Initiative Brainstorming

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This page is a draft proposal. Please send any comments to [1] or to the Project VRM mailing list.

Initiative Brainstorming

Anyone may add or expand on current ideas for VRM. Simply add to this page and start filling in elements to fully describe the idea. Feel free to start small. Time and other people's contributions can turn even a short headline into something we can work with.

If you have an idea? Copy the template and start filling it in. Brainstorming rules apply:

  • Everything is ok, as long as it is a viable VRM idea, inline with VRM Principles.
  • If you don't like an idea, improve it or suggest an alternative.

As ideas develop, flesh out the details. Eventually you will probably want to address the "standard" questions, such as

  • What's the problem?
  • Where does the problem occur?
  • Who participates?
  • How might we fix it?

Then leave room for discussion. In the discussion area, please sign your comments. And remember, anyone can update the entry itself, but if you aren't sure your idea fits or if you have concerns about a particular element, add it to the discussion.

Once an idea is concrete enough to receive the blessing of the community and has gathered one or more champions, it begins the VRM Process and is removed from this list. During the Process, the champions see that each step in the process is completed thoroughly enough to advance to the next step and that the Initiative advances at an acceptable pace. Some initiatives will take longer than others. Many will spawn multiple protocols. It is the champions job to facilitate the advancement of an Initiative from a good idea to a working Protocol.

Multiple ideas may be merged into one or one split into multiple. Discussion is probably most effective on the mailing list, with suggestions and thoughts eventually finding their way here after getting fleshed out in email.

Here's a strawman example:

Digital Receipts

Introduction

Today, we can automatically get our credit card transactions imported into Quicken or QuickBooks or Excel or whatever application we want to use for managing our finances. Why not the line items from the receipts?

Problem

I can't get the line items from my purchase receipt on my credit card report. Sure, I can get the credit card data into Quicken, but I'd like to have the line item information so I can more accurately track my spending.

Where/Context

In retail and online when I download my transaction history.

Who

Retailers, credit card companies, consumers, and business consumers. In fact, this may be even more valuable for small businesses that need to put the line items into different accounts in QuickBooks!

How

The line-item data is there, on my receipt! Can't this go online or be sent to my credit card company? I'd like for it to automagically be incorporated when possible when I put the credit card history into Quicken. I have no idea how this might actually be implemented. Perhaps just with my loyalty card and I can download it online, but there would need to be a way to link the line-item report with the credit card history. Otherwise, I might get duplicates.

Discussion

Brainstorm

Operation 20%

Introduction

The goal here is to double the contribution rate by listeners and viewers to their public radio and television stations.

Problem

Public radio has been around since the turn of the Sixties. Originally called "listener sponsored radio" (primarily by the Pacifica stations), public broadcasting has grown steadily since the advent of National Public Radio (NPR) in the early 1970s. Today NPR is the leading radio network in the U.S. and a solid national institution. Other suppliers of programming — PRI, APM, PRX, et. al. — have enlarged the variety and depth of programming available over public radio. Through the same time-frame, public television has also grown and thrived.

Where/Context

Both forms of public media, however, face the same financial challenge: only about 10% of listeners and viewers contribute to the stations they hear or watch. Put in more blunt financial terms, the customer-to-consumer ratio is 1-to-10.

In both formal and informal surveys, listeners and viewers who don't pay say they would be far more likely to pay if the process were easier.

Making that process easier is the challenge of Operation 20%. Our goal is to double the payment rate, and double the amount of money contributed by viewers and listeners. And our strategy is to provide tools on the listeners' and viewers' side that make contributions easier, and that support improvede relationships between those customers (no longer just consumers) and the stations, networks and producers who bring them the goods. These may end up being the first VRM — Vendor Relationship Management — tools.

Who

In meetings at NPR, and in discussions at both the IMA public media and Berkman-led Beyond Broadcast conferences in February 2007, Doc Searls vetted ProjectVRM's interest in helping relieve this long-standing problem. The response was entirely positive.

Then in early March 2007, the Copyright Royalty Board of the Library of Congress released new royalty rates and requirements for both commercial and noncommercial stations webcasting online, erasing a distinction between the two that had stood since public broadcasters worked a "carve-out" from the commercial rates in 2002. Unless Congress (which created the CRB in 2004) makes changes in the ruling, or otherwise changes the game, noncommercial radio will face higher (and escalating) costs for using RIAA-licensed music. This adds urgency on the need to go forward with systems that increase the participation rate of listeners to public radio. (And, for that matter, to commercial online radio in as well, since the higher rates are a death-sentence for U.S.-based online radio in general unless ways can be found for listeners to raise their contribution rates.)

How

"Operation 20%" is a place-holder name for this initiative. Some other names are under consideration, but not yet disclosed because the domain names associated with them have not been purchased. Anybody is also free to recommend names. A good place to do that is on the ProjectVRM mailing list.

The radio and Open Source working group at Beyond Broadcast, and its organization, PubForge, are allied efforts that need to be coordinated as well.

Discussion

This initiative, along with others, will be on the front-burner both at Berkman Center meeting(s) in the first week of April (when Doc is in Cambridge), and at the Internet Identity Workshop in Mountain View, California (Bay Area, between San Francisco and San Jose), on May 14-16.


SYO — Share Your OPML Project

Introduction

Dave Winer has three posts that outline the Share Your OPML (SYO) project, and progress in developing it:

Problem

Where/Context

Who

How

Discussion

Upside-down buyer's guide

Introduction

Don Marti writes,

Doc has been contemplating business, identity and vendor lock-in, and makes me think about an interesting experiment -- use links, tags, and a microformat to help people buy a "commodity" IT product, the 1U or 2U rack-mount Linux server.

Problem

Where/Context

Who

How

First step would be to come up with a microformat for a "server RFQ". At the beginning of the experiment, these could be relatively loose -- just a bunch of "ol"s with "id"s such as "required-parts" "preferred-parts", "disliked-parts", "forbidden-parts", "required-features" and so on.

There would also be a section for "status", which would be time until buying decision, "deferred" "cancelled" or "ordered". If and when the idea got more popular, the RFQ could be more detailed, and sites and apps could offer server RFQ construction wizards. The nice thing about using a microformat is that (1) it's human-readable in a browser and (2) you can add free-form commentary on what you like or don't like in a server.

So you want to buy a server? Write your server RFQ, put it up with a rel="tag" link to a Technorati tags page for "server RFQs". and another tag link to a new, unique tags page just for that one, such as "joe@example.com-2005-07-09".

Along come the vendors who want to sell you a box, and are naturally watching the "server RFQs" tag like hawks, I mean like some animal that doesn't want to eat you. Like Easter Bunnies? Vendor sales person checks your RFQ, makes a page for you with links to matching products and a rel=tag link to "joe@example.com-2005-07-09". This is highly automatable, but careful, vendors -- don't spam. A future web-based product configurator should be able to crawl a server RFQ page and come up with a good quotation in response.

Now, you, the buyer, just watch the RSS feed for joe@example.com-2005-07-09 -- hey presto, it turns into your own personalized Server Buyers' Guide! When you buy the server, you change the "status" field on the RFP to "ordered", and add a link to the vendor you bought from. This is to (1) give the good vendors Google Juice and (2) let vendors know you're serious in the future so they'll pay attention to your RFQs.

Discussion

Setting terms of service

Introduction

In Credit card fees can suck you in — Consumers pay high price for increasingly complex policies, in USA Today, Kathy Chu reports,

Remember when most of us paid only an annual fee on credit cards? Today, late fees and over-the-limit fees are replacing that annual fee. Add in a dizzying array of extra charges: for phone payments, "expedited" online payments, credit card use overseas and balance transfers from other cards.

At a time when Americans wield more plastic than ever — 692 million credit cards, with $711 billion of debt — fees and policies have grown so complex that even regulators struggle to grasp them.

In the holiday shopping frenzy, consumers are especially vulnerable to card fees, because more of them are likely to pay late or exceed their credit limit, according to industry consultants Nilson Report and Moebs Services.

Lots of card issuers offer low initial interest rates these days. But once they've pulled you in, they often replace "fixed" rates with floating rates — which can rise — and impose penalty rates of up to 30% even on those with good credit.

"It's like economic Darwinism," says Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center, an advocacy group. "The business model has changed from one rate and annual fee to all these different tiers and fees designed to make money."

This is a perfect example of what CRM does without the benefit of VRM.

Problem

Where/Context

Who

How

We need something on the customers' side that directly tells vendors — and the whole credit card marketplace — "Either give me the terms I want (e.g. 30 day grace period, X% or lower fixed interest rate, $X cap on annual fees) or I'll take my business elsewhere."

Discussion

Wouldn't it be great for customers to operate in a bloc on this kind of thing? I'd love to see an organized group of consumers that organize themselves and deal as one with major organlzations- much the way labor unions negotiate on behalf of workers. This could work in a number of industries, but the credit industry is screaming for this kind of reform. Say, for instance, a group of several thousand cardholders organized themselves and they're dissatisfied with the way a bank reprices consumer accounts after a single late payment. The bloc could contact the bank and competitors, and either choose a better vendor or force the bank to change their policy for the bloc or lose a sizeable amount of customers.

Banks and many other institutions compete, but it seems there is little competition. An average consumer might switch to an account with a better interest rate, and find much later on that the change was a horrible mistake because of fine print they didn't have the time, education, knowledge or wherewithal to learn about. For this to work, members of the bloc (or whatever you call it) would have to agree to make changes with the bloc, and the bloc would need to be run by independent, intelligent managers- sort of a mutual fund for consumer services.

Educators vs. Cold Callers

Introduction

Russ, a network manager at a UK high school, writes,

We have the technology already, it’s called blogs. I am currently setting up a blog so suppliers at work can subscribe to an RSS feed and it provides them with information on what I want.

But not everyone uses RSS so the fact that most blogs have the function to view posts as web pages, plus the ability to email out new posts to people means you have that angle covered. The more I read on this concept the more it addresses some of the major problems we as customers have and suppliers have with customers.

Problem

Where/Context

Who

How

Discussion

Personal Health Records

Introduction

Today, medical information is locked in cabinets and largely isolated behind doctor's and institutional barriers. Much of this arrangement is about protecting our rights to privacy. Kudos for that. However, the primary need in the realm of medical information, is quality health and health services... the secrecy is a solution to a constraint, not a requirement of the underlying need.

Problem

This unfortunate silo nature of the existing medical data system results in a loss of transparency and choice when individuals want to work with different providers. This lack of access and control leaves patients with restricted vendor management options.

Who

At the Internet Identity Workshop (iiw2006b), Doc brought this to light in the context of Johnson & Johnson's interest in providing enhanced drug packaging services, such as custom daily packets for people with complicated drug regimens. Unfortunately, J&J can't offer this service because of a systemic inability to access customer information effectively--even when the customer wants them too.

In a December 2007 speach, Google's Vice President Adam Bosworth echoed this need:

Google can find all the most relevant answers to any query you submit across the entire web in less than a one-third of a second and yet, in general, your physician cannot get the lab results from your last specialist without paper and fax. (...)

Your physician cannot always reliably and optimally treat you without a comprehensive knowledge of what has been wrong with you in the past, how you were treated, and how you responded to the treatment. The lack of easily accessible, comprehensive medical records results in people being in more pain for longer than they should be. (...)

We should not accept this. We should not accept that the institutional barriers of the system cause tens of thousands to die unnecessarily and hundreds of thousands at the very least to suffer without cause while we pay an enormous bill.

So what can be done? We should start at the beginning. Let’s put the patients in charge of their health and medical information. Let’s build a system which puts the people who are sick in control. For every single medical and health-related event, let’s make sure that patients can effortlessly retrieve and share their information in its totality and then use it to ensure that they get the best quality of care possible. It is their health.

Thanks to Philipp Lenssen of Blogoscoped for the quote.

How

Where/Context

Discussion

There is an active development effort around "Personal Health Records," with "Dossia" as one significant umbrella project. Google provides a significant amount of information on Dossia and PHRs.


Personal Knowledge Banks

Introduction

For many years, organizations have gathered and used information on the parties with whom they interact (customers, partners or suppliers etc). This underpins much of what they do. Two specific types of information systems have emerged as being necessary and of value for effective deployment:

- Operational systems that ‘get the job done’ (e.g. CRM applications, procurement systems, billing engines, fulfillment systems etc.) - Analytical systems that underpin longer term knowledge gathering, planning and decision-making (e.g. enterprise data warehouse, single/ complete customer view, business intelligence)

The cost of putting such capabilities in place is falling dramtically, and personal need/ ability to fund their own equivalents is rising – so a new requirement is emerging, that of professional-grade information management and use services for individuals. VRM has much to gain from this development.

Problem

As daily life increasingly relies on digital technologies and data, individuals increasingly become dependent on data silos that are run by organizations they interact with. These organizations, by their nature, do not necessarily have the best interests of the individual as their raison d’etre. For example, the individual now has to ‘sign on’ and leave personal information trails in many more places than ever before. In turn, privacy-invading marketing practices leverage these information trails to target individuals with communications. The combination of more targeting data being available and less expensive communications channels means that the individual are spending more time being exposed to messages; when the vast majority of these messages are based on relatively poor quality data input then the time of these individuals is being abused by suppliers. Public sector organizations have less to gain in terms of gathering information for marketing purposes – but data gathering and use by large, public sector bodies has its own ‘big-brother’ related downsides.

In parallel, existing approaches individuals are able to take to managing personal ‘life’ information are inadequate. The shoebox full of important documents is no longer relevant when those documents are digital. The PDA/ cell-phone/ PC address book combos do some basic tasks well, but are limited by their relatively narrow architectures. The various personal finance/ personal health/ lifestyle management applications have many upsides, but are based on locking in the customer to a proprietary architectures and a seller-centric business model.

Where/Context

An individual, on average, has 50 – 100 suppliers of some significant to them (some have many more). Each of these suppliers will typically be running or building some equivalent of their ‘single customer view’’, and each will typically also store personal information on that individual in 4-5 operational systems. This issue applies across most aspects of life, and the vast majority of industry sectors.

The logic for this data gathering is that a) data has value to the organization, and b) that there is nowhere else to get it from.

The spend on ‘single customer view’ across organizations and sectors amounts to many billions per annum, with considerable growth forecast for the foreseeable future.

The Personal Knowledge Bank offers an alternate option – enabling suppliers to ‘go to the source’ rather than maintain a copy, especially when the source contains richer, deeper, more accurate data than is available elsewhere. It also enables much more besides (for now we shall focus on the enabling VRM aspects’).

Who

Personal Knowledge Banks are most likely to be run as a service that an individual outsources to one or more agent(s) who have built the architecture and technology environment to run such services professionally and cost-effectively (as organizations do around credit rating etc).

These services could theoretically be run by existing organizations that manage personal information well – with the killer proviso that a truly functional Personal Knowledge Bank can only be run by buyer-centric organization, i.e. those architected to support the buyer. In doing so they may also support the seller, but their primary orientation must be buyer-centric.

How

Some of the key components of a Personal Knowledge Bank are:

- A rich, deep (preferably open) data architecture recognizing both analytical and operational requirements

- An identity layer (person-centric and ideally interoperable with top down identity protocols)

- Security

- Front-end applications

- Information hygiene and management processes


Above all else, there should be a recognition that such tools and the processes around them will evolve rather than appear in ‘big bang’ mode. Organizations began their information management and usage journeys 30 to 40 years ago – and they continue to become ‘bigger/ better/ faster’ each year. The individual equivalents will also be a journey rather than a destination.

Discussion

We must get beyond thinking of Personal Knowledge Banks (or however they come to be named) as technology projects. Yes, they are – but in practice there are far wider/ higher barriers to be addressed around process, data gathering and ‘culture’. That said, the return on investment for an individual that will emerge will make a compelling case for over-coming these barriers.


Initiative Template

To add an Initiative, click on the edit link directly to the right. That will bring up a wiki editor with the following sections and this paragraph.

Copy the list of sections, including "Initiative Name" and paste them above the "Initiative Template" section header. Then fill in the details. Replace "Initiative Name" with the name of your initiative and add a few sentences (or more) for each section.

Once you save the page, you will be able to edit each section individually, using its own edit link.

Initiative Name

Introduction

Problem

Where/Context

Who

How

Discussion

Draft

This is a draft proposal. I'm particularly interested in both real Initiative Ideas and improvements to the template.