ProjectVRM is a development and research project launched by Doc Searls in 2006 at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, in the first of his four years as a fellow there.

VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management and is conceived as the customer-side counterpart of Customer Relationship Management, the $.X trillion business* by which companies attempt (and mostly fail) to relate to customers. The project has two purposes:

  1. To encourage the development of tools by which individuals can take control of their relationships with organizations—especially in commercial marketplaces.
  2. To encourage and conduct research on VRM-related theories, usage of VRM tools, and effects as adoption of VRM tools takes place.

The project was created by Doc Searls when he became a fellow at the BKC in 2006. Since then, the VRM community has grown to include many development projects, companies, allied associations, and individuals, in addition to ProjectVRM itself. The community’s work is outlined in the project wiki, and discussed on its mailing list, in the blog portion of this site, and in workshops and other events, most notably at IIW: the Internet Identity Workshop, a twice-yearly unconference at the Computer History Museum. (Doc has co-organized IIW since it began in 2005.)

Doc sees VRM as “a way to fulfill one of the promises of The Cluetrain Manifiesto“—the widely-cited website and book, both written in 1999 by Doc and three other authors (one of whom is David Weinberger, a fellow alumnus fellow of the Berkman Klein Center). That promise was embodied in this statement, written by Christopher Locke:


Implicit in that “one clue” is a thesis: that free customers are more valuable than captive ones—to themselves and to the marketplace. ProjectVRM knows that customer reach will only exceed vendor grasp when customers acquire tools for the job and prove that thesis true. Encouraging the development of those tools has been ProjectVRM’s primary work since the project began.


*The CRM industry is a mix of software and services and goes by other names, such as CX (for Customer Experience), and includes call centers and other ways companies relate to customers. Since the growth rate for CRM software alone is expected to be $176.83 billion by 2030, expressing the industry’s size as a percentage of $trillion makes sense.

The photo at the top of the blog was taken in July 2011 at the Rialto mercado in Venice, one of the oldest and most famous markets in the world. It is the one where Marco Polo worked, and the setting for Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.

Also, spam filtration is something of a fail on this blog until we have things worked out. There shouldn’t be comments here anyway, since it is a purely informational page. So, until we have that fixed, please bear with us.  And, if you wish, read down to see what unfiltered spam looks like. It’s almost interesting. — Doc