Back after The Cluetrain Manifesto came out — first as a website (March, 1999) and then as a book (January 2000) — some of the best feedback came from people in what people used to call the Third World (that was before the first two merged into one, and a bunch of countries in the third group joined in). What it boiled down to was this: “‘Markets are conversations’ is a pretty bright thing for you First Worlders to say, but it’s old hat with us. Your next job is to understand how markets are about more than both transactions and conversations. They’re also about relationships.”

So that’s a setup for quotage from JP Rangaswami. Noting that a fellow twitterer said the word “reputation” is so 1990. today it’s all about relationships, JP added,

Maybe it’s the Calcuttan in me, but I guess I’ve always thought that way. For me, it’s always been all about relationships. Relationship before conversation before transaction. But as the Cluetrain guys so elegantly pointed out, that sequence had been lost in the West, and society had become more about Transaction First, Conversation only if it is going to help Transaction, Relationship only if it is going to help Conversation (and therefore Transaction).

No surprise then that when Customer Relationship Management systems came out, they tended not to be about managing customer relationships, but about managing transactions and exploiting the customer. Because they were deeply rooted in Transaction First.

… and did their best to exclude conversation as well.

Later he adds,

Relationships are about abundance, not scarcity. Provided they are nonhierarchical, of course. That’s what the people who discovered network effects understood, that relationships scale differently, create value differently. Reputation is deeply intertwined with relationship, reputation is an embodiment of what your relationships say about you. So reputations should also be about abundance, not scarcity. And can enjoy network effects as well.

In the past, even in the West, this so-called “Eastern” concept of reputation was understood. Relationships did come first, then conversation, then transaction. It has been lost. Over the last twenty years or so, it is being re-found.

I’m not sure relationship — the real kind — scales. That’s obvious to me every time I open Facebook and find myself on the receiving end of hundreds of requests for me to declare my friendship with acquaintances. Follow me on Twitter if you like, and I might follow you back; but don’t expect me to “relate” in every case.

The relating we’re talking about with VRM is of both an old and a new sort, I think.

The old sort is personal. It’s something I as an individual have, and control. I believe The Mine Project does this.

The new sort is about relating as much or as little as one needs to, with vendors and other entities out in the marketplace. What matters is that you as an individual are in control, and relating — engaging for purposes beyond transaction or conversation — is the purpose.

I have much more to say about this, but need to leave my hotel and get on the first of two planes from San Francisco to Boston. More later.