Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!

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The Complete “Responding to BT and Privacy” Arc

Note: Another four part arc presented here, single post style, and you’re welcome.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 1

In keeping with my habit of catching up on readings months after the fact, I was reading Dave Smith’s “BT And Privacy, Part I: Opt-Out On-Demand“, the first entry in a four part arc on…uh…privacy.

I’ve read this post and the others in the arc several times now (I rarely read things once and usually over several months or even years. Each time I’m reading something new because I’ve changed so my responses to what I’m reading have changed. It’s what’s happened in the silences, if you will, that tell me what what I’m reading means to me) and believe I might have something to share about it.

The premise is that site visitors should be given a chance to opt-out of advertising they find offensive via a button. My online response is:

This is an interesting methodology for opting out and I would be curious to learn how implementation would integrate with Creative’s efforts. I do agree with Dave Morgan that things could blow up. The increasing sophistication of users and the increasing felicity of mobspots (smart mobs for the web) is, I think, contributing to the increasing need for companies to proactively address consumer fears before consumers craft their own methods for addressing their fears.

I would add to the above that even opting out of some ad is a data point worth harvesting. The kindness being offered — an opt-out option for offensive material — is a worthy idea and let no one thing altruism is its intent. Even if not originally fashioned as such, anything and everything done online is analysed and, much like my reading habits, analyzed again and again and again.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 2

I’m still reading through Steve Smith’s BT and Privacy series, this time “BT And Privacy, Part 2: Tacoda’s Choice“, part 2 in this arc.

There were some phrases that gave me distinct pause:

  • “If they opt out, a Tacoda cookie is set and our targeting engine knows not to serve them an ad.”
  • “The publishers’ privacy policy will refer to the existence of third-party cookies and to the fact that data is used to target ads by other than the publisher. But as you point out, it’s a hard concept to
    grasp for the average consumer, which is why we are taking our own steps.”

  • “We think that if we are proactive in explaining what we do, that consumers and our peers in the industry will recognize and be able to separate the good and careful players from the bad.”

My thoughts follow…

This is an interesting follow-up to Part 1 of this arc. I agree that being proactive with user privacy is paramount, and definitely agree that explaining what is being done is a good step. I wrote about just that thing in A Little About Cookies. I disagree that these concepts are difficult for the average consumer. At one time, perhaps yes, now not so much so. What is pointed to by this article is that getting consumers to accept privacy as a commodity is ripe for a good viral campaign.

What I didn’t add in my comment is that the method used to determine someone has opted out is foreshadowed in my previous post. It is another data point in the system.

The final question will be the value exchanged. Is the consumer willing to exchange information for what is presented on the page? Consumers, especially web-based consumers, are increasingly savvy. That exchange is going to have to be exponentially to their benefit as time goes on.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 3

I’m now at “BT And Privacy, Part 3: Revenue Science Says Safeguards Are Already There“.

As with part 2, there were some phrases that gave me distinct pause:

  1. “…the industry already does a good job of covering privacy
    concerns and giving consumers the tools for opting out of whatever offends them online.”

  2. “They can obtain an ‘opt-out cookie’ to prevent any data from being associated with their browser. In addition, we provide complete instructions on how to opt out of Revenue Science’s network advertising services.”
  3. “It is necessary for interested consumers to be able to find accurate information about all of these issues.”
  4. “We never collect personally identifiable information, so people benefit from more relevant content while remaining completely anonymous.”
  5. “We not only have to communicate how consumers’ privacy is being protected, but the benefits that they are getting from BT, which will only increase as BT continues to become a more integral part of the economics of online media.”

Let me respond (my opinions) by the numbers…

  1. The ultimate decision maker regarding how good an job any industry is doing meeting the needs of consumers is the consumers themselves. In this case, companies using an ad network will feel the force of consumer decision before any network group does.
  2. I defer to Stephan Spencer’s, Founder and President of Netconcepts, great adage “If we want people to use it, it’s going to have to be stupid simple.” I have no idea how simple any company’s opt-out methodology is and I’m not inferring anything about anything, I’m merely offering that for any tool to be used, it must be simple. The requirements that tools be initially simple then increasingly complicated was documented in For Angie and Matt, and The Noisy Data Finale.
  3. Has anybody seen National Treasure? It’s a great movie. Rent it if you can’t find in on cable. Watch it a few times then decide if you agree with this statement (I do agree with it) and think it’s actionable by the majority of consumers (I don’t think it is).
  4. Very honorable. Neither does NextStage. We’re so finicky about being honorable, we list our Principles on line.
  5. An interesting problem to solve, much like communicating the values of inoculation; we’re going to protect you from something you can’t actually see but might hurt you if you don’t let us do this. I know that sounds facetious and I don’t mean it to be. The purpose is essentially prophylactic and phyletics are a notoriously hard sell until people are dying around you.

An issue that was raised in this post is “relevancy” and it’s a worthwhile part of this discussion. People (we are told) don’t mind seeing ads when those ads are relevant to them. To me the question is “Who decides what’s relevant to them?” The answer, me thinks, is “the consumer” and thus the circle is complete.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 4 and finale

This section is a response to Steve Smith’s “BT And Privacy, Part 4: Higher Education“, last part in an arc on online privacy that I found a fascinating read (several times).

I’m not going to list separate phrases which caught my attention because, when all is said and done, I admit to a great deal of discomfort with the issue. I don’t think consumers understand the difference between privacy and anonymity, I think an industry policing itself is laudable and hasn’t worked well in the past (think Big Tobacco, S&Ls, …).

Analyzing all statements made in this arc reminds me of how the general populace first learned of AIDS; it was a disease of the poor, it was a disease of blacks, it was a disease of minorities, is was a disease of Gays, it was oh my god what do you mean white heterosexual men can get it?

I also get concerned when someone says, essentially, “This is too complicated for you to understand.” Such statements minimize both who’s speaking and who’s listening. If Einstein could explain relativity to a child, an industry should be able to describe its practices to an interested public. Yes, I know there’s a catch here; you need an interested public to explain it to. This is where I complete my circle, I guess, as I think having simple explanations in place now will make addressing future concerns that much easier, should they appear.

There is an interesting merry-go-round going on here; should consumer privacy concerns increase and spread, a market will be created (one already exists and I’m thinking a much larger one would come into being). Another market will then come into existence to extract the necessary targeting information required by the types of networks discussed in this arc. This goes beyond the lock and pick metaphor, I think, and drops into opt-in marketing (which would be extremely high relevance marketing) because now the consumer is no longer worried about keeping unwanted content out, they’ve taken steps to make sure only wanted content gets in.

Links for this post:

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The Complete Online Privacy, Online Identity Arc

Note: This arc originally contained nine posts. They’re all gathered here into this one post

Online Privacy, Part 1

As promised in Nothing New Under the Sun (Privacy), I’m going to start an arc on online privacy. I’m going to be posting about the history of privacy, privacy in commerce, and what privacy means to the individual.

Just so you’ll know up front, what I’ll be posting here is from my next book, Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation

Anyone familiar with the state of the ecommerce at the time of this writing knows that privacy and identity are the topics du jour [[(they were when this arc was originally written in Nov 2006 and they are again. Perhaps this should be a Nothing New Under the Sun post?)]]. People tend to think of privacy and identity as the polar opposites on some scale and they’re not (at least in a social commerce setting). You can have complete personal privacy yet have a very public identity and you can have zero personal privacy yet be someone completely unknown to others, just a face in the crowd. The reason for this is that “privacy” isn’t what most people think it is. Most people think Privacy and Identity as polar extremes with Anonymity the slider from one extreme to the other. That’s shown in the following figure.

Privacy and Identity are not functions of Anonymity

Privacy, as recognized at the start of the 21st century, is a relatively new historical phenomenon.

The social commerce scale which has existed as long as humans walked the earth actually has Anonymity and Identity as polar extremes and the slider is Privacy. To be either known or unknown depends on how much of yourself you’re willing to share and with whom you’re willing to share it. This is shown in the following figure.

Anonymity and Identity are functions of Privacy

People browse your website, or they pick up your brochure at a kiosk or in a store, or they walk past your booth at a tradeshow — all of these people have at least one thing in common; They all want to be left alone until they’re ready to not be left alone. In other words, they want to remain anonymous in a social commerce setting, and specifically, they want to remain anonymous until they no longer want to remain anonymous. Anonymity occurs when someone decides they want to be unknown.

Online Privacy, Part 2

To be unknown means to not have any community, no social connections, and ultimately, to have no identity. Identities are formed within a social context, and to be anonymous means to present an identity which is unknown…within the current social context. Only amnesiacs are unknown to themselves. Individuals wishing to remain anonymous and therefore unknown to others are doing so for a reason and within their current social context. For example, on the first day of teaching a new class, I’ll often be the third or fourth person entering the room, smiling and nodding as I enter the room and take a seat in the back, as if I were a student. This gives me a chance to engage the students as their peer, to learn their goals and motivations, and to plan and adjust the course accordingly.

So anonymity allows an individual to create a new social context in which they can define or assign a role to themselves which is independent of other roles other social contexts have assigned to them. It allows them to reveal only the information they wish to reveal in the current social setting. In other words, it allows them to keep certain things private and make other things public.

Now let’s bring this back to people browsing a website, picking up a brochure, walking through a showroom or strolling a convention floor. Here anonymity morphs into “I see you, you see me, and you’ll forget me as soon as I turn away.”

Online Privacy, Part 3

Anonymity joined with privacy is relatively new in human history, having only been around since the advent of mass transportation. Prior to trains and boats and passenger planes, people never got very far from their village. If they did, they carried papers on them or some sign which clearly indicated their business and why they were about. The sign might have been a Cross, a leper’s bell, a monk’s robe, a king’s banner or a robber’s mask. All of these things and more were signs which clearly and quickly gave others the necessary information, “this is why I’m here.” The cold war era movie question, “Your papers, please?” didn’t happen because of the Cold War and wasn’t limited to communist countries. It was standard practice for people traveling in their own country — including the USA — up until the early 20th century.

Online Privacy, Part 4

Think about it and you’ll understand why the lack of privacy and anonymity was not only the norm, it was required. Prior to recent times literacy wasn’t the norm, and literacy plays a key role in the need for well defined and recognized social roles. Person A wasn’t likely to engage in commerce with Person B unless A knew B personally, hence knew they could trust and were trusted. Likewise for Person B. Remember “I trust you”, “You Can Trust Me” and so on? The faster these questions were answered the longer people lived, and living in small social circles where identity was defined such things as

  • everyone around you knowing who you were,
  • who you were related to, what you did,
  • your shoe size,
  • whether you limped,
  • how you dressed and
  • if your wife liked the way you kissed (yep, this is for you Martin Guerre fans)

cut through many of those questions quickly, cleanly and easily. The cohesiveness of the society you lived in answered those questions for you, and when you were setting up shop on your own the blessing or curse of that social network dictated your success or lack thereof.

Online Privacy, Part 5

Two hundred years ago people didn’t carry identification with them (if anyone can tell me the real difference between “Your papers, please?” and being asked to show a photo-id when you use a credit card or cash a check, I’d love to hear it) and there was no national citizenship registry until the turn of the 18th century. At this point in time, European countries began enforcing the concept of “One person, one name”. Prior to that any given person could have several of what we now call “aliases” and nobody cared because most of the aliases were nicknames given to an individual by people in that individual’s social circle (“Morgan the Goat”, “Johnnie One-Eye”, “Velmuth the Butcher”) or by society assigning a role to the individual (“Typhoid Mary”, George “Longhair” Custer, “Atilla the Chiropodist”).

Up until mass transportation and the industrial age, people worked from their homes. They lived above their smithy, next to their fields, on their farm, beside their grainery, with their animals, … Anonymity and privacy didn’t exist and where it did, it was a cause for suspicion and distrust; if someone had something to hide, it was for a reason, and the xenophobic natures which benefited us when we descended from the trees still served us well during these times.

Online Privacy, Part 6

And now, once again, people are browsing your website, picking up your flyer at a kiosk, glancing at your brochure as the walk a showroom or convention floor. They have this belief that they are anonymous and want to remain so.

You want and need them to share information about themselves with you, your website, your salespeople.

Most people and especially website visitors believe they are anonymous and actually fall into the next identity level, which is Transitory Identity. Transitory Identity occurs when an individual can be reached through some non-permanent address or tag. A temporary IP is an example of this. The seller can repeatedly touch the individual during the complete lifetime of the encounter, not just the transaction. Imagine someone invisible joining you as you walk in the door and directing other workers to put things in front of and to the side of you as you walk through the store, with the goal of maneuvering you to the checkout aisle with a shopping cart full of useless goodies.

Most website visitors have Transitory Identity. There’s been lots of studies published in the past few years that indicate cookies are deleted, purged, expurgated, dunked in the coffee and milk you picked up at the corner store when you thought you were Anonymous and otherwise gotten rid of.

Online Privacy, Part 7 (Online Identity)

The next identity level is Persistent Identity. Persistent Identity occurs when the individual can be touched over several encounters. A snail-mailbox, a direct access phone number, a permanent IP or personal email account are examples of being able to touch individuals over time, not just during the transaction (anonymity) or during a single encounter (transitory). Persistent Identity is a one-way affair, and doesn’t offer the seller much more than transitory or anonymous identity save two things;

  • Persistent Identity allows the seller to leave and/or place messages for the individual at the address. In other words, Persistent Identity is where mass-marketing ends and direct-marketing begins.
  • Persistent Identity allows the seller to begin “branding” the individual according to that individual’s worth to the seller by differentiating this individual’s from that individual (at another address).

These two items come together in a single word, relationship, and for all things there is a cost. Sellers asked for something, now they must give something, and here is where it gets really interesting because you haven’t really asked for a mailbox, virtual or otherwise, a phone number or anything like that. When we seek to establish a relationship we are really asking for trust and how that trust is solicited influences the rest of the relationship. People who’ve read my iMediaConnection columns or attended NextStage seminars know I preach about what goes on in the consumer’s head a great deal, and trust is a key element in the equation of the visitor’s mind. You have to let the individual know you trust them before they’ll trust you, so the cost of Persistent Identity is relationship and the price tag is the individual’s trust.

Online Privacy, Part 8

Next comes Role-Specific Identity. Role-Specific Identity begins a two-way exchange between the individual and the seller because the seller has created a role for the individual and to enjoy the benefits of that role the individual needs to play by some rules set by the seller. Credit Cards brand individuals via role-specific identities.

For example, everybody knows what a Gold Card is, and that certain financial and other bona fides are required to get one, and most people know about what’s involved in the getting and keeping of Platinum Cards.

But how many know what’s involved in getting or keeping a Black AmEx? How about an ML-Signature?

For real credit cards, travel cards, club cards, etc., role-specific identity is the point. The seller controls the role the individual plays. Of course, the individual enjoys certain benefits by taking on the seller’s predefined role. You get automatic upgrades on flights, you get preferred treatment at hotels, you get better tables at restaurants and guaranteed reservations. Also, the seller knows more about you than you know about yourself, but you have decided that you want it that way because that’s part of the role you’ve been assigned. The only way to break out of the role is to be denied the benefits conferred by the role and most people don’t want to do that.

Online Privacy, Finale

The last identity of common commerce is Self-Expressive Identity. In common commerce, Self-Expressive Identity is the goal because it’s where the individual personalizes the seller’s brand as part of their own identity. Examples of self-expressive identity can be found among owners of BMWs, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and BlackBerry PDAs. In these and many other cases individuals become billboards for the products they’ve identified with. This kind of personal identification with a brand or product is called ego identification and occurs when the seller’s brand is integrated into the individual’s Identity to the point that it influences that individual’s Personality.

Self-Expressive identity isn’t something relegated only to product and service branding. It is the first stage of tribal identity and can be seen in those wearing school jackets, gang colors, body piercings and tattoos (literally where the individual brands their body so that they’ll be easily recognized by society as possessing a group affiliation).

Self-Expressive Identity is used in community building, as in the seller creating a community within which the individual gets to express their identity by being around people who think the way you think and do what you do and like what you like is one of the most identity affirming things anyone can do.
And Self-Expressive Identity leads us into a new identity specific to information exchange and ecommerce systems, Anonymous-Expressive Identity.

Anonymous-Expressive Identity occurs when the individual creates a role for themselves and the seller accepts it and uses it to communicate with the individual. This is true tribal identity in the information age because by understanding the anonymous-identity the individual presents, we know a great deal about them, their life, their hopes, dreams and aspirations, without invading their privacy at all. For example, you can tell a great deal about the owners of the following emailnyms (email pseudonyms) with a little thought and cultural understanding:

  • tuboricuamary4u
  • kzinlaw
  • a company in which the privately used, internal email addresses used by top management include “tex, reno, philly, kc, fresno”
  • a company in which in the privately used, internal email addresses include “mightydan, brainchild and wondergirl”
  • paladin
  • suemist
  • grannygoodwitch
  • newbillyland
  • sueoboe
  • meows7
  • stonewall

And there you have it, the history and use of privacy from an explanation of Privacy, Identity and Anonymity to how identity occurs on the web to the this post on a form of identity which can only occur on the web.

Hopefully I’ll think of something else to write about over the weekend, and thanks.

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Nothing New Under the Sun (Privacy)…

I posted earlier today in Nothing New Under the Sun… about the WAA podcast with Avinash Kaushik and how it gave me a chuckle because it demonstrated that there’s nothing new under the sun. What it also demonstrated was that people change slowly and adapt to new things slower still, but only if what they’re adapting to doesn’t have any immediate, obvious benefit to them as individuals or solve some immediate problem they’re facing (I’ve written about the need to benefit visitors in Making Cookies from Breadcrumbs and both benefiting visitors and solving their problems in A Little About Cookies.

This time I’d like to write about something else that’s not new under the sun, Privacy.

I receive posts from the WAA message board, one of which was about online privacy issues. The reason this is nothing new under the sun is because privacy issues have been haute couture since people discovered there was gold in the online hills (notice how easily I mix my metaphors? Comes from being around a long time in this industry, I guess). I’ve written about online privacy in Reading Virtual Minds, volume II: Experience and Expectation and will be sharing excerpts of that book in upcoming posts.

Specifically nothing newish about online privacy concerns because they go back to early 1999. Some may remember that Intel came out with chips which carried their own IDs. Do anything with the computer and that computers’ truly unique ID goes out to check if what you’re doing is okay to do, unless you opt out and oh, by the way, you’re only going to get one chance to opt out and that chance will be given the first time you boot your new computer.

Do I think privacy as an online issue is going to pass? More of that in my next post…

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