May 2013

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Hashtags being used:

Gigi keynote

  • “Italian is the official language of music.” (It’s certainly far more musical than English. No offense.)

David Snowden (@Snowded) keynote

  • Responses to change: fascism or anarchy
  • “We need a few more ecologists around.” Not just engineers.
  • Wisdom of crowds is too often “tyranny of herds.”
  • We need theory for practice and not just theory from practice
  • Complex adaptive systems… The system and the agents co-evolve and modify each other over time. They are not causal but dispositional. They have dispositionality.
  • Sources (as many do, correctly) Daniel Khaneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.
  • “Don t get involved in partial problems but always take flight over the whole single great problem even if this view is still not clear.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • “Every man lives only in this present time, which is an indivisible point, and all the rest of his life is either past or uncertain” – Marcus Aurelius. (Makes me think of Tennyson’s “All experience is an arch wherethrough gleams the untraveled world…”)
  • “There is a high degree of autism in university economics departments.” (I think that’s what he said. Not sure.)
  • “We are pattern based intelligences, not information-based machines.” Far too many people are tying to use the Net to replace human intelligence.” “Culture can replace biology within two generations.”
  • Hugh McCloud: “Information wants to be free. Perspective wants to be expensive.” (Don Marti: “Information doesn’t want to be free. Information wants to be $6.95.”)
  • “I’ve never seen a rusty snake.”
  • Low turnout in elections means fascists are running things.
  • There is far more to human communication than aural and visual stimulation. Scent counts too.
  • Aristotle: “Virtue then is a state of deliberate moral purpose consisting in a mean that is relative to ourselves…”
  • Mark 9:17: Nor do peope pour new ine into old windeskins. If they dom the skins will burst, the wine will spill out and hte skins will be ruined. nstead, they pouier new wine into freh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
  • Hugh: “One must listen to one’s own humanity.”
  • “I use twitter more than google to search for anything involving ambiguity.”
  • Great images about mapping and managing dispositions. In respect to these…
  • “Micronarratives are more useful than best practices in health care.”
  • Abandoning management is stupid. We need to co-evolve. Anarchism loses to fascism under conditions of control. Put humans at the front and the end.

Excellent opening report on the state of the net in Italia

  • Even though Twitter is down (and Facebook, Tumbler, Google+ and others are up), lots of reporting on what and when Italians are tweeting

Akamai talk

  • Great stats
    • The U.S. is #13 in broadband speeds. Asian and European countries are tops.
    • Mobile devices are replacing desktop devices in common usage. Our primary interaction is though mobile rather than fixed devices.
    • Security is a huge issue, especially lately.
      • A 3x increase in the number of attacks in 2012. These are attacks that require a human to intervene. Lots of others are deflected automatically. “This is getting bad.”
      • Attacks are getting easier to initiate, though still realtively easy to define and defend against…. SYN flods, HTP GET floods, etc.
      • Attackers are developing new techniques.
      • All sectors are being attacked.
      • Retail is the biggest target for attack within ecommerce
        • They are very susceptible to a DDOS attack
        • Their vulnerabilities are high, given the constant financial activity
        • Extortion is involved, often. “Pay up or we’ll bring you down.”
      • In enterprise, financial and business services are the top targets
      • Ababil
        • A range of DDoS attacks targeting us banks and onlin e apps
        • Many techniques being used… volumetric DNS, Volumetric layers 2/4 and 5-7, SSL resource attacks
        • Observed high volume bursts of traffic: upto 10k requests per minute per brobot node
        • Tuypically burst and go dormant.
      • Top ports. microsoft-DS, Sql server, RPC.
    • Sum-up
  • Note: connection speeds noted should be upstream as well as downstream.
    • From the personal perspective, we should be saying “instream” and “outstream.” Saying “upstream” and “downstream” is an old-fashioned centralized perspective. If the Net is a world of ends, our perspective should be end-based, not center-based.

Thoughts provoked by all discussions about the state of the Net (not just here):

  • The Net is not social media, Google, or what any company does. The Net is everybody and everything on it.
  • Yes, the Net is the “network of networks” over which packets fly from point to point, but the point of the Net is the boundless number and variety of points at its ends.
  • The Net has no billing model, which is why it succeeded. All due credit to the phone and cable companies of the world, they never would have built the Net we know now had building it been left up to them in the first place. Same goes for the governments of the world.
  • Confusing or conflating the Net with what big companies or governments are doing on it it is like confusing or conflating the Earth with a few buildings sitting on it, downtown.
  • In respect to the above, see WorldOfEnds. David Weinberger and I wrote that more than ten years ago. Not sure how much we’d change it if we were writing it anew today. Same goes for Cluetrain, I suppose.

Thoughts about business

  • The scale that matters is the user’s or the customer’s. Not that of any one company serving those people.
  • We cannot get scale that fully matters if we get it only from a single company.
    • For example, Facebook, Google and Twitter do not give me scale. They can help, but the scale is theirs, not mine, because they are not agents of me. That is, they do not work for me. It’s more like the other way around. They are B2B, not B2C. Their customers are advertisers, not you or me. In fact, you and I are the products being sold to advertisers.
  • Google, Facebook and Twitter have the same problem that broadcasters have had for the duration: their customers and their consumers are different populations. They are financially accountable only to the businesses that pay for their services, rather than to the consumers of those services. (Ever try to call Google or Facebook to solve a problem? Good luck. You’re just a consumer.)
  • The day will come when Google, Facebook and Twitter, or their successors in the marketplace, will deal with their users directly as customers, rather than indirectly as users or consumers. They don’t want to do this now because business is good enough without “going direct” to millions (or billions) of people. But once enough people start paying for privacy, or for personal services, that will change, because the changes can be rationalized financially.
  • A path in that direction is to go freemium: charge extra for personal service, or hand-holding. Right now, for example, I would gladly pay Google for help with Gmail. But there is nobody to call, so I can’t.

A request

  • If anybody here (in Trieste, or at #SOTN13) has a Canon SLR zoom lens, preferably an L series one, that they can rent or loan to me, please let me know. The old one I brought with me is jammed. Thanks.

Observations, learnings:

  • Italian is so much more expressive than English. I love listening to it, even though I only get about 1% of what people are saying.
  • “Twitter is our playground.”

Writing this, live, in Fargo. Some notes on that, as I go along…

  • I love being able to write this in outline form. It’s perfect for taking live notes. I think, in fact, that doing things like this will be a primary use case for outlining.
  • Need to remember to highlight the outline headline before clicking on the WordPress symbol to save it in the blog
  • This is great: I can add categories in WordPress without screwing up the outline I’m writing in another browser tab in Fargo.
  • Debug (note: Fargo is at v0.71):
    • I keep getting warnings telling me that I have a choice to save the current or a newer outline. I keep choosing the current one, and that works.
    • Need to avoid the em dash or this happens: —

[Trieste, Italy, 12:02am Friday 21 May 2013 — As I say in the comments here, Airbnb has responded to this post, explaining that a bug in the system was involved. While that might patch Airbnb’s relationship with my wife and I, the bridge remains burned with other customers as long as Airbnb’s Verified ID system retains its current requirements. They still need the kind of help only good hackers and loyal customers can provide. — Doc]

My wife and I are veteran Airbnb customers who have been happy with the company from the start. We like the prices, the experiences, the whole thing. As happy customers, we have also been spreading the love far and wide, pitching many new customers on Airbnb as a better way to stay when traveling. We want to continue spreading that love, even though we — and many other loyal customers — are now on the far side of a bridge Airbnb burned when it launched its new identity Verified ID system, which they explain (at that link) this way:

Verified ID provides a connection between the online and offline spaces. Airbnb users can earn a “Verified ID” badge on their profile by providing their online identity (via existing Airbnb reviews, LinkedIn, or Facebook) and matching it to offline ID documentation, such as confirming personal information or scanning a photo ID. The name provided by both channels must match for verification to succeed.

Starting today, Airbnb will require a random 25% of users in the USA to go through the Verified ID process. Soon, we’ll expand this requirement to users around the world. We hope that hosts and guests worldwide will see the benefits of interacting with users who complete Verified ID. Our goal is for all Airbnb members to have Verified ID eventually.

Any Airbnb host can now require their prospective guests to obtain Verified IDs before booking. Trust runs in both directions, so any host who requests this condition must also get verified.

Some of the comments under the post were positive, but many went the other way. Here are a few…


I am an Airbnb host. Naturally, safety is always a concern. Despite that, I find this move objectionable, dishonest, misguided, and outright offensive.

  1. As a host, it is up to me to choose who I allow in my home. I like that I can decide how many requirements to place on my guests. Should I choose to place strict requirements, I get more protection and probably fewer bookings. I like having the choice. Airbnb just took the choice away from me and I’m not happy about it.
  2. You are making it substantially harder for guests to book on Airbnb. These standards will reduce the number of bookings we receive as hosts. You reduce our bookings and remove our ability to choose. Hosts should have the ability to choose.
  3. You want people to send you their photo ID / passport? Are you out of your *&#%& mind? Banks lose customer data all the time and they have some of the most stringent standards possible. Despite that, you pretend that you all are immune. You claim that having people send some of their most personal information over the internet will make them safer. You don’t make them safer; you make them MUCH LESS SAFE. When you have your data breached and you get sued, you will deserve every bit of the penalty.
  4. Why did you require a random 25% of users? Why not all users? Because you know you’d get too much negative feedback all at once and you could control the situation better if you phase it in. Either you are lying or you are putting hosts at risk. Shameful either way.
  5. “enhanced trust” I hate your Orwellian crock of sh&# phrasing. You should help the prison system rebrand their “full body cavity search”
  6. As a traveler myself, I was one of the 25% selected for “enhanced trust”. I have over 50 positive reviews from guests and hosts alike. You know where I live! There is no more trust that could possibly be had. Use a little common sense. This is the kind of nonsense I’d expect from the DMV, not from a blossoming enterprise.
  7. When the hell did facebook become an authority on people’s identities? I suspect that you have much more interesting motives for forcing people to connect their profiles to facebook. Quit trying to mine data under the guise of trust.
  • Deborah:

    my Facebook account did not work for Airbnb so they asked me to make a personal video talking about such things as why i like my neighborhood. I’m sorry, but I find this creepy. think of the inevitable steps up: photos of tattoos or birthmarks? proof of baptism? defense of fashion choices? that fragrant blend of californian cumbayah and capitalism. yechh….

  • Also from Deborah:

    I was just trying to book a short stay and the rigmarole and emails this verification process generated was ridiculous, but what caused me to cancel the reservation was this weird audition video request. Nor will I ever have anything further to do with Airbnb; not because of the hassle, but because this new verification process is invasive and puts my identity at risk. I have never encountered any comparable vetting for any purpose and it’s depressing to realize people will unthinkingly accept this kind of exploitation of information. I guess the thinking is if you value your privacy and identity above “trust” you don’t measure up to the Airbnb “community”. And is it a “community”? Really??

  • kim:

    well this is irritating. i have neither a facebook nor linkedin account, nor do i want either. i’ve been a positively-reviewed airbnb member for 2 years. although this article says it will look at positive reviews as online verification, it does not seem to be the case.
    and as for the 24/7 customer service? at this moment there is NO chat available, phone number is reserved for emergencies, and they are not responding to e-mail. so my booking is in limbo. if you’re going to implement this new feature, at least have the customer service to support it!<

  • Mle Davis

    Agree with others that the new verification process is insane and insulting. I have used your service for two years. My “reality” has been verified by my hosts and my guests: people in four countries have left feedback about their experiences with me. We have talked on the phone. You have my social security number from when you sent me tax documents. You have my credit card on file. I”m happy to send you my drivers license, but don’t see why you would need it, when you already have the rest. There is just no way I”m linking up my facebook account so you can datamine my friends, keep an eye on my day to day activity, or examine my relationships. There are enough safety checks on me through the relationship we’ve already developed. Please reconsider this stupidity.

  • E:

    Just had a reservation cancelled tonight because I did not complete the verification process. I inadvertently skipped the second step in the process which is give them access to my facebook account and contacts. I guess it doesn’t matter that I have been a member for almost three years and have rented through airbnb more than 15 times and have ALL positive reviews. I see this as an attempt to gather data for marketing purposes. Why else would they need access to facebook or linked in. Airbnb is going down hill. I have had more and more problems with them over the past 6 months. It was a great idea in the begining, but I think they are imploding!

  • Tony:

    I’m new to airbnb and I’m not crazy about the idea of scanning my driver’s license or passport and sending that to you. How do I know the faceless employees of whatever company which gets this information can be trusted with it?…
    … before you go to these extraordinary steps, why not fix the site so that friends can give me references. As I said, I’m new and (per your instructions) have asked friends through the site (both by email and facebook) to provide me with a reference. No one has done so yet and three have written back to say that they click the link and then don’t see any way to provide me with a reference. Two of these people are now concerned that this was just a way for someone to get their email addresses and add them to a spam list.

  • Lisa:

    I am so relieved to hear all these comments about the verification process. I am feeling DEEPLY resentful of this. I used Airbnb successfully this year, and am horrified to see what they’re asking. It is so invasive I can’t believe it. Like most people here, I’m sure, I’ve done vacation rentals, car rentals, bought tickets, booked everything and anything without this level of scrutiny. I finally capitulated to four levels of the scrutiny. This is ABSURD. If they want to offer this, then fine. But let the users decide how much they’re sharing and let hosts decide what they need.

Well, it was our bad luck to fall into that 25% when we booked an Airbnb place in Rome last weekend. My wife, an experienced and savvy traveler (with more than two million miles on one airline alone), always books our reservations, and expected the usual smooth and pleasant process when she was suddenly faced with this crazy new verification routine. Here’s how Airbnb explained her options after she declined to login with Facebook or Linkedin (neither of which she belongs to):

If you’re unable to verify your online ID using Facebook or LinkedIn, or if your account does not automatically satisfy the online ID requirements, you can create a video profile to serve as an alternative.

Your video will be visible on your profile as a live introduction of yourself to other Airbnb community members. To create your video profile, visit the “Photos and Video” section under Edit Profile. Consider using your first name, your current city, what you like about your neighborhood, and what you are looking for in a travel experience! Please do not include information about your government-issued ID, payment information, email address, last name, or any other personally identifiable information in your profile video.

After you’ve created a video profile, please email  trust at and we’ll help you complete the verification process.

I’ll pause to note here that my wife and and I have been around identity systems development for a very long time. In my case I’ve keynoted nearly ever Digital ID World, and have co-hosted all sixteen Internet Identity Workshops. Neither of us have ever seen an identity verification routine that required making a video to share with others.  We were, like… what?

So, after she declined to make the video and Airbnb cancelled our order, she sent an email to  trust at that included the following:

I’m perfectly happy to verify through a personal cloud provider ie:, Virtrue, OwnYourInfo, Mydex,, or a trust network like Respect Network or Qiy. I suggest that you take a look at some of these services that work on the side of the customer, without exposing them to further surveillance and tracking of their personal data.

Airbnb replied,

Thank you for your email. Please accept our apologies if our verification process caused you any distress. As we are constantly working on improving our product and services, I’ll pass your feedback on accordingly. In the future, you can also submit your opinions or ideas on Even when we are unable to accommodate all requests, we always value feedback from the community.

Airbnb is a platform for connecting individuals interested in having unique and personalized experiences. This is how Airbnb differs from the norm, as not everyone on Airbnb operates their business outside of Airbnb the way a normal bed and breakfast would. Please consider that you will be staying in the home or residence of another individual. At Airbnb we’re constantly striving to improve the level of trust between our users to instill confidence in the transactions between our users. Our verification process was designed to help improve that level of trust and allow users to fully enjoy their experience on Airbnb.

At Airbnb we’re constantly striving to improve the level of trust between our users to instill confidence in the transactions between our users. Our verification process was designed to help improve that level of trust and allow users to fully enjoy their experience on Airbnb.

Recent positive reviews do count towards verifying your Online identity but the reviews you received did not satisfy our system’s verification requirements. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a Facebook or LinkedIn account, the video profile is the only alternative available at this point. We offer several alternatives in hopes that one will work for you, but we understand that these situations do arise. That’s why we offer you the opportunity to verify your account by recording a 30 second video in which you can introduce yourself to the Airbnb community.

Please know that if you don’t want your video profile to be public, you can also record the clip using a digital camera or a smartphone and attach it to your response to this message. We’ll then verify your account without publishing the video.

This makes no sense to me. Are they saying Airbnb operates a social business, meaning one that places a premium on people exposing themselves to others, rather than on minimizing exposure? Are they saying that everybody in the Airbnb community is a potential “friend,” and thats’s why it makes sense to login with Facebook or Linkedin? And why the video? What’s to keep any community member from copying that video — or any personal information exposed through social media — and spreading it out on the open Web? Why would anybody trust Airbnb to keep that kind of thing from happening?

Given that Ghostery finds Airbnb using only six tracking systems (Facebook Connect, Google AdWords Conversion, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, MixPanel and New Relic) — a relatively small number for a commercial site — I doubt that Airbnb just wants to play the same advertising game that B2B companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and other “social” sites play. Why should they, when they operate one of those very rare things in the “social” age: a real B2C business, for customers who actually pay for goods and services. That’s an enviable and valuable thing. And they’re screwing it up.

The “Verified ID” program fails because it alienates both the supply and the demand sides of the marketplace. It turns away good, loyal, paying customers, and denies hosts those customers’ bookings. Worse, it filters through only those customers who are comfortable exposing themselves through social media and in video performances. Do they really want to do that?

At some point it will dawn on Airbnb that this new system is worse than broken. When that dawn comes I suggest they do three things:

  1. Look into the list of companies and projects my wife mentioned above
  2. Join the Personal Identity Ecosystem Consortium (
  3. Follow what’s happening with VRM and personal clouds — and get involved with those too

I also invite readers to weigh in with their own positive suggestions. No complaints or put-downs, please. We’re here to help.

Tags: , , , ,

The Future Of Technology Isn’t Mobile, It’s Contextual, by Pete Mortensen in Co.Design

The State of Wi-Fi, by Ubiquiti. Lots of stats.

Disruptions: At Odds Over Privacy Challenges of Wearable Computing, by Nick Bilton, in his Bits blog at the New York Times

McKinsey Global Institute: Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy May 2013, byJames Manyika, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Richard Dobbs, Peter Bisson, and Alex Marrs. Here’s the report from a year ago.

These 31 charts will destroy your faith in humanity, by Brad Plumer in the Washington Post

NAFTA on Steroids: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would grant enormous new powers to corporations, is a massive assault on democracy, by Lori Wallach in The Nation.

A Futurist Looks at the Future of Marketing, by Dana Rousmaniere in HBR Blogs

Bookmark: Small Data, Open Data (in Italian)

Making sense of the Internet of Things, by Matt Turck in Techcrunch. Interesting visual. Story is missing the fully personal view. See Drummond Reed’s Internet of Things, meet the Internet of People.




Personal Clouds & VRM


I like and subscribe to Radio INK, which is the main way I stay current with what’s happening in mainstream radio. And Radio INK loves WTOP, the news station in Washington. Do a search for site: WTOP and you’ll get many pages of praise running from Radio INK to WTOP — all of it, I am sure, deserving.

The latest of these is WTOP IS #1 NEWS STATION IN AMERICA. It begins,

A panel of news and news/talk experts have named Hubbard Radio’s WTOP top news station in the country in Radio Ink’s first listing of news and news/talk stations. Under the leadership of GM Joel Oxley, Vice President of Programming Jim Farley, and Program Director Laurie Cantillo, WTOP has developed into a news leader in the Washington D.C. market, competing with newspaper outlets like the Washington Post and television news organizations in the nation’s capital. WTOP has also established itself as a digital news leader with nearly 100,000 regular readers at and 60,000 followers on Twitter and 11 full- and part-time digital journalists.

Here is the list of stations:

  • #1) WTOP – Washington DC*
  • #2) 1010 WINS – New York City*
  • #3) KFI-AM – Los Angeles
  • #4) KCBS-AM – San Francisco*
  • #5) WBBM-AM/FM – Chicago*
  • #6) WCBS-AM – New York City*
  • #7) WBZ-AM – Boston
  • #8) WSB-AM/FM – Atlanta
  • #9) KYW-AM – Philadelphia*
  • #10) WWJ-AM – Detroit*
  • #11) KIRO-FM – Seattle
  • #12) WBT-AM/FM – Charlotte
  • #13) KNX-AM – Los Angeles*
  • #14) KKOB-AM -Albuquerque
  • #15) WBAP-AM & FM – Dallas
  • #16) KTRH-AM – Houston
  • #17) KFBK-AM & FM – Sacramento
  • #18) KMBZ-AM & FM – Kansas City*
  • #19) KRMG-AM & FM – Tulsa*
  • #20) WGAN & WGIN – Portland, ME

I put an * next to the stations that are all-news, meaning you’ll hear live news on them if you tune them in, rather than a talk show. The rest on the list are talk/news, rather than news/talk. By that I mean, if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity are in the station’s program lineup, it’s a talk station.

But I’m also thinking, okay… As long as we’re opening the door here to stations that are a mix of talk and news, why not public radio stations?

Go to Radio-Info’s ratings page for April, and we find, among other things,

  • WAMU beating WTOP in Washington, 9.7 to 7.9
  • KQED beating KCBS in San Francisco, 5.5 to 5.4 (and KQED also has a 5.6, #3 overall, in San Jose)
  • KUOW beating KIRO in Seattle, 4.6 to 3.3. (And why doesn’t KOMO, a full-time news station in Seattle, with a 3.2, miss the list above?)
  • KPBS in San Diego is the top talk station in that city, with a 4.9. (It has no news stations.)
  • KOPB is the #2 station overall in Portland, with a 6.9.
  • WUNC is #2 overall in Raleigh-Durham with an 8.1 (and is often #1, for example in February, when it had an 8.4)

As I put it in my response to Radio INK’s latest, “Why not give some credit to the public stations that are huge ratings successes? … I understand that your main interest is commercial radio; but noncommercial radio matters just as much — if not more, if actual listening is taken into account.”

Ed Ryan replied, Doc: Good Points. We did not receive any nominations for non-coms. Hopefully you will nominate a few next year. And, ratings was not the only factor in determining the list. Hope yo are well.  Ed

I hadn’t realized that this story was based entirely on nominations by the stations themselves. Now that I do, I invite public stations to step up and start claiming the credit they deserve. I’ll try to remember to do the same, next time this rolls around.


  • Dave on the Icon Chooser Dialog (Just added the icons for each subhead)
  • This is a test: em dash — , possessive apostophe ’ . If you see more of those in the text below, please ignore. Thanks. – Doc




How the Decline of the Traditional Workplace Is Changing Our Cities, by Emily Badger

American ISPs are now hated even more than airlines, By Brad Reed

Hollywood studios attempt to censor Pirate Bay documentary

High plains aquifer running out. Graphic.

Google tweaks search.

After You Read This Kid’s Story, You’ll Think Twice About What You Post On Facebook. (And That’s The Problem.), in The Liberty Crier


Flickr has updated its service. I knew it was coming and I had a few hopes for it:

  1. Better multiple account management
  2. Personal service, by human beings using their real voices
  3. Ability to make changes (e.g. of permissions or licensing) for thousands of shots in one move
  4. Finer distinctions than friends/family/private

The updates, from what I can tell, offer none of that. What I got, as a Pro customer, appeared in the form of index page copy that began,

Dear Doc, as a Pro member continue to enjoy the benefits of unlimited space, an ad free experience and stats.

For non-paying users, there was this, from the index page as it appeared on a browser that didn’t know I’m a Pro member:


Everyone gets a free terabyte.

Biggr. That’s right, a terabyte.

Spectaculr. Share in full resolution.

Wherevr. Available anywhere you go.

Then there was this, from an email from Flickr to one of my several selves who have a Flickr Pro account:

As a Pro Member, your subscription remains the same. You’ll enjoy unlimited space for your photos and videos, detailed stats and an ad-free experience. However, you can switch to a Free account before August 20, 2013.

Why offer an opportunity to switch? I wondered.

So I clicked on a “learn more” link that went to this:

Next question: Why a down-sell to Free rather than an up-sell to Pro?

I guess they’d rather have me looking at ads than paying for a service — to be a consumer rather than a customer.

Yet Flickr is still relatively free of the load-slowing spyware typical of most commercial websites. (There’s just ScoreCard Research Beacon and Yahoo Analytics. I have the former turned off, but I leave the latter on. Seems harmless enough.)

Anyway, I’m not sure what’s up with Pro accounts. Nothing, I guess.

But the problems remain. From The Intention Economy:

A similar problem comes up when you have multiple accounts with one site or service, and therefore multiple namespaces, each with its own login and password. For example, I use four different Flickr accounts, each with its own photo directory:

  1. Doc Searls
  2. Linux Journal
  3. Berkman Center
  4. Infrastructure/

The first is mine alone. The second I share with other people at Linux Journal. The third I share with other people at the Berkman Center. The fourth I share with other people who also write for the same blog.

Flickr in each case calls me by the second person singular “you,” and does not federate the four. To them I am four different individuals: one cow, four calves. (Never mind that three of those sites have many people uploading pictures, each pretending to be the same calf.) My only choice for dealing with this absurdity is deciding which kind of four-headed calf I wish to be. Either I use one browser with four different logins and passwords, or I use four different browsers, each with its own jar of cookies. Both choices are awful, but I have to choose one. So I take the second option, and use one browser per account—on just one laptop. When I use other laptops, or my iPhone, my Android, or the family Nokia N900, iPod Touch or iPad, I’m usually the first kind of calf, using one browser to login and logout every time I post pictures to a different account. Which I mostly don’t do at all, because it’s one big pain in my many asses.

As it happens I’m having a problem with the Infrastructure account: I’ve lost the login and password. At this point the account is mine alone:  I’m the only one paying for it, and the only one using it. But I haven’t been able to raise a human being, so far, at Flickr. I could share my email exchange with the automated process there, but there’s no point. I’d rather just have the problem fixed.

So here’s a request, if anybody from Flickr is reading this: please contact me, and let’s fix this thing. Thanks.

I first heard QR codes called “robot barf” yesterday, when JP said it. Got a good laugh out of it too, because: yeah, if a robot could barf, that’s what it would look like.

Digging back, it looks like the first source of the joke is Andy Roberts here, or Jon Mitchell here, both of whom posted on 27 October, 2011.

Kevin Marks followed in the same vein with QR Codes, bad idea or terrible idea? on 28 January 2012. There Kevin wrote, among other things, “QR Codes ignore years of research and culture on how to communicate meaning in symbolic form designed to be captured by image processing tools behind a lens. We have this technology. It is called writing.”

Both John and Kevin pointed to, an innocuous-looking Japanese site without a QR code anywhere to be seen. Its title, translated by Google in Chrome, is “Floor coatings proficient poisoning.” The subtitle is “Sister and sister floor coating proficient.” The body copy begins, “By the way, eh had fallen at the door my sister When you go home? What does this murder? The’m was about to close the door involuntarily thought such as.Voice of sister sank to the floor face willl “welcome back” I heard, I went to the front door or what ‘s also Ninen.” Thus speaks the technology we call writing.

Citing Kevin, JP asked me if there was a difference between a QR code and a link. I said yes, because the author can make a QR code mean anything, and a QR code can also have any number of authors, or documents, or you-name-it, associated with it. I didn’t have the time make more of a case than that, but now I do, so here goes.

Think of a QR code as a window to anything, rather than as a form of writing.

For example, a QR code can be window on a product to the relationship between the owner and the company that made the product — and, for that matter, with anybody else involved. That’s where Phil Windley goes in his post titled Using Products to Build Customer Relationships. Some background: Phil’s company, Kynetx, makes QR code tags and stickers called “SquareTags,” which you can attach to the things you own, and which can be programmed, by you, to say or mean anything. I wrote about this a bit in The Internet of Me and My Things. Phil unpacks his case with this:

…by and large, ecommerce sites, from the smallest to the biggest, are just glorified online catalogs not significantly different from their more mundane mail-order catalog cousins. I’ve always thought the Internet ought to allow us to do better — to really change how merchants, companies and service organizations interact and relate to people.

Our vision for SquareTag is just that: helping people and companies have better (i.e. less dysfunctional) relationships. We believe that products are natural connecting points between companies and their customers. Because SquareTag makes those products smart and gives them an online presence, SquareTag provides a powerful tool for building vendor-customer relationships.

When I speak in my blog or on stage about the Internet of My Things, I’m highlighting the natural and powerful feelings people have about their stuff. As Doc Searls says in Chapter 21 of The Intention Economy, “possession is 9/10ths of the three-year old”. Our connections with our things are primitive and deep. We spend much of our time and resources acquiring, using, managing, and disposing of things.

Because of the strong feelings people have about them, products are a natural connecting point between manufacturers, retailers, service companies, and the customer. SquareTag is designed to deepen the connection between people and things by making the interactions richer.

With SquareTag, any thing becomes a programming platform. Products become more useful, more helpful with the addition of SquareTag. As an example, SquareTag gives almost anything an online social profile

Many companies confuse “having information” about their customers with having a relationship. That might constitute customer intelligence, but it’s not a relationship. Relationships are built on common interests and an exchange of value. Both parties need to see that value or it’s not a relationship. People are more likely to resent the fact that you know things about them outside of a relationship…

Using SquareTag companies can engage in a new kind of customer relationship management that does more than store contact information and interaction history. SquareTag provides a way to establish genuine relationships that provide continuous interaction throughout the customer life-cycle. This changes “relationship management” into “relating.”

Between the elipses above, Phil goes into specific use cases and scenarios. It’s deep and fun stuff. Go read it.

Meanwhile, think of how lame it has been for QR codes, so far, to be limited mostly to (actual) robot barf on the corners of ads and on the windows of shops, leading the scanner back to something promotional put up by the company at a website. This is worse than uninteresting: it wastes everybody’s time. But let’s say my next Canon camera, maybe the forthcoming 5D Mark IV, comes with a QR code unique to that camera. If I scan it on Day 1 of owning it, I’ll get, perhaps, a greeting and a link to the owner’s manual. Then, after I put it in my personal cloud, I can add my own annotations, such as links to the photos I’ve taken with the camera, or to my own notes for Canon’s repair people, should I have to send it in for a fix. (Which I’ve done many times over the years with my various cameras.) The repair people can then scan the code and see the notes. Canon too can add updates to the code. (Remember, I can program viewing permissions in my pCloud.) And, if I ever sell the camera or give it away, my notes and Canon’s can go with it, and Canon’s CRM system can be updated with relationship information about the new owner.

Finally, in case you need one more thing to convince you that QR codes are only ugly when misused — and are sure to become beautiful once they are used in creative new ways — there is this item in Wikipedia:

The use of QR codes is free of any license. The QR code is clearly defined and published as an ISO standard.

Denso Wave owns the patent rights on QR codes, but has chosen not to exercise them.

Thank you, Denso Wave.

After six years on the VRM case, it seems obvious to me that individuals need to be the points of integration for their own data — and of data about them, held by companies. But it’s not yet obvious to the marketplace, since we still lack suppliers willing either to part with the personal data they already hold, or to provide easy-to-use tools that people can use to combine that data, analyze it and put it to use.

So, to help with that, here are a few starters:

  • Quantified self data. Right now all the data produced by your Withings scale, your Zeo sleep manager, your Nike+ sportwatch, your Omron blood pressure monitor, your Fitbit Flex wristband, your Moves smartphone app, your Sportline heart rate monitor, your MoodScope log, your Accu-Check blood glucose meter and your workout machine data from the gym are silo’d by the companies supplying those devices. Even when that data is open and exportable (as it is, say, with Zeo sleep data), you can’t easily pull that data into one place that is yours, where you can analyze them together, and make fully informed decisions based on that data. There are apps and services, such as Digifit, that can combine data from multiple devices made by multiple manufacturers, but those services are silos as well — and they don’t include data from companies not on a privileged list. If you had that data, you could correlate weight loss or maintenance to specific workout routines, moods or dietary practices. You could present that data to your insurance company or health care provider to get better rates and services from both. The list goes on, and can get very long — especially when you integrate it with the other stuff below.
  • Retail. Think of what you could do if you had all your spendings in electronic form, and not just on paper receipts and invoices, or buried ten clicks deep on Web pages  You could look for ways to spend less money, or spend it more wisely. You could share back some of that data to retailers whose loyalty programs wear blinders toward what you’ve bought elsewhere: intelligence that might get you more favorable treatment from those retailers, while also providing them with better market intelligence.
  • Home expenses management, including energy and utility usage. Today “smart” devices and metering are almost entirely silo’d by manufacturers and utility services, so it’s no wonder almost nobody does anything with the data. The green button initiative is a good start in this direction, but implementation by the energy industry is minimal, while consumer awareness and tools for examining the data are also nearly absent. The only thing suppliers want to make easy to read are the invoices they send out. There is no doubt that we could save a lot of money, and spend it far more wisely, if we could see and manage that data with our own tools. But until we get those tools, we’ll stay in the dark.
  • Media usage. Sometimes, when I talk to a group of people in the U.S., I’ll ask how many listen to public radio. Usually nearly all the hands go up. Then, when I ask how many pay to listen, only about 10% stay raised. But when I ask if people would pay if it were “really easy,” the percentage doubles. If I add, “How about if you didn’t have to endure those ‘pledge breaks’ when the station begs for money and promises you a cup or a CD if you call in,” even more hands go up. The problems to solve here are equating listening with value, and easing the ability to pay. That was the idea behind ListenLog, which was featured on the first edition of the Public Radio Player from PRX. It was a nice experiment, but it was buried too deep in the feature list, and the results weren’t easy to get out and put to use. But it would be cool if our usage of media devices and services would yield data we could gather and use. And, if we shared that data back, it would also help media with subscription systems to improve those as well. Most of those are informed by what can be learned only inside their own silos — or by the conventions that include enticements many of us don’t fall for. This is why, for example, I still don’t subscribe to the New York Times, even though I am a loyal buyer of the paper on news stands and often read it online as well. I would also love to pay for music on a per-listen basis, whether I already own that music or not. While that is totally anomalous today, it might not be if all of us had easy ways to weigh and measure the actual value media has for us.

Keeping this stuff from happening is something of a chicken-and-egg problem. Since we lack tools for examining data from various sources, those sources see no need to share that data. And, in the absence of that data’s availability, we lack tools to do stuff with that data.

In respect to personal data, we are where personal computing was before the spreadsheet and the word processor, and where worldwide communications was before the Internet. Once we had the spreadsheet and the word processor, creative and resourceful individuals could do much more with numbers and words than big companies ever could — and that was good for those companies as well. Likewise, once we had the Internet, each of us could do far more with global communications than phone companies and other big players could alone. And that was good for everybody concerned as well.

And, once we have the means to do our own hacking, on data of any size and provenance, we will do for data what we did for computing and communications: make it personal and productive beyond any imaginings that are possible in the absence of those means.

This is why today’s “Big Data” jive, coming entirely from big companies selling to other big companies, sounds very much like the mainframe business in 1980 and the networking business in 1990. It’s mainframe talk. Nothing wrong with it. Just something very inadequate: it ain’t personal. Worse, it’s highly impersonal, unless it’s about how companies can know you so much better than you know yourself.

But that will change. It has to, because we’ve seen this movie before, and we know how it ends. As soon as it’s clear how much more each of us can do with data than the corporate hoarders can, a $trillion market will open up. Count on it.

What will make that clear? My bet, for now at least, is on personal clouds. You’ll find more on those in today’s link pile. For a look at what companies need to do, see everything Craig Burton is writing about the API economy at KuppingerCole.

And, by the way, both this post and that link pile were written in Fargo: another space to watch.

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