James Governor's Monkchips

On Attestation, Transparency, Microsoft Internal Choices and the Future of Market Research

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In a recent blog I speculated Microsoft should do us all a favor by becoming incredibly transparent about what software its employees are running. How would it do this ? Using an emerging approach to polling:

The idea i have in mind looks to the future of declarative metadata collection and aggregation. Much like Larry Lessig‘s election week concept “emblogment” – its an informal endorsement through a tag associated with a user that talks to that users’ preferences. It is not a poll by phone methodology (but how scientic are they anyway?) Any implementation would surely be open to attestation fraud- setting up multiple spoof identities, say, spaces or blogs that say all they read is Monkchips, for example–but then again we have to manage risk whatever we do.

So what about this notion that users will offer public “attestation” – [take the pledge!] – this is who i am! this is what my system is. that is my configuration. these “emblogment” tags–distributed as Javascript say, could then be aggregated–and hey presto, Technorati or some other blog aggregator starts competing with IDC…

The same basic concepts would work for what music is hot, or anything else we have opinions on are use in production. On that note, guess who is going to have one of the best sample sizes for a new model of consumer preference management going forward? Geeks may not like MSN Spaces but i am willing to bet tens of millions of normal will (how do i keep up with my grandaughter at college if she says she doesnt use email anymore? Packaged up blog technology and IM with the guts hidden is how. the Spaces homepage doesn’t mention RSS once, probably a plus for the target market). I would prefer it if i could use Firefox with Spaces but i certainly didn’t expect MS to provide client side editing widgets that worked seamlessly with an IE alternative out of the box…

Where Microsoft really does need to wake up however is on ownership and intellectual property. Post pictures to my blog and Microsoft owns them. I don’t think so folks.

But anyway – back to emblogment and attestation.

The fiirst guy to absolutely nail the meme for me was my best friend Len Schmiege – and I should stress he put forward the idea without any background reading on blogs, RSS, the semantic web or any of the other contexts that these ideas seem to be emerging in. Len is a deep thinker but a solo flyer – he has awesome ideas but keeps them hidden under a bushel. I have no idea how he does it without more “source code” to work with. Len’s idea of how to make secure computers is so good (i thought it was stupid for about five years but i am coming around now) i can’t mention it because he will kick my ass if i talk about it unless he patents it first–not that patents help individual inventors though (has anyone written a book about all the solo inventors that screwed by big corporations and lost patent and intellectual property cases that prevented them ever leveraging the idea; the best example i could think of was the guy in the mid west that scoped out a TV years before the competition.)

Len’s attestation thought model worked across the board-he said that users will in future include all their product, brand and political preferences in their profile, which can the be aggregated so we know what people are really doing, thinking, buying. Of course these people might not “know what they want” (Cheers Malcolm!) That’s the tyranny of the masses for you.

But anyway back to the MS example. if employees “emblogged” their favourite third party software it would help us all get a better view of the software company’s thinking and future directions. its a wrinkle on the “eat your own dogfood/drink your own champagne” meme. we want to know when a vendor is drinking somone else’s champagne.

Let’s take a look at IBM’s latest outstanding TPC benchmark ratings – which show that IBM used COM+ as an transaction monitor- this was the most performant solution. the IIS fact is a very interesting one for any customer talking to IBM about its middleware offerings – hey guys how come you need COM+ to make DB2 scale? Gary Barnett reports it is specifically IIS!

Basically we’re talking to transparency and aggregation – related thinking behind Google Zeigeist, eBay Pulse and similar services–one watcher is John Battelle. We are talking to a trend that i have called out before – that market research is set to move from estimation to measurement. I would not be doubling down on Gartner Dataquest or IDC or NOP stock right now. Google may be eyeing their lunch.

Anyway – Stepho asked me to clarify what i meant when i spoke to this attestation idea. This blog is supposed to be an explanation.

But why would Microsoft even remotely consider this kind of attestation? It is already driving something similar, though closed loop closed source, through Watson and Zephyr. I am sure it would love to know what every user on the planet was running – it would certainly help software licensing compliance… perhaps by attestifying first it could encourage others to follow suit. Microsoft is offering licensing “amnesties” to some UK users. Its about participation, not DRM or certificates or phone home or any of those other mechanisms of force that software and media companies tend to embrace.

This is the new kind of world we all need to get hip to–business and consumer barriers are breaking down, so are sources of authority (see Michael Lewis The Future Just Happened), and so is the whole notion of a digital consumer. Consumption is dead -long live engagement and participation. every act of “consumption” generates metadata you could build a business model on. Its all about network effect motivation to “work”.

For a final evidence point how about audiocrobbler, an emerging attestation-based achitecture of partipation. audioscrobbler doesn’t sell music – but it could become one of the first companies to build a business model that includes payments based on deep knowledge of people’s music preferences. Stephen is on too.

One company that planned to do just that is BigChampagne. But there are questions concerning its lack of transparency. A quick peek at BigChampagne.com makes it fairly clear where the firm is focusing attention-but selling to big media companies is not the key to building an architecture of participation. yes it offers buzz fights but the list of choices is way too Billboard for me to trust–nothing is hot in file trading networks except the top 10 – give me a break!

My guess is audioscrobbler will build a rich database of real user preferences faster than bigchampagne because it is focusing on giving end point preference publishers (what the old world thinks of as consumers) features they actually want, which will generate metadatas as a side effect. user are volunteering to give accurate data – who knows how BigChampagne works?

I want to know what people are really listening too, not what EMI thinks should be hot. Just as an enterprise I want to know what Microsoft is using internally, not what its marketers tell me is the strategic direction of the company…

Does anyone else think it would be nice to get behind those [insert Fortune 500 entity here] runs [insert application vendor here] ads? How much of this stuff is really shelfware? Sometimes you have to ignore “reference customers” because although they don’t actually use the software, they really enjoy the annual vendor boondoogle and the cross marketing opportunities that go with it – i learned that lesson about ten years ago when i was a journalist. Just because a user says its so doesn’t make it so. The same of course is even more true of vendor marketing organizations.

Bring on participatory attestation – [can’t i think of a better name than that? can anyone point me to better prior art?]

One comment

  1. DOH! quick fact check –
    according to http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae408.cfm

    farnsworth apparently did benefit from the patent – although RCA was the ultimate beneficiary.

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