Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

VRM Hub meeting in October

TAGS: None

We have a venue and a speaker for this month’s VRM Hub evening gathering. We are meeting at GfK NOP office, Room 15, 9th floor, Ludgate House, 245 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 9UL (map). Thanks to Nick Buckley we will be able to use a meeting room at GfK NOP office up to the end of February. Many many thanks!

Also, we have a speaker for this meeting – read a person who kicks off the discussion – Peter Parkes, a veteran member of the VRM Hub community and a social web (power)user will be talking about ‘VRM and the battle for relevancy’. His site is Peter Parkes and he is part of the team at we are social.

I don’t think this is about whether VRM relevant or not – one of the things very clear to me from talking to people about VRM for the last two years is that it is very relevant. The issue is how, not why. So interested in Peter’s take on it.

If we end up talking about something else that’s fine too. But at least now we have a speaker, er, topic to kick around. :)

So please do join the discussion, which will start at 6pm, carry on until about 9pm. Then we might retirw to a nearby pub, which is what usually happens. Look forward to seeing you there. Sign up here.

cross-posted from VRM Hub

VRM Hub London

VRM Hub conference update

TAGS: None

A few good pieces of news for the London VRM Hub conference on 3rd November:

Doc Searls, the VRM godfather, will be at the Unlocking the see-saw conference, talking about VRM principles as part of the introductory hour before the user panel and the vendor panel discussions.

Mike Nutley, the editor-in-chief of the New Media Age magazine will be joining the ‘vendors’ panel, commenting on how VRM impacts branding & marketing.

And finally, thanks to the generous support of iCrossing we will be able to network drinks following the afternoon sessions as well as refreshment during one of the breaks. This makes a difference to me as VRM Hub normally operates on less than a shoe-string.

For those who missed it, here is the conference programme: Unlocking the see-saw and registration.

Look forward to seeing you there.

seesaw-01-thumb_sml.jpg

Tuttle club hosts VRM roundtable

TAGS: None

I am a fan and supporter of the Tuttle Club and what Lloyd has done for the social media scene in London can be seen from the popularity of the gatherings every Friday morning from 10am till about 1pm. I have two pieces of news to share regarding the Tuttle Club/Social Media Cafe.

First, the Friday morning meetings are moving from Coach & Horses to the ICA club (as part of what Lloyd calls Phase II). The weekly sign up wiki is here.

Secondly, on 10th October the Social media cafe meeting will be morph into a VRM roundtable at around 12.30pm. The idea is to bring VRM to the attention of the social web network in London and as a forerunner to the VRM Hub conference in November.

For more information feel free to email me at adriana dot lukas at gmail dot com.

Look forward to seeing you there!

cross-posted from VRM Hub

Identity online: implications for healthcare

TAGS: None

Last week I visited Boston, MA where I gave a talk at the Future of Healthcare technology summit at the MIT Faculty Club. It was a tough one to prepare as the calibre of speakers and audience was rather intimidating for a mere social web guru like me. One of the keynotes, delivered by an HP Laboratories scientist was about: Maintaining Your Health from Within: Controls for Nanorobot Swarms in Fluids. The dinner was accompanied by conversations with Prof. Marvin Minsky of the AI fame and a NASA astronaut Daniel T. Barry.

minsky_barry_fhti.jpg

The safest option was to stick to what I know and talk about online identity, with the aim of helping people see it from a different perspective and enabling them to apply that understanding in their own areas of expertise. VRM and the Mine! were mentioned in this context as practical approaches to patient-driven healthcare, which I see as one of the major implications of online developments in technology and behaviours.

Here are the slides with detailed notes in the slide transcript, which is visible on the slideshare page.

There is a lot more to cover on this topic but 30 minutes was what I had. I hope to work on the VRM healthcare proposition within VRM Labs with companies experimenting with customer/user/patient-driven models and technologies.

VRM Hub conference in London 2008

TAGS: None

I am organising a half-day conference in London on 3rd November this year, reaching out to those interested in redressing the balance of power between customers and vendors, people and businesses.

The event is called Unlocking the see-saw (link to the full programme with registration).

seesaw-01-thumb_sml.jpg

Whose data is it anyway?

TAGS: None

Follow up on previous thoughts on data and ownership… as cross-posted from VRM Hub.

Talking about ownership of data online in terms of control is fairly pointless. Once your data is out, it’s out. So instead of delving into the meaning of ownership and what it means in a decentralised, distributed and open network where sharing and transparency are default, let’s look at how the data is generated by the individual and shared through interactions with others.

Data as generated online is akin to a positive externality for the vendors and platforms that capture our data. Positive externality* is something that is not part of the value traded in market exchanges. It is something one of the parties in the trade benefits from, without having to pay for it. For illustration, pollution is considered a negative externality as it is

a) a by-product of manufacturing processes and,
b) is not included in the cost or price of the products.

So, when I am buying something from Amazon or Virgin Atlantic site, the explicit value exchange is the goods they provide and the money I pay for those goods. My data is external to that value exchange – the vendor is not paying for it and I am not being paid for it. In the current set-up (no pun intended), the vendors benefit by using the data in ways that help their business, from mining to selling it on. I, on the other hand, have scant legal protection against that and even with all the laws in place such as Data Protection Act and other restrictions on those who capture my data, a large portion of data collected from me is for marketing purposes.. and usually way above the threshold of legally required data to complete transactions.

The advent of the ‘free’ web has mightily confused the distinction between data as part of a value exchange and data as a positive externality – simply because most platforms with web services have turned what is essentially an external benefit from other exchanges to foundations of their business models. The ‘free services’ I receive are ‘paid for’ by my attention and/or my data – both eagerly gathered by various platforms. Advertising is a way to monetise my attention aka eyeball and the race to monetising my data (short of crude selling on) is still on.

In this context I own my data (in a way I own my attention) and neither should be considered a payment for the (free) web services unless it is specified in the terms of the exchange or service. It is merely a shift from one business model – online retail such as Amazon – to another where data becomes the value exchanged tacitly and without clear understanding. This is another reason why privacy remains an issue with such web services and platforms. As long as I have to depend on a third party to protect my privacy, it will be exposed by accident (incompetence), force (authorities) or abuse (marketing & advertising).

The tensions between the data created and managed by us and the tools we use belonging to someone else, are becoming obvious on the social web. Mike Arrington’s outrage a few months back when Facebook was turning its back on FriendConnect is justified.

The fact is, this isn’t Facebook’s data. It’s my data. And if I give Google permission to do stuff with it, I’m damned well within my rights to do so. By blocking Google, Facebook has blocked ME. And that, frankly, kind of frustrates me.

Let me put this another way. How dare Facebook tell ME that I cannot give Google access to this data!

Arrington also condemns Scoble’s early attempts at ‘data portability’:

Scoble has been on the wrong side of this issue before, when he tried to scrape his friend’s contact information out of Facebook and export it to Plaxo. In that case, it wasn’t his data and he didn’t have the right to make it portable. It’s MY data, once again, and only I should be allowed to make that decision. He thinks his new position shows that he gets the importance of privacy, but once again he isn’t thinking in terms of who really owns the data and should be allowed to make decisions around it.

Here we go, ownership of data again. So when I add someone to my network, together with his photo and other profile details, I do not ‘own’ that data. It seems pretty pointless to debate that as whenever I sign-up to a social network platform, I am agreeing to the terms and conditions of their relationship with me and to what happens to my data, privacy etc. All my agreements are with the platforms and the way I enter those agreements is definitely lacking in balance of power. We do live in the early days of individual empowerement… but even so, there is a distinct lack of tools that will allow me to be a node in a network independent of someone else’s silo or a platform. I have the same question as Danny O’Brien:

When you want to make a private picture or note available only to your friends, why do you hand it over to a multi-national corporation first?

Moreover, within social networking platforms, there is no corresponding agreement with other users. The terms of service are between me and Facebook, me and MySpace, me and Twitter, me and Flickr, me and Plaxo, me and LinkedIn, me and the socnet du jour… but they do not extend to my relationships with other individuals on the same platform. Relationships are pre-defined, much the same way terms & conditions are, from the point of the platoform, not from the point of the individual. So ironically, social networking platforms designed to help me connect with others, to create and maintain relationships with them, are not allowing me to define those very relationships…

In other words, there is no way to interact with others within the silos based on what I call P2P terms and conditions. These could be privacy agreements, if we so wish, ranging from simply not-bothered-about-what-happens-to-my-contact -details-in-your-social-graph all the way to granulated preferences for different people in my contact list. So just like in the real world – there are people I’d trust with my address book and there are some I wouldn’t trust with my address. Instead of building complicated systems and using technology to make such nuances in relationships explicit, I need tools to help me manage the complexity of human relationships. I need tools to reflect what is already in my head implicitly and defines me as a social animal. Do not tie me up in legal pretzels over various policies, creating permissions and access management nightmares in the process. In the words of Kevin Marks as paraphrased from his Social Cloud talk at Lift08:

Software cannot match out ability to sort out our friends and contact, establish how much we trust them and how we arrive at that trust. No software can fully map the relationships, let alone replace our natural ability to create and maintain them The implication is that therefore software should support the kind of cloud abstraction we have around the internet, also around our social relationships. You can feed it (the social networking app) relationships that are in the ’software in your head’, feed the stuff related to people in your network to software online. Users will assume that your software (this is aimed at developers) will be able to see the information that they have already fed into the software and be able to use it.

Indeed! By I digress. To recap, my data is a kind of externality to purchasing transactions, just like attention is an externality to my reading, watching or listening to something else. Marketing lives off my data, advertising lives off my attention. My data (and by extension me) is not respected because companies can trade it as a commodity without paying for it. The way to address this is not to make them pay for the data (and create many snake oil intermediaries in the process) but to make it possible for companies to enter into relationships with the true owners of the data.

So what is to be done? How to internalise the externality? How do I regain control over something that originates from me and is used in my transactions with others? This is the stuff of VRM.

Broadly speaking, it is about finding tools & technology to give the individual sovereignty over his data, so he can exercise choice over who gets to see it and under what circumstances. This will change the balance of powers and eventually demonstrate to companies that respecting people’s data (and by extension them), they can make more money.

—-
* Definition of externality: Economic theory considers any voluntary exchange to be mutually beneficial to both parties, for example a buyer and seller. Any exchange, however, can result in additional positive or negative effects on third parties. Those who suffer from external costs do so involuntarily, while those who enjoy external benefits do so at no cost. Data is an externality without the third party, where the afffected party is also participating in the transaction. So not an exact theoretical match, but perhaps still helpful in understanding how we got to the point where ‘free services’ feel entitled to their users data.

Ownership of data, privacy policies and other VRM creatures

TAGS: None

Here are some thoughts based on what I posted to the Project VRM mailing list on the discussion about data ownership:

The ownership of data, whatever that means, is merely a starting point of VRM and our attempts to redress the balance of power between vendors and customers. I might volunteer information – to me that means I share it on my own terms – but I also need the ability to establish and
maintain relationships. For that I (others may not) need and want
the following ‘functionality’:

  1. take charge of my data (content, relationships, transactions, knowledge),
  2. arrange (analyse, manipulate, combine, mash-up) it according to my needs and preferences and
  3. share it on my own terms
  4. whilst connected and networked on the web.

That’s what I mean when I talk about turning the individual into a platform, etc etc.

This does not happen by creating a database or a data store, however personal. Store implies passive and static, even with some sort of distribution. The objective is equipping individuals with analytical and other tools to help them understand themselves better and give them an online spring board to relationships with others (in VRM context this includes vendors).

I think it’s the user who should define the nature of the data stored/shared/analysed and what data is called what – whether confidential or premium or whatever. The crucial point is being able to share it (as well as do all sorts of groovy things with it, independently of third party and without the data being hijacked, er, harvested by third parties in the process.)

In the spirit of user-driven-ness, it should be the user who determines the ‘policies’ by which his or her data is managed and shared. I don’t see why they need to be standard(ised) as my sharing preferences and tolerance are a matter of my policy* – just like security and privacy are policies, not systems, i.e. what’s secure or private to me is not necessarily the same to you and vice versa.

What happens after information/data/whatever is shared is partly provenance of the law but mostly of a relationship I have with those the data is shared with… The main issue with the latter is that it can become meaningful only if the user is the most authoritative source of his or her data. Hence I call the means of doing this the Mine!

—-
*My take on privacy is that it is a policy of the individual, not in a sense of privacy policy for the individual selected from a given selection, in the style of Creative Commons. Huge difference. For instance, I have a policy about who I let into my house. I don’t need to display it on my doors or attach it to my address or business cards. It is far more convenient and flexible for me to decide there and then, when someone’s knocking at the door. It is my implicit privacy policy that kicks in. Sure, I don’t want junk mail or door-to-door salesmen but just because I can display notices to that effect, doesn’t mean that is the way to deal with the rest of the humankind. So online, it is about creating tools that help the individual control the data to the point that he/she decides practically and directly who gets to see what – without a third party or intermediary…

cross-posted from VRM Hub

Notes from VRM Hub evening

TAGS: None

Over at the VRM Hub blog – yes, it’s time to for the VRM Hub to get its own room – one of VRM’s kind supporters posted her notes on the discussion. Although the evenings are social, we invariably end up discussing the finer points of VRM and conversations do get interesting:

It wasn’t a full-blown punch up, but there were definitely two schools of thought on how to foster VRM ‘adoption’. In the red corner – people who think large companies like Tescos and John Lewis are needed to drive early adoption; in the blue corner – people who think vendors need to feel ‘pain’ before they will respond to VRM (I don’t think we’re talking about actual physical pain) – is the pain of an economic slow-down enough to prompt this? And aren’t ‘customers’ also individuals who aren’t just defined in terms of the companies they interact with?!

Do join us to continue the discussion…

VRM Hub London

CRM

TAGS: None

Sums it up really.



CRM, originally uploaded by Matthew Gidley.

VRM Hub meeting in July

TAGS: None

I will be attending the VRM workshop in Boston next week, 14-15th July, and VRM Hub meeting will happen as usual on the last Thurday of the month (which happens to be the last day as well). Sign up here.

VRM Hub London

Letters to authorities

TAGS: None

By strange coincidence, this morning I came across two letters written to a bank manager and the UK passport office. They both where written as a response (by a real or imagined person) to inefficiency, disrespect and abuse of power that such entities exercise over the individual. As customers we have little, if any, redress for such treatment. And this shows in the letters, their humour based on shared frustration.

Dear Bank Manager,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing the cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations some three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque, and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account with $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience I caused your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways.

You have set me on the path of fiscal righteousness. No more will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant incidents, for I am restructuring my affairs in 2000, taking as my model the procedures, attitudes and conduct of your very own bank. I can think of no greater compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it. To this end, please be advised about the following:

First, I have noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh and blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you must nominate.

You will be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Justice of the Peace, and that the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in all dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further by introducing you to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is very much like yours. My Authorised Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have any dealings, may call me at any time and will be answered by an automated voice. By pressing Buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided through an extensive set of menus:

1. To make an appointment to see me.

2. To query a missing repayment.

3. To make a general complaint or inquiry.

4. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there; Extension of living room to be communicated at the time the call is received.

5. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping; Extension of bedroom to be communicated at the time the call is received.

6. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature; Extension of toilet to be communicated at the time the call is received.

7. To transfer the call to my mobile phone in case I am not at home.

8. To leave a message on my computer. To leave a message a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated at a later date to the contact.

9. To return to the main menu and listen carefully to options 1
through 9.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration. This month I’ve chosen a refrain from The Best Of Woody Guthrie:

…….”Oh, the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are filled with silver
That the miners sweated for”

After twenty minutes of that, our mutual contact will probably know it off by heart.

On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost. As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater efficiency comes at a cost – a cost which you have always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your kindness by passing some costs back.

First, there is the matter of advertising material you send me. This I will read for a fee of $20/page. Enquiries from your nominated contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response. Any debits to my account, as, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonoured cheque, will be passed back to you. My new phone service runs at 75 cents a minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn’t come free), so you would be well advised to keep your enquiries brief and to the point.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous New Year.

And this one:

Subject: Passport Application

Dear Minister, I’m in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.

How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time. Do you people do this by hand?

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I’ve filed for the past 30-odd years. It’s on my health insurance card, my driver’s licence, on the last four passports I’ve had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I’ve had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Maidenhead on the 4th of March 1957, my mother’s name is Mary, her maiden name was Reynolds, my father’s name is Robert, and I’d be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

I apologise Minister. I’m obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don’t want to activate the Fifth Reich for God’s sake! I just want to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of week’s well-earned rest away from all this crap.

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that’d be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You’d rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it’s really me on the goddamn picture – you know… the one where we’re not allowed to smile in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process! Hey, you know why we can’t smile? ‘Cause we’re totally jacked off!

I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London. I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services. However, I have to get someone ‘important’ to verify who I am—you know, someone like my doctor… who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN…

Yours sincerely, An Irate British Citizen

Venue for the VRM Hub meeting next week

TAGS: None

We have a venue for the next week’s VRM Hub meeting. It’s the Sun Microsystems (customer briefing center) Regis House 45 King William Street, London EC4R 9AN.

The sign up is here, look forward to seeing you there.

VRM Hub London

© 2009 Media Influencer. All Rights Reserved.

This blog is powered by Wordpress and Magatheme by Bryan Helmig.