November 11 2009 Conference Call

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Conference Call Notes

Drafted by Joe Andrieu, November 11, 2009


#vrm at

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Category:conference call


  • Joe Andrieu
  • Dean Landsman
  • Keith Hopper
  • Adriana Lukas
  • Doc Searls


Droid Phone

Note quite a 1.0 phone--keyboard sucks--but at least it points to a liberated future of standards-based, open phone.


Keith has led a variety of informal meetings, talking about research opportunities with the Berkman Geeks. Doc & Keith have presented a case for VRM research and the Geeks have a bunch of tools that might be useful for such research. The current conversation is figuring out how to marry those tools with a VRM research question. This means we are probably going to be focusing on closer, shorter time frame work, rather than some of the bigger, more visionary research, such as JP Rangaswami has suggested at one of our meetings. Current focus: is a free customer actually worth more than a captive one? Working with the Geeks, we would utilize Amazon's Mechanical Turk to set up an A/B test where users are faced with being a captive or a free customer and they can choose what they prefer.

After IIW, Doc went directly to a pretreat, then the retreat both for Berkman folks, and got to explore the possibilities for research. Doc has a desire to get some research done in this school year and the man-power available also tracks to the same timeframe, which makes for good motivation to push something through on a relatively short timeframe, which means simple and to the point.

See the VRM Research opportunities for more.

Insights from the Berkman Retreat

There's a form of search that Technoratti pioneered... essentially "live search" search just of current blog posts. Unfortunately, the ad-based business didn't suffice. A little known dirty secret is that the demographics of most clickers on ads are lower class and less desirable to many advertisers.

Doc noted a couple ways people (not necessarily at the retreat) don't get VRM:

  • Socio-political: Some folks on the left end of the political spectrum see problems as social ones best dealt with by legislation and regulation, and tend not to see how businesses create value and how original ideas turn into wealth as well as various social benefits. In other words, VRM is something that republicans and libertarians often see more quickly. There aren't many of those in academia, relatively speaking.
  • Incumbentist: Most people tend to locate their point of view on the sell side. Combined with the normative nature of the advertising framework, they tend first to see VRM as another way to improve advertising, rather than to equip customers with ways to improve choice, expression and demand. VRM isn't just MORE than that, it is fundamentally orthogonal to that. It's coming from a different direction.

Free customers v captive customers. The value in both directions. The value to self and the value to the seller.

Doc imagines a 2x2 axis, with individual/vendor on one axis, another in captive/free. A lot of people /like/ being captive. And most of those slaves will deny they are captive. (See iPhone addiction for examples of people who love their captivity.) The benefits from generativity are more public than private: that is they are more of a common good, emerging from the large scale interactions of generativity rather than the immediate, private benefits of a singular, amazing product experience. So, often a "shiny" product can seduce users who like the immediate experience without regard to the public good lost due to the lockin of said "shiny", captivating product.


We'll be putting together a plebiscite to elect a board to manage a non-profit whose purpose will be to further the VRM vision through a peer-review journal, research, and events.

The plebiscite will be comprised of individuals who have contributed at the leadership level to VRM. The final determination of who is or is not eligible will be Doc's. You qualify if you've done any of the following:

  1. Been a participating member of the Steering Committee (by phone, email, or in person)
  2. Participated in any of the VRM Leadership Meetings
  3. Contributed on the startup committee for the Association for User Driven Services
  4. Organized a VRM event
  5. Sponsored a VRM event
  6. Donated to Berkman in support of ProjectVRM

This is meant to be illustrative. If you've been a part of the effort and want to be in the plebiscite, let Doc know.

Every member of the plebiscite will be eligible to vote for the board of directors of the new organization. We will also put together a mailing list so that we can, as a community, discuss criteria and goals--and so potential board members can be nominated and present their interest to the group.

The timeframe is not set in stone, but here's a strawman suggestion:

Week Dates Goal
1 (Nov 8 - Nov 14) Introduction Letter to Initial Plebiscite Members
2 (Nov 15 - Nov 21) Call for any additional plebes. Initial criteria discussion.
3 (Nov 22 - Nov 28) Nominations. Final comments on criteria.
4 (Nov 29 - Dec 5) Close Nominations. Nominee statements.
5 (Dec 6 - Dec 12) Vote.
6 (Dec 13 - Dec 19) New Board in place, takes over schedule & action items for incorporating.
7 (Dec 20 - Jan 1) Happy Holidays!

Note: Doc sent out the invitation on 23 November. Notes continue at VRM-REJ.