Ming the Mechanic:
Enter the Count

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Enter the Count2003-04-04 19:01
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picture by Flemming Funch

Britt has an excellent post, Sitting in the Counting House, referencing a post by Ross Mayfield that notes how the presence of counting tools change the game. When coins were introduced in market places, new things became possible. Now, with the prospect of introducing reliable ratings into economic transactions, it might change things significantly. Now Britt says some good things like:
"We need to get our hands around the choke point that's preventing the right things from being counted. I suggest that the check point is who controls the data and thus the character of the data kept. We assume that data is always kept by the seller, but is that so?

Consider this:
  • Whenever a seller and a buyer intersect, the data is maintained by the seller, as we expect.
  • Whenever an employer and an employee intersect, the data is maintained by the employer. (Who is the buyer of the services.)
In the first case, the data keeper is the seller, not the customer. In the second, though, the keeper of the data is the customer, purchasing the employee's work. So it's not about the roles of the players, It's about size and who is the designer of the transaction. Data is the asset of the designer of the business agreement, and a liability to the other party to the agreement, who's subservient to the keeper's records.

I emphasize designer of the transaction because transactions are designed ad hoc, one-at-a-time, like component parts in machines before Eli Whitney invented standardized parts. Perhaps our economy has become too complicated to let transactions be designed for the sole benefit of whoever thinks it up first and has superior data resources."
Excellent observations, and then this core point:
Proprietary Data is the Basis of Tyranny
Yep. So the advantage is usually with the people who decide what data is captured and how, and who control access to that data. That explains a helluva lot of things about our society. Even the money system is based on that, by making sure that the information called dollars and cents can only be created according to certain rules, designed by those who have the most to gain from them. And media companies with eternal copyrights - same thing. And governments who allow themselves to gather information that the rest of us aren't allowed to look at.

The action item for us is to figure out how to count things that aren't counted, in regards to the quality and history of many things, and the activities of people and companies, and to make that data easily available and impossible to hide. If good, reliable data is widely and freely available, that allows us to make informed decisions on who and what to deal with, and who and what to avoid - it is going to be very hard to try to force us to do anything less.


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