The VRM Vector

What makes VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) distinctive is that its perspective is anchored with the individual — the person, the user, the customer. It is not something that vendors do for customers. It’s something customers do for themselves, and for each other, including vendors.

VRM is not opposed to vendors. Quite the opposite: it supports vendors. It is independent of vendors, but also able to engage vendors in ways that work for both parties — far better than any vendor-side-only CRM (customer relationship management) system can today.

All this comes to mind for two reasons. One is that we’re having a meeting on VRM in the morning here at Oxford. The other is that Dave Winer posted some fine VRM stuff right here. Sez Dave,

The next evolution of the web is to deconstruct social networks into their components. I’m tired of building networks of friends, over and over. Next time I do it, it’ll be for keeps. It’ll be the “real” social network, the one all future social networks build on, just as the format and protocol designed by TBL was the one we all built on for basic machine-level networking.

The “arcs” — the lines connecting people — will need to have better labels. And like the Internet, be subject to innovation by anyone, without anyone else’s permission. Small pieces, loosely joined.

And the arcs will connect groups of people too. Big pieces that act just like the small pieces. ;->

And there will be an easy way for an app to authenticate someone, and access data private to the app, and data that the user has let the app have access to. That way when I register to be part of a new community I don’t have to re-enter all my data again.

Note how Dave declares his independence here; and how he offers ideas that can work for everybody — far better than the your-choice-of-silo system works now. He offers constructive ideas that are not just good for individuals, but can serve to improve the offerings coming from the likes of Facebook, from which Dave and I (and many of the rest of you too, I suppose) are getting a torrent of invitations these days.

Right now I have 35 friend requests on Facebook, on top of the 15 I’ve already approved. I’d like to approve many (or hell, all) of these requests at once, but instead I have to go through this silly stage where I have to say how I know each one of these people. Like it matters. There’s a rectangle of checkboxes with choices like,

– Cut in front of me in the dining hall line
– Frenched my sheets
– Got me stoned
– Gave me a hickey
– Screwed on sight
– Brought the wrong appetizer, but it was cool
– Took my parking space

You can “request confirmation” or “skip this step”. I always click the latter, but it’s never quick, and always a pain in the pants. LinkedIn, Pownce, Orkut and all the ‘sters (that were big several years ago) have their oddball routines as well. All are a little off in what they assume about me and people I might know.

We don’t have the way to fix this yet. But we have the will, the talent, and a growing set of ideas about how to build something that works for each and all of us out here in the real world.

And every new invitation to join yet another social silo only motivates us more.


  1. Karoli

    Just by identifying the issues, you’re putting this on the road to a fix. I completely agree about the Facebook dialogues. I also don’t like the way it pulls addresses from my contacts list as a way to invite others. It feels spammish to me.

  2. David Kearns

    Think back 40 years, Doc, to when you and I were the “pseudo-hip” and used memes like that to seperate us and our ilk from the rest of the herd. It does tire quickly, though – which is why the “young & restless” are quick to move on to the Next Big Thing. Eventually they’ll grow out of it – and bitch & moan just as much as we do. But by then there’ll be a new generation using, I don’t know, maybe mond-meld networking with all sorts of pseudo-hip buzz words and phrases to keep out those old folks who use to think texting (OMG!) was so cool…


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