I’m leading a discussion on the WELL with Doc Searls about his new book, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge, which explores new thinking about the power relationship between customers/consumers and vendors. Doc has been rethinking those relationships through Project VRM (via his fellowship at the Berkman Center at Harvard), which has recently led to the creation of a “customer commons.”
It’s an old saw to say that listening to customers is a way to improve and gain new market advantages. But the difference with VRM will be adapting to standards and practices set on the customers’ side — ones that work the same for all companies. There will be less and less leverage in communicating only within a company’s on communication silo. IMHO, “social” services like Twitter and Facebook are not going to provide those standard ways, because they too are privately owned silos.
Scale will only happen when everybody uses the same stuff in the same way. The Internet and its core protocols scaled because they were essentially NEA: Nobody owned them, Everybody Used them and Anybody could improve them. (Yes, some were owned in a legal sense, but in a practical sense they were ownerless. This is why, for example, Ethernet beat Token Ring. Intel, Xerox and Digital essentially released Ethernet into the public domain while IBM wanted to keep Token Ring fully private and charge or it. This bitter lesson had leverage later when IBM embraced Linux.) Email as we know it won because it scaled in exactly that way.