Category Archives: information valet

Report: News orgs must help users with identity, privacy; consider non-profit collaboration to share tech, users, content

BRANSON, Mo., Aug. 4, 2011 — A non-profit collaboration to share technology, users and content could help news organizations find new revenues and become better at serving the public, according to a report by a Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute researcher at the University of Missouri.

The report, “From Paper to Persona: Managing Privacy and Information Overload; Sustaining Journalism in the Attention Age,” was published on Thursday and presented to the annual meeting of the Newspaper Association Managers Inc., meeting in Missouri.  It’s the result of more than two years of study by a Reynolds fellow and consultant, Bill Densmore, a career journalist, publisher and entrepreneur.

“As news and the economics of newspapers come unglued, what will sustain journalism?” Densmore asks. “The answer involves a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is how to do a better job of helping the public find knowledge they need, amid a glut so huge that the scarce human commodity is now attention, not information. The Internet provides the opportunity to do so.”

The report advocates forming an industry collaborative,  tentatively called the “Information Trust Association” by Densmore. It would define and foster a common technology playing field that respects consumer privacy, and makes rules for the exchange of both content and users’ identity information.

“Such a system might allow news originators of any size – possibly including bloggers – to exchange payments among each other and with public users for news information and sponsored material,” says Densmore.

Two thirds of the 55-page paper chronicles what Densmore says is the end of mass markets as a viable strategy for selling the advertising that has largely supported American journalism.  Instead, he says, the Internet is increasingly able to deliver commercial messages targeted to specific users’ interests and profiles – or personas.

As a result, the paper says, publishers and broadcasters have to learn how to use technology to become expert at personalizing information services. And that, says Densmore, requires them to help consumers with their privacy and personal information. They might help users to earn rewards, or pay for specialized information.

The last third of the paper argues that the Information Trust Association is the best way to help with this change. The idea is potentially controversial because the U.S. news industry has not typically cooperated on technology standards,  instead being buffeted and shrunk by services originated elsewhere such as Craig’s List, eBay, Facebook or Google.

“The point of the Information Trust Association would be to foster collaboration that increases convenience and choice for consumers,  allowing multiple service providers to compete on a common playing field,” says Densmore.  The paper offers nine examples of industries where this has occurred, including railroads, cable TV, the electric grid, electrical equipment, banking and stock exchange, and the Internet itself.

The genesis of the paper was Densmore’s 2008-2009 “Information Valet Project” fellowship at Reynolds.

“Our challenge is no longer how to access information, but how to manage our time and attention amid the glut. News organizations have the opportunity to move from being paid to deliver one-format products (broadcasts, print stories, to providing trusted multimedia, personalized services with unique insight, knowledge, curation, and aggregation. They can help users manage their privacy and identity — their persona,” says Densmore.

The white paper is now available to view and download online. Rich with more than 230 live links to additional resources and reading, “From Paper to Persona” can be found here: http://rjionline.org/news/paper-persona

To comment, join a discussion or learn more about next steps for the Information Trust Association idea, read Densmore’s blog post at:  http://tinyurl.com/persona-blog

Response to Gillmor: With Facebook and Google+ now dueling for your ‘persona’ — is it time for the Information Trust Association?

Arizona State journalism professor and Knight chair holder Dan Gillmor is calling for an effort to “federate” identity management on the web:

“What I’d like to see, and would support with my money, is a collection of open-source, community-driven, federated services that achieved the same goals without putting our data and content into the hands of a few large and increasingly powerful companies. I suspect I’m not alone in wanting this. Are there enough of us to matter? And if so, are developers listening?”

He wrote that as the last paragraph to a blog post at The Guardian (U.K.) entitled: “Google+ forces us to question who owns our digital identity: Are enthusiastic users of social networking sites giving up too much control?”

In the post, Gillmor warns that putting too much of your “persona” — data about your friends, your “likes,” your interests and demographics — in a large social-networking service may be handing over too much control over your privacy without much in return. He’s correct, and it’s a key ongoing topic of the Information Valet Project. It’s also a key challenge addressed by our call for the formation of a global Information Trust Association, which would help establish protocols and opt-in business rules for trust, privacy, identity and information commerce on the web. I replied:

Dan:

Responding to your last paragraph: In a more detailed post I’m sure you would have mentioned Doc Searls’ ProjectVRM work at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. Broadly, what we need is an infrastructure that supports multiple places where you can lodge your “persona” (demographic and personal data), and which vouch for you as you use resources on the web. Today Facebook Connect is the default commercial identity provider for the web. Clearly G+ is making a play to be No. 2, and the fact that Facebook blocked it is at one level a welcome sign of competition.

What we need is for there to be dozens, hundreds, thousands of identity service providers — so that users can choose the one they are most comfortable with. These could be banks, telcoms, ISPs, publishers, affinity groups or even new enterprises (such as Azigo.com or Personal.com) formed for this purpose. The key issue is that they be willing — and able — to cross-authenticate their users so that they are silos, but silos which are unwalled from the user perspect.

We’re in the early stages of a four-party approach to trust, privacy, identity and information commerce — users, the user agent who helps with identity, the outfits that rely on the trust provided by the user agent (retail and content websites, eventually health-care providers perhaps) and a fourth party — the service which authenticates all of this activity.

The fourth party — the authenticator — best not be a for-profit or government entity. I’ve sketched out an idea for a global Information Trust Association which starts to get at a possible solution.  And the white paper http://www.papertopersona.org details the idea.

Yesterday, in Washington, D.C., a group of about 15 people met to work on a response to the Obama administration’s call for a private-sector let approach to Internet federated identity. They were responding to the National Strategy for Trusted identities in Cyberspace.  The government effort may be a catalyst for the work you are asking about.

– bill densmore
http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/Disclosure

Android as a moat protecting Google’s (advertising) castle; “advisor-tising” and the Infovalet

InfoValet mark

Infovalet mark

We exchange email yesterday with my CircLabs Inc. colleague, Jeff Vander Clute, about a blog post written by venture capitalist Bill Gurley. Gurley’s post  (LINK) argues that Google is giving away the Android operating system — and many things around it — because no one can compete with free and the mass adoption of these free services is making Google’s advertising business unassailable.

Vander Clute remarked about Gurley’s thesis:

Fascinating points leading up to the legal destruction of wealth. It stands  to reason that the marginal cost of software development going to zero in the  long run means upside going to zero. Entrenched players for whom software > development is cheap or a byproduct can choose to give away a version of  *your* product for free or less than free.

Right. So one begins to realize this essential truth — Google is neither a technology company, nor a search company. It has become a marketing company. Currently its business is the selling of advertising. It didn’t start out that way. It started out intending the organize the world’s information and make it useful and accessible. But now Wall Street expects it to feed its advertising juggernaut first.

For the advertising to remain effective, Google is going to have to learn more and more about us. The looming battle: On what terms does it learn about us and operate in what I’ve begun to call the “advisor-tising” space? For Google the engineering and software — Android, maps, apps, wallets — is now focused on drawing more and more of us in, and learning more and more about us, so that we can be better and better packaged and presented to people who want to sell us something.

At least in the world I come from, there is the intention to provide a service — civic information — that rides atop advertising and is served by it rather than vice versa. At least that’s been an aspiration for the news industry and the continuing focus of its best thinkers.

The good news: Gradually, Google — and Facebook — are going to figure out that being the “infovalet” requires a new kind of trust relationship with the user if you want to remain their most-favored agent. And that will involve providing something of value beyond a lot of free, ad-supported services. How about news? Google has for now one of the must trusted and recognized brands in the world. It will need to adopt the role of infovalet to keep that enviable position.

Figuring out that relationship is the next phase of the web and what fascinates me and why I crafted our RJI white paper as “Paper to Persona.” And it’s a playing field where news organizations have strength — if they can just learn to use technology as adroitly and innovatively as do Facebook, Google and Amazon.

What we mean by “valet” — a little explanation

NEW: “From Paper to Persona white paper”


In the white paper “From Paper to Persona,” we use the term: “information valet” or “infovalet.”  “Valet” may not yet bet the perfect metaphor, it’s the best we’ve come up with to describe the change necessary for news organizations to morph and grow in the new news ecology of information abundance.

We don’t mean the car parker. We mean the king’s valet or concierge, the helping person who knows your interests and requirements and just quietly takes care of them. The term “information agent” was popular a
decade ago, but to me that sounds too much like a spy, and with the increased concern about privacy it seems the wrong metaphor now. And concierge, which might be better, is too long.

Now, we refer to an entity that helps people manage their use of digital information. The help might include:

  • Controling access to an individual’s personal demographic or preference information
  • Curating and personalizing the storage, receipt or exchange of information
  • Paying for access to information by subscription, per click or per item.
  • Receiving value for viewing or accepting commercial offers, such as advertising or reward points.

Real-world analogies to the role of the “infovalet” might be to an agent, broker or retailer, with the important attribute that the InfoValet’s economic interests are principally aligned with the individual consumer or buyer of services, rather than with the seller.

However, an infovalet might have different roles for difference transactions. For example, a news organization operating as an infovalet to readers, viewers or users might be solely their curator or agent for finding trustworthy information and services on web or mobile platforms. However, the news organization might promote its own content to its own users.

The ideas of agency, and economic interest are not clear cut.  A retailer, for example, might market Product A more heavily than competing Product B because it received a special wholesale buy of Product A allowing it to realize more profits vs. selling Product B. In an open market for digital information, with lots of competing InfoValets, users might be expected to favor those whose practices are most transparent and aligned with the user’s interests.

I first began using the term infovalet in 2007 and included it in a spring, 2008 fellowship proposal to the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, writing, in part:

These valets will compete across geographic and topical spheres with search, advice, community, research, linking, hosting, data storage and other services. They will compete to be best at meeting the consumer’s diverse information needs within communities defined by individual users. Information resources will not typically be owned by the valet. Rather, the valet will be compensated for finding, shaping and referring them to the consumer, much as a retailer aggregates and merchandises for wholesalers.

Starting the RJI fellowship, we defined the intention of the Information Valet Project. Participants in “Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy,”  in December 2008, added some depth to the idea and, with the help of consultant Steve Mott, came up with a consensus summary of the envisioned  service:

A computerized, community-based ecosystem that enables consumers to opt-in to convenient, secure and private information exchange with trusted providers of online content, products and services where the relationship value of the consumer is captured and married to optimized positioning of seller offerings.

Components:

  •     Enrollment/registration process that screens (and protects) users
  •     Creation of secure credential with user-set privacy levels
  •     Downloadable(?) single sign-on capability for participating sites
  •     User-created and updatable profiles of preferences, interests and demographics
  •     Certification of trusted providers and participants
  •     Ability to match dynamically-specified buyer interests with customized seller offerings
  •     Transparent payment capability with user-specified ways to pay
  •     User-defined rewards that can be collected among user-specified provider participants
  •     Visa-like payment engine/network/capability to slice-and-dice payments, establish and enforce rules, handle problems, service customers, provide reports, administer licenses/IP, etc.
  • In August, 2009, when I spoke in Prague on a State Department program, I asked through an interpreter what people thought about “valet.” The feeling was that it was as good as anything else, even translated into Czech.

    It does require perhaps a little explaining but that’s because it’s a new construct about the role of news organizations.

    Historically, editors thought of themselves as either delivering what readers needed to read or what they wanted to read, where want was defined in a crassly mass market “if it bleeds it leads” kind of way.

    This is something new. It’s about taking the time, and developing the technology, to listen carefully and learn from individual reader/viewer/user interests and preferences and then equally carefully matching those with useful, trustworthy information. Converging with some of these ideas are the work of experts in the field of network identity, security and authentication.

    KEY EFFORTS SUPPORT INTERNET IDENTITY

    • The Berkman Center on the Internet and Society has for several years supported “Project VRM,” an initiative of Doc Searls, a former advertising-agency executive and Linux software trade-publication editor who has been arguing that Internet commerce must switch from being controlled by vendors and called CRM, for “Customer Relationship Management,” to VRM, or “Vendor Relationship Management” controlled by consumers.  Key questions: Can consumers do that themselves, managing their privacy and persona and extracting value for them.? Or do they need a new kind of agent to help them?  In February, 2011, Searls had submitted a proposal to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for support to commercialize his “EmanciPay” microaccounting system. It would allow consumers to make offers to purchase on the web on their own terms and prices – and vendors would then decided if and how to respond. The agents who would help consumers to make offers and manage their personal are termed by Searls “The Fourth Party.”
    • Searls, Kaliya Hamlin, Mary Ruddy and Drummond Reed are behind the Identity Commons, and the related Internet Identity Workshop – ongoing meetings in Silicon Valley among researchers and technologists working on trust and identity frameworks for the web.  The Identity Commons has received some backing from major companies, including Microsoft Corp.

    These groups, as well as entrepreneurs like Paul Trevithick, a Wellesley Hills, Mass., chairman of the Information Card Foundation,  have been advising the Obama administration as the U.S. Commerce Department determines what role the government might play in fostering user identity on the web.  The agency is balancing both privacy policies with an apparent desire to preside over the adoption of digital identities issues by the private sector but compatible with the governnment’s needs.