Data portability and the user — we’re finally considering the value chain!

Wrote this to some friends the other day.  We were discussing the whole exploding world of data portability.

Bob, still not sure that everyone along the data porting spectrum concurs on the problem.  Especially users.  What's a problem for Bob Scoble or Chris Messina — as meaningful as their perspectives may be — might not be a problem for the mainstream user.  So I think engineers have to be clear on why they're interested in this — and if it's not addressing a user benefit directly, then why a solution is important along the "supply chain" of data solutions — where that solution fits in the chain that eventually ends at the mainstream user.

Stephen, the larger sites, if they're smart, will build their traction and retention by acquiring either the brains or the existing solutions that will protect their intellectual property and market share while giving users the ability to use their content flexibly.

Then along came Dan Farber's post, "Birthing pains in the colonization of the social web," on cnet.com, to which I made the following comment.

Dan, how do we know that the big social networks aren't giving users
what they want? How do we know there is a mainstream need for open
identity, data portability and apple pie? If it were profitable to be
open, I think we all know that the for-profit entities would be all
over the entire spectrum, from openness to portability. Any chance they
know something we do not?
Either way, companies in the space of creating networks and serving
them need to put the mainstream user first. You do that by
understanding what that user values — not what you think they might
value.
Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Mary

Saw this piece by Tim Bull and this one by Chris Saad, one of the founders of The Dataportability Project and its most assertive evangelist.  And Bob Ngu's blog, which addresses technology in a way that many mainstream users can understand.

Posted this comment to Fred Wilson regarding a piece he did for thestandard.com.  He was referring to last week's podcast by the Gillmor Gang and the key points made by the participants.  My compliments to Mr Wilson on being able to distill any conclusions from that podcast.  Yikes.  Without them, I wouldn't have thought of this response.

Whether the user owns
the tree is not important unless the user thinks it is. And telling the
user that the network makes a lot of money transporting his data is not
enough to make most users storm the gates. In fact, they LIKE to feel a
connection to the kid in flip-flops who hit it big.

These networks are competitors. Please tell us something we don't know.

Moving user data is "gonna happen" only if users demand it. So far,
the only users demanding it live in zipcodes beginning with 94. And
their direct influence over the mainstream user is unmeasured so far.

There are startups that already give users the flexibility and
access they want without taking the data off the networks. Those
startups will be ripe for the picking within six months.

Yes, sir, you are absolutely right. It's the experience that counts.
Not the plumbing, nor the pseudo-arguments, nor the posturing, nor the
pontificating. If I were an engineer, I'd try to figure out a way to
make data portable in the way the user defines it. That's the next stop
on the gravy train.

Then Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote this really great piece for
ReadWriteWeb.  He addresses the question of where portable data could
add value to the culture and business of an enterprise — the impact of
data portability on economics.

There are so many aspects of data portability, and so many solutions
and opinions being thrown into the mix, that our tech community has
come very close to losing perspective.  But I'm thinking the tide has
turned.  Time to articulate the value chain.

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