Relbutton Scenarios

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Revision as of 19:58, 27 March 2008 by Dsearls (talk | contribs)
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"Relbutton" is a placeholder name for what we've been calling a "buy button" or a "PayChoice" button. The "rel" stands for relationship.

The button combines reciprocal symbols for customer and vendor, and is used by either to express an interest in doing business, or the existence of a relationship that relies on independence and choice on both sides.

Customers can use it as a "pay button" to express a willingness to pay for goods that are otherwise free (such as podcasts, blogs, pieces of music or public radio stations or programs). Vendors can use it to express an interest in doing business on terms that embrace actual relationship -- including terms that are provided by the customer as well as the vendor. With it, VRM meets CRM, and each can engage and improve relations with other.

As a simple symbolic representation of willingness and commitment, by both sides, it provides a visual front for back ends of capabilities and record-keeping (as well as transaction ability) that can help improve markets by making customers independent and informative contributors, and not just sources of cash and data for marketing mills.

We need code. We also have faith that much of the necessary code is already laying around. Conversations are already taking place in the Identity community. The scenarios we develop here will help us decide what goes where and how it works together.

Basic Characteristics

  • The Relbutton represents a free and open web service, available to both vendors and consumers, providing capabilities to both
  • The button can be placed by the customer on anything they might be willing to pay for -- or with which they might be interested in a relationship.
  • The button can also be displayed by the site as an signal that a displayed item (or service, or whatever) is open to either being paid for, or a relationship, or both.
  • A web service API allows vendors (i.e. producers, owners, distributors, etc.) to attach Relbutton features to their site, project, products, or content
  • A web service API allows consumers (i.e. users, customer, etc.) to attach Relbutton features to external vendors' site, project, products, or content
  • The relbutton can also be the real as well as symbolic place where VRM and CRM meet.
  • As with Creative Commons licences and symbols, the relbutton and its functions should be readable three ways: by humans, by machines and by lawyers.


The relbutton is a set of two images resembling two facing magnets, open toward each other. The shapes symbolize openness, choice, independence, equality and intentionality. They can appear in four ways, each expressing a different message. These are:

1. Open to relating:

Relbutton sm.jpg

2. Relating already:

Relbutton sm closed.jpg

3. Looking to buy something:

Relbutton sm left.jpg

4. Looking to sell something:

Relbutton sm right.jpg

What makes these especially helpful and handy is that they give both sides all the virtues listed above. So, for example, when a vendor puts this symbol on a product or a site...

Relbutton sm right.jpg

... they're saying "We're willing to do business with you on your terms as well as ours."

And, when the customer clicks on a closed button...

Relbutton sm closed.jpg

... data from both sides can be brought in and displayed.

That data can be anything pertaining to relationship, history, intentionality, preference... it's wide open.

As they say in the advertising business, it has legs. Lots of them.

By the way, the symbols are red for no reason other than visibility. They could be another color, or other colors. They could also be a color that changes depending on conditions outlined below.)


Before we proceed, here is what the relbutton should and should not do:

  • It should be under the customer's control. This does not mean it should not also be under the vendor's control.
  • It should support true two-way relationships between customers and vendors in all three market domains: transaction, conversation and relationship.
  • Unlike advertising and promotion, it will be a way that the customer makes the first move. It must support the intentions of the customer first, and the vendor second.
  • It should support the ability of the customer to pay whatever they please. Also for the vendor not to accept the payment. For this reason, it should allow the buyer to escrow (or record) the intention to pay, so the vendor can see that if they wish, or accept payment once the vendor puts the acceptance mechanisms in place. This should be visible exclusively to those vendors, even if they do not yet have the mechanisms in place for perceiving them, or for accepting payment. This system will allow vendors payment-acceptance and CRM systems to adapt to standard means by which customers, at their discretion, can transact, converse with and relate with vendors.
  • It should not provide means by which vendors coerce or entrap customers. Once relationships are established, they can be whatever customers and vendors agree upon. But as a means for "hooking up", or accepting payment, relbuttons cannot be under exclusive vendor control. For example, if a relbutton on a music site brings up a list of fixed prices for selections and albums, the customer should still have the choice of offering amounts they please, rather than just the prices offered by the vendor. This doesn't mean the vendor has to accept what the customer offers. It does mean that the customer has the means for offering what they like, including amounts higher than the vendor is asking.
  • It should support the expression of preferences. This includes conditions for relationship, such as selective disclosure of personal data, conditions for the use of personal data, interest in specific (and defined) future products, and interaction requirements. Among the latter might be, for example, the preference not to receive promotional messages when calling for tech support.
  • It should support customers and vendors both retaining records of interactions in the course of relationship, including transaction histories, contact histories and other variables. Among many other thints, these should be able to back each other up at times when the other party loses data.
  • Both parties should be able to cease relationships, on mutually agreeable terms.
  • For identity-based interactions, it should obey the [Seven Laws of Identity]


The first use case for the relbutton is media. These include

  • public media, including stations and programs
  • citizen and participatory media, including otherwise free online publications
  • podcasts
  • online publications, including blogs
  • pieces of music, or artists

Since the VRM community already includes participants from public media, and since we have been in conversation with public media folks about VRM for more than a year, that would be the best place to start prototyping and scenario-planning relbutton usage.

Hey-You / It's Me

When the customer clicks on the button, it says "hey you" to the vendor. If the vendor responds, the customer's "It's me" data repository comes into play. The databases on both sides might also be called "hey you" and "it's me".

Naming and Lexicon

"Relbutton" is a placeholder. Other possibilities, with rationales:

  • "LetsTalk" button. It aligns with "markets are conversations", is easy for ordinary folks to understand, is friendly, and recognizes that human communications is an encompassing value that needs to be served. Recommended by a successful businesswoman with a long history on both the buying and selling side of retailing.
  • "PayChoice" button. Because it's already been in use as a placeholder itself. (Follow the link.)
  • "YouYou" button. Because the symbol resembles a pair of U's.