiece with the subhead, “Reputation.com says it’s ready to unveil a place where people can offer personal information to marketers in return for discounts and other perks.” That was dated July 30 of this year. On September 1, TechCrunch followed up with Handshake Is A Personal Data Marketplace Where Users Get Paid To Sell Their Own Data. (Handshake is Reputation.com‘s new offering.) Pull-quote:

Well, here’s a startup that wants to make this money-for-data transfer a little more explicit — by acting as a platform for consumers to sell their own data directly to companies and make some of that filthy lucre themselves.

They’re not alone. Enliken has been offering something like this for awhile. With Glome “you can anonymously control the Web’s offerings and get paid for interacting with businesses.” Ye$ Profile lets you “rent your profile to brands.” Datacoup provides “the first personal data marketplace.” In Who Owns the FutureJaron Lanier makes a similar case, some of which you can see and hear in Should we get paid for our online data, on NPR’s Here and Now program. I also just spotted a new UK company, CTRLio, getting into the game as well, though the text of its video sounds like many of the other companies in the personal data store, vault and locker business. You’ll find those under “Personal Data and Relationship Management” on the Developers List page of the ProjectVRM wiki.

Meanwhile the amounts paid for personal data, within today’s personalized advertising data mills, are miniscule on a per-item (or even a per-person) basis. Financial worth of data comes in at under a penny a piece, says the headline of a Financial Times story. (The rest is behind a paywall.)

But there has always been a market for what salesfolk call “qualified leads.” For a glimpse of that appetite, do this search and see what comes up: https://www.google.com/search?q=qualified+leads. Or go see David Mamet‘s Glengarry Glen Ross.

Why would anybody want to be one of those leads?

The answer is to get better offers, or better deals, whatever those may be. There is no shortage of people who live for this kind of thing. The demographic  bulls-eye of this broad cohort stars in TLC’s Extreme Couponing. Pull-quote: “It’s even better than sex.” If that’s you, rock on. If it’s not, read on.

Here’s a simple fact: if you’re exchanging data for money, offers or both, you’re in the qualified leads business — as a lead. This is an old business with a new model: for you. It also respects some rude facts of life in the digital sphere today:

  1. Data about you is being harvested constantly, and in more ways, every day.
  2. You have few ways of controlling that harvesting, other than to plug a few leaks here and there, for example with tracking blockers in browsers.
  3. That data is being sold to marketers who already want to give you more personalized advertising and/or better offers.
  4. You’re already participating in this system, whether you like it or not

Speaking personally, I have little faith that any of these systems will succeed, for three reasons. First is that each company appears to be building its own closed and silo’d marketplace, and I’m not a fan of those. Second is that the actual size of the markets will be too small. Third is that it will gradually dawn on people that use value trumps sales value.

This is especially true in the subscription economy, which includes all ongoing service businesses. This is where the R in VRM will have the most meaning, and find the most opportunity. I also believe it is a vast new greenfield, and relatively free of current marketing manias.

But my mind isn’t closed about it. VRM is a big greenhouse. Let every flower bloom.

Link logging

Research

  • Most Americans Confused By Cloud Computing According to National Survey. “For example, 51 percent of respondents, including a majority of Millennials, believe stormy weather can interfere with cloud computing. Nearly one third see the cloud as a thing of the future, yet 97 percent are actually using cloud services today via online shopping, banking, social networking and file sharing. Despite this confusion, three in five (59 percent) believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud, which indicates people feel it’s time to figure out the cloud or risk being left behind in their professional lives.” By Kim DeCarlis, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Citrix. “Methodological Notes: The Citrix Cloud Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research  www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,006 nationally representative American adults ages 18 and older, between Aug. 2-7, 2012, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 18 and older.”

Developments

Bloggings

Leveraging Whitman

On the ProjectVRM list the conversation has once again drifted to identity.

Nearly all conversation about identity in development circles around stuff Devon Loffreto of Noizivy calls administrative. It’s a good term. That’s what we get from every card some company, school or government agency prints with our name on it and we stick in our wallet. It’s what we also get from “social” login shortcuts such as Facebook’s and Twitter’s.

Regardless of the conveniences these administrative things bestow on us, what they provide is not our true identity. It might be one we use, but it is not imbued with our fully human essence, which Devon calls sovereign. In Recalibrating Sovereignty he makes a strong connection between that personal essence and what we write large (in the U.S. at least) as a nation-state of free people. Or that’s the idea anyway.

I don’t see this as a Libertarian thing (though I am sure Libertarians will find it agreeable). I see it as an elementary expression of what makes us most human: our individuality. This is not in conflict with what also makes us social, or the social nature of political, cultural, economic, educational and other institutions. Rather it enriches all of them. Saying that each of us is sovereign goes deeper than saying each of us is unique. Because we are not merely different. Each of us brings our own genius into the world. (Read John Taylor Gatto on genius, which he considers “common as dirt.”) Even genetically identical twins possess profoundly individual souls. That individuality is at the core of identity.

Right now I’m reading Orson Scott Card‘s Tales of Alvin Maker. By the fourth book Alvin’s surname has changed from Miller (what Alvin’s father was) to Smith (what Alvin was trained to be) to Maker (what Alvin becomes), each one expressing his role in the world. The name Maker identifies Alvin’s sovereign nature — one that transcends the identifier and is rooted in his nature as a sovereign soul. (The Tales are set in an early stage of American history in which this kind of choice was a common one. Check your own surname for evidence of what some ancestor did for a living. Searls, as I understand it, is a variation of Searle, which likely descends from Serlo, a Germanic or Norman word for soldier.)

From slightly later than Alvin’s time comes Walt Whitman, the great American poet, and a tireless advocate of personal sovereignty — though I’m not aware that he ever put those two words together. Rather than explain Whitman, I’ll compress further the abridged Song of Myself that put up on the Web more than seventeen years ago:

I know I am solid and sound.
To me the converging objects of the universe
perpetually flow.
All are written to me,
and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless.
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept
by a carpenter’s compass,

I know that I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself
or be understood.
I see that the elementary laws never apologize.

I exist as I am, that is enough.
If no other in the world be aware I sit content.
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware, and by far the largest to me,
and that is myself.
And whether I come to my own today
or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I cheerfully take it now,
or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite.
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

I speak the password primeval.
I give the sign of democracy.
By God, I will accept nothing which all cannot have
their counterpart on the same terms.

Encompass worlds but never try to encompass me.
I crowd your noisiest talk by looking toward you.

It is time to explain myself. Let us stand up.

I am an acme of things accomplished,
and I an encloser of things to be.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me.
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing,
the vapor from the nostrils of death.
I know I was even there.
I waited unseen and always.
And slept while God carried me
through the lethargic mist.
And took my time.

Long I was hugged close. Long and long.
Infinite have been the preparations for me.
Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me.

Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing
like cheerful boatmen;
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings.
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

Before I was born out of my mother
generations guided me.
My embryo has never been torpid.
Nothing could overlay it.
For it the nebula cohered to an orb.
The long slow strata piled to rest it on.
Vast vegetables gave it substance.
Monstrous animals transported it in their mouths
and deposited it with care.

All forces have been steadily employed
to complete and delight me.
Now I stand on this spot with my soul.

I know that I have the best of time and space.
And that I was never measured, and never will be measured.

I tramp a perpetual journey.
My signs are a rainproof coat, good shoes
and a staff cut from the wood.

Each man and woman of you I lead upon a knoll.
My left hand hooks you about the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes and continents,
and a plain public road.

Not I, nor any one else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born
and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Shoulder your duds, and I will mine,
and let us hasten forth.

If you tire, give me both burdens and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip.
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me.

Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams.
Now I wash the gum from your eyes.
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waited,
holding a plank by the shore.
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again,
and nod to me and shout,
and laughingly dash your hair.

I am the teacher of athletes.
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own
proves the width of my own.
He most honors my style
who learns under it to destroy the teacher.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then. I contradict myself.
I am large. I contain multitudes.

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me.
He complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed. I too am untranslatable.
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

No administrative entity can make that barbaric yawp.

I don’t yet know how to create a Whitman-compliant identity system (or, whatever); though my hope persists that there is already one or more in the world. Should somebody produce that system (or whatever), I’ll gladly give them SpottedHawk.com, which I’ve held for many years (with other suffixes as well), waiting like Whitman:

The last scud of day holds back for me.
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any
on the shadowed wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the desk.

I depart as air.
I shake my white locks at the runaway sun.
I effuse my flesh in eddies and drift in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt and grow
from the grass I love.
If you want me again look for me under your boot soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean.
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless.
And filtre and fiber your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged.
Missing me one place search another
I stop some where waiting for you.

Big Data will remain a Big Dud until individuals have their own

The impact of computing on the worldwide economy, and even on business, was subject to debate until it got personal around the turn of the ’80s. Same with networking before the Internet came along in the mid ’90s.

Big computing and worldwide communications — two capabilities that for decades were entirely the province of large organizations — exploded with boundless new value once they became personal. You and I can do far more with computing and communications today than companies and governments ever could with either when they ran those shows, and when both were just B2B businesses.

From the B2B perspective in 1980, personal computing was an oxymoron. If you wanted to do serious computing, you needed big machines on raised floors tended “data processing” professionals. There was no way individuals with desktop machines could do the same grade of work. That notion ended when human creativity was massively unleashed by tens of thousands of new apps that could do things for individuals — and organizations — that big machines and staffs never could.

Likewise, personal networking in 1993 was also an oxymoron — again from the B2B perspective.  Networks were things companies built, were a grace provided by giant telecom operators. Then the Internet came along, and subordinated those telecom operators (and cable operators as well) to the boundless new capacities of anybody with a computer and a connection to the vast new “cyber” spaces the Internet’s simple protocols opened.

What happened in both cases was individuals acquiring and exploiting capacities that were once exclusively corporate — and doing far more with those capacities than those corporations (and governments) ever could.

We forget those lessons when we look at “Big Data” today. In Is Big Data an Economic Big Dud? for example,  of The New York Times writes, “There is no disputing that a wide spectrum of businesses, from e-marketers to pharmaceutical companies, are now using huge amounts of data as part of their everyday business.” The whole piece is contained in the B2B frame: Big Data is something only big companies (and hot start-ups) have, care about, and put to use.

Yet to each of us nothing is bigger (or at least more important) than our own data. And nothing shifts attention farther away from what we can do with that data than assuming that others (especially marketers) know more about what we want and need than we do ourselves. Or that Big Data is something that only companies do and care about. This is exactly the mentality that held back computing in the mainframe age, and communications in the telecom age. (And we are being held back today to the very degree that those two old industries, and mentalities, continue to hold sway in our minds and our marketplaces.)

But we’ve seen this movie before and we know how it starts: with assumptions that it can’t be done. It can, and it will.

We are going to be able to do far more with our own data — and data, period — than big organizations ever could.

Bonus links:

For real customer engagement, “social” is inadequate

In Social’s Value Measured in Engagement Over Sales, eMarketer provided this revealing graphic:

There are trends here too:

…consumer engagement and brand lift were the No. 1 goals of social media marketing, each cited by 67% of respondents. This was up significantly from 2011, when those goals were cited by about 50% each.

Last year, using social media marketing to garner positive sentiment was the leading goal, whereas this year it dropped to No. 4.

They add,

Marketers may be finding that it is less important that their posts get a warm reception from social users and more important that they keep consumers posting, “liking” and sharing social content.

That’s what marketers may think; but what about the parts of the company that make, sell and service the company’s goods? Let’s return again to an Oracle graphic of the “customer journey” that has been helping us focus lately:

Oracle Twist

Here’s what this illustrates about engagement:

  1. We’re not always buying stuff. We’re using it. When we have good ideas to feed back to companies, or when we want help with a company’s products or services, we shouldn’t have to go through “social” marketing. There, are, and should, be better means for that.
  2. Substantive engagement is not “posting, ‘liking’ and sharing social content”. It’s making direct connections with the parts of companies that want to help and learn from customers directly.
  3. Owning is what we do with the stuff we buy. Think about it. You’re owning 100% of the time, and buying far less, even if you’re a shopaholic. Yet the respect this fact gets from social marketing — and from marketing in general — is sub-minimal, even in our networked age.

Meanwhile spending on marketing budgets is going up, while other budgets are going down. Most of the increase is going to digital strategies, Gartner says (more here), and approximately none of that, outside “social”, is for direct engagement with the human beings who buy goods and services.

There is a reason for this, which I visit in The Intention Economy:

Back in the early ‘90s, when I was making a good living as a marketing consultant, I asked my wife—a successful businesswoman and a retailing veteran—why it was that heads of corporate Sales & Marketing departments were always from Sales people and not from Marketing people. Her answer: “Simple: Sales is real. Marketing is bullshit.”

When I asked her to explain that, she said this wasn’t marketing’s fault. The problem was the role marketing was forced to play. “See, sales touches the customer; but marketing can’t, because that’s sales’ job. So marketing has to be ‘strategic.’” She put air-quotes around “strategic.” She acknowledged that this was an over-simplification, and not fair to all the good people in marketing (such as myself) who really were trying to do right by customers. But her remark spoke to the need to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not, and to dig deeper into why the latter has become such an enormous part of the way we do business.

And now we have CMOs, Chief Marketing Officers, a title that barely existed two decades ago, graced with bigger budgets and increased political power within companies. And yet they still don’t touch the customer. Instead they want to follow the customer around with tracking beacons and to better personalize the “shopping experience” or whatever, and troll for “likes” on Facebook. In less delicate terms, the bullshit is out of control, with bigger budgets and fancier rationalizations than ever.

Want to see how far this goes? Check out the IBM/Aberdeeen “Big Datastillery”:

Look closely at this thing to see where you fit in. You’ll need to scroll down to the conveyor belt at the bottom. See those colored beakers, being filled with “customer interaction optimization” and “marketing optimization,” and then rolling off to oblivion after farting out “campaign metrics”? That’s you.

Your campaign metrics gas gets fed into the big hopper at the top from one pipe among many others. In rough order of decreasing size those are:

  • CRM
  • Social media
  • Clickstream data
  • Transactional data
  • Marketing history
  • SEO data
  • PPC (pay per click)
  • Email metrics
  • Campaign metrics
  • Ad impressions
  • Customer sentiment

None of this involves actual interactions with human beings except perhaps through social media. And even there, one CRM executive recently told me, marketing zealotry is “poisoning the well.”

We can’t fix this and shouldn’t try. It’s marketing’s house. Let them work on it. (Credit where due: according to the top graphic above, 56% of them want to use social media to “improve customer support/service”.)

What we can do is expand the owning experience to include helpful and productive interactions with companies that make, sell and service what we own, and what we use. Here’s one example.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear stories from non-marketing people inside companies about what it’s like to try engaging, in durable and substantive ways, with customers who are at the same time getting treated like the beakers in the graphic above.

Bonus link from @bobosphere.

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