Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Identity as Relationship Precursor

I participated (and really enjoyed) in a ProjectVRM call this afternoon. I've been interested in VRM for a while now so it was great to talk to people who know it beyond the acronym. We talked about what Liberty Alliance ID-WSF might provide in the way of plumbing for match-making between customers and vendors.

Towards the end, in a discussion of the value of VRM for the vendors, somebody (I'm pretty sure it was Chris Carfi) said something like
They (the vendors) will never see a better qualified sales lead

Seems that Chris's presumption is that the vendor and the customer will only ever interact AFTER they determine that there exists an intersection between the desires of the customer (e.g. Sony PSP for less than $160) and the vendor's offerings (e.g. Sony PSP for greater than $155). Thus the wonderfully qualified sales lead - the customer is pre-filtered even before the two ever meet.

So, interaction (in the form of offer and acceptance) follows discovery and retrieval of identity attributes (specifically the personal RFPs of the customer that they've created). Based on the identity RFP it finds for a particular user, the vendor decides whether or not further interaction is appropriate (i.e. beneficial to both). The model is

Identity sharing ----------> Interaction (or not)

This is interesting because it seems the exact opposite of most use cases in which identity attributes are shared (and those that Liberty ID-WSF has historically focused on). In these use cases, interaction comes first. The user shows up at a service provider and, in order to provide some enhanced level of customization, the service provider seeks to obtain identity. The model is

Interaction --------------> Identity Sharing

I'll argue that current identity systems (OpenID to a lesser extent, albeit not spec'd out) are geared to the latter model, what are the implications of the former?

If identity sharing comes first, as the precursor to (possible interaction), the question is how:
  • a service provide can retrieve identity of a users when not initiated by some interaction of that user
  • once identity is retrieved, how can the service provider initiate the interaction (if appropriate)
For the first requirement, there would appear to be 2 alternatives
  • broadcast - the user makes their identity publicly available for service providers to find
  • filtered query - the service provider sends a query for desired identity to designated identity providers, specifying their request abstractly in terms of the identity they seek rather than in teh context of specific users (e.g. 'who do you have that's looking for a Sony PSP?')
The second requirement presents privacy challenges. How do you make contact information available (so as to enable interaction) without throwing privacy out the window?

This isn't specific to VRM either. A bricks-and-mortar shop could be constantly looking for 'anybody within 1 km of my location' and, once found, interact with them in the form of a 50 cents off coupon. Scaling issues I grant you.


Unknown said...

Ding! Ding! Ding!
We have a winner here folks!

The correct answer is: Broadcasting!

Broadcasting provides a method for vendor discovery based on where the user consumes. Social relationships between consumers provide relevancy to the discovery process by sharing where "vendors" (who could be other consumers!) have good/services at within a community (online/offline). The discovery process is complete based on the follow up consumer interaction from consuming the vendors relationship relevant to the consumer's needs (if the consumer needs to be discovered themselves, then the cycle repeats virally).

The VRM camp is too lost to figure it out that if you flip the script and reverse the model, you get more value and less privacy issues because soon, everyone is going to get blipd!

Anonymous said...

In Brussels, at a recent IOS meeting, Doc Searls was talking about three different level of commerce - relationship, conversation and transaction. VRM will cover all three or at least will be based around all three.

For me it's an issue of taking control of my own identity first and then figuring out what one can do with it - share, interact, transact, engage etc. At the moment, there aren't many tools to do that, they are not truly user-centric.