A little while ago, Scott Adams wrote his thoughts about FutureMe and how it might become a Facebook killer. Adams pointed out that information about our past–what we’ve already done–is useful, but less so than what we’re looking to do in the future. He suggests a new fourth party (user-driven) service:
The interface for Futureme is essentially a calendar, much like Outlook. But it would include extra layers for hopes and goals that don’t have specific dates attached.
For every entry to your Futureme calendar, you specify who can see it, including advertisers. If you allow advertisers a glimpse of a specific plan, it would be strictly anonymous. Advertisers could then feed you ads specific to your plan, while not knowing who they sent it to. The Futureme service would be the intermediary.
Now imagine that you never have to see any of the incoming ads except by choice. If you plan to buy a truck in a month, you would need to click on that entry to see which local truck advertisements have been matched to your plans. This model turns advertising from a nuisance into a tool. You‘d never see an ad on Futureme that wasn’t relevant to your specific plans.
The biggest benefit of the system could come from your network of friends and business associates. Suppose you post on the system that you would like to see a Bon Jovi concert sometime in the next year. Now your friends – the ones you specify to see this specific plan – can decide if they want in on it. Maybe someone you know can get free tickets, and someone has a van and is willing to be the designated driver. Maybe someone has a contact that can get you backstage passes. By broadcasting your plan, you make it possible for others to improve your plan.
Conversely, if you plan to do something stupid, your contacts have time to talk you out of it or suggest a superior alternative.
The great thing about Adams’ plan is that it shows how our data and online presence can be user-driven–meaning we make choices about who gets to see what. Moreover, by identifying Futureme as an intermediary on the user side, Adams has described a fourth-party service. (I’m guessing that Adams is intending this to be on the user side, or it can’t really live up to the promise of being a “Facebook killer.” I don’t know of any way at this time to be a perfectly neutral intermediary, so he likely has to fall on one side or the other.)
Coaching moment: I’d like to point out a significant distinction here between platforms and relationships. Adams is apparently describing a platform for social interaction and commercial services. This is also the Facebook model. On Facebook, someone else (the shareholders of Facebook) owns your user data and service usage logs. Facebook is in control. As we’ve seen before, it’s one thing to set your privacy wishes, but if Facebook is calling the shots, the rules can be changed anytime. Moreover, you’re always under surveillance whether you knowingly agree to that or not.
Now consider the idea of personal data stores where you control your data in any way you wish, using software tools that you choose, on hardware that you own (or not), at any time or under circumstances that you want. Nobody gets access that you don’t authorize. Wouldn’t that be something?