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EFFLast week, while most of us were busy watching the Boston Marathon bombing events unfold, an icky bill called CISPA, or HR264was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, with enormous lobbying help from IBM and other industrial giants. There are lots of angles on why CISPA is a Bad Thing (see the link pile below for a small sample); but I like the way Joe Andrieu puts it best. He says CISPA “explicitly allows companies to ignore their privacy agreements in the name of cybersecurity,” adding,

This is Regulatory capture of the worst kind. Please get the word out. Fight this thing.

If we can’t even depend on the blatantly one-sided Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of our service providers, entire fields of solutions evaporate.  Efforts to improve, fix, clarify, negotiate or automate the privacy and service agreements will be essentially worthless if Congress is willing to give corporations a free pass.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a self-protected entity may, for cybersecurity purposes … share such cyber threat information with any other entity, including the Federal Government.”

Enshrining corporate protections like this in law isn’t just a privacy problem. It undermines the very notion of contract as a mechanism for constructing agreements in a free society. This is unaccepatble.

Fight CISPA. Call your senator. Call the white house. Blog it. Tweet it. Repost this. Tell everyone. 

The EFF is on the case. To take their lead, start here.

Bonus link pile:

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All these living things have been declared dead…

… and then some. Look up any subject with “is dead” as its direct object and there’s a good chance somebody will have said exactly that. It’s one of the most overworked clichés in all of journalism (if that’s still alive enough to use as a label). Let’s move on.

Last weekend the cover essay in the Review section of The Wall Street Journal was The Customer as a God, by yours truly. Now that a few days have gone by, and I’ve done lots of responding in the comments below that piece and elsewhere, I can start looking at some of the responses that have appeared on the Web. Aside from a zillion tweets (mostly approving, and now all scrolling to oblivion — save, maybe, for Topsy — having completed their brief dances across the Short Attention Span Theater stage), I find there were (to me) surprisingly few responses in blogs.

When I searched for “The Customer as a God” on Google (which is almost link-proof, since the URL is mostly cruft about the browser and stuff), most of the top results were mentions in faked-up news sites that scrape stories from the mainstream press. (Victory for SEO at all costs there.) Bing at least has a copy-able search URL, which is here, but the results are just as crappy. (And the results were little different in either engine when I searched in private or “incognito” mode.) So here were the few I found, all but one buried below the first page of results, plus others sent to me by readers…

  • In The Customer as God, Nic Brisbourne of The Equity Kicker and the investment firm DFJ Esprit says he’s ready to help the cause: “I’m writing about this now because I just read an interview with Doc Searls about his new book, The Intention Economy. The interview is a good reminder of the problems with the existing advertising system and how things will look different in the future. As I say, I still believe in the vision of VRM, but equally the path that gets us there still isn’t clear. I think developments in smartphones and intelligent agents are bringing us closer to the point when that clarity will arrive though, and I’d be happy to hear from any startups working in this area.” (The interview of which he writes is the WSJ essay.)
  • In Personal Power and Vendor Relationship Marketing, Susan Lindsay of Brick Meets Click writes, ‘Consumer technology use has shifted the balance of power from retailers to shoppers,’ we say these days, but has the industry fully grasped how far the pendulum could swing?  ‘No!’ says Doc Searls in a provocative WSJ column. He describes a future in which shoppers define and drive what could be called the ‘C2B’ economy via ‘intentioncasts.’ They broadcast their need to vendors who meet their terms and conditions, collect offers from them, and then make a selection. He calls it VRM (for Vendor Relationship Marketing), and it completely reverses the direction in which CRM flows.”
  • Consumers to Battle the Healthcare Gods, by Caroline Poppler, M.D., M.P.H., in Popper and Co. “The ‘inflection point’ of medicine—where portable devices, low-cost genetic screening, and a wealth of accurate online health information all merge to allow a consumer to call the shots—isn’t here yet, but it’s close.”
  • In What Peter Drucker Would Be Readingthe Drucker Institute blog begins, “1. The Customer as a God: Some of us find the power of large companies to be frightening, with too much of our personal data falling into the hands of strangers. For now, writes Doc Searls in The Wall Street Journal, many businesses view the free market as “one in which customers get to choose their captors. Choosing among AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon for your new smartphone is like choosing where you’d like to live under house arrest.” But in a few decades, the power balance will shift more decisively to the consumer: “Progress in empowering customers won’t be smooth or even, but it will happen.” Drucker is one of my heroes, so that one is hugely gratifying.
  • In Doc Searls: WSJ Centerfold, David Weinberger (my colleague, pal and fellow Cluetrain author) kindly writes, “It’s a testament to Doc and also a hopeful sign of the times that the WSJ today features on its weekend cover a story by Doc about the theme of his new book, The Intention Economy. The title of the piece is “The Customer as a God,” a headline Doc didn’t write and isn’t entirely comfortable with. But the piece is strong. And getting it on the cover of WSJ is like getting a story about VRM on the cover of CRM Magazine. Which Doc also did.”
  • In The (Smart) Customer as a God, Bruce Kasanof begins, “Our friend Doc Searls carried the flag this weekend in a major piece he wrote for the WSJ.. The flag is Smart Customers Stupid Companies, the name of both the blog and the book by Bruce and his co-author, Michael Hinshaw.
  • In Doc Searls on the market of one, Espen Anderson of Applied Abstractions writes, “customer power is increasingly on the rise – though it has come much longer in the USA than it has in Europe, no matter how much legislation EU has as opposed to the USA. The wonders of competition and falling transaction costs…
  • In Is your business ready to pick-up intentcast from Customers? Sivaraman Swaminathan of Customer World writes in agreement with the essay, adding a number of additional points. The first: “Businesses are increasingly finding a large majority of their customers really don’t want them to be reached out to. The digital mediums of mobile, web make this “shut-out” very easy. I have heard customers say that You Tube Ads are annoying – be it the banners or the ads before the videos. They just are blind spots. The best customers don’t want to be bugged with messages and worst customers  businesses don’t care any way!  They need to find a new model to appeal to both.”
  • The Customer as a God: Is This a Revolution in Business? in LinkedIn Today. A series of short tweet-like posts.
  • Vendor Relationship Management, in The Customer Institute, the blog of William H. Beuel, Professor of Decision Sciences, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University. “The implications of this idea will all to ultimately have a profound effect on what we currently mean by customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. No longer will companies be the dominant force in the company customer relationship. The customer will become the dominant force and will make decisions based on a greater set of data but also instantly available data.”
  • In The Customer as a God, Tribal Warrior on The Island of the Misfit Hams says nothing but embeds the video of my talk titled User-driven Democracy at the Personal Democracy Forum last year.
  • In Doc Searls in the WSJ: The Customer as a GodDrummond Reed on the Connect.me blog calls my case “a compelling argument for customer empowerment, one of the core beliefs of Connect.Me, where we have always felt that the empowered customer and control of their personal data is a major benefit for both companies and customers.”
  • In Treat Your Clients Like Gods… Or Don’t (The Ideal State of Client0Advisro Relationships)DJ writes this in the blueleaf blog: “The optimal state of affairs for customer/vendor, client/advisor relationships is no different from any other relationship: they ought be healthy, balanced, open, and above all be characterized by mutual respect.” Most of the rest of his post was disapproving, based mainly on the title of the essay, which (as David W points out above) was not mine. I address the misunderstanding in a comment under his post.
  • In To Bee or Not To Beebigbear posts The relationship with “customers” and says “I don’t believe in objectifying people as ‘customers’, because  I don’t want to fall into that mind trap of thinking of people as walking bundles of money.”

I’m sure there are more, and I’ll look for those tomorrow, which is now today, I just noticed. Midnight just went by.

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The storm is hitting right now:

Remember that auroras can be a thousand miles high. So even if they’re over Canada, they can still be visible in the upper part of the lower U.S. 48. Or even sometimes south of there.

And maybe that’s a better place to be, since it stays light up there overnight this time of year. Not so down here.

I’m going to go out and  check now. Here in Boston the light pollution is so strong it’ll be hard to spot. The moon won’t help either. Still, worth a try. Those in upper Midwest, prairie and mountain states… doesn’t look here like there’s much cloud cover. So looking might work well for you. Worth a try.

sendWith The Story of Send, Google follows a single email as it travels through wires, under streets, through an ISP’s high-rise, in and out of Google’s various gear, including one of its vast data centers, and finally up a tower and out via a telco’s data system into a smartphone. What happens in the data center is explained in a video that lasts more than seven minutes, with a sped-up voice-over like you hear in disclaimers at the ends of ads for car dealers and pharmaceuticals. There are lots of other promotional side-trips like that one, along the way.

What it doesn’t tell is the real story of email as we use it today. That story starts with RFC 821, by Jon Postel, posted in August 1982. It begins,

The objective of Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is to transfer mail reliably and efficiently.
SMTP is independent of the particular transmission subsystem and requires only a reliable ordered data stream channel.

What makes SMTP so useful and universal today is that it intentionally transcends any intermediator’s silo or walled garden. It simply assumes a connection. So do the POP (RFC918 and IMAP (RFC1064) protocols (used at the receiving end), for which the relevant RFCs were issued in 1984 and 1988.

Those protocols ended up winning — for all of us — after it became clear that their simplicity, and their oblivity to the parochial interests of network owners and operators, were what we really needed. That was in 1995. In the meantime, a pile of proprietary and corporate email systems competed in a losing battle with each other. Compuserve, Prodigy, MCI Mail, AppleLink, and a host of others were all obsoleted by the obvious advantage of having nobody own the means by which we simply send electronic mail to each other.

The main intended message of The Story of Send is a green one: Google saves energy. A secondary message is that Google is a big nice company that treats your mail well and has good security practices. But the main unintended message — or at least the one that comes across — is that email is a big complicated business, and you need big complicated companies to do it right. It also ignores the real story, which is about a handful of simple protocol.

Two voices in the wilderness of corporate rah-rah that ought to be heard on this are Phil Windley and Bob Frankston.

Phil has a terrific blog post called Ways, not Places, in which he makes a good straightforward case for understanding the Internet in term of ways (protocols) rather than places (e.g. domains, with locations, addresses, and the rest). Because it’s the ways that make everything else possible.

In his essay on Ambient Connectivity, Bob says, “The nuanced definition of Ambient Connectivity is that we can view connectivity as infrastructure but we need to take responsibility if we find ourselves disconnected. This is in contrast with today’s telecom industry in which we’ve shifted responsibility to providers and can only assume connectivity where a third party has subscribed to a service and there is an unbroken chain of providers all the way to your destination.” The latter is the case that Google makes. Its also the case argued by every bill we get from our phone and cable companies.

But we need to keep hearing the all-but-silent argument for the Net and its protocols. Because without those we wouldn’t have the rest.




One nice thing about blogging is that you get to correct what you write.

Tonight I put up a long post that I had second, third, fourth and fifth and additional thoughts about, and finally decided to kill.

I do that a lot, actually. Just not usually with stuff I’ve already put up. But I did it this time.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll have another go at the same subject. Meanwhile I’ll grab some much-needed sleep.

The Intention Economy came out on Tuesday, and coverage has been spreading. Meanwhile, while I’ve been busy at IIW, where VRM mojo has been major. Notes from the many VRM sessions at #IIW14 will appear on this page soon. Meanwhile here are some excerpts pieces that ran this week.

From Selling You: Not Just on Facebook, by Haydn Shaughnessy in Forbes —

The reality is we need a different way of thinking about data, and in an age marked by innovation we shouldn’t find a reframe too difficult. We shouldn’t but we do. Generations of marketers have been brought up on an adversarial view of the customer, the target, the win…

In all the discussions we’ve had here in Forbes about social business we have yet to stray into the use and purpose of social data, as if we too largely accept that the adversarial view is the only one.

A couple of days back I tried to reflect an alternative view in for, example, how we might use LinkedIn data – it’s not only my view of course and I don’t want to claim any originality in it. For five years or more, maybe as far back as The ClueTrain Manifesto, people like Doc Searls have been arguing that the web makes a better commerce engine if we recognize all the power symmetries it brings. And there is an increasing number of projects that are taking up that logic.

CRM type data is old school – Tesco in the UK had signed up more than 15 million people to its ClubCard by 2009, that is over a third of the adult population of the country. It’s what companies did before the web. But it seems to be continuing even now that we have new possibilities.

There is no need to collect inference data on people and their possible choices. There is no adversary called customer. We have scaled up human interaction online where we can get closer to asking people, suggesting to them, and interacting with them.

So the future actually belongs to companies that take a symmetrical view of power…

From Another Bubble; Not Housing, by Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode Blog in Business Insider:

Guys, we ARE in a bubble. I don’t care what you say. As an outsider, I can see it…

Like Facebook, Pinterest and Instgram have valuations that are guesses about the future of advertising.Will they be the next great places to advertise as we shift to mobile?

Pinterest may be worth more “nothing” than Instgram, however, because as Scoble pointed out, women have buying power, which is why brands cozy up to mommy bloggers. But they haven’t bought BlogHer, the platform on which those women express opinions, have they? Lisa, Jory and Elisa were pioneers in bringing women’s voices to the marketplace, and no one has offered them a billion. That’s because BlogHer is not a tool. But it should expose also the fact that simply being favored by women doesn’t confer $7b in value on a company.

More worrisome is the supposition that these apps will someday be good carriers of mobile advertising, even though as yet the advertising industry hasn’t solved the online ad effectiveness problem and even Facebook reported diminished revenues this quarter.

The advertising industry is in upheaval, over the value of online advertising per se, before it even tackles mobile. Publishers are going under right and left because customers don’t want to see ads online, and truly hate them on mobile . Here, especially, the user will control the conversation.

So the valuations of Pinterest and Instgram/FB are merely expensive guesses about the future of advertising, about whether the ad tech industry will figure out mobile in a non-invasive way. Yes, the open graph will be part of it, and the advertising will be targeted. But I am guessing that Doc Searls will be quoted here gain and again: markets are conversations, and customers will control them.

In Doc Searls Wants You to Join Him in The Intention Economy, Scott Merrill writes in Techcrunch,

The book is easy to read, written in Searls’ first-person voice. He explains in the opening that he’s used to writing online and furnishing lots of links. While he can’t directly link from the content of the book, each chapter contains numerous footnotes with additional information and URLs to further reading. Searls uses plenty of personal anecdotes and examples, and quotes an astonishing number of conversations he’s had with people through the years.

I’m not an economist, so I was marginally worried that the book would be heavy on economic theory. There is some, as well as historical analysis of the evolution of markets and their effects, but all of this is done in a very accessible way. Searls does a great job presenting complex (and often crushingly boring) economic theory in ways that make sense to casual readers.

I purposefully read the book slowly, to allow the concepts to penetrate my thoughts. It didn’t take long for me to start looking much more critically at all the business transactions in which I participate every day and wonder how VRM and the intention economy might change them.

The Intention Economy represents the fruition of several years of lively discussion on this subject. The book is far from definitive, though: the groundwork for the intention economy is only just now being laid, and it’ll be a long time before it becomes an everyday reality.

He also says this about my response (in an email interview) to a question about “…bad actors (on either side of a transaction), and about the likelihood of malicious fourth parties: someone sneakily providing some kind of personal data store only to misuse the data collected”:

On the whole, I’m actually very excited about the possibilities implied by the intention economy, but this reply really worries me. Yes, we didn’t worry about spam or malware when the core Internet protocols were forming. But we’ve learned an awful lot since then, and it seems to me a glaring omission that reasonable safeguards not be considered at the beginnings of any new Internet construction project.

I should have put that question to the fourth party developers on the ProjectVRM list. In fact I’m sure safeguards are being considered, and it was an error on my part not to make at least that much clear.

Fast Company ran two pieces: one from the book, and one about the book. Give Up The Gimmicks: How Groupons And Coupons Can Damage Your Brand is an excerpt from Chapter 25 of the book, titled  “The Dance”. One pull-quote:

An old saying goes, “Cocaine makes you feel like a man. Problem is, the man wants more cocaine.” Coupons are cocaine for business.

To get off the discounting drug, it helps to know that businesses can survive–and thrive–without Groupons, or coupons, or any gimmick at all.

Doc Searls On Becoming Part Of The Intention Economy is an interview by Drake Baer. An excerpt:

…we need to start loving through the marketplace. Start loving where your customers are autonomous, sovereign, individual free agents who bring far more to you than money and loyalty. They have signals, they have intelligence, they have all kinds of things they can bring that you’re ignoring right now because you’re running closed systems in which you know almost nothing about them.

In the long run, individual autonomy is going to be a persistent state, and getting along with customers and being true cooperators with customers is going to be what helps retail, aviation, you name it, to adapt fully to what the Internet has been implying from the beginning.

In Will Facebook Drive the New Intention Economy? Ryan MacRay Jones of m-cause writes,

Doc Searls, in his excellent new book The Intention Economy, discusses how shoppers online will eventually move beyond action buttons (e.g. “Like”) and exercise their consumer power by broadcasting their intent via a sort of online RFP (Request for Proposal).  In the Intention Economy, the buyer will notify the market of his/her intent to buy and then sellers will compete for the buyer’s purchase.

While RFPs are not yet happening within Facebook, the giant social network is making a move to learn more about our intent as shoppers online.

Part of Doc Searls vision of the intention economy involves “fourth parties” that protect a consumer/shopper and act on his/her behalf within the intention economy.  Personal.com is an early form of this type of company.   Fourth parties collect our intent, but instead of broadcasting it broadly and selling it to advertisers, they look out for the consumer and their interests on the web.  If, as Mark Zuckerberg states in his SEC filing letter, Facebook is trying to be a force for good and social change, won’t they be looking to help consumers transparently understand how and when their data is being used to drive ad sales?  Could Facebook actually pivot and evolve into a real trusted 4th party over time?

Quick answer: Not unless their consumers become customers.

In What if We Tossed Out the Advertising Model, Rawn Shah of Forbes writes,

There are number of secondary effects of this model as well: it shifts the business of customer data collection and business analytics in a different direction; it elevates the level of security of information; it creates new feature needs in online retailing and commerce systems; and if Doc is right, it may even transform the banking industry by creating a whole new business opportunity line for them.

This approach creates the multi-way dialogue with customers, their networks, and people of like interest that we need to see happen in the world of marketing, transforming the model towards greater efficiency. In doing so, IT directly becomes a stronger part of the business function of marketing, as well as impacting how we manage inventory and distribute goods and services. It contributes to the integrated, cross-functional future as we move away from the Value chain model of the enterprise, and into a social business world.

Rawn will run his interview with me in a future post.

Two other audio interviews are also up. HBR’s Winning in the Intention Economy (note: HBR is the book‘s publisher) and Big Data: How Personal Clouds and ‘VRM’ will revolutionise Customer Relationships, from Telco 2.0 Research.

1920x1080While everybody else is stuck in 1080p — aka “full HD” — Apple is thinking and developing on a bigger canvas than that — starting with the new iPad‘s 2048 x 1536 screen. They are always looking to move standard usage forward by large steps (where they change the whole market and win big in the process), and you can bet they’re doing that again with display. The iPad display won’t be the last Apple one to break out of the 1080p mold.

For a snapshot of where we are now, go shop for a computer monitor . Most of what you’ll find is 1920 x 1080: the dimensions of HDTV, and the continued embodiment of ATSC standards for TV that were adopted in the early 1990s in anticipation of the fully digital age. That age is now here, and in the process TV is getting slowly absorbed into the Internet. So, at this point in history, your computer monitor can be your TV, and vice versa. Digital movie production is also now standardized on 1080p24 (24 frames per second) standard. So it looks like everything is settled, right? Well, I am sure Steve Jobs and friends looked at that situation several years ago and saw “stuck” instead of “settled.” The new iPad is the first clear clue that this was the case.

In the long roster of display resolutions, the iPad’s dimensions are QXGA, which is among the breed of 3×4 resolutions. 1080p is 16×9. What matters here, however, isn’t the standard being used, or the dimensions, but breaking out of a currently defaulted (or stuck) mode.

The main question for me is whether or not Apple will succeed in building a walled garden for everything new that breaks out of the old 1080p mold. I doubt they’ll succeed, but I’ll bet they’ll try.

(Oh, and in case you doubt my prophetic powers regarding Apple, check out what I wrote to Dave Winer in 1997.)

Some clothing we need. That’s the kind that keeps us warm, or shielded from sunlight, or from getting our feet burned or cut up. Some clothing we wear because we like the way it makes us look, or how it gives us a way to conform with social conventions, or to flaut the same.

But basically, clothing keeps us covered up. It hides what we call our “privates.” Also our love handles, pot bellies, surgery scars, cellulite, man-boobs, and tattoos we’d rather not show. Clothing can also enlarge or showcase our best features, or make our less-than-best look better.

In all cases other than the naked one, clothing gives us a means for doing what techies call selective disclosure — while just as selectively keeping some things undisclosed. Or, therefore, private.

What I’m saying here is that maybe, as we debate what privacy is, what it means, and how to deal with it through technology, business and policy, that the things that can teach us the most about privacy are the ones in our closets and drawers.

For fun, dig the best ad for clothing, ever: Barney’s Men of Destiny.

Bonus link.

According to this…

… the Aurora is on.

The Kp Index has hit 5, and a geomagnetic storm is on.

Here’s today’s SpaceWeather on the matter. Follow the links there.

Bear in mind that the aurora are curtains of light up to a thousand miles high. So if the auroral oval is pushed down over southern Canada (which these storms tend to do), it should still be visible far south across the United States. Current links:

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