CRM, VRM, and the tip of an iceberg

I just read Bradley Holt’s recent post What You Need to Know About the Semantic Web and it brought me back to a point I made in last night’s program.  It was during the on-air break – which I did live and didn’t record so it won’t be on the podcast – and I’ll try to remake the point here.

In episode 3 (which I should be posting now and not writing about) David Gibson and I briefly mentioned the term CRM – Customer Relationship Management systems.  For those listeners who’ve never heard that term, they are the systems by which organizations manage their relationships with their customers (or constituents).  CRMs come in many shapes and sizes, but think of them as all those systems, in all those different companies, that have your information – name, credit card, purchases, whatever.  Facebook, with everything it stores about you, is a CRM.  OK, nothing new there.

In the article Bradley references, the author Tom Ilube writes: “In the retooled world, users could easily replicate the full functionality and flexibility of Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn using an open, standards-based RDF approach. Thus the semantic web would cut out the intermediary and restore control of personal information to the individuals who are its true owners.” (my italics)

Have you ever purchased a book?  You can walk into Major Book Chain, give them $20, walk out with a $20 book, and everyone is happy.  They have a $20 bill, I have my book.  But if I want to buy that same book at, I have to tell them my name, where I live, my credit card information while they’re also tracking what I look at, read, search, etc.  I have to fill their system (called a CRM) with all my information and they get to keep it and leverage it for marketing value and hopefully keep safe.

Are those really the only 2 options – I can’t transact online AND control my own information?  What if I want to give them my money and get their book, but I don’t want to give them my personal backstory, too – sorry, no online shopping for me?

And what if I’m really demanding?  What if I wanted them to agree to my license/terms before I let them have my info or my $20?  And if there is marketing value in the things I do online – search, click, read, share – why can’t I keep that information and have them pay me to use it?  As Ilube says in his article, aren’t we the true owners of our personal information?

I think these are all reasonable questions and fortunately there is a crew of really smart folks working on this with Project VRM – as in Vendor Relationship Management.  I plan to explore this topic more in future broadcasts.

This idea of putting individuals back in control of our own information is, as they say, just the tip of the iceberg.  You can find more of the iceberg at


About jonathanpb
Public Radio web guy, Boston native, Burlington VT based.

One Response to CRM, VRM, and the tip of an iceberg

  1. Pingback: Getting Semantic – Bradley Holt

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