After a couple of weeks of jabbering on, I might as well describe what the chatter’s about. This blog is a design study. We’re designing a micro-economy where the details of every transaction are visible and satisfaction of both parties is explicit and archived. Sellers and buyers who build an archive of satisfactory transactions are hugely valuable to each other, so they accumulate a currency of trust that untested parties can’t match. It’s the missing piece that keeps our economy from operating like a village market, where everyone is known to each other, and received accordingly.
This design study looks at the current economy and sees what we all perceive – the natural antipathy between sellers and buyers and between employers and employees. The only entities that don’t see this are the sellers and the employers. The economy relies on the collective record of who did what to whom. It’s interesting that those records are always maintained by the sellers and employers and never by the buyers and employees.
Further, the study team is amazed to observe that, in making policy decisions at the company or government level, the only transactional data point that’s publicized is the price (or cost) of things: Price paid vs. costs incurred, yielding earnings. Earnings today compared to yesterday and tomorrow, to competitors and allies. All presided over by an oligopoly of analysts (could the label be more telling?) who read the entrails and determine the fate of huge organizations, all for the maintenance of a supervised lottery of equity tokens unrelated to the companies’ real worth or the value of their teams. The lottery’s supervisors and analysts always do well, yet rarely raise the suspicions of the parishioners.
So Xpertweb is a data problem, challenging not in its complexity but in its unique architecture.
Not to Scale
Businesses live to keep their data proprietary and to know a little bit about a lot of consumers. They don’t try to know much about each consumer or transaction so their data bases tend to be blindingly fast at presenting uninteresting information.
Information for and about real customers – buyers for whom purchases are customized – must be much more rich and interesting. But they don’t have to be designed to take over the world, so they can be small and not so efficient. For the customer, though the wealth of information can be rich and useful, especially when the customer is getting a copy of her own to use as a lever when she wants some custom treatment.
Armed with that distinction, all the raw materials for a useful design study are available, and that’s our purpose here.
Doing Something About the Weather
Usually writers can only write about reality as it exists rather than as it might become, so usually it can only be a kind of elevated griping. But the Internet does change everything, and it requires only a specialized form of writing to make it work. These specialized writings – code – can be developed at reasonable cost if we know exactly what is our purpose. Thanks to the low-level protocols and standards now in place, we don’t even need to get permission from others to change the world. Apache and Linux and HotMail and Jabber and Radio and Blogger and all the rest have sprouted like weeds by offering something easy enough to fill a need that wasn’t even felt when the first code was released. But good genetic material has a way of prevailing and a micro-community quickly coelesced around each of those nascent standards.