WLTM Commerce. It’s the new socio-economic paradigm.

Funny things words.  All those years spent with Alan Mitchell, Iain Henderson, Graham Sadd, Peter Massey and co talking...

August 8, 2008

Funny things words.  All those years spent with Alan Mitchell, Iain Henderson, Graham Sadd, Peter Massey and co talking about Right Side Up philosophy and suddenly, the concept is actually taking off – under a different name.


Which sort of means Vendor Relationship Management, but is also coming to imply a wider philosophical stance of “matchmaking, on behalf of the individual”. VRM is really getting some traction now in apposition to CRM – VRM being the evolving toolkit that drives the intention economy.

Check out Doc Searls’s presentation on VRM if you haven’t come across the concept.  It certainly made me think.

In fact, specifically, it made me think, that even if this powerful metaphor takes off, there is a real risk that it’s still going to take us down a blind alley of technocratic and potentially resource-inefficient supplier-side data crunching.  I hope not.

With that in mind I just wanted to put in play an alternative more playful metaphor centred around the deeper aspiration of Right-Side Up – namely functional, mutually valuable relationship-building. My alternative metaphor for delivering Right Side Up-ness is WLTM:

WLTM – “Would Like to Meet”

Think about it: What does dating consist of?

Anonymised personal descriptors for matching; Individual push-based specification; Personal boundary conditions for useability; Shared privacy-protecting transaction channels for ‘negotiation’.

I really do think the metaphor is really quite strong…

Of course, the thing that typically goes wrong in the dating game is that people misrepresent either their intentions,  their attributes of their identies.  And this is always going to be true in a VRM world too – where the information control asymmetry that CRM currently biases to the individual will gradually be rebiased towards the individual (and about time too in my view!).

This ‘meeting in the middle’ on issues of control is symbolically addressed by Doc Searl’s ‘rel’ button, which symbolises transactional readiness of the two parties on the basis of needs-fit, data permission and so forth…

However, I do worry that this super-rational view of demand and intention-matching may not take into account the realities of human decision-making though, and the immense value of ‘courting’ and social ‘foreplay’.

WLTM Economics would have to address this social dimension head-on, not just assume that it will emerge through economic efficiency.  For starters, we’d need some form of privacy-safe Social Assurance or dispute resolution system.  WLTM says “Trust me”, initially but then needs to offer a mechanism for remediation and also adds evidence of trustworthiness.

Forget Facebook. I can see a need for ” FaceOff ” – a sort of persona-based social intermediary which mediates the quality of relationship outcomes – first for the individual, but then also for the emerging “subnets” of the economic community – and improves them over time.

Think of it as sort of Digital ‘Relate’ – the marriage guidance/counselling people.

In effect “Face Off” would be a privacy-safe, commerce-heavy socio-economic networking site.

Imagine eBay meets Facebook meets Match.com.  It would be a purposeful platform to build Global Social Capital – balancing network loads, matching connective norms to relationship risks, and building relationship-based, (rather than transaction-based) measures of trustworthiness,

All still be under the control of the individual but would still deliver positive normative outcomes over time…

In VRM land, social atomisation is bound to accelerate initially, and I do fear we may turn into a planet of prostitutes.

If, as we embrace VRM and deliver an individual-responsive system, we also strive for the humanism of a WLTM Economy – then maybe monogamy would still maintain some rewards.

Ultimately, WLTM is a metaphor for my desire to embed mutual marketing principles into the operating model of the global economy e.g. ad hoc collaboration, alignment of values, common decision-making norms, resource transparency…principles that apply to all sustainable relationships.

PS. One final word. None of the above ramble (when I should really be working!) disrespects the agenda of VRM, which I applaud and champion.  I just raise a small red flag around its future individual and social impact – micro, meso and macro….

Putting the individual at the centre of economic sounds like a great idea, but technology is not neutral, and individualistic models of market economics are certainly not neutral….recent economic events should surely tell us that…!