What I think is currently wrong with VRM, so much so that I’ve essentially dropped out of it – sad, since I was there almost since very early on.
- The fundamental requirements for truly personal platforms are not yet with us. Controlling your data unfortunately means being in physical control of it, or at least of the keys which encrypt it. There are no if’s and’s or but’s about this, alas.
- Too many people think in terms of data being (say) owned by the supermarket they have bought stuff from; you have the fact of your purchases already, so the data is already also yours – it’s just terribly inconvenient to scan data in from your receipts, so yes it would be better to demand your purchase history from Tesco/Walmart but this may or may not yield fruit because they also own that data.
- VRM as a movement has from the outset been usurped by the “if only people would use our new identity technology then this would all be easy” evangelists. Identity is bogus anyway, but this is particularly egregious solution-in-search-of-a-probleming.
- VRM as a movement has from the outset been usurped by the “if only people would use my new startup’s technology then this would all be easy” evangelists. Sometimes this is identity-related, but other times this bleeds into Let’s get everyone to give us their search-histories so we can use magic toolbars to offer them value independent of the corporations! But it’s OKAY for us to be middlemen BECAUSE WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS!
- VRM as a movement has from the outset been usurped by the “if only people would give us all our data to keep it safe for them! They can trust us” evangelists; this is for when you don’t want to foist a technology upon the masses but instead want all the data, you find some way to be “ethical” about it and do a data grab anyway. See “it’s OKAY for us to be middlemen BECAUSE WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS” again.
I still believe that the only person who ever understood VRM fully was Adriana Lukas because she realised (in the face of my arguments to the contrary) that it was not about storing data passively but instead about people using, mashing-up and sharing data in ways that they already understand – and critically that the definition of “controlling” data is not a techie-geeky DRM/DLP-like one, but instead a new relationship-oriented means of control that is so simple that people rarely understand the power of it.
As I put it frequently at the time: if you break up with someone then there’s no way to expunge all the embarassing things that they know about you; instead the point is that they don’t find out any further embarassing things. The whip hand is over the ongoing relationship and the mutual ability to terminate it, rather than access to previously-shared digital data which can be cached.
This understanding is why I got into Mine development in the first place and why I implemented it twice-over, and why I understand that what has to happen first is the addressing of point (1) – almost all the software technologies exist, none of them require invention, all we need is a good bidirectional communications infrastructure and wide adoption of the ability by some means to selectively and easily unicast data in a direct point-to-point way, to replicate in the truest sense a “relationship” in the digital domain.
What we don’t need is to rely on identity hierarchies, or FOAF, or I-cards, trusted third parties, legal fictions for non-profit do-gooding, or anything else of that sort.
 Watch the first video, and the second if you are a geek; they are worth it