Category: Events (page 4 of 5)

Civilizing the Personal Data Frontier


A panel at

9:30am, 13 October 2009
John Chipman Gray Room • Pound Hall
Harvard Law School

Who likes being tracked like an animal by big business, big government, and every tech hustler looking to make a buck from both? Not the developers of and . These hot new categories are both driven by a growing sense that primary responsibility for gathering personal data and putting it to use belongs to individuals — not to companies, governments or anybody else.

These tools help individuals become both the for their own data, and the primary authority for what gets done with that data.
Self-tracking is how individuals collect data about themselves, while personal informatics is how individuals organize that data, determine purposes for it, and share it selectively. Together these tools inform individuals’ relationships with themselves, with their social networks, with the organizations to which they belong — and with sellers of all kinds.

Tools for self-tracking and personal informatics are new, already becoming popular, and in need of much thinking about how personal data is gathered, stored and shared. Each panelist is either developing tools in these categories or has experience with new tools and the issues involved. Doc Searls, of the Berkman Center and ProjectVRM, will moderate the panel, and we expect discussion with participants (there will be no “audience” here) to be lively and informative.

The panel kicks off Day Two of VRooM Boston 2009. It’s a free event, and everybody attending the panel is invited to stay, keep the discussions going, and help developers already working on these new tools. It would be nice if you registered here, so we get an idea of how many people will attend; but it’s ot necessary.


Health Care Relationship Management

Health 2.0 is going on today and tomorrow in Boston. So is HealthCamp Boston. Says Mark Scrimshire, about the latter,

We are using CoverItLive as one of the methods of helping you track the event.

We are encouraging all participants to Blog, Tweet and upload photos and videos using the #HCBos and #SocPharm hashtags.

Click Here for the CoverItLive feed or follow the CoverItLive Feed on Mark Scrimshire’s EKIVE blog:

The CoverItLive RSS Feed is here.

Wish I could be there. (Boston is our home during the academic year, but rigtht now we’re getting some R&R at our perma-home in Santa Barbara.) Meanwhile I suggest that everybody who cares about VRM consider the matter of HCRM — Health Care Relationship Management. (A term I just made up. HRM might be better if it wasn’t about HR.) Health 2.0’s concern is user-generated health care, its about page says. That puts it in VRM territory right there.

Here’s the agenda for Health 2.0. HealthCampBoston is more on the BarCamp model. A DIY agenda.

Among the biggest topics in HCRM in recent years has been PHR, for Personal Health Records. Search for that, with quotes, and you get over half a million results. Leave off the quotes and you get fifty-five million results. The more specific (and less confusing, with Physicians for Human Rights) EHR, for Electronic Health Records, gets nearly five million results.

This is a huge topic, of a degree of importance that verges on the absolute. It’s also perhaps the most sisyphean of VRM categories. I find that daunting, but there are many professionals in health care and related fields who have been doing a great job pushing big rocks long distances. These people are heroes, even if they don’t know or acknowledge that. Here are some links to get started:

Send me more, or comment below, and I’ll add them here.


  • #ehr
  • #emr
  • #HealthcareIT
  • #health20con
  • #hrm

There’s much more, of course. To get thinking rolling among the VRMerati, consider this mind-bender at, and this follow-up, both by ePatientDave:

Imagine that for all your life, and your parents’ lives, your money had been managed by other people who had extensive training and licensing. Imagine that all your records were in their possession, and you could occasionally see parts of them, but you just figured the pros had it under control.

Imagine that you knew you weren’t a financial planner but you wanted to take as much responsibility as you could – to participate. Imagine that some money managers (not all, but many) attacked people who wanted to make their own decisions, saying “Who’s the financial planner here?”

Then imagine that one day you were allowed to see the records, and you found out there were a whole lot of errors, and the people carefully guarding your data were not as on top of things as everyone thought.

Also this piece of intelligence, about Twitter and hospitals.

First VRM West Coast Workshop: 15-16 May 2009

We’re a little more than a month away from The first ProjectVRM West Coast Workshop. It will will take place on Friday-Saturday 15-16 May, 2009 in Palo Alto. Graciously providing space is SAP Labs which is a beautiful facility at 1410 Hillview Street in Palo Alto. That’s up in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley and San Francisco Bay. (With plenty of parking too.)

It’s free. Sign up here.

The event will go from 9am to roughly 5pm on both days, and come just ahead of the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW2009a), down the hill in Mountain View, at the Computer History Museum. If things go the way they have for the last couple years, VRM conversation and sessions will continue at the IIW.

The tags are vrm2009 and vrm2009a.

As with earlier VRM gatherings, the purpose of the workshop is to bring people together and make progress on any number of VRM topics and projects. The workshop will be run as an “unconference” on the open space model, which means session topics will be chosen by participants. Here is the Wikipedia page on open space. In open space there are no speakers or panels — just participants, gathered to get work done and enjoy doing it. VRM Workshop 2009 wiki is now set up and ready for more detailing.

Our previous workshop was held last summer at Harvard Law School. Here’s the wiki for that. Here are some pictures as well. Those give a good sense of how things will go.

Loose links

Lots of VRM Hub action. Here’s the page for the one coming up on 30 March. Be sure not to miss the related VRM Labs. Here’s a review there of chi.mpVRM Hub last night and this post by Graham Sadd both report on the latest. So does Jake at

Nic Brisbourne sources Joe Andrieu in If You Love Your Customer, Set Her Free. Joe also sees $300 million in the One night stand use case.

Also in London, The Mine! Project has a developer meeting coming up next week. In a parallel way, other VRMers, including Iain Henderson (coming over from the London hotbed) will be coming to SXSW in Austin, where we plan to bring VRM up at a Barcamp there.

Jeff Jarvis brings up VRM in his end of a volley with Richard Edelman. (I had posted a long response here, but half of it got lost and I yanked it off the blog. Maybe I’ll give it another try soon.)

Live From Gartner CRM Summit UK: Customers Take Ownership. No VRM, but “social CRM” and “customer managed relationships.” Via Graham Hill. Geoff finds no VRM here, either.

Get ready for “fourth party” services. An intro to user-driven services. A new category driven by customers. Brings up PayChoice. So does Echovar.

Here’s a podcast of a call in which I explain VRM to skeptics.

The architecture of scaffolding

We’ve had a lot of discussion, both online and off, about the V in VRM. It speaks one kind of relating, in the economic sphere. Which is just one sphere.

Britt Blaser has spoken often of the kind of RM that begins with a G — GRM for Government Relationship Management.

We’ve also talked about why we start with the individual in our work with VRM. Why not start with groups, and group empowerment? Especially since “social” is such a hot theme?

The answer is that relating starts with individuals. Even though it always involves more. One’s relationship with one’s self may be interesting to a shrink, but it’s too small for building a society, an economy, a politiy.

Erik Cecil, a friend and freshly minted blogger, almost poetically captures something about relating in this paragraph from his latest post:

IntERdependence is the engine of democracy; it creates the nanostructures of new economies.  People lined 137 miles of railroad track, therefore, not to see some new Hercules.   They came to see in their new President a reflection of their individual importance reflected back to them in the President they just elected.   He not only moved the power of democracy to the edge, but opened the path back to the middle.   Reverberating throughout the crowds was the music of interdependence.  Let the new freedom ring.

We’re in new territory here — one we’re just beginning to make for ourselves.


Last night my wife asked me what we mean by “Free customers are more valuable than captive ones” and “equipping customers with tools of independence and engagement”. I thought about it and said, “Knights are more valuable than serfs.”

When a company speaks of “capturing”, “acquiring”, “owning” and “locking in” customers, they’re treating customers like serfs. What we want to do with VRM is make customers into knights: to arm them with status, respect, armor and weapons. But not to do battle against sellers and their fortifications. Instead, customers and sellers both need to fight against ignorance surronding the idea that the ways they can engage should be limited to the relatively few imagined by today’s CRM systems.

I’ve noticed a change in the last few months at the CRM wikipedia entry, and at CRM company websites. It seems to me that the CRM business is getting back to its original ambitions, which were all about understanding and helping individual customers — and improving the seller’s offerings in the process. There’s a limit to what can be done only from the sell side, or from researching groups rather than engaging individual customers. Some of the relationship burden needs to be borne by the buy side, by individual customers. They need tools of engagement for that. So it’s VRM + CRM, not VRM vs. CRM.

Which brings me to Paul Greenberg’s CRM 2009 – Part 2.1 – Can’t Believe I Forgot These (in which he adds two items to his 2009 CRM forecast). They are: “(8) “Feedback 3.0″ will become an intimate feature of most companies’ customer strategy” and “(7)Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) releases its first tools for the customer in 2009”. Here’s what he says:

For those of you who don’t know, VRM is something that has been on the table for a long time and has been championed by Cluetrain Manifesto writer and Web pioneer, Doc Searls.  I call it the “labor movement” for customers. It is the customer’s side of that conversation control we’ve been talking about. A VRM tool, thus is one that is unlike a CRM 2.0 tool. A CRM 2.0 tool would be something a vendor produces for the benefit of a company to engage its customers. A VRM tool would be something the customers would use to control how they relate or any or multiple vendors. If you’re interested in this thinking, go to the Project VRM wiki at Harvard Law that Doc Searls, an amazing dude, runs and read up. Worth your involvement with.  But the one thing that has had me a little concerned (as an ardent VRM believer) is that there haven’t been much in the way of tools that have at least been produced and labeled as VRM related.  One of the first that can be applied as a VRM tool, though not called as such, and a great one to start, is Cerado’s Ventana – a mobile social aggregation tool that’s used by companies and customers – it has a hybrid kind of approach. Take a look at its uses here.  But there isn’t much else. I think that 2009 will begin to see the evolution of the tools of what is already an established body of thought becoming increasingly accepted. But the tools need to come and this year is the year they will.

This is a good call. It’s also why we’ve been cautious about publicizing what the community is up to. There is in fact much work going on — around peer-to-peer relating, search, personal data stores, paychoice (where the buyer pays what they want, on their terms, for goods that are otherwise free — such as podcasts, broadcast programs and music), and symbols representing actions and relationship states. This next year we should see ProjectVRM get beefed up at the Berkman Center, the start of serious research around some of VRM’s core theses, and the formation of an independent nonprofit centered on VRM. (One model for this is Creative Commons — a concept that was the brainchild of Larry Lessig, back when he was at the Berkman Center).

We’ll also see more VRM workshops, on the East and West coast of the U.S. and in Europe. Some will be focused on vertical categories such as VRM+CRM.

So stay tuned. It’s going to be a fun year.

Answering tweeted questions about VRM

So, with the help of vangeest and Twitter Search for #vrmevent, I’m addressing questions tweeted from the virtual floor here at the VRM Event in Amsterdam. Here goes…

vangeest: @dsearls: retweet @vangeest: #vrmevent: what is the relationship between the good old B2B marketplaces like Ariba and VRM?

As an idea VRM owes something to B2B, for the simple reason that B2B relationships tend to be between equals. Thus they can be rich and complex as well. B2C tend to be simplified on the B side, mostly so maximum numbers of templated Cs can be “managed”. Iain Henderson has talked about how there are thousands of variables involved in B2B VRM, while only a handful with CRM, which is B2C.

VRM essentially turns B2C into a breed of B2B — to the degree that both terms no longer apply. VRM equips individuals to express their demand in ways that B2C never allowed, and B2B never included.

But VRM is not a site, or a marketplace. That makes it different from Ariba, eBay, or online marketplaces. VRM may happen inside of those places, but VRM is not about those places.

Most importantly, VRM is not something that companies give to customers. It’s something customers bring to companies.

zantinghbozic: #vrmevent ichoosr: vrm is socialism 2.0 –

This reports a provocative tease by Bart Stevens of iChoosr in his opening slide. I don’t agree with the statement, but his deeper point rings true: it involves a shift in power in the marketplace, from producers to consumers. Except I wouldn’t use the word consumers. I’ll explain that later.

It’s VRM Weeks on the West Coasts

… of both Europe and the U.S., that is.

Got up at 5am this morning in Mountain View, Pacific Time. It was easy because my body is still partly on East Coast time (8am) and GMT (noon). That’s because I’m still fresh from London, and more VRM conversations than I can count — in addition to the excellent VRM Hub event (part of Unlocking the See-Saw*) held at Sun’s facility there, which got started for me when I walked out of the Monument tube station and stright into Geoff Jones, with whom I promptly went off to a pub. Alec Muffett shot video of the whole thing. More at Peter’s post, and  here.

It all continues starting this afternoon at IIW2008b, at the Computer History Museum (Shoreline &101). There are more meetings before and after, then a Public Media BarCamp in Santa Cruz from Friday to Sunday. VRM will be in play there too.

THEN, I’m off next week to Amsterdam for the VRM Event there.

Meanwhile, here are VRM posts by Peter Parkes, Jonathan MacDonald, Richard Muscat and Graham Saad. There are more, but no time to find them right now.

Meanwhile, a nice paragraph from Steve Bowbrick of the BBC:

User data is a valuable asset but it’s one that belongs to its subject – that’s you. Without wishing to wander too far off topic, Mark’s plan also hooks in nicely with the wider trend away from old-fashioned CRM (‘Customer Relationship Management’) to its much groovier, network-native successor VRM (‘Vendor Relationship Management’). In a VRM world your personal data is your own and you share it only with those you trust: VRM systems will allow you to rent your data to businesses who want to sell you stuff and withdraw it whenever you feel like it. It’s appropriate for the BBC to build a user-centric, VRM-style data infrastructure.

* Adriana explains more about the UK events in her comment below.

A new business model for news

Right now you can watch, live, Jeff JarvisNew Business Models For News Summit. Wish I were there, but I’m low on clones and have too much else to do.

But I can still make a point and point out what we’re already doing.

My point: We need a business model built on the customer side, the user side, the demand side. Not more and more models built on the supply side (most of which still come down to advertising and subscription). We need a model that creates and builds on relationship, and doesn’t just improve the transaction process.

We have that. Here’s what we’re already doing:

There’s more, and the first two of those are stale and need to be updated. But I wanted to at least point to those three items for now, while we’re busy working on a Knight NewsChallenge for a VRM project. More as we move downstream with that.

It isn’t just how far. It’s how.

VRM is a horizontal idea — making the customer into a platform for business — that will support progress in many different vertical areas: retailing, health care, travel, governance, music, public media… and that’s just part of the short list we’ve been talking about over the past few months.

Every so often we get a progress report. Such is the case with 1000 Miles To Go For The Enterprise And True Customer Relationships, by Chris Carfi. A sample: Perhaps the easiest thing to point out is that it’s still 100% focused on the sales team, and implicitly views the customer as the enemy, or at least simply the next transaction.

We can’t fix CRM from the inside. What we need is to fix customers, by giving them tools that make them more than slaves that companies “acquire”, “capture”, “retain” and otherwise “own”. And more than “resources” as well. As it says here, our reach needs to exceed their grasp. That’s the challenge. To meet it we need inventions that mother the necessity.

We don’t have those yet. But we’re working on them.

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