I came to know Chris by volunteering with the DataPortability Project, the global technology effort he helped to establish. Here's hoping that our friends in Australia are up for sharing Chris with us. He only adds to the conversation about creating and managing content in this new age.
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
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.
Silicon Valley is blessed with brilliance. Which means we are blessed with opinions that grow exponentially with each new technology and trend.
Right now, the opinions about what constitutes data portability are swirling around in the air here. Which I applaud. But I'm having trouble with the fact that the cloud doesn't include anyone representing the people beyond the Valley.
Last evening, I spent some time reading the blogs of some of our most insightful journalists and commentators. Looking for Joe User in their comments. From podcasts to blogs to tweets, I'm still not finding Joe User front and center.
I am finding a lot of folks who think they know Joe User and are telling us what he wants. But they might be confusing this with what they think he needs. It is possible that these folks know something we don't. I have begun asking them to share this knowledge with the rest of us [comment 22]. If that's not the case, I'm not going to rest until I understand whether regular users around the world want one sign-in, or the ability to scrape data from one network and port it to another, or simply the ability to share data on a selective basis via tools that work within acceptable bounds for the social networks.
Until then, I'm afraid I'm going to have to view the swirling opinions as circular chatter rolling around the Silicon Echo Chamber. And to think about ways to understand whether openness and portability are as important to Joe User as his privacy.
Here's the thing we all must keep in front of us: we may know best, but we must begin consulting the user and the user experience in testing ourselves. Especially since it was Silicon Valley brilliance that brought them to the party in the first place. We changed the rules. Now we must play by them, too.
Well, all the goings-on related to data this week have been exhilarating. And exhausting.
As much as I'm an active laborer in the DataPortability Project, after reviewing the comments of a beta user in a startup, it hit me that I'm not satisfied that we know everything we need to know.
Aren't we taking it for granted that the mainstream Internet user wants an open ID that takes him from site to site — or the ability to move her data from one site to another?
And aren't we being just a little too tough on the goliaths?
OK, maybe they are jumping on the data portability bandwagon purely to protect their market share. But isn't it at all possible that there is something we can learn from how they choose to wade into these waters?
I know we're inventing marvelous ways to make things open and movable — shameless plug here for foldier — but it was one of foldier's beta testers that made me stop and remember that we really need to think about the user when we're inventing stuff.
"Privacy is a big deal – I read the terms of service for the sites I use, and if one said my data could go anywhere without my knowledge or consent – I don't care what the benefit; I'm not using it."
Maybe the goliaths know something we don't.
Then again, maybe they are eating Wall Street's dogfood by now.
Data portability has captured the attention of the tech world and is emerging as an area of interest in mainstream business. For good reason — it's where technology and engineers have taken us so far.
Still, it's a good time for all of us to check our assumptions.
And to be clear about what we really know.
It's been a few weeks since my last post. Work and life have made it pretty impossible to do any thinking, much less writing, about the path to the beautiful brand.
Tonight I can take a moment, at least, to reflect on what I've absorbed in these weeks.
I'm thinking about launching another blog, devoted just to the goings-on here at Technology Mission Control. The Bay Area. Silicon Valley.
For example. Never have I seen so many brilliant people resort to skulduggery just out of sheer competitiveness. We've got some things going on here that rival the Kremlin
under Brezhnev. And this is on a volunteer project!
The only thing I've been able to tell myself is, when I was the same age as these engineers [in their twenties], I had the benefit of reporting to a bunch of what were perceived as old guys who had a heart attack if there was a typo in a slide. That was a major professional slip — almost an insult to the audience.
Lucky devils. They're out on some golf course.
Well, they deserve it. They taught us a lot. I learned that even the little things warrant your respect. Not to mention the big things, like other people. I cannot imagine what they would be saying about what gets posted on blogs and said in Twitter tweets by people about people with whom they say they're collaborating.
Fairness is a really big deal to me, and I'm getting some wacky emails about the upcoming election. Which I can address in this blog. It is about the American brand, afterall.
I fully expected to see some really funny stuff flying around about the three senators chasing the Presidency. I didn't expect to learn what names people are willing to call them, just out of fear of the unknown. How can we have a woman? How could we have an African American? How could we have an aging man who might have post traumatic stress disorder? Forget the sexism and the ageism — that stuff is mild compared to what's going around that is racist. And the worst part is, when the senders are called on it, they don't even realize they're doing it. It's unbelievable.
So, on to transcendence. Out, damned coarseness. Starting with myself. Listening. Breathing deeply, trying not to shock or be shocked. Hypnosis? Slow food? Yoga is too distracting. Watching an old movie. Looking at the Golden Gate bridge. Learning.
One step at a time.