Tag: Berkman

Dear Hollywood,

Please get rid of the @#$%^& region coding on your movies.

We meant to bring along some movies when we came to Switzerland for our holiday vacation, which we’re on now. Forgetting the DVDs was my fault. Not being able to watch other movies, however — ones that we would be glad to pay for and watch on our laptop, is not our fault. It’s yours. It’s way past time to fix that.

Thanks to the insanity of region coding, we can’t play DVDs rented or bought here, because they’re encoded for Region 2, while our laptops are set for Region 1. There are workarounds, but we don’t feel like screwing with those.

But, we thought, Hey, we’re Netflix customers. Maybe we could watch live online. The wi-fi connection at the hotel here is surprisingly good (considering that we’re way back up in the Alps). Alas, when we go to Netflix, it says,

Watching Instantly is Not Available Outside the US

Our systems indicate that the computer you are using is not located within the 50 United States or District of Columbia. Due to studio licensing reasons, movies are available to watch instantly only on computers in those locations.

I don’t know if this retro craziness actually creates any business for the studios, but it clearly prevents business in our case, and many others.

So, Hollywood, why screw your own customers? You have a direct relationship with me. I pay to watch your movies. We have a relationship. Why should that relationship fail when I leave the country? This is the freaking Internet we’re on. My watching a Netflix movie should not have a damn thing to do with where I am in the world. What am I going to do that’s a risk to you? Copy and re-encode it for sale over here? Let’s get real.

There has to be a better way than this.

If you can’t figure one out for yourselves (and, after eleven years, there is good reason to believe you won’t), how about working with customers to develop a solution that involves point-to-point, customer-seller relationships that enable business and support good will, rather than preventing both?

If you’re interested, let us know.

Hot Fodder for next week’s VRM Workshop

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Neil Davey of MyCustomer.com, a major voice in the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) field. The results are up at Doc Searls: Customers will use ID data to force CRM change. Much of what Neil sources for that piece come from my new chapter (“Markets are Relationships”) in the latest edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto (Now with 30% more clues!). In that chapter, Neil says,

Searls sticks the boot into customer relationship management. And even though CRM has become accustomed to bruising encounters, some of these blows hurt – perhaps because there are some painful truths being delivered. CRM, as Searls sees it, would rather have captive customers rather than free ones. To demonstrate this, we only have to examine the language organisations use when referring to customers – how they try to ‘lock in’ customers and ‘retain’ them after they have been ‘acquired’.

Later this week, after I’ve looked more closely at what did and didn’t make it into Neil’s piece (what I said to him, by emai, was quite long), I’ll post some of what was missed.

Meanwhile, a little summary for VRM newbies arriving from the lands of CRM…

The purpose of VRM is to improve markets by enlarging what customers can do, not just what vendors can do. The latter is necessary too; but that’s what all good sellers have always been doing. And there’s a limit to how far that can go.

Better selling alone can’t make better buying. Better marketing alone can’t make better markets. Better CRM alone can’t make better customers. At a certain point customers have to do that for themselves.

That point came when the Internet arrived. It was announced by Chris Locke in The Cluetrain Manifesto, with this very graphic:

notThere was an equipment problem with that statement. Customers were not yet self-equipped with the means for reaching beyond the grasp of old-school marketers and sellers—a school that is still very much in session.

VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) is about equipping customers with their own ways of of relating to vendors. In the larger sense, it’s also for equipping individuals with their own ways of relating to any organization.

Thats the mission of ProjectVRM.org, which I lead as a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center. It’s also the mission of a variety of related projects and companies: The Mine! Project, PAOGA, The Banyan Project, MyDex, ListenLog, EmanciPay, Scanaroo, Kynetx, r-button and SwitchBook, to name a subset of the whole community.

Adriana Lukas, who started The Mine! Project, has something new at Market RIOT (Relationships on Individuals’ Own Terms): MINT, for My Information, Not Theirs. She calls it “a movement to redress the balance of market power between vendors and customers, institutions and individuals, web services/platforms and users.” Its obectives:

  • “to create an ecosystem where customer data belongs to the customer, is freely available to individual customer or user, in open formats
  • ‘to help the individual to become the point of integration for his or her transactional data
  • “to encourage development of applications that enable individuals to enjoy the value they can add by managing and analysing their own data (buying behaviour, purchasing patterns and preferences) and potentially benefit vendors, when such information is voluntarily shared by customers.”

This should bring up plenty of discussion at the VRM East Coast Workshop next Monday and Tuesday at Harvard Law School. It’s free. The agenda will be set by participants (on the “open space” model). In addition I am working right now on lining up an opening panel on Tuesday to lead off discussion of user control of data. Stay tuned for more on that.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t signed up already, go here to register for the workshop.

What’s completely screwed about this picture

So I got an email today from Forbes, with the subject “You are Important to Us”. It says this:

Dear Subscriber:

Forbes values you as a customer and your opinions are very important to us.  We are conducting a study and would like to include your opinions.

The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete and we think you’ll find it interesting and enjoyable. Your responses will be used for research purposes only and will be held in the strictest confidence.

Simply click on the link below to visit our survey.

Click here to take the survey [The link goes to a long address that begins http://forbes.puresendmail.com/print.]

Again, we thank you so much for participation.

Sincerely,

Bruce Rogers, Chief Brand Officer – Forbes

You are receiving this email because you registered at Forbes.com LLC. and signed up to receive third party emails To manage your preferences or change your delivery address, please click here.

You may also email your opt-out request to  privacy at forbes.net or send your request in the mail directly to:

 click here.

Copyright 2008 Forbes.com LLC TM

I thought, “Hey, I’m busy, but I like Forbes, and I’m inclined to cooperate, even if I hate most surveys and would rather relate to Forbes in a less one-sided and impersonal way. So I punched on “Click here to take the survey”.

The first step was one that asked me what my title was. I have several, but none of them are from the lexicon of corporate hierarchies. So, next to “other” I wrote “fellow”. Because that’s what I am, here at the Berkman Center. (I’m also Senior Editor of Linux Journal and President of my own small company, but I went with “fellow” because I get Forbes where I live near Berkman and not at my home office in California.)

The first survey page told me the thing would take about ten minutes. That’s a lot, but I thought, “Okay, I’m still game. Let’s see how fast we can make this.”

It was over in one second. Or however long it took for the survey server to send me to a page with the title “Thank You - InsightExpress.com“. Its entire contents were this:

Return to Your Originating Web Page

I hit the back button and it went nowhere. Then I clicked on the address in the email. That timed out. So did I.

This is the point at which one might be tempted to write to Bruce Rogers or the nameless  Privacy Administrator, but Forbes has gone out of its way here to avoid human contact (no email address for Bruce, a surface mail address for ATT:Privacy Administrator — both of which scream “WE ARE AVOIDING YOU. PLEASE COOPERATE.) But that would be weak and supplicating, and I have no interest in being either. I’d rather be the good Forbes subscriber that I’ve been for years and attempt to make constructive human contact instead.

I’ll do that three ways. First is with the headline above, plus links and other bait that might get the attention of Bruce Rogers or one of his factota. [Note: I posted this at 1:12pm, and Bruce responded personally at 1:56. Well done!] Second is with an email to some folks I know at Forbes. Third, and most importantly, I’ll try to explain the VRM angle on this.

VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. It’s how customers manage relationships with vendors. (Or with other individuals, or with organizations of any kind — such as churches or governments.)

Most vendors are familiar with CRM, for Customer Relationship Management. I can’t tell if a CRM system was involved in this little exchange, but a failure of this kind is certainly within the scope of CRM’s concerns. (To visit those, check out the CRM sites for SAP, Oracle, SalesForce, Amdocs and Microsoft, which are the top four companies in an $8+ billion business.)

Right now VRM is a $0 billion business. But in the long run it’ll be big, and it’ll improve the CRM business along with it, because it’ll give CRM something more substantial than mailing addresses to relate to.

A number of development communities are working on VRM solutions right now, but rather than talk about those I’ll just say what I’d like here. Not from Forbes, but from VRM developers. If Forbes or any CRM companies want to help with that, cool.

I would like a simple dashboard that tells me what I’m subscribed to and what I’m not — both for print publications such as Forbes and for email subscriptions of every kind. I would like to have global preferences that would govern how I relate to each of those publishers, and how they relate to me. For example, I would like to throw a switch that says “No” to all third party mailings, both to my font door and to my email addresses. When I establish a relationship with a new publisher, or publication, or supplier of any kind, I would like them all to know, as a matter of policy, that I don’t want them to waste their time, money and server cycles by sending me junk mail of any kind. And that I don’t appreciate having my own bandwidth, cycles, disk space, rods, cones and time wasted dealing with any of it. I might give a global or selective thumbs up to surveys, provided I also have a standard way to send error messages and other feedback to survey sources.

On the positive side, I would also like to open conduits through which productive interaction could take place with the publishers, authors and circulation officials whose “content” I pay to get. (And even those that I don’t pay.) I would like a simple, straightforward, universally understandable way to do this, across all “content providers”, so I don’t have to relate only inside each provider’s silo. (By the way, we’re already working on change-of-address, to pick just one subcategory of subscriber-publisher interaction that can be a pain in the butt for everybody. That last link is a working draft, by the way. More work is happening off-wiki.)

That’s just one part of what we’re doing at ProjectVRM. But it’s one I’d like the “content providers” and CRM folks out there to know about. Because it’s going to happen anyway, and I’d suggest getting interested, and perhaps also involved, sooner rather than later.

© 2014 ProjectVRM

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