Doc Searls keynoted the European Identity and Cloud Conference in April, 2012. Full stream of Doc’s keynote in the video below.
The term “personal cloud” is only about a year old and has a wildly disparate set of meanings. For some, services such as Facebook, Dropbox, and SugarSynch are personal clouds. For others the gold standard is iCloud, which stores data and media and manages your apps from all your devices – as long as they are all from Apple. I find myself agreeing with Jon Udell who writes in Wired, “I see signs of the personal cloud in services like Dropbox, Evernote, and Flickr. You can use them for free, or you can pay for higher capacity and enhanced customer service. But the personal cloud also arises from a way of thinking about, and using, any of the services the web provides.”
Yes. The personal cloud is a way of thinking and it is not necessarily a new way. Phil Windley and co-authors Craig Burton, Scott David, Drummond Reed and Doc Searls make this case well in a recent white paper, From Personal Computers to the Personal Cloud. As the title indicates, the authors contend that the best model for thinking about the personal cloud is in fact the personal computer. Gartner analyst Steve Kleyhans seconds this when he writes, “Many call this era the post-PC era, but it isn’t really about being ‘after’ the PC, but rather about a new style of personal computing that frees individuals to use computing in fundamentally new ways to improve multiple aspects of their work and personal lives.”
Most of the folks working on this nascent space agree that personal clouds will emerge because customers will demand secure and trusted access to their apps, data, and media anytime, anywhere from any device. Gartner, among others, believes that the market for personal clouds and everything they imply – connected services, devices and data — will be huge. By 2015 Gartner predicts we will spend some US$2.8 trillion worldwide on connected devices, the services that run them and content transferred through them. While we all agree that this is what the future looks like, how markets and technology will get there remains an open question.
Are Personal Clouds Inevitable?
Nothing is inevitable, but the promise offered by personal clouds of putting us back in charge of our personal data, of seamlessly and securely managing our online lives in a way that meets our own idiosyncratic needs, offers a powerful pull. Windley et at summarize the benefits succinctly. Personal clouds will 1) change how we relate to everything in our lives; 2) rearrange how we buy and sell products; and 3) revolutionize how we communicate with each other. Why? With personal clouds, we set the rules. Our identities can be fluid and flexible. Our data can be broadcast widely, hoarded or selectively shared. We will be able to have infinite channels, that work seamlessly, with people, companies, organizations, accounts, and more. When we have seamless access to all of our information, and control over the tools and services to use and understand it, everything changes.
While the potential is vast, the challenges are equally hard. Personal clouds that live up to the vision of trusted, secure, seamless services will require solving a host of hard problems. Windley et al have begun envisioning the next steps. Core to their vision is the development of a Cloud Operating System. Analogous to the OS that makes your PC run, the CloudOS will track your identity, attributes and preferences; run as many apps as you like; store and manage data distributed across the web; and host services for you to use. Here is a picture that Joaquin Miller put together after a session at the most recent IIW conference. The OS lives inside your cloud.
A Gathering of Clouds
While it is tempting to think of the personal cloud as one thing, living in one place like a personal computer, it is much more likely to be a window into a collection of stuff spread across the net. This makes sense because this is how the Net is structured. Virtual stuff doesn’t have to live anywhere – as long as there is a way for me to find it, I can get value from it. This feature is central to the radical potential of the Net, whose soul is vastly distributed and peer to peer.
We are now living in an era where increasing amounts of our data and services are living in virtual silos maintained and controlled by centralized companies. The personal cloud slices these silos open, letting the data flow around in new ways. This is highly disruptive and why Andrew Johnson of Gartner says, “Providers of consumer devices, services and content must anticipate the risk of sweeping changes to their business models. The personal cloud will force technology providers not only to rethink how they approach markets, but also, more importantly, how they define markets. ‘Emerging’ and ‘mature’ markets are no longer useful market segmentation.”
One of the reasons that the personal cloud will be so disruptive is that it’s not one cloud. There will be many clouds, capable of talking to each other, with many channels between them. As long as everything is interoperable, there could be many operating systems, many identity and trust networks, many services, and more. These “federated personal clouds” as Windley et al call them, mean that there will likely be many vendors in the mix offering different apps and services that work together. Federated clouds are much more likely to escape centralized control. This could engender huge new levels of innovation while empowering each of us at the same time.
This dynamic reminds me of one of my most beloved philosophical maxims, drawn from process theology. An omnipotent god who exerts absolute control over the universe creates a system that limits each individual’s creativity, resulting in a less creative whole. The god that grants creative control to the creatures and then lets each of them do their thing, ends up with a much richer and more powerful universe. The moral: centralized control constrains creativity and innovation. Something similar is afoot with the personal cloud. When each of us gains creative control over our virtual lives, the whole virtual universe becomes more innovative, creative and powerful.
Much of the current conversation is necessarily still in the programming weeds. My hope is that in parallel with much-needed technical development, we will continue to think through real world use cases that test emerging solutions. These use cases will not only offer leverage to those trying to build business models for the personal cloud, but they will help us ferret out the ethical issues that will inevitably arise.
I personally worry as much about the cloud doing too much for me as too little. If it does too little, then it will not have real value. If it does too much filtering, sorting and aggregating then I will potentially be replicating a new version of the filter bubble inside my own cloud. That’s just migrating creepy practices from our current silos into the personal cloud. We have to get the filters right. The trick will be to always, always err on the side of giving users control over their settings, channels, permissions and preferences. This is the beauty of putting the user in the center. The vendors that give me choice and control are the ones I will pick. The incentives between customer and vendor will align.
(This post was originally published at www.spruceadvisers.com.)
Not love to have them, but love interacting with them, knowing them, talking with them, learning from them, involving them in the business, and letting them take the lead sometimes. (And not just by using a “loyalty card” or some other gimmick.)
In The Intention Economy, I give two examples, one offline and one on.
The first is Trader Joe’s, whose retired President, Doug Rauch, told me that his main job at the store was talking with customers. That is, literally, shopping along with them. Seeing what they liked, didn’t like, and why. Asking questions. Getting input. Trader Joe’s, he said, doesn’t just look for transactions, but for relationships. When I asked him if there was anything in the store that customers did not influence, he said no. When I told him we lived in Santa Barbara, he asked if we shopped at the store on Milpas Street or the newer one near Upper State. I was impressed. The dude was based in Massachusetts and still knew every store, and had shopped along with customers at every one he went to as well.
The online example is Zappo’s, which encourages its service people to maximize interaction with customers on phones. The company also welcomes exceptions. For example, I have wide feet: 9 1/2 EE. Shopping just for what fits me is easy. A few minutes ago I bought replacements for my several-year-old ASICS Gel-Cumulus 13 athletic shoes. The old ones look more worn than they really are, so I got some fresh ones. There was no reason to work with a human in this case, but I sensed a human sensibility to the ease with which I could find and get what I wanted. (The Kid and I like to sing, “Shop like a man, fast as you can,” to the tune of the Four Seasons‘ old “Walk Like a Man.”)
So who else is there? You tell us, in the comments below. No restrictions. The only qualifications are the ones I laid out in the first sentence. And tell us why, too.
In the physical world, we govern privacy with clothes and walls, buttons, zippers, windows and doors. (See Clothing as a privacy system.)
We also see privacy as a thing that can be possessed. That’s the framing for statements like, “Give me some privacy, and “Don’t take away my privacy.”
On another hand (there can be many), we also see privacy as a state of being: “This is private.” “Keep this private.”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines privacy as “1. a) The quality or condition of being secluded from the presence or view of others; b) The state of being free from unsanctioned intrusion: a person’s right to privacy”; and “2. The state of being concealed; secrecy.” The Collins English Dictionary (at that same link) adds one more: “3. (Philosophy) Philosophy the condition of being necessarily restricted to a single person.” The boldface is mine. I like that one. (And not just because I majored in philosophy, back in the decade.)
That’s the noun. To mine the derivational vein, we must also dig the adjective. Here’s American Heritage on private:
- a. Secluded from the sight, presence, or intrusion of others: a private hideaway; b. Designed or intended for one’s exclusive use: a private room.
- a. Of or confined to the individual; personal: a private joke; private opinions. b. Undertaken on an individual basis: private studies; private research. c. Of, relating to, or receiving special hospital services and privileges: a private patient.
- Not available for public use, control, or participation: a private club; a private party.
- a. Belonging to a particular person or persons, as opposed to the public or the government: private property. b. Of, relating to, or derived from nongovernment sources: private funding. c. Conducted and supported primarily by individuals or groups not affiliated with governmental agencies or corporations: a private college; a private sanatorium. d. Enrolled in or attending a private school: a private student.
- Not holding an official or public position: a private citizen.
- a. Not for public knowledge or disclosure; secret: private papers; a private communication. b. Not appropriate for use or display in public; intimate: private behavior; a private tragedy. c. Placing a high value on personal privacy: a private person.
Here’s what it says about deep sources for private (and also for privacy): “Middle English privat from Latin privatus, not in public life, past participle of privare, to release, deprive, from privus, single, alone… Indo-European roots.”
Thus, here in the everyday vernacular of the physical world, privacy is well understood, and has been since before we had History. But “here” now also constitutes the virtual world, where you are equally present, and reading this text right now. In the physical “here,” your privacy is provided by what you’re wearing and where you locate yourself. Your choices in the virtual “here” are not so plain and clear. Not yet, anyway. At best we can only hope that the stuff we try to keep private will stay that way. And it is best lately to hope less than you used to, because there is a large and growing business in abusing your privacy in the virtual world. That business is advertising. For that business, your privacy is a problem that can only be solved with a promise: Trust us. We not only respect your privacy, but are in business to help you. Buy stuff, that is.
Credit where due: the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) is deeply concerned about privacy, and requires that its members adhere to a raft of privacy principles. Here’s one: “Businesses collecting or using information about individual consumers for interactive advertising purposes should provide choice, where appropriate, to that individual. Consumers also should receive relevant education regarding cross-industry opportunities to opt out of the collection or use of individual information or other methods to exercise choice.”
However well-intended this might be, it’s a window fan blowing against the storm of wealth-creation that the “interactive” advertising business has become. On Friday, Facebook went public with a valuation exceeding $100 billion. Its business is advertising. So is Google’s, with a market cap hovering around $200 billion. The goal for both companies is to “personalize” advertising as much as possible. This requires making their machines learn all they can about you, whether you know it or not. And, for all their talk about providing choices, they’d rather you not shut out their tentacles or cover their prying eyes.
If you want to operate on the Web today, it is almost impossible to avoid either company, or the thousands of other that are in the business of knowing as much as possible about you, so that information can be sold to advertisers and their agencies. Wanting to maximize the sum and quality of information about individuals is at absolute odds with those companies’ stated commitments to privacy — as well as individuals’ own sense, based on experience in the physical world, of what privacy is and how it should work.
Did you know that, when you go to a site that has a Facebook “like” button, Facebook will know you were there, even if you don’t click on the button? Also, says Consumer Reports, “Even if you have restricted your information to be seen by friends only, a friend who is using a Facebook app could allow your data to be transferred to a third party without your knowledge.” And, adds Abine, “You know those Facebook Like and Connect buttons you see on almost every website? They’re not just for sharing: they’re tracking devices. Facebook buttons can track both members and non-members of Facebook, even if you never click them. They transmit your clicks, browsing history, IP address, and more to Facebook.”
Is Facebook going to stop doing that kind of thing on their own, when they believe it’s also the very thing that makes them the most money?
Not surprisingly, Consumer Reports’ parent, Consumers Union, wants a policy solution. That is, new laws that restrict the ability of Facebook and others to, for example, track us without our permission. Meanwhile CU has also put up the HearUsNow site, as a way for individuals to demand better treatment by Facebook. The White House has also issued a Privacy Bill of Rights, which offers guidelines for lawmaking.
In his landmark book, Understanding Privacy, Raymond Solove details the many ways that privacy is nearly impossible to pin down in legal argument, much less in policy. So, while he notes in the first sentence of his first chapter, “Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis pronounced it ‘the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men,'” he later adds that “legal scholar Arthur Miller has declared that privacy is ‘difficult to define because it is exasperatingly vague and evanescent.'” Solove’s own case is that “the value of privacy must be determined on the basis of its importance to society, not in terms of individual rights.” He adds, “the value of privacy in a particular context depends on the social importance of the activities it facilitates.” The prescriptive chapters of the book are devoted to laying out a taxonomic framework for understanding privacy problems. Because, sensibly, “A lucid, comprehensive, and concrete understanding of privacy will aid the creation of law and policy to address privacy issues.”
Which is fine, if you think corporations and governments are the only actors in the marketplace with full agency. That is, with the ability to act, and to cause effects. As individuals on the Web, we don’t have that ability today. (Imagine having a website agree to your terms and conditions, rather than the reverse.) One symptom of that is the call for legislative protection, which we wouldn’t have if we had full agency. So, the thinking goes, “We can’t protect ourselves, so the government should step in.”
I’m against that, at least for now, because I don’t believe we’ve done enough to empower individuals on their own. I’d rather we work on equipping individuals to enjoy full agency, as independent and sovereign beings, in the online marketplace as well as in the offline one. Or, in other words, to break out of the calf-cow system (called “client-server”) that we’ve been stuck in since 1995. I believe the personal nature of privacy, as it has been understood plainly since the late Pleistocene, requires that.
Some of the tools are already there. Public key cryptography, for example. Link contracts in XDI. The stuff Alec Muffett starts talking about in Slide 47 of his presentation here. Same goes for much of the work being done by the ProjectVRM development community. As ordinary folk we don’t need to understand the technologies behind all that work, but it helps to know that we’re not starting from zero.
At the very least we need some perspective here, based on the fact that we have hardly begun to explore what it will take to create physical-grade privacy on the Net. And that as we do, we need to keep it personal. That’s where privacy is best understood and measured. There is also cause and effect. If you and I don’t have privacy online, society won’t either.
Ray Collins in Buyer Insights asks, How Long Before Consumers Start Buying Like Corporations? He sees “B2C markets going the way of B2B markets with a dramatic shift in power from seller to buyer.”
In business-speak, B2B is business-to-business, and C2B is consumer- (or customer-) to-business. Or vice versa, as used above. The context here is an increase in power on the buy side in general.
For many decades there has been talk of an end to the era of mass marketing. However, until now it was just talk. That is because although targeting the ‘customer of one’ sounded good, the technology did not exist to make it possible.
A new book by Doc Searls called ‘The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge‘ envisions how new technology will kill the age of mass marketing. It means an end to the ‘Calf – Cow model’ where the consumer is powerless and the supplier is all-powerful.
No longer will consumers be simply”targeted” “captured”,” “locked-in,” “owned” and “managed” by sellers!
… This is the information or ’Big Data’ age. As consumers we leave a rich digital trail through our use of; loyalty cards, online retailers, web browsers and online search engines, as well as our social networking pages.
For sellers this information is power. But that may not always be the case.
Instead of sellers using this data to sell more effectively to consumers, how can consumers use it to buy more effectively from sellers? Well, the answer is an emerging technology called VRM.
‘VRM, or vendor relationship management is a category of business activity made possible by software tools that provide customers with both independence from vendors and better means for engaging with vendors.’ That is the definition fromProject VRM at Harvard.
To quote Doc Searls: ‘For most of the industrial age, companies have been obsessed with getting the attention of prospects and customers…’ But now ‘we can make our intentions known personally and in ways that can cause and sustain genuine relationships. And, where no relationship is required, we can connect, do business, and move on, with less cost and hassle than ever.’
…In the Attention Economy of mass marketing vendors focused on getting the buyer’s attention and marketing, or advertising was all powerful. But in The Intention Economy the consumer buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. It is a shift in the balance of power and that is something that B2B sellers know all about.
Iain Henderson of The Customer’s Voice has done much research comparing B2B relations with C2B, and found many thousands of variables in the former and just a handful in the latter. This owed to a relatively even balance of power between customers and vendors in the B2B world (even given the changes Ray notes in his post), and a lopsided one in the C2B world, in favor of the vendor’s (B) side. As customers get more power, however, the variables will only go up, and with them will also rise choices for both sides.
For example, today no company is ready to hear a customer name his or her own terms (or preference for terms) in a C2B interaction (sometimes called a “ceremony”). Few companies are ready to hear a personal RFP or “intentcast” by customers in the wild. Ray (who writes in the U.K.) gives two examples of those:
- I am looking for a mountain bike, in Hull, with 500 pounds to spend – p.s. as my facebook wall shows I am into extreme biking and am rather tall!
- I am looking for a child’s stroller in the Lewisham area and have 150 to spend – p.s. I am a member of the fair trade alliance, so ethical products appeal to me.
As VRM development matures, we’ll start seeing these scenarios becoming common.
After the VRM day in San Jose on Monday (April 30, 2012), Customer Commons will host a Salon in Mountain View (near Castro and El Camino, near the Computer History Museum and IIW starting the next day and near where many are staying for that event).
Date: April 30, 2012
Location: 600 Fairmont Avenue at View Street, Mountain View, CA (please enter through the View Street entrance)
Parking is easy as it’s a nice neighborhood with loads of free parking.
We’ll serve dessert, wine, bubble water — please bring anything you’d like to share for dessert.
.. and let’s talk VRM and Customer Commons!
“Social networks” are getting out of control. And I don’t mean their control. I mean your control and mine. Here’s an image to keep in mind while you read the rest of this post:
The calf is you or me. The cow is just one of our many social networks. Here’s how the situation looks from my browser…
- I have 840 contacts on Facebook. I won’t call them friends, though some of them are. A few are relatives, but most are neither. They’re people I’ve met or had contact with, somehow, somewhere. I also have 675 “friend requests.” If you’re on that list and want to contact me, find another way, since I avoid Facebook for all but the unavoidable (such as, say, a reunion that’s being organized by relatives).
- I have 480 contacts on Linkedin, most of which I know about as well as my contacts on Facebook. I also belong to one Linkedin discussion group that I haven’t figured out how to deal with yet, mostly because I prefer my discussion groups in email, where I can sort them out into boxes of my own making. I see that Linkedin now also has updates on the Twitter model (and via Twitter). I see why they do it, but I don’t need it.
- I have 212 contacts on Flickr (plus more through three other accounts). I don’t know and don’t follow most of those contacts, because to me Flickr is is for sharing photos with the world in organized ways. While I appreciate the groups there, I’ve organized none, and when my photos show up in some, it’s always because other people — most of which I don’t know — have put them there. I also know few if any of the people who have put more than 200 of my photos on Wikimedia Commons, a gallery of photos eligible for inclusion in Wikipedia articles. (And, in fact, most of my shots in the Commons are also in Wikipedia.) Again, this is not a social effect. Also note that in the Wikipedia case that there isn’t a business model anywhere in sight (aside from the $50/year I gladly pay for my two “pro” Flickr accounts).
- I follow 1352 entities (most are people, some are companies or organizations) on Twitter, and am followed by 13,096 others. I am sure most of us, whoever (and whatever) we are, don’t know each other. I use Twitter to find and share interesting stuff in short postings. This may be “social,” but only in a very loose sense.
- I don’t know how many “friends” or contacts I have on Google, because I can’t find a number, or a list. My iGoogle page (which I view in just one of the four browsers I use) lists eight alphabetically before it runs out out of space at the letter N. I don’t know how to scroll down to see the rest, and I’m not much interested in trying. In any case the number is a tiny subset of lists elsewhere. For what it’s worth, I use Google’s services for many different things (docs, self-organized groups, mail de-spamming), but “social” stuff is not among them.
- The address book on my computer lists 1162 cards, including a growing number of dead people, dead companies, and dead numbers from live companies. Yesterday I weeded the number of Verizon contact numbers down from six to one.
- My main chat client, which spans four different contact lists and accounts (AIM-iChat, Google, Linux Journal and the Berkman Center), currently shows 35 available. I don’t know what the total number of contacts there is. Several hundred, I guess.
- My other chat account, Skype, doesn’t integrate with those in the last paragraph and doesn’t give me a count of people online and off. I’m guessing I have about fifty contacts there.
The job of integrating all of these is mine, and I don’t bother, because the tools for doing that don’t yet exist — at least not in sufficient maturity for me to contemplate using them. Thus I am not yet what Joe Andrieu calls the point of integration for my own data. In fact I can’t be, because most of the data in these “social networks” is not mine. Functionally (if not also legally), it’s theirs. And I’m just a calf for each of them.
Of course, all these companies want to help me do everything, by leveraging the “social” data they have about me. Mostly they give me advertising that doesn’t help, but sometimes they just try to improve their meat and potatoes with “social” gravy. The latest example is Google, with “+1” recommendations. These augment Google’s third improvement to social search, through a button“to publicly give something your stamp of approval.” The idea: “Your +1′s can help friends, contacts, and others on the web find the best stuff when they search,” because “sometimes it’s easier to find exactly what you’re looking for when someone you know already found it.”
Why does Google think we want to “find the best stuff” all the time — as if all we do is shop, or something like it? Sure, they make their money with advertising, but I think the real reason is that they can’t resist the temptation to route “social” signals into everything else. Hey, it’s what the other kids are doing.
Since so much of what those kids do is invisible to us, they try to get away with all kinds of stuff. For more on what they’re doing, read The Wall Street Journal‘sWhat They Know series http://wsj.com/wtk), and Joe Andrieu’s ISharedWhatFacebook login simulation site, which shows you how much personal data — yours and your friends’ — might get spilled every time you click on one of these:
They get away with it because the calf-cow system allows it. Also because the World Wide Ranch is getting really freaking huge. By some counts there are more than a billion commercial sites on the Web. Just by the sheer numbers involved, the default assumption is that most searches have commercial purposes. That’s what you’re likely to find in any case.
It’s interesting that non-advertising search results are now called “organic,” as if they were some kind of marginalized exception, of interest only to to a few obsessive purists.
Says Wikipedia, “Organic search results are listings on search engine results pages that appear because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to their being advertisements. In contrast, non-organic search results may include pay per click advertising.” How quaint and retro, to think that some search results should simply be relevant to search terms, without commercial prejudice by the search engine.
In respect to Google’s recent search improvements, I submit that organic searches are still what people want most, and that “social” help is marginal at best and distracting at worst.
Take yesterday morning, when I was wondering what accounts for ground conductivity. This was, admittedly, an idle distraction of the sort I wrote about later in the day, in World Wide Puddle. I mean, I didn’t really need to know what accounts for ground conductivity, especially since it’s a question I’ve had for about fifty years, and I haven’t suffered for lack of an answer. But search engines are here for a reason, so I looked again.
Google says it finds more than six million results in a search for “ground conductivity”. The top result is the FCC’s M3 maps page, which I’d expect. These maps explain why, for example, WNAX, a 5000-watt radio station on 570am in Yankton, South Dakota, has a signal that reaches from Canada to Oklahoma, while WWNC, a station on the same channel in Asheville, North Carolina, operating with the same power, covers an area only a fraction the size of WNAX’s. For a broadcast engineering junkie like me, this is catnip, but it doesn’t explain why ground conductivity varies from one region to another. I mean, why does flat ground in Long Island have almost no ground conductivity (0.5 mhos/meter) while equally flat ground around Dallas has very high ground conductivity (30 mhos/meter). Why do mountains in New England have low conductivity (2-4 mhos/meter) while mountains in coastal California have high conductivity (8-30 mhos/meter)? The M3 maps don’t say.
The third result, from Tom K1JJ, tells how to measure ground conductivity, but doesn’t explain the cause.
Next is a Facebook page on the subject, with a write-up lifted straight out of Wikipedia. It is recommended to me, with thumbs up, by two people I know: a nephew of mine and a fellow broadcast engineering obsessive. There is no discussion, and the page says “0 people like this”.
Two decades ago, when Compuserve hosted a large variety of excellent forums, I belonged to a broadcast engineering social network of sorts (though few of us met in real life). But today I don’t have one, even on Facebook — and the rest of my many “social networks” are no help with searches like this one.
Hmm… I just thought, “maybe Quora could provide some help. I just went there in the browser where Quora’s cookies for me are parked. It still wants me to log in, and a minute has passed while the progress thing on the bottom of the page says “Waiting for Facebook.” Okay, I’m there now, and I just put up the question, “What causes ground conductivity?”. According to Quora, I have “981 Followers, 485 Following” and “6 @Mentions” there. Will one or more of them get me an answer? Interesting experiment. We’ll see.
Whatever happens on Quora, I have no faith that my searches on Google will be improved by anybody’s “+1,” any more than my searches have been improved by “social” whatever. Here’s why: usually I’m looking for something very specific. And often what I’m looking for is not for sale.
In most cases I use Google and Bing the way I use a dictionary: to look something up. I don’t need a “recommendation” when I just want to know how to spell “mocassin”. Stand back, everybody. I think the dictionary should have it. Thank you.
I learned about Google’s “+1″ feature only this morning, on Sheila Lennon’s blog. There she quotes the same Google post about “+1″:
So how do we know which +1’s to show you? Like social search, we use many signals to identify the most useful recommendations, including things like the people you are already connected to through Google (your chat buddies and contacts, for example). Soon we may also incorporate other signals, such as your connections on sites like Twitter, to ensure your recommendations are as relevant as possible. If you want to know who you’re connected to, and how, visit the “Social Circle and Content” section of the Google Dashboard.
To get started +1’ing the stuff you like, you’ll need to create a Google profile—or if you already have one, upgrade it. You can use your profile to see all of your +1’s in one place, and delete those you no longer want to recommend. To see +1’s in your Google search results you’ll need to be logged into your Google Account.
I just clicked on the Google Dashboard link, and found I had to log in, even though I was already logged in on a different tab in the same browser. This got me into my Google Accounts page, which has a LOT of information in a lot of contexts — all provided by Google. At the top is Gmail. Slightly edited (for the privacy of others), and with links removed, it says,
First, I almost never go to Gmail in a browser. In fact, few people know my actual Gmail address (which is silly and has nothing to do with my real name). All mail to me at Searls.com gets routed to my Gmail account, which I use to filter out spam. I then pick up mail there from my IMAP account, which keeps copies at the server, or “in the cloud” as we now like to say.
Second, what makes Spam or Trash “conversations”? I’ll go to my grave being known as the main guy responsible for the “markets are conversations” meme, but usage like this makes me regret it.
Following Gmail on my Accounts page are:
- Google Video (nothing uploaded)
- Groups (33 total, mostly inactive, and not including two I just killed off)
- Health (1 profile, which I gave up filling out long ago)
- iGoogle (14 gadgets, 1 tab)
- Latitude (disabled, because I like not being tracked)
- Product search (shopping list has two items: the most recent of which reads “Most recent: Canon EOS 30D on May 27, 2006″ — a camera I bought long ago)
- Profile (16 “about me” items, most of which I have kept vague)
- Reader (36 subscriptions, following 11)
- Sidewiki (no entries)
- Sites (1 “shared with me” that I don’t know)
- Social Circle and Content (which says,
Direct connections from Google chat and contacts 4 connections with content; Direct connections from links listed on your Google profile 200 connections with content; Secondary connections 1788 connections with content; and Social content 3 links — and I have no idea wtf that all means)
- Talk (23 contacts, which settles a guess I made above)
- Web history (most recent for Web, Images, News, Products, Video, Maps, Blogs and Books — but only with this one browser, on this one laptop)
- YouTube (a profile, plus a paucity of stuff under uploads, history, favorites, subscription, contacts and personal messages)
- Other products (“11 additional products are not yet available in this dashboard – Show all”)
So I just spent twenty minutes weeding through and cleaning up all that stuff. I could spend similar sums of time doing the same on Linkedin, Flickr and other services. But I would rather have my own way of keeping personal information straight with myself, and sharing it selectively and when I felt like it. That’s what VRM development going on in the Personal Data Ecosystem is about. I won’t go into all the projects, but the idea they share is that each of us, as sovereign individuals, are (as Joe says) the best points of integration for our own data. None of these social sites, no matter how well-intended they may be, can do the job, simply because nothing, and nobody, can be personal for me on my behalf. If puppets are involved, they need to be mine. Not the reverse.
At the Kynetx Impact conference two weeks ago (where much fun was had),Louis Gray gave an interesting talk that summarized what he said last November, in a post perfectly titled
The Third Wave of the Web Will Be Uniquely Personal. He writes about three waves. The first is “information and access” — roughly what I’ve called the “static Web.” The seond is “social.” That’s the stage we’re getting fed up with now. The third is personal:
Now that the world’s information is posted, linked, indexed and searchable, and friends are connecting, sharing, liking, and following, the quest is on to streamline the noise and give the Web another dimension – one not measured by the data, or who led you to the data, but you as an individual. The third wave of the Web, I believe, is going to be about personalization by individual based on that individual’s preferences – explicitly stated or otherwise.
The declaration of the next wave of the Web being personal is not shared universally, of course. Some say the next wave is all about mobile. Others may say the next wave is all about location. But the right approach to ‘personal’ absolutely encompasses each of these things. With our smartphones and tablets being increasingly powerful, they are practically an extension of us, and we are relying on them to discover relevant things, content, places and products for us as individuals. Similarly, our location is an ingredient of who we are – for where we are impacts our decisions, and what tips are relevant, be it for news, for restaurants, lodging, dating or anything else. So “personal” as an individual is both local and mobile.
Excellent. I especially like how smartphones and tablets are extensions of ourselves in the world. (A little more about that here.) Then he adds,
Personal As In Me.
A lot of services say they are “personal”, when in fact, most of what they do is actually social.
These services may leverage your social graph to provide personalized recommendations based on what friends or other people similar to you may like – much like television shows group people of similar demographics to guess what commercials are best suited for which episodes in which time slots. The hope may be that the more your friends like something, the more likely you are to click it or buy it. Peer pressure, you know. Meanwhile, other services say they are personal because you have specifically provided them with information about you and what you like, which goes partway to discovering your interests, but is incomplete, and possibly inaccurate, as you may want to indicate that you are something that you are not, or you may have overlooked some of your own interests in the name of rapid completion.
Beyond these initial attempts is a new wave of companies trying to crack the code of the real you. Of course, my6sense is one of those companies. Our goal is to deliver a personalized experience in all possible aspects of your life, finding the right information for you at the right time in the right context, based on you as an individual. But we are not alone. Take, for example, Hunch.com, which is talking about personalizing the Internet, and says they can build a taste profile for you, based on your own unique interests and tastes. Also, in October, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch previewed Gravity, founded by former MySpace executives. In that piece, which he headlined as “The Personalization War”, he said “I saw my own Interest Graph based only on my Facebook and Twitter streams over the last several months and it’s scary-accurate.”
Louis doesn’t go off the personal rails here. He just doesn’t quite get on, staying instead on the corporate ones:
Sorry, but no. My Web is not their Web. I’m tired of being shown. I’m tired of “experiences” that are “delivered” to me. I’m tired of bad guesswork — or anyguesswork. I don’t want “scarily accurate” guesses about me and what I might want.
What I crave is independence, and better ways of engaging — ones that are mine and not just theirs. Ones that work across multiple services in consistent ways. Ones that let me change my data with all these services at once, if I want to.
I want liberation from the commercial Web’s two-decade old design flaws. I don’t care how much a company uses first person possessive pronouns on my behalf. They are not me, they do now know me, and I do not want them pretending to be me, or shoving their tentacles into my pockets, or what their robots think is my brain. Enough, already.
I spoke at Kynetx Impact the night before Louis’ talk. The visuals are on Slideshare. Here is slide 25, which illustrates the problem with the commercial Web’s long-defaulted client-server design:
Wikipedia says, “The client–server model of computing is a distributed application structure that partitions tasks or workloads between the providers of a resource or service, called servers, and service requesters, called clients.”
So, while the Net itself has an end-to-end design, in which all the ends are essentially peers, the Web (technically an application on the Net) has a submisive-dominant design in which clients submit to servers. It’s a calf-cow model. As calves, we request pages and other files from servers, usually getting cookie ingredients mixed in, so the cow can remember where we were the last time we suckled, and also give us better services. Especially advertising.
We have no choice but to agree with this system, if we want to be part of it. And, since the cows provide all the context for everything we do with them, we have onerous “agreements” in name only, such as what you see on your iPhone every time Apple makes a change to their store:
Legal folks call these “contracts of adhesion.” Sez the Free Dictionary,
A type of contract, a legally binding agreement between two parties to do a certain thing, in which one side has all the bargaining power and uses it to write the contract primarily to his or her advantage.
An example of an adhesion contract is a standardized contract form that offers goods or services to consumers on essentially a “take it or leave it” basis without giving consumers realistic opportunities to negotiate terms that would benefit their interests. When this occurs, the consumer cannot obtain the desired product or service unless he or she acquiesces to the form contract.
Here’s the thing: client-server’s calf-cow model requires this kind of thing, because the system is designed so the server-cows are in complete control. You are not free. You are captive, and dependent.
This system has substantiated a business belief that has been around ever since Industry won the industrial revolution: that a captive customer is more valuable than a free one. We’ve built systems that tendentiously affirm that belief, and the commercial Web is chief among those systems today. Correspondingly, on the customer side, we actually believe that a free market is your choice of captor. Even champions of the free market, such as The Wall Street Journal, seem to think this is okay. (Or they wouldn’t keep talking about how telecom giants — occupants of a regulatory zoo they all but own and control — comprise the “free market” at work.)
If the next wave is personal, then we have to bring our own contexts.
Think for a moment about the context of renting a wheelbarrow. If you sign an agreement for that, it’s only to put up a deposit, pay a certain amount, assume liability for whatever harms you might cause with it, and return the thing in good condition. That’s about it.
Or think about what happens when you walk into a shoe store. You don’t have to sign a damn thing. (If you’re lucky, the store won’t require that you belong to their “loyalty” program just to get a “discount” that’s nothing more than a normal price, rather than a higher price they charge to punish non-”members”.) Your context is shopping for shoes. Laws apply, of course. You aren’t allowed to steal things or act in a disturbing way. But nobody stands at the door telling you to stop and sign an agreement — least of all one with clauses (which nearly all adhesive contracts have) saying they have the right to change the terms, and they can do that whenever they please.
We won’t get rid of calf-cow systems, nor should we. They work, but they have their limits, and those become more apparent with every new calf-cow service we join. But we can work around these things, and supplement them with other systems that give us equal power on equal footings, including the ability to proffer our own terms, express our own preferences and policies, and make independent choices.
Louis Gray’s personal wave is for real, and it’s just starting. It’s also what we’ve been building through the last four years with ProjectVRM. And it’s starting to catch on. The number and variety of VRM development projects has grown a lot lately, as has the activity level as well.
Naturally, VRM has attracted the interest of major players on the sell side of the marketplace. A month ago I spoke on stage with John Battelle on stage at the Internet Advertising Bureau conference. (John’s insightful post about “digital plumage” ran in the same timeframe.) Next week I’ll speak at SugarCon in San Francisco and to a meeting with Best Buy and General Mills in Minneapolis. It’ll be fun.
The message I’m bringing is not about how these companies can improve the cow systems everybody has done so much to build and improve already. It’s about how buyers and sellers are no longer just cattle, and how we now need to prove something we’ve known all along: that free customers are more valuable than captive ones.
The Internet has exponentially increased people’s ability to interact, and to create and exchange value all around the world, and yet the full value of this ability is far from realized. An information and resource imbalance in the current online market is at the root of this issue. Overly restrictive, unfair legal practice is rife in online agreements, policies, and other legal constructs. Agreements that put one side at a disadvantage stifle innovation, and they burden and complicate the productive activities of both organizations and individuals. The extent of this imbalance and its consequences remains unrecognized by most digital citizens.
Creative Commons and Free/Open Source Software licenses represent early responses to these inequities. Arising in reaction to constraints in specific creative domains, they have unleashed a culture and economy of innovative online collaboration. The Electronic Frontier Foundation challenges public policy. Now we must focus on changing legal practice.
People don’t have lawyers in their living rooms.
In today’s climate, people need them.
It’s time to create new agreements, and to do this we need to go to first sources: people, commons and relationships. The solution begins by relating to a wide variety of people and ensuring their equal access to resources and information.
Contracts are by their very nature collaborative. They should exist to bolster the exchange of value within ongoing trust-based relationships. To build long-term relationships, symmetry between context and contract is necessary. The contract needs to be responsive to each unique situation. Relationships are not static templates, nor should legal agreements be.
We propose a not-for-profit organization for the creation and sustainment of a website and service that addresses these issues. In our vision, this collaborative venture will be critical and constructive, impartial and independent. It will take an active role in envisioning and implementing new, more balanced agreements. We’ve given it a working title of ThoseSneakyBastards.org. We believe this site will be the beginning of something much larger; we hope you will join us to build it.
With a unique brand of audacious humor Those Sneaky Bastards challenges the absurdity in online agreements, policies and other legal constructs that make us queasy when we click “I Accept”.
ThoseSneakyBastards.org will mercilessly roast the legal excesses of internet agreements and celebrate transparency and neutrality. It will employ punchy visuals to help people identify the risks in signing an agreement, and provide the ability to explore these risks in further detail. Think Rotten Tomatoes.
ThoseSneakyBastards.org is a place for members to explore new kinds of agreements: nimble, light, understandable legal instruments for peer-to-peer economic activity. We are promoting respect-based commerce with tools for entrepreneurial ‘customer rights-focused’ small businesses and individuals.
For as long as we’ve had economies, demand and supply have been attracted to each other like a pair of magnets. Ideally, they should match up evenly and produce good outcomes. But sometimes one side comes to dominate the other, with bad effects along with good ones. Such has been the case on the Web ever since it went commercial with the invention of the cookie in 1995, resulting in a calf-cow model in which the demand side — that’s you and me — plays the submissive role of mere “users,” who pretty much have to put up with whatever rules websites set on the supply side.
Consistent with Lord Acton’s axiom (“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”) the near absolute power of website cows over user calves has resulted in near-absolute corruption of website ethics in respect to personal privacy.
This has been a subject of productive obsession by Julia Anguin and her team of reporters at The Wall Street Journal, which have been producing the What They Know series (shortcut: http://wsj.com/wtk) since July 30, 2010, when Julia by-lined The Web’s New Gold Mine: Your Secrets. The next day I called that piece a turning point. And I still believe that.
Today came another one, again in the Journal, in Julia’s latest, titled Web Firms to Adopt ‘No Track’ Button. She begins,
A coalition of Internet giants including Google Inc. has agreed to support a do-not-track button to be embedded in most Web browsers—a move that the industry had been resisting for more than a year.
The reversal is being announced as part of the White House’s call for Congress to pass a “privacy bill of rights,” that will give people greater control over the personal data collected about them.
The long White House press release headline reads,
We Can’t Wait: Obama Administration Unveils Blueprint for a “Privacy Bill of Rights” to Protect Consumers Online
Internet Advertising Networks Announces Commitment to “Do-Not-Track” Technology to Allow Consumers to Control Online Tracking
Obviously, government and industry have been working together on this one. Which is good, as far as it goes. Toward that point, Julia adds,
The new do-not-track button isn’t going to stop all Web tracking. The companies have agreed to stop using the data about people’s Web browsing habits to customize ads, and have agreed not to use the data for employment, credit, health-care or insurance purposes. But the data can still be used for some purposes such as “market research” and “product development” and can still be obtained by law enforcement officers.
The do-not-track button also wouldn’t block companies such as Facebook Inc. from tracking their members through “Like” buttons and other functions.
“It’s a good start,” said Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. “But we want you to be able to not be tracked at all if you so choose.”
In the New York Times’ White House, Consumers in Mind, Offers Online Privacy Guidelines Edward Wyatt writes,
The framework for a new privacy code moves electronic commerce closer to a one-click, one-touch process by which users can tell Internet companies whether they want their online activity tracked.
Much remains to be done before consumers can click on a button in their Web browser to set their privacy standards. Congress will probably have to write legislation governing the collection and use of personal data, officials said, something that is unlikely to occur this year. And the companies that make browsers — Google, Microsoft, Apple and others — will have to agree to the new standards.
No they won’t. Buttons can be plug-ins to existing browsers. And work has already been done.VRM developers are on the case, and their ranks are growing. We have dozens of developers (at that last link) working on equipping both the demand and the supply side with tools for engaging as independent and respectful parties. In fact we already have a button that can say “Don’t track me,” plus much more — for both sides. Its calle the R-button, and it looks like this: ⊂ ⊃. (And yes, those symbols are real characters. Took a long time to find them, but they do exist.)
Yours — the user’s — is on the left. The website’s is on the right. On a browser it might look like this:
Underneath both those buttons can go many things, including preferences, policies, terms, offers, or anything else — on both sides. One of those terms can be “do not track me.” It might point to a fourth party (see explanations here and here) which, on behalf of the user or customer, maintains settings that control sharing of personal data, including the conditions that must be met. A number of development projects and companies are already on this case. Some have personal data stores (PDSes), also called “lockers” or “vaults.” These include:
- Locker Project /Singly
- Project Danube
- The Customers’s Voice
Three of those are in the U.S., one in Austria, one in France, one in South Africa, and three in the U.K. (All helping drive the Midata project by the U.K. government, by the way.) And those are just companies with PDSes. There are many others working on allied technologies, standards, protocols and much more. They’re all just flying below media radar because media like to look at what big suppliers and governments are doing. Speaking of which…
Here’s Julia again:
Google is expected to enable do-not-track in its Chrome Web browser by the end of this year.
Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising at Google, said the company is pleased to join “a broad industry agreement to respect the ‘Do Not Track’ header in a consistent and meaningful way that offers users choice and clearly explained browser controls.”
White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Daniel Weitzner said the do-not-track option should clear up confusion among consumers who “think they are expressing a preference and it ends up, for a set of technical reasons, that they are not.”
Some critics said the industry’s move could throw a wrench in a separate year-long effort by the World Wide Web consortium to set an international standard for do-not-track. But Mr. Ingis said he hopes the consortium could “build off of” the industry’s approach.
So here’s an invitation to the White House, Google, the 3wC, interested BigCos (including CRM companies), developers of all sizes and journalists who are interested in building out genuine and cooperative relationships between demand and supply::::
Join us at IIW — the Internet Identity Workshop — in Mountain View, May 1-3. This is the unconference where developers and other helpful parties gather to talk things over and move development forward. No speakers, no panels, no BS. Just good conversation and productive work. It’s our fourteenth one, and they’ve all been highly productive.
As for the r-button, take it and run with it. It’s there for the development. It’s meaningful. We’re past square one. We’d love to have all the participation we can get, from the big guys as well as the little ones listed above and here.
To help get your thinking started, visit this presentation of one r-button scenario, by Adam Marcus of MIT. Here’s another view of the same work, which came of of a Google Summer of Code project through ProjectVRM and the Berkman Center:
If we leave fixing the calf-cow problem entirely up to the BigCos and BigGov, it won’t get fixed. We have to work from the demand side as well. In economies, customers are the 100%.
Here are some other stories, mostly gathered by Zemanta:
- White House offers online privacy guidelines for consumers mercurynews.com)
- A Sense of Bewronging doc.searls.com)
- You: White House Outlines Online Privacy Guidelines nytimes.com)
- Web privacy standards: easy to break, hard to enforce arstechnica.com)
- White House Pushes for New Privacy Codes of Conduct – PCWorld pcworld.com)
- Google’s Safari Tracking: Here Come the Lawsuits mashable.com)
- White House announces new privacy “Bill of Rights,” Do Not Track agreement arstechnica.com)
- Use Anti-Tracking Tools To Boost Your Browser Security And To Ward Off Google’s Spying googleexposed.wordpress.com)
- White House pushes for online privacy rights usatoday.com)
- Regulators and Business to Work on Privacy Bill of Rights adweek.com)
All look at the symptoms, and supply-side cures. Time for the demand side to demand answers from itself. Fortunately, we’ve been listening, and the answers are coming.
I’m listening and watching with fascination to Keith Scovell‘s Shopper Power videos. In these Keith describes progress being made in a VRM direction by retailers and their upstream suppliers, detailing efforts made by Starbucks, Hallmark, CVS, Tesco/Homeplus, Frito-Lay, Reese’s and other companies — all recognizing that customers’ range of control over interactions in retail environments is increasing dramatically, and will increase a great deal more.
I haven’t watched all of Keith’s videos yet, but I’m taking notes as I do, and I recommend that others do the same, if they’re interested in how increasingly empowered and independent customers relate to vendors — especially at the retail level in the brick & mortar world. And how clueful vendors are working on better ways of interacting with those customers.
It’s interesting that Keith is coming from the CPG — Consumer Packaged Goods — industry, and not CRM, which is most commonly posed as the counterpart to VRM. Yet I think that CPG, and retailing in general, is the more direct counterpart of VRM. Talking about where the rubber meets the road here. Keith talks about market signals, which go in both directions. One purpose of VRM is to provide better means for signaling, as well as for engaging over the longer term.
Four things are important to point out as developers on both sides get acquainted:
- Customers will become more independent. That is, they will have their own ways of expressing demand, loyalty, brand preferences and terms of engagement. Many of today’s solutions on the vendors’ side — loyalty cards, for example — are both coercive and inconvenient, as customers are required to carry around many of these things, all with their own proprietary and silo’d systems. New tools and systems will emerge on the customer’s side to provide both independence and better means of engagement. And those tools and systems will be personal, not just social.
- VRM tools will not only provide or support that independence, but common means for engaging many vendors the same way. For example, they will provide ways for a customer to change his or her address one time for many vendors rather than many times for many vendors.
- The new market ecosystem will be symbiotic one between demand and supply. Not a coercive or competitive one. That means the best customers and the best vendors will be caring about each other and watching out for each others’ best interests. This will actually reduce need on the vendors’ side for discounts, coupons and other gimmicks, which often clutter and confuse an otherwise smooth relationship with customers, and which have other hard costs as well.
- New user interface elements will be required.
For that last two reasons I’ve flanked the text above between two r-buttons. Keith visits QR codes and other handy signaling devices already being used in the retail environment. But it’s still early, so we still lack are user interface (UI) elements that represent actions and states within relationships between buyers and sellers. As work in the VRM development community goes on the demand side moves toward work Keith and others are doing on the supply side, the two magnets will place a new force field over the marketplace: one that brings mutual interests into alignment, even as competition and other familiar market interactions continue as they always have.