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Category: user data

The economics of user-generated content & attention


The current set of Web app firms have valuations based on the generous contributions of users like you. The platforms, in and of themselves, aren’t worth the valuations that VCs, or acquiring firms, are attributing to them. It’s never about the software, it’s about the community, the audience, the users. In fact, the most interesting developments are the most simple. Think about blogging software, RSS, Twitter, podcatchers— it’s not the software it’s what is enabled for the users.

Audiences used to be aggregated so that you could sell their eyeballs to advertisers. Now, to a large extent, the audience creates the product. Jason Calacanis was criticized for wanting to pay the audience at Netscape. But if the user contributes to the value of a platform, shouldn’t the platform owner pass some of the revenue through? The economics of “user-generated” content will be similar to the economics of user attention data. The user will want to retain, or be compensated for, the value of both their raw attention and the content they’ve created.

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Why Marketing is Broken

Allen Stern claims that RSS is broken because it doesn’t deliver customers to him on a plate. Of course, he then explains that RSS was never designed to rat out it’s subscribers to marketers. Gee, people can anonymously subscribe to my feed. If you think about it, I do know that the subscriber is the kind of person who would subscribe to my particular feed. So that tells me something. Although it doesn’t tell me when they’ve lost interest, or if they intended to unsubscribe, but were too lazy to do so.

But the idea that marketers have any claim on the kind of data that Stern is asking for shows a real lack of understanding. Perhaps Mr. Stern needs to have a long conversation with Doc Searls about Vendor Relationship Management. Yes, traditionally marketers put potential customers into their sights using the kind of stats Stern wants RSS to collect. But the equation isn’t the same on the internet, it isn’t a “one to many” broadcast medium. It’s “many to many” where there’s a democratization of the participants in the network. People are starting to understand that their interest in, and even their raw attention toward a product has a value. And deciding to expose any data to a potential vendor is a customer choice, not a marketers right.


The Doc Is In: Health Vault

Doc Searl’s weighs in on Microsoft’s HealthVault. The same issues come up over and over again. Big companies like to build systems that lock you in. They call it stickiness (In the manner of a fly trap). The questions are obvious at this point— can I take my data and leave? Can I run my data through a value-add analytic provided by another provider? If I can’t move it, in what sense is it really mine? Searls calls health info the holy grail of vendor relationship management. I call it the official definition of Web 4.0.

Jon Udell answers some of Doc’s questions. Leave it to Jon actually read the fine print. But when it comes to stuff like this, we all need to remember what Tom Waits said: “What the big print giveth, the small print taketh away.”

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Social Graph: Meme Catch and Release Program

catch and release

Does Dave Winer have the power to squash a meme? The term “Social Graph” recently began an infestation of TechMeme. While tied to the interesting issue about who owns a user’s attention data in the context of social networking, the term itself obscured rather than opened the dialogue. Dave Winer objected to the use of the term, even though it was one he was familiar with given his background in mathematics. After reading Winer, Nick Carr was pleased to find that he understood what the term referred to, even if the signifier was unknown.

Can you capture the meme, remove the “Social Graph” signifier, re-attach the “Social Network” signifier and release the meme back into the wild? Can a meme survive that kind of catch and release? After all, it’s not as though “network” doesn’t have plenty of depth for those interested in going deeper. Network theory has a very interesting emerging literature, and has many ties to the mathematics implied by the use of the word “graph.”

Generally the usage of words to signify concepts is determined by common usage, the marketplace of conversation. In this case, the conversation is really a political negotiation for the right to own one’s attention and social network data. The math is the least of it.