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More on expectations for DataPortability.org

March 31, 2008 Leave a comment

There were a bunch of blog posts about what people think of the project’s scope and reach — with a variety of perspectives.  Check them out.

Brian Oberkirch

Bob Ngu 

Simon Whatley

David Recordon 

TechCrunch/Michael Arrington

Tony Effik

Marc Canter

John Breslin 

Chris Saad

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Delivering data portability. Let’s start with managing expectations.

March 27, 2008 4 comments

From Mary Trigiani. Yesterday, professional blogger/communicator/producer/journalist Robert Scoble re-visited his personal frustration with his inability to move his personal contacts between networks, websites and, I guess, galaxies.

Mr Scoble was wondering what was taking so long — humorously referring to DataPortability.org as doing little more than PR and as shipping no standards. After that explosive [to me] point, he went on to explain that in asking the question, he has learned something. It’s worth reading his description. He inspired many thoughts, including the personal observations that follow here. Unfortunately, however, many agenda-driven folks have used his turning-point paragraph out of context. So I’d like to pick up where Mr Scoble leaves off.

But first, some disclaimers.

I’m writing from the blog of a startup whose main purpose in digital life is to help people collect, organize, search and share their digital content, whatever it is, wherever it is on the Web or on their hard drives. Data portability is us, although maybe not as commonly defined. foldier technology makes it possible to manage personal content through links to the sites that host it. We make data portable by making it accessible from one place — foldier — while leaving the content where it was created.

I’m an active member of DataPortability.org but I do not speak for the project here. I am weighing in on what I personally believe are misperceptions about the project — because I want the dialog to remain open, even if many of the folks sharing their perspectives do not command the bully pulpit on the same scale as Mr Scoble. [One of my Gods and Goddesses of Blogging.]

One. DataPortability.org is a volunteer, community project. It has attracted experts in all aspects of technology from every avenue of technology — established corporations, startups, hired guns, academics — as well as experts in business, competitive positioning and professional services. Yes, experts. Who work for a living. Who are doing this in their free time, or with the support of their families and employers, or both.

Two. DataPortability.org takes nothing for granted and does not adhere to any one gospel of portability. There has been marvelous work done by many organizations — also grassroots, not-for-profit and/or volunteer — in the effort to examine the multiple aspects of owning and porting personal data. No one organization, however, has been able to command the ongoing attention of the technology community until now. Personally, I think this project has done so because it was founded upon principles of utter transparency, reaching consensus out of disparate perspectives, and constant, two-way communication with all stakeholders [apparently, what a lot of folks would label, derisively, as PR].

Three. Warning — this is a PSA. Let’s stop demonizing PR and using “PR” in place of moron, lightweight or unproductive. As one who has been labeled, derisively, as a marketing chick — just because I am genetically programmed to practice the ancient Italian art of la bella figura — I am sick and tired of folks who make their living by how much PR they receive — not just what they say or, God forbid, the content of their characters — who still use “PR” or “marketing” as ways to describe what they perceive to be fluffy enterprises and individuals. So when DataPortability.org is relegated to the PR bin, not only are the experienced, skilled technologists being derided, so are the liberal artists who really do know how to deliver newsworthy messages, string together meaningful words, articulate real solutions and help insular little geographic clusters communicate with the rest of the world, where, guess what, their ultimate users live. While 90 percent of marketing functionaries are just looking for their next jobs, the other 10 percent add real value.

Four. DataPortability.org’s “deliverables” — can we use the word product, please? include cataloging the aforementioned vast amount of work that’s been done, capturing all the various perceptions of what it means to make data portable, and coming up with suggestions for how to create beautiful standards where there were none. Any code produced will strictly be for the use of stakeholders in examining their options — not for taking one position or another — or to help any one individual wage a personal war. Now, many of the folks who have been laboring in this vineyard for several years will tell you that they know what to do — and they will ask why no one is listening. See Point Two. Somehow, the stars have aligned in the Web 2.0 heavens at this moment to bring together a bunch of people who have — gasp — no agenda other than to explore how to make data portable in a way that respects everyone’s needs, rights and property and who have the ability to talk about it without feeling threatened or leveling personal criticisms at enemies. In fact, the vast majority of the people volunteering in this project don’t look at this as a war — they look at it as an intriguing puzzle or cipher. And something the tech community has to address for the benefit of its users. Those people out there in the rest of the world.

Five. This takes time. Believe it or not, when some of us sit down to address a task, we take at least fifteen minutes to think about it before we proclaim a “deliverable.” For a project like this, where opinions, products and experience are all over the map, literally, and where they haven’t been collected in a way that it could, much less has, reached the masses, it’s going to take time to get you to the solution for your contact-moving problem. I’m ecstatic that Mr Scoble used Dave Morin’s examples of what Facebook must contemplate. Multiply that by, I don’t know, 100?, and you have an idea of the scope of this endeavor.

DataPortability.org February report

March 10, 2008 Leave a comment

The dataportability.org report for last month just went live. It’s been an interesting experience to participate in the editorial process, especially since we were in the middle of shifting collaboration platforms. Click here to read the report.

foldier and the social graph

From Mary Trigiani.  Dan Farber distilled Charlene Li’s presentation at this week’s Graphing Social Patterns conference very well in this post on his blog the other day.  Because social graphing is about charting and analyzing the connections people make digitally, the foldier team is very interested in absorbing expert analysis — especially since we also fall into the category of “web application.”

Dan writes:

Li offer a few recommendations to the Graphing Social Patterns audience of developers, investors and industry watchers:

• Create linkages between services based on individually controlled identity federation.
• Compete on the most compelling social experience, not on lock-in.
• Develop social apps that have meaning, that are more utilitarian. “If you have to explain why Facebook is interesting, it’s not going to become more mainstream,” Lee said.
• Integrate social graphs into existing activities.
• Design business models that reflect the value created by people’s social networks.

We think the big deal both for apps and networks is relevance — a place in the user’s digital experience — what Charlene and others call utility or utilitarian.

As I’ve written here in the past, my work experience with foldier has been made more interesting by how I’ve been able to imbed its use in my daily web-based activity — sharing articles, establishing a dialog with others reading them, etc.

And using foldier has unburdened me of the concern I’ve always had about finding something I’ve filed — trying to remember which file I used for storing it.

I also like the fact that open identity and portability issues are on their way to being resolved.  We’re working hard to make sure that our users have unending access to the data they turn into personal content, without robbing host sites of their intellectual property.