“Make It Happen, Make It Right, was not only a nice slogan like you usually see in conferences. I think it really fits what I have been able to discover here. Of course, some of the projects are not matured, but compared with where we were four years ago when I first discovered the VRM approach concept, the progress is clear cut.”
Recently I have been coming back to that old MyData conference slogan (this year we did not use that slogan) again when reflecting the current and future development of personal data field.
For me the slogan says that the future practices around personal data management should become sustainable from business perspective and distinctively different and better from the “data economy as usual” (make it happen) and at the same time they should be sustainable from societal and individual perspectives (make it right). Viivi Lähteenoja, the MyData conference manager put it very nicely: “ethical ways of dealing with personal data should always be the most beneficial and profitable for the organisations”.
Diversity and Competition
In the field of personal data management we do not know yet which business models, companies, technologies and approaches will be successful in the long run (after the ad-based attention economy wave passes away).
Currently there is lot’s of ongoing experimentation in different organisations on how to make human centric personal information management happen. The first big success stories, when they come, will define a lot what happens afterwards — What is seen can not be unseen. Therefore it is crucially important, but far from being obvious, that the first commercially successful solutions in the personal data management market would have integrated also the “make it right”-part of the story.
In my opinion the best hope to get societally and individually sustainable outcomes comes from the companies and initiatives that truly aim for competitive markets instead of aiming to become a dominant platform in the market. Instead of digital monoculture I envision a rich and diverse world of digital services where people with very different motives and preferences would find services that fulfill their needs. There should be also variation in service offering regarding the amount of personal data that is used. Some people prefer to share more data and have more personalised experience while others don’t mind about personalisation and wish not to share so much of their data.
In many industry areas there is also systemic trust that comes from the standards, regulation and competition. We trust banks and tele operators, because we know that we have an option to change them if we wish. Markets with only few dominant players, like social media platform market for example, do not provide this systemic trust. In those markets keeping the users do not always happen through trust, but rather through lack of choices or high costs in change. This means that even dominant players may lose big amount of their user base to next dominant player in short time.
Typically all the personal information management services talk about interoperability, openness and standards, but there are big differences in the day-to-day actions and level of commitment towards these difficult goals. The most watered down version of the interoperability commitment is “we are open, everybody is welcome to join our platform”. Much better would be “interesting what you are doing, let me check with our developer team if we can support that”. Not that everybody should support all different emerging pseudo-standard approaches (high cost), but the attitude of being open minded and actively reaching for interoperability makes a big difference.
The next phase in the Personal Information Management Services (PIMS) market should be to move from one off proof cases to networked implementations which involve multiple data providers, multiple data using services and multiple PIMS. This is hard job especially for the time- and cash strapped startups, but when successful it will create immense positive network effects when suddenly the same person can do all sorts of different things with their data in the same network.
I will suggest to the rest of the MyData conference team to re-adopt the old good “Make It Happen, Make It Right” tagline also for the next year’s conference, let’s see how the suggestion will be received.