Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Doc Searls' talk about "The Intention Economy" at Kynetx 2009

We're trapped into thinking that a "free market" means "your choice of captivity (vendor)".

Even with social media, each site is a silo. So how do we get to personal, and "prove that a free customer is more valuable than a captive one?"

VRM (vendor relationship management) is one approach for us consumers, the reciprocal of and complimentary to CRM.
  • manage our own health care data, eg. PHR (personal health records)
  • "personal RFP" for my personal needs
  • assert our own terms of service
  • "Have governance of and by - and not just for - the people"
Take a look at Public Radio Player, where the VRM "CD" logo gives their VRM compliance level.


Need a "4th-party": someone who helps the buyer relate to the sellers (and their 3rd-parties).

Quote of the day: "We're all climbing up the volcano of Google and allowing their free software to wash over us." There is currently an advertising bubble, because it's all guesswork; we need this infrastructure to empower customers, and Google will take a hit when it crashes.

(Doc recommends the online comic "Gaping Point.")

(BTW, Doc never answered the question: "How do we prove that a free customer is more valuable than a captive one?")

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Following Your Passion is Better than Doing Good

"Do good."

"Make a difference."

"Make the world a better place."

You can't go long in today's America without receiving a plea to do good or hearing a claim that some group is making the world a better place. I love to hear that. As a matter of fact, my next career step will be something that more directly impacts people's lives for the better. I expect to spend my full time doing something even more directly constructive (in my mind) than what I'm doing.

However, I feel that "doing good" is not the best end-goal. Nope. Sorry.

Sure, whatever we do should have a productive purpose. But, for example, being good isn't always enough to motivate us; in fact, I've found (after years of looking) that there are actually very few philanthropic projects that inspire me. In addition , I feel that it's important to preach what I practice, and it is not practical advice (nor good for society) to tell everyone to spend full time in charity.

So I say: follow your passion!

It may not align with what you've done before. Who cares?

It may not meet the approval of others. Who cares?

It may not make much money. Is that really more important to you?

It may be something destructive. OK, you got me. Find a different passion.

It may not be possible right now due to current commitments. Don't give up your dream: you'll be rewarded as you work toward your passion...

When I was finishing my bachelor's degree, I'd done some job interviews and had been offered a position with IBM. That was fine, but what I really wanted was to go to graduate school and go as far as I could with computer science and maybe even teach it. It seemed almost a fantasy, and part of me thought I should be practical and go with the job. I went with graduate school, stayed poor a while longer, and I've never been happier. I think even Lynnette would agree that it turned out to be a good decision. I believe it's turned out so well because that was my passion at the time.

My desires have changed, and I'm currently considering my next step in my "career" (meaning the way I spend my working hours). I have some ideas and I've done some small things that match my new-found passions. I'm not yet able to spend my full time on it, and I suspect most people are in the same boat. But I'm getting to know myself better and I'm finding things that may make it all possible.

So it's already been worth the effort. And I'm not giving up.

As great as it is to do charitable work, I believe the world will be better served if we all focus first on our greatest passions, because those passions are the things that bring the most joy to our lives. Some might say that the world would be a terrible place if we all did that; I would say that they are misconstruing the idea of true passion. If we're all brutally honest with ourselves and those around us, we'll find that by pursuing our greatest passions (while keeping the long-term point-of-view) we will arrive at the best possible world.

Good luck to us all!


Lately, I've been seeing some messages emerge from other sources that emphasize passion over "doing good".

The Boys And Girls Clubs of America put up a billboard that had the word "Passion" on it. It pointed here: (Click on Martin Sheen to see more details.)

The Utah Dairy Council has put the following phrase on billboards, next to a picture of farmers and their farms:

Our earth
Our product
My passion

Of course, there are many who have written about following their passion. Two specific writings have stood out to me recently. One is by Fred Brooks, a computer scientist quoted frequently when it comes to project management:

"To only a fraction of the human race does God give the privilege of earning one’s bread doing what one would have gladly pursued free, for passion. I am very thankful." - The Mythical Man Month, p. 291

Finally, I've been following the progress of Phil Windley, my PhD advisor, as he's been starting a new company. I thought there was one post where he explained his reasons for being involved in another startup, but I couldn't find one and I'm starting to think that I've gathered his enthusiasm from multiple posts over time. For example, in 2007 he says how you can impress people when you "express the level of your commitment"; in 2008 he says that this is what he's "passionate" about.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Police earning revenue from tickets write more when they need the money

I would guess that we in America have the least corrupt police forces in the world. I'll even bet that there is not much overt corruption when this situation happens. But when the incentives are there, there will be pressures (maybe even unconscious ones) that bring out an unjust situation. Heck, maybe this means of revenue is the least-bad of all the funding options for police. But let's not ever forget that bad things will happen whenever the incentive exists, no matter how good the institution.

Here is a summary with a news video. And here are some of the articles themselves: "Are Traffic Tickets Countercyclical?" (summary, with a PDF download link) and "Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror: Local Fiscal Conditions and the Issuance of Traffic Tickets" (PDF).

Use Cases for Genealogical Semantic Data

I'm involved with the Thomas Tolman Family Organization (focused on genealogy work and family histories), and there's a discussion going on in the FamilySearch developer network about the potential utility of semantic data along with the genealogical data. I wrote the following examples of ways this could be beneficial to us. (I'm including it in this blog because these ideas touch on future projects that would give extra meaning to people as they do family history research.)

  • The source and/or genealogist who submitted the data has an impact on how trustworthy the data is. This is especially important since FamilySearch contains competing data; there are many places where existing FamilySearch data is not correct for our family. Naturally, there are genealogy researchers whom I trust more so I would prefer to see their datasets. Also, we'll tend to trust that data which has the largest number of references (and some references are more trustworthy than others), so that may be a criteria for what data I want to search through. Even though we're not actively working on integrating with FamilySearch right now, it seems that this issue comes up every month in our executive meeting.
  • When doing genealogy research, the source locations and/or genealogists can be good information to correlate. After our president came back from a trip to Boston, he heard about a source site that he was near and could have visited, but he didn't know about it at the time; our genealogist spends time contacting people in America and Europe besides hours in libraries locally, and it would be nice for her to be able to see what other lines she could extend by asking a few more questions at the same source; we maintain old documents and we just learned of some old journals that were donated to a library because the person didn't know there was a family organization, and he is now making extra effort to either recover them for us or get us copies. These are cases where we would benefit from tools combing through the meta-data, much of which is now simply contained in notes. This could even be the beginning of another social network, where genealogists might find, collaborate, and even rank the dependability of other genealogists. :-)
  • This one may not apply directly to genealogical data: my interest is in the personal histories, and allowing people to find histories for their ancestors and search for (and tag?) the things that are meaningful to them. These free-form documents will benefit a lot from semantic tags, allowing people to find correlations with concurrent historical events, with other families, and maybe even with other living individuals with the same interests.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Help Audit The Fed

There are currently bills in both the House and the Senate to audit the Federal Reserve. It should work transparently, seeing as how it controls our money supply. I hope you support this idea. If so, please take the next 5 minutes and call your congress-people (or call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121) and ask them to support this legislation and maybe even co-sponsor it.

The Federal Reserve has absolute control over our money supply. Whether or not it's good to have them as a central bank, there is no reason that they should be working in secret. (In fact, not too long ago they stopped publishing one of the measurements of our money supply, one which has been accounting for an increasing share of the total.)

There's also a petition you can fill out, which will be passed along. But your quick phone call will do even more to help.

And spread the word.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Peer-to-Peer Lending: an awesome idea being strangled by federal overreach

Yesterday I revisited one of my favorite examples of internet technology tackling important social issues:, who brings lenders and borrowers together. It's exciting because this is my favorite application of the internet; it brings people face-to-face with one another, and shares personal successes and failures. And besides the rewards of helping one another individually, it is a remarkable social invention that will allow for more and more transparency as we work with one another.

Unfortunately, I was surprised to find the following notice:

"We are not accepting new lender registrations or new commitments from existing lenders at this time."

Sure enough, securities regulators have found that their business must be registered and monitored. I'm extremely sad. Jim Bruene from has already explained why this type of thing is bad, including more examples of how this really puts a damper on innovation. I, for one, hunger for the opportunity to work with individuals rather than institutions, and I'm willing to accept the risk (and rewards) involved. How did my national government get the power to forbid this kind of trade? Actually, Jim says that our federal legislators didn't directly cause this problem, but rather the SEC decided to classify these loans such that they're in trouble. This is typical; if Congress can delegate the power

I'm not good at tirades, so I'll end here. I'm just very, very sad that this is going on, and getting worse.