Who should control my data?

Monday 20th October, 2008

ReadWriteWeb today asks who will control my data in the web 3.0 world. To answer their question: I will. I created it, I own it. I will grant rights to those that want it, and can offer something to me in return.

Data is one of the natural resources of your own private nation. For someone else to control it at best a lost opportunity, and at worst a form of theft.

Can VRM answer the OpenID trust question?

Monday 31st March, 2008

Or… can I use the social (and commercial) graph to assert my identity?

OpenID provides the ability for a user to prove that they “own” a particular URL. What it does not do (another commentary) is verify that the URL in question is in any way trustworthy. Nor does it really verify that the person consuming the service is who they claim, or even a real person.

This got me thinking about the identity problem. How do you actually verify that someone is who they claim? What is identity?

The idea that I like the most is that you can verify my identity by asking my friends and family. That’s something that’s very hard to fake or steal. The Ebay community uses something very similar to this to self-police a network of sellers that’s essentially unpolicable by other means. You earn trust by selling, and each transaction leaves its mark on your account, building up a reputation as a trustworthy seller. The way to avoid the “first sale” catch 22 is for Ebay virgins to sell small items first, as buyers don’t mind risking small amounts of money to try out a seller without a reputation.

The concept isn’t limited to Ebay. To get a passport in the UK you need to get a trusted professional (like your doctor) to sign your photograph. Banks use passports and utility bills to verify your identity. Utilities often just use your address.

The feed-centric VRM model described by Alec Muffett and Adriana Lukas is based on the concept of a user owning space on a web server that they can use to communicate their personal information to companies and other individuals in a way they can control. This is OpenID’s home territory.

What if VRM could work like Ebay? If companies and individuals I deal with could somehow “sign” my identity, I could build up a history of relationships that would go a long way to providing a convincing method of asserting my identity online. If I wanted to apply for a job I could grant that employer access to my the professional signatures on my identity. If I wanted to prove to the hamster breeders society that I’m a genuine hamster fanatic I could show them the digital equivalent of a handful of hamster breeders signatures on my passport photograph.

If VRM could do that, safely and with a simple user experience, it opens up a good few possibilities.

Is the term VRM misleading?

Sunday 30th March, 2008

I just read Lee White’s post, Enterprise 2.0, meet Social Media Monitoring, and it made me think. Lee wrote:

“Consider a world where a customer with an issue merely has to post their problem on their own blog or any discussion forum and the company will find it and resolve it. You will have removed the burden from the customer of figuring out HOW to complain. Sounds a lot like Doc Searls VRM project to me”

While it’s not clear from his post whether or not Lee is missing the full potential of VRM, it seems to me that the name itself (by its very association with CRM) limits the idea in peoples’ imaginations.

To me, the VRM project is not about managing the other side of the customer helpdesk relationship (as implied by the name). That might be one use case for it, but to me it’s one of the least interesting. I think the VRM project goes much deeper. I think it changes a relationship where you have to shop around, filling in forms, endlessly giving away your data, to a relationship where you signal an interest in a product and vendors bid for your custom. It brings the marketplace to your doorstep. It changes the way people engage in E-commerce.