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London Quantified Self group is born!

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cross-posted from QuantifiedSelf blog

Finally and thanks to the enthusiasm and to-do attitude of Dennis Harscoat, last Thursday was the launch of QS London group, organised by myself and Dennis.

What I saw at the meeting was nothing short of mind-blowing. We had three presentations, first by Dennis Harscoat talking about Quantter, then by Kiel Gilleade about body blogging his heart rate, followed by Jon Cousins explaining Moodscope. Each was pioneering in their own way and I felt I was watching something powerful that will continue grow in force.

Dennis’s motivation behind Quantter is the desire to help people to do something regularly, with constant improvement, following the 10,000 hour rule. The sooner, the better!

Kiel’s constant heart rate monitoring with added spice of being published in a twitter stream, opens up possibilities for understanding one’s body, for better and probably different kinds of diagnosis. He’s also an example of how it impacts our behaviour when its made public both from the participant’s perspective and their followers, which is probably the most intriguing area of self-tracking, at least for now.

Jon’s Moodscope is, among other things, evidence of how powerful and beneficial our friends can be. Plotting moods and sharing them with selected friends has helped Jon manage a serious and at times debilitating mental states. Now he wants to make it possible for others to do the same and I believe he’s well on the way there.

Thanks to all who helped to make such a meeting possible and we hope to organise the next QS London group meeting within a few months.

As this event was hosted by VRM Hub, the venue was GfK NOP, which kindly provided a meeting room and refreshments. VRM Hub is a regular meeting of people working on and interested in VRM – Vendor Relationship Management and there is a natural overlap between QS, self-tracking/personal informatics and VRM. As we already had a regular venue available, it made sense, philophically and practically, to have the new QS London group launch at VRM Hub monthly meeting. Our challenge for the QS London group will remain to find a more or less regular venue that fits the show & tell format – a quiet environment and ideally a projector.

Here is how I see the landscape, when thinking about all three and trying to explain it at the meeting:

VRM_QS_personalinformatics

My interest in personal informatics is related to the Mine! project and the way people collect and manage their personal data online. Mine! is being designed as an open source application/utility helping the individual user to capture, manage and share data on his own terms. It is intended to serve as infrastructure to various functionality and analysis applied to user’s data.

My focus in self-tracking and personal informatics is at the level of the individual. I don’t track much consistently, usually my exercise, walking and calories but nothing on the level of Kiel or Dennis or Jon. Apart from a natural interest in personal informatics and self-tracking as a new kind of literacy, I am very concerned about the privacy, data storage and individual focus of all this as I recognise how huge and potentially powerful it can be.

VRM Hub 2010

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The coming VRM Hub evening will be the 2nd anniversary meeting. We are going to have a look at where VRM was two years ago, where it is now, and where we want to take it this year. As always, the discussion moves to the pub across the street after GfK NOP kicks us out.

Items for discussion:

  1. Monthly VRM Hub meetings this year

    Do we change the format? If so how? Creating ’speaker slots’ for each meeting and opening it up? How about letting different people organise each meeting, etc?

  2. An event or conference covering the topic interchangeably knowns as personal data, personal informatics, personal analytics, self-analytics, self-tracking etc

    Date: tba but ideally 1Q 2010 (though 2Q more realistic perhaps)
    Format: One day event, open space as well as some pre-determined speakers to make sure we meet those who are already active in this space (web apps etc)
    Venue: tba
    Supporters & sponsors: tbd

  3. Anything else that comes to mind…
  4. Pub

The sign-up page is here. We are meeting on Thursday 28 January 6-9pm, back at GfK NOP. Look forward to seeing you there.

VRM Hub London

VRM Hub July meeting

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The sign up page is up. This month we are doing a summer version of VRM Hub evening and will be meeting at Henry J. Beans‘ beer garden in the King’s Road, Chelsea at 6pm onwards.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

VRM Hub London

crossposted from VRM Hub

Enabling vs Providing

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Talking to Doc earlier this week, I tried to explain my unease with various interpretations of VRM that come thick and fast as the concepts gain traction by identifying the fundamental problem.*

It is the assumption that “the individual needs to be provided for” that I see everywhere other than on the social (or live) web where the demand side can, and often does, supply itself, where users can and often do become creators, where the audiences have become distributors, and intermediaries of all kinds are melting away from decentralised networks and direct connections. Alas, even on the web, it’s not all P2P roses – my online existence is scattered across many platforms, Google, WordPress, Flickr, Dopplr, Twitter, and many more.

Most VRM approaches or implementations I have seen involve a third party as a provider. I believe we first need to focus on changing the relationships between individuals and companies or institutions. First comes redressing the balance – manually, as it were – by helping individuals relate to companies in ways that change companies’ behaviour.

Most of all, I want to avoid using technology to address a non-technology problem, using automation or aggregation for the aspects of relationships which should be processed by a human mind. I want to avoid jumping straight into ‘industrial’ processing of data treasures found on the customer side. We need a more balanced relationships with vendors and institutions, with different tools and possibly rules of interaction. Then we can look at ways to rationalise the technology and processes that help us create and maintain those relationships.

The most common solutions for providing individuals with online services are based around centralised databases or platforms. They are suspect on security and privacy grounds even though they may be created by a trustworthy party. So, any framework or structure provided by a third party that is meant to provide a place for individuals to create, gather, manage and share data as well as allowing a degree of aggregation, connectivity, will have to have in-built checks and balances as it may ultimately expose individuals to potential data-mining (whether the more private among us like it or not!). The challenge is to separate the data storage provider and a services/application provider. If I let someone store or back up my data – reluctantly admitting it may still be necessary for now – I would want them to store my data only, and not push or even provide any other apps based on that data. I should then be able to choose and apply whatever application I want, to my data, at my convenience.

Jason Scott of ASCII has a juicy way of putting this:

This is about your data. This is about your work. This is about you using your time so that you make things and work on things and you trust a location to do “the rest” and guess what, here is what we have learned:

  • If you lose your shit, the technogeeks will not help you. They will giggle at you and make fun of your not understanding the fundamental principles and engineering of client-server models. This is kind of like firemen sitting around giggling at you because you weren’t aware of the inherent lightning-strike danger of improperly bonded CSST.
  • Since the dawn of time, companies have hired people whose entire job is to tell you everything is all right and you can completely trust them and the company is as stable as a rock, and to do so until they, themselves are fired because the company is out of business.
  • You are going to have to sit down and ask yourself some very tough questions because the time where you could get away without asking very tough questions with regard to your online presence and data are gone.

And his advice further into the wonderful rant is even juicier:

  • Insult, berate and make fun of any company that offers you something like a “sharing” site that makes you push stuff in that you can’t make copies out of or which you can’t export stuff out of. They will burble about technology issues. They are fucking lying. They might go off further about business models. They are fucking stupid. Make fun of these people, and their shitty little Cloud Cities running on low-grade cooking fat and dreams. They will die and they will take your stuff into the hole. Don’t let them.

…but is no less sound for it!

Please, let’s have more of enabling and less of mere providing.

* as described in the paper A VRM journey.

cross-posted from VRM Hub

VRM Hub Open Space

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Another in the series of VRM Hub events, an open space event is planned for 30th March, registration opened here.

Here is the page for the event itself.

See you there!

February VRM Hub meeting

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The next VRM Hub meeting is on Thursday 26th February, 6-9pm at the same venue as the last month – GfK NOP building in Southwark, Room 15, 9th floor, Ludgate House, 245 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 9UL (map).

The topic will be further discussion of VRM – ideas, concepts, definitions, explanations etc, – a follow up on the game playing at the January session. Those who didn’t take part, do not fear, we have detailed notes on the results of January Game Playing.

Sign up here.

VRM journey

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For those who follow my VRM escapades, I have tried to capture what VRM is about and why I am working on it. So here is my paper (and manifesto) A VRM journey.

Loosely speaking, apart from my consolidate position on VRM, this is what it’s about (as summed up by my friend Carrie):

  1. ‘Social media’ is limited and people are outgrowing it
  2. There is demand from growing number of people for more control over their online ’stuff’
  3. There are benefits to users and ‘vendors’ for re-working the current imbalanced relationship
  4. Some tools are being developed to make that a reality
  5. It will be a hard slog but there is a call to arms for users to even out the balance; the most open vendors will also benefit – bringing more certainty to their future in this uncertain economic climate

Here is the PDF version for those who prefer a non-web format.

January VRM Hub meeting

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In the last two years I have discovered that the idea of VRM appeals to most on an instinctive level. People respond in different ways and with different ideas and interpretations of what VRM means and how to go about making it happen. This means people get involved, which is good. It also means people bring their more or less complete understanding, which is sometimes challenging.

I thought it would be useful to spend some time exploring what VRM means to each of us. So I decided to dedicate the January VRM Hub meeting to discovering together the various aspects of what VRM means to people who rally behind it. It might help us explain it better to others, and collaborate more effectively together on how to make it happen.

We are going to take a playful approach to this and many thanks to
Johnnie Moore
for agreeing to facilitate/run the game, and to GfK NOP for providing the venue. Johnnie works with all sorts of companies on collaboration and is going to use one of two of his favourite games to help us explore ideas together. He warns there’s a serious risk of having a few laughs and some danger of unexpected learning.

Sign up here, as usual.

Reminder: VRM Hub Christmas drinks will be on 15th December at Crosskeys pub in Chelsea.

VRM Hub London

VRM Hub November evening meeting

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Our next meeting is on Thursday 27th November, 6-9pm at the same venue as the last month – GfK NOP building in Southwark, Room 15, 9th floor, Ludgate House, 245 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 9UL (map).

Our speaker for this session will be, Nick Buckley, who kindly arranged the venue for VRM Hub until next February. He will talk about what the shift in balance of power between vendors and customers might mean for Market Research and where this might lead to real change rather than incrementally “adaptive adoption” of VRM. As always, I’ll encourage Nick to come at this from his personal perspective as a market research expert but also as someone who has observed the web and its impact on individuals.

I don’t have a link for Nick who is in the process of setting up a blog to continue to share his insight with the world. Good stuff. :)

Look forward to seeing you there, sign up here.

VRM Hub meeting in October

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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

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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.

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VRM Hub annoucements

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Over at the VRM Hub blog, there is some news about our monthly gatherings. In short, for each meeting we will have a topic to focus on and a speaker for 15 minutes to kick off the discussion. Both will be announced with on each meeting’s sign up page and on the VRM Hub.

For those of Media Influencer readers who are interested in VRM and the Mine!, I will continue to write on these topics, in fact, I am stepping up the volume on VRM Hub and the Mine! project respectively. So please bookmark or subscribe to the VRM Hub feed and the Mine! project feed, if you wish to follow. I will cross-post for a while but eventually, the VRM action will happen there.

VRM Hub London

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