Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Got Mistaken for an Italian but the Issues that the DataPortability Group is Trying to Address Came Through Loud and Clear

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This week i had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion titled"The Future of the Web is the Future of our Data: Introducing Data Portability" that was hosted by the BAIA Business Association Italy America.

The Panel included:
*Moderator (AND Organizer): Mary Trigiani, Spada Inc. -
*Steve Greenberg, founder Ciabe - and a Steering Committee Member of the DataPortability Project
*Lorenzo Thione, founder Powerset -
*and myself.

The evening kicked off with some initial networking where i had a chance to have some interesting conversations with other attendees on topics like government legislation around user data as well as have some deliciously catered snacks, drinks and excellent coffee courtesy of Caffè del Doge.

We kicked off the panel discussion by showing what I think is the best introduction to what
Data Portability is when we talk about it from a social media perspective via this video introduction that Michael Pick created: DataPortability - Connect, Control, Share, Remix

Mary Trigiani, always super prepared and organized had the three panelists submit our thoughts prior to the panel and has shared the panel discussion talking points on SlideShare so you can also read through some of our thoughts .

The BEST part of the evening aside from the fact that two people actually started conversations with me in Italian- assuming i was also Italian (and i was so proud i passed for one-although i responded in Portuguese) was that the majority of the attendees where not technical and those that were technical where not part of the valley 'tech' scene , and definitely not the 'regular' crowd that i have been having conversations with.

So the interest and the questions were very much from an user perspective. Questions of; usability- in which i used OpenID as an example of a good solution with what currently amounts to a not great user experience for non-technical users; Synchronization of data- why users have to update the same information various times; contact lists, how portable can they be and which pieces of data should a user be able to move; User privacy issues and how terms of use EULAs are rarely and mostly impossible to read and understand; as well as other items.

We also had an engaging and at time entertaining conversation thanks to Steve Greenberg who was playing a bit of devil's advocate about why vendors (for this discussion defined as those that provide social network services) would want to allow their users to take data away. The discussion ranged from the business models of the pros and cons of doing this, to whether it would actually push the vendors to be even more creative and push them to provide more value to the user so they would remain active users.

I tried to make it clear to the room that the reason i am an active member and leader of the DataPortability project is that all the concerns and issues that we discussed are part of the DataPortability Project agenda. While many have been working on the standards and technologies that make data portable (and new organizations and technology standards continue to pop up to do the good work), there has, until the DataPortability Project, not really been a complete, cohesive and simple story for vendors, consumers and developers to follow.

The attendees where very engaged, and i always enjoy participating in discussions with people outside the active community because it really gives you a different perspective on the issues that the DataPortability Project can works towards addressing. As usual, i got a bunch of business cards and follow-up emails (that i need to follow-up with this weekend!) from people who wanted to get involved in the project, but i figured i would first practice what i wrote on my personal letter to my email inboxes, and give everyone the general summary of 'How to Get Involved in the DataPortability Project' and then touch base individually on their specific topics if interest ranging from 'how can i help you evangelize' to 'how can we bring this discussion around policy into the legal circles'- all items that the project group needs volunteers for!

The DataPortability Project is a very young organization and critics have at times given us slack for not doing enough, but you can read about our accomplishments in the first six months to judge for yourselves and with the finalization of the steering committee and the governance model which one of our most active members Elias Bizannes has outlined in this excellent post, we are positioned to make even bigger strides on behalf of users, developers and vendors.

So how can you get involved in the DataPortability Project?:

And if any of this feels overwhelming, please go ahead and drop me a line- it might take me a couple days to get back to you but i will!

ONCE AGAIN- a big thank you to my friend Mary Trigiani for organizing this wonderful event are not only a great advocate for users and vendors in the marketplace but also a great friend. Thank you.

Additional photos from the panel available here.

Please note: this is my personal blog, the opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my past, future or present employer or any organizations i might belong to unless explicitly stated that is the case.

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