The Next Web: Are we Talking About “me” yet?

I was wrong, Web 3.0 or the semantic Web is not heralding a new era of people-centric conversation – in some cases almost the opposite. People are almost used as pawn in a click, share, and spread game.

So much thought is put into the activation part and so little, still, in the building value part. Hence why the constant migration from one set of social technologies to another.

Where we are vs where I thought we would be

The view from 2007 was that Artificial Intelligence Agents would be Conversation Agents. While technically there is such nomenclature, there are at least two key ingredient missing from the equation: culture and the ability to infer.

What I said (re-formatted for easier reading/scanning):

Consider what is at the root of all this — language, markup language to be exact. The new generation of browsers will be smart clients, working online and offline to facilitate the connections of your AI agent with someone else's AI agent.

Today, people like me do it. Information and connection brokers who know a lot of people and have an uncanny ability to match them for business opportunities.

Some implications (in no particular order):

1. Dealing with data

We spend a lot of time filling out forms when joining networks, finding information about others we'd like to connect with, and keeping all those networks up to date.

This is time consuming and inefficient; your data is as good as its maintenance.

At corporate level, this means leasing lists, cleaning up lists, appending information, etc. Entire businesses exist and thrive on this model.

Then there's the issue of security, and the way in which the information was obtained. Tomorrow, gathering and processing information will occur on the basis of parameters that you define.

Open standards will allow browsers to be smart clients thanks to a common markup language. Programmed AI agents will determine what is good for you and pull it into your Internet.

How close are we to this one? Not very. We tend to organize our content consumption around people and themes or tags – using lists, circles, or simply who we follow and "like" to filter content and content types for our select reading.

In this environment, it is still super useful to become a relevant filter. Hence why we talk about the benefits of content curation and aggregation on your Web domains.

2. Growth of networks

The current model is just not sustainable. How many hours in a day are you willing to donate to a social network so that you can just barely keep up with its functions?

We're talking about personalizing the mass media on such networks. This is still Web 2.0, a stage in which everyone is trying to figure out terminology and rules of the game.

We need to make our Internet smaller, not bigger, yet more relevant to us. The social network lives inside your data network. Tailored to your needs and universal key to all your connections and relationships. Yet it's behind a wall, impenetrable from unwanted pitches and spam. Your own, guild-like private club.

Today, chat applications are helping carve an island of intimacy# in a sea of public noise. Attention is the currency we spend.

Social-comms-facebook-600x450Which is why they are so valuable [hat tip Ben Thompson].

3. End of selling as pitches and the beginning of the true era of conversation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents as service that determines what is good for you given your specs, essentially just pull.

Sales as push has nowhere to go.

The technology will be there to keep out what we don't want. There will be people determined to create artificial personalities that will try to trick your agent and entice it to let them through your personal Internet/network walls.

This is where the true meaning of authenticity in authentication will come in. When you're ready to make a purchase, your personal AI agent will query open networks according to set parameters and will make contact with the agent connected with the right resources.

With more information, we need more automation of the smart kind.

Not quite. Though Doc Searls and VRM companies have been working on enabling the intention economy for a while.

However, there are bright spots. We are learning that everyone is in sales, and that there are six new pitches for selling a product, an idea, or a service that don't quite sound like what we would expect a pitch to be – pushy.

Plus, we have new groups working at the intersection of what was traditionally considered sales and the teams we consider as part of the marketing umbrella: inside sales.

I was thrilled to be able to participate in the inside #salessummit this year. You can hear my presentation with simple visuals here.

4. Opt-in email

Imagine how happy you'd be with your in box(es) if all the email you receive is wanted, from people you know.

How many hours do you spend each day filtering, deleting, going through spam? How much productivity do companies give up just to keep up? All because of email you don't want nor need.

Email is push technology, interactive marketing is based on push technology. What if email were based on pull technology instead? We would put it under the permission marketing category.

To have real exchanges, real conversation pull technology is the only way to go. Think about a whole network of encrypted email servers that talk to each other. This is where the action will be, operating systems will be less important.

Well, we now know Google has implemented a tabbing system to classify the email you receive into categories such as Promotions, Social, and Updates. Users can choose to use categories as inbox tabs, and as labels.

Marketers should keep an eye on their content to help recipients decide how useful it is. Mailchimp ran an analysis of open rates#. What they found was

Before the tabbed layout, open rates to Gmail had been above 13% for 15 weeks. Then they dipped, and stayed down for 3 consecutive weeks. They also worked on some suggestions to get emails into the Primary tab#.

Beyond the technical help, the answer to what is the best way get read is closer to being invited into someone's inbox by being relevant, or useful, or at least entertaining.

5. Dealing with bandwidth

This is a problem we have as human beings, we have only so much attention and time.

And a lot of it is being wasted in dealing with the onslaught of stuff that has nothing to do with what we are working on or we need, etc.

This is also a problem that the networks we rely on are wrestling with. Sure, one solution is to make the pipes and data storage bigger. How long before we run out of space?

Is that data secure? Is it encrypted? Is it replicated so it can be retrieved in emergency situations? How about fail over, have you thought of that?

The solution is not greater capacity. It's not even virtualization. The solution is less data that is more relevant. Then we pay only for what we want and not for the junk we receive.

Think about mobile phones in the US – we pay for spam (data and calls) as well. Why? Push technology.

Part of the answer is user adoption of tools and services that provide a more intimate experience, like SnapChat mentioned above. 

Part of the answer is also answering is it urgent or is it important? For ourselves while resisting the urge to be pulled into social networks and apps red/counter prompts, which are designed to be addictive.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effects on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.