Category: Startups (page 2 of 2)

When consumers become media for themselves

I was talking recently with Edi Immonen of Glome about the idea behind it: turning users into publishers. He used the word “media,” but I’m going with “publishers” for now, because that’s the word used in this graphic (one of many like it — all amazing and excellent) from LUMA partners:

That’s the marketer’s view. But how about yours, as the consumer over there on the right. In fact it’s actually more like this:

Because all you do is consume. You have no direct influence on all that intermediary stuff; so it just presses down on you.

But what if you become the publisher — a form of producer, and not just of consumer? Then the system, simplified, would look like this:

This is in alignment with what Tim Berners-Lee designed the Web to look like in the first place, but in in a commercial setting. (Remember that Sir Tim was then working in high energy physics at CERN, looking for ways to share and edit documents across the Internet as it existed at the turn of the ’90s.) It is also what blogging, as originally conceived, also did. If this blog were commercial (which it is not, on purpose), that would be me (or us) on the right.

Now, if we, as publishers, look at our data, or of our personal space — our state as a medium — as a platform for selling and buying stuff, including services, a whole new horizon opens up.

What Edi and his colleagues at Glome envision is a way for you, as a medium, to sell your space (however you chose to define that word) to:

  1. brands with which you already have a relationship;
  2. brands in which you have an interest; or
  3. brands in which you might have an interest.

From the traditional marketing perspective, #3 makes you “qualified lead,” for which the brand should be willing to pay. But that’s a far too reduced view of what you really are, or might be, to that brand.

Think of this marketplace frame from a CRM+VRM perspective. Between those two rectangles, inside the black two-pointed arrow, are cycles of buying and owning, of use and re-use, of live interactions and of long periods of idle time where neither is paying much attention to the other. Lots of stuff can go on within the boundaries of that two-way arrow.

What Glome proposes here is not zero-basing the marketplace, but instead to re-start our thinking, and our work, atop three well-understood existing roles: brand, publisher (or medium) and marketplace. The main re-characterization is of the individual, who is now a publisher or a medium, and not just a consumer.

Obviously much can get disintermediated here, including all the stuff between the marketer and the publisher in the graphic up top.

But much new intermediation is now possible, especially if the individual has a personal cloud through which one (or one’s fourth party) can program interactions, for the individual, among API-based services (in the manner of IFTTT, or using KRL) and the “Internet of things”. (For developers, I believe Singly fits in here too.)

So we are looking here at a whole new market for information and relationships, within the larger marketplace of everything else. This isn’t complicated, really. It’s actually what markets looked like in the first place:

This is the context we meant by “Markets are conversations” in The Cluetrain Manifesto.

LUMAscapes (such as the top one above) brilliantly depict the ecosystems of marketing as they have evolved so far, down different branches of discipline. The tree from which they branch, however, is the old advertising and direct marketing one, now operating inside the Internet . (“Big data” and analytics in marketing are hardly new. They were what direct mail was all about long before it evolved into direct marketing and then spread into online advertising.)

So this is a shout-to —

— as well as all the VRM developers in the world (and it seems there are more every day).

The last graphic above is our new frame. It helps that it’s also the oldest frame.

I also look forward to the day when Terence Kawaja and his colleagues at LUMA partners draw up VRM+CRM and other new ecosystems that are bound to evolve, once enough of us get our heads out of the old marketing frame and into the oldest marketplace one. So this is a shout-out to them too. 🙂

VRM taking root in France

I love this tweet from @CaroCondamin

Le concept du Vendor Relationship Management par ProjectVRM  #VRM

Following the links, I see she works for OneCub, a VRM company in France. Here she also includes this simple and handy graphic, which nicely illustrates the reciprocity between CRM and VRM:

Thanks to the good work done by Fing and others in France, when I spoke at an event there last year, all the hands in the room went up when I asked how many were familiar with VRM.

And, even though there is some argument in VRM circles over whether this proposed tax is a good or bad thing, there is no doubt that the spirit behind it is aligned with the one behind VRM development. In fact, this 2oo page report, written in what one source calls “administrative French,” sources The Cluetrain Manifesto and The Intention EconomyHere is Caroline’s post about the proposal. (In Chrome, it translates to English for me.) Anybody interested in the intersection between public interest, policy and market dynamics should read it.


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

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


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

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

event channels

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

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

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

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

Excessive Mapper

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ting rings the opening bell

Here, according to the ProjectVRM wiki, are the ideal characteristics of VRM tools:

  1. VRM tools are personal. As with hammers, wallets, cars and mobile phones, people use them as individuals,. They are social only in secondary ways.
  2. VRM tools help customers express intent. These include preferences, policies, terms and means of engagement, authorizations, requests and anything else that’s possible in a free market, outside any one vendor’s silo or ranch.
  3. VRM tools help customers engage. This can be with each other, or with any organization, including (and especially) its CRM system.
  4. VRM tools help customers manage. This includes both their own data and systems and their relationships with other entities, and their systems.
  5. VRM tools are substitutable. This means no source of VRM tools can lock users in

Note “mobile phones” in #1. Like a car or a wallet, a mobile phone is personal. Ir also supports our independence, helps us express intent, and is substitutable. Bearing all these things (and more) in mind, has come to market with the clear intent of doing the best it can to support customers’ VRM intentions.

Go down Joe Andrieu’s list of user driven services

  1. Impulse from the User
  2. Control
  3. Transparency
  4. Data Portability
  5. Service Endpoint Portability
  6. Self Hosting
  7. User Generativity
  8. Improvability
  9. Self-managed Identity
  10. Duty of Care

… and you’ll find that Ting comes about as close as any mobile phone company can come to respecting all those things.

Ting is an MVNO — a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. That means it operates as a phone company, but does not own facilities. Instead it re-sells the raw base offerings (minutes, texts, quantities of data) that it buys from a carrier with facilities. In this case, Sprint. It works everywhere in the U.S. that Sprint does, but it has a much more friendly and sensible set of offerings and pricings than any of the major mobile phone companies. It’s about as gimmick-free as you can get. That is, Ting is the very opposite of what Scott Adams in The Dilbert Future calls a “confusopoly.” Sez Scott,

A confusopoly is a situation in which companies pretend to compete on price, service, and features but in fact they are just trying to confuse customers so no one can do comparison shopping.

Cell [mobile] phone companies are the best example of confusopolies. The average consumer finds it impossible to decipher which carrier has the best deal, so carriers don’t have normal market pressure to lower prices. It’s a virtual cartel without the illegal part.

Ting is a VRM company. Its management and other personnel have been involved in many VRM discussions and events, and a number of VRM folk have been involved in Ting’s beta as well. Our family, for example. So far we’re loving it. The data service especially is surprisingly good. At our kid’s high school in rural New Hampshire, both voice and data service is pretty much perfect.

Here are some of the stories about the Ting launch that have hit so far:

Plus these from Zemanta:

Say howdy to Insidr and Glome

One is , which is “rewriting the Rules of ” by giving you a way to “connect directly to real people who have worked in big companies and are willing to help when the company can’t or won’t.” You post a question, offer a bounty for an answer, and get an answer from an insider at the company. So far those include (copied and pasted from Insidr’s about/learn page):

I asked a question regarding , with which I’ve flown .82 million miles so far. The question had nothing to do with customer service, but rather with looking for a connection inside the airline, with whom I might talk about publishing a book of aerial photos (such as these) taken from United planes, timed to publish about the time  come into service. It’s a long shot, but a fun one.

I think Insidr qualifies as a fourth party (as described this blog post and this ProjectVRM wiki article). That is, one working primarily for the customer, rather than for the vendor. That Insidr is paid by places it on the side of customers financially, which is significant — and novel, in an age when most new Web-based businesses still look for revenue coming from sellers “targeting” customers rather than customers expressing their own intentions, in their own ways.

about Insidr. (I was given a heads-up that TechCrunch might call to get the VRM angle, but that didn’t happen.)

[Update…] I spoke with Antony Brydon, Insidr’s CEO. He made it clear that the term “Insider” is not limited to people working for the company, and in fact is refers to the collection of experts who are proximal to the company rather than inside the company — though it might include those too. He also begs our indulgence of Insidr’s learning process. They’re just getting started.

The other new VRM entry is .  “Stop being a product” says the main copy on the index page. @glomeinc‘s Twitter page says,

Glome Inc@GlomeInc Helsinki, Finland
Media startup aiming to change the way advertisers connect with customers online. Buzzwords: VRM, User controlled data, online privacy, open API:s

The first and only tweet so far there says,

Glome Inc. is officially founded. Stay tuned for private beta invite instructions. #glomeinc #vrm #privacy #changetheworld

I tweeted back,

@GlomeInc Tell us more about your #VRMwork. DM me if you need to keep it private for now.

We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, it’s good to know that both companies fly the #VRM flag.

Here’s Zemanta‘s list of Related Articles:

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