Imagine if we designed the ads the net shows to us
by Dave The Blogger Saturday, October 22, 2016

My longtime friend Doc Searls has a vision, one that I fully endorse, of turning the tables on vendors, in an interesting way.

They talk about Customer Relationship Management, which views the world from the vendor's perspective. 

Doc proposes Vendor Relationship Management, which is a similar idea, but designed from the customer's point of view.

In the CRM view, the vendor creates the products and then sells them to targeted customers. You end up being pitched on things you already have or things you don't want. Occasionally they hit the bulls eye and offer you something you really want. But that doesn't happen often. 

3D printing is an example of Doc's VRM idea. The vendor provides the means of manufacturing, you specify exactly what you want. The product is created, sent to you, and theoretically you're happy and the vendor makes a profit. But it depends on the customer becoming a product designer. I might not want to do that. I might just want the perfect product and am willing to pay for someone else, an expert, to design it for me. 

Responsive advertising

A more satisfying version of VRM goes like this.

I am watching a lot of TV these days, with the election and World Series, and the NBA season starting on Tuesday. I like my couch, but since I'm spending so much time on it, maybe it could be optimized. Or maybe I could add a new piece of furniture specifically for TV watching. 

How this works in the post-VRM world: I find a way to express the desire, and make it available to vendors, either making it public or putting it somewhere the vendors I've authorized can access. Their bots scan all the requests as they come online, decide if they have a product that might fit the bill. If so, they send me a proposal, otherwise known as an ad. 

But it's different from the ads we have today, it's responsive, to borrow a term from web design. They know what I'm looking for, because I told them, and it can present itself to me in that context.


Other things I would put in my VRM outbox --

  • I'm always thinking about a new place to live, here's what I'm dreaming about now. A place where I can afford a house with a hot tub and a pool, reasonably close to a major airport and at least one good university. Good bike riding. Nearby friends. Also if you find any AirBnB-type rentals in such a place, let me know, because it'd be great to try it out before doing something more permanent. 
  • I'm tired of the usual computer conferences. I don't want to pick up a new skill, or meet programmers, or venture capitalists. I'm interested in academic-style conferences about the convergence of news and technology. Or a conference about creating online spaces for reasonable people in red states and blue states to discuss the issues of the day in a civilized manner. I don't mind meeting other programmers and investors in that context, btw. 
  • I am tall, but my legs are average size. I have a very large torso. I have trouble finding a good fall or spring jacket that fits. No problem in summer (no jacket needed) or winter, (bulky jackets are fine). It's that inbetween season that's awkward. Send me a catalog of choices. 
  • I have newly configured vision. I have yet to find reading glasses that work well for computer use. I know there are people with experience with this, are there any vendors who specialize in such products?

These are just examples meant to illustrate the idea. I think when this idea is fully realized it'll feel something like a search engine combined with email-based alerts. And because it's centered on commerce, on money changing hands, there should be plenty of investor money available. Yet I don't see any evidence that investment is flowing this way. 

Someday commerce will work like this and it will be as revolutionary in comparison to today's net-based shopping as it was to physical-world shopping a few years ago.

BTW, on a humorous note, you could think of this post as a VRM query for VRM itself.