The fallacy of the Better mousetrap: Privacy advocates want to have their cake and eat it too

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I saw a curiously mis-titled article from Julie Meyer called ‘Why the IT sector is vital for small firms’

The article is actually about privacy, digital footprint etc and it says:

If they (Google) don’t cut the individual into receiving a piece of the value of their personal information, as it is used in search and purchase transactions, someone will, and that new party will rise to dominance.

Recently, there have been many such discussions mainly targeting Google, Facebook and other players ..

I have a differing view on this .. Let me explain ..

Suppose you are walking down the street. A stranger takes a picture (not YOUR picture – but a picture of the surroundings). While you are not the focus of the picture, you are ‘in it’ because you were walking.

Now, she enters the picture in a competition. She wins a 1000$.


But, would you ask for your share?

Note that the picture is not about you, you just happen to be in it.

In the words of the privacy advocates, your ‘personal data’ in this case, image, has been used by someone else for (shock, horror!) commercial gain!

They proclaim: ‘Give us our share! You did not ask our permission. WE own the data. And YOU profit from it’!

This is of course silly .. But exactly the same case is being made here

There is also another aspect to this.

People WANT to contribute to the web because they want to be found. Maybe someone sees your picture in the photo and if you are attractive enough, makes you a modeling offer!

In other words, people who contribute content are discoverable and there are benefits to the person (often commercial) to being discovered.

But what if you DON’T want to be found?

Do what Rupert Murdoch does .. Password protect your content

If it works for Rupert, it will work for others?

But will it work for Rupert(let alone for you!) (PS: Note that According to his biographer Michael Wolff, Murdoch has not used the internet, let alone Google (he only recently discovered email)

I think not ..

Here is why ..

There is a saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson that: If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door ..

But do you really believe that in the Internet world, others will beat a path to your door?

Much as I like the work of the Sage of Concord/Ralph Waldo Emerson , this wisdom does not apply to the Internet age ..

Many people who may try to assign a value to their personal information may subscribe to this fallacious view i.e. somehow that their content is valuable and that if only it were ‘gated’ we could monetize that value (directly or indirectly)

In my view, the options are password protect (which is a valid choice) OR treat it like a random photographer in a tourist destination. Hope that someone sees you in that picture and makes you a modeling offer :)

But you can’t have it both ways! i.e. publish your content/data and then ask for a share of profits!

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A sad day for Moscow ..

A sad day for Moscow. Our thoughts and prayers go to the people of Moscow

Internet of things video ..

A bit Deepak Chopra :) (we can hear the planet talking to us etc etc) but still good!

VERY interesting: Private equity firm plans Open LTE network to challenge AT&T and Verizon ..

A New York private equity firm plans to build a multibillion-dollar 4G wireless network that will cover most of the country by 2015. The ambitious plan by Harbinger Capital Partners relies on deploying a Long Term Evolution network over spectrum owned by a few satellite companies — and would create an open wholesale wireless network available to retail companies, PC manufacturers or anyone who wants to offer mobile broadband.

PE Firm Plans Open LTE Network to Challenge AT&T and Verizon

ForumOxford: Future Technologies Conference 2010 – looking for speakers and sponsors ..

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For the past four years, I have co-chaired this conference at Oxford University alongwith Tomi Ahonen. This year, this year’s ForumOxford: Future Technologies Conference 2010 will be held at the University of Oxford on Friday 15 October 2010.

We are looking for speakers and sponsors starting from just £500

The conference is industry led i.e. not academia/students

Click here for more information about last year’s events and for registration

Contact me at ajit.jaokar at if you want to speak/sponsor at this exclusive conferece or contact peter.holland at at Oxford University

How can Operators engage with the new Digital Consumers?

I was invited as an analyst to speak at Infosys CTIA event on Mobile Innovation: Understanding and Serving Today’s Digital Consumer

The event also co-incided with Infosys’s launch of the flypp platform for Mobile network Operators. I presented an overview on the state of play for Operators in the new world of Digital consumers.

Many thanks to Deepak Swamy, Latha kalainesan of Infosys and others for the invite

Below is my talk.

The traditional Telco stack could be seen as: Network + Device + Infrastructure

As the Internet and the Mobile ecosystems merge, the new stack is: Network + Device + Web/Cloud + Social networks

This trend has three direct implications:

1) The customer interacts (increasingly) with a social layer (apps, web, facebook etc all have social elements which the customer values)

2) Customers are beginning to live with imperfection in Telecoms (like they do on the Web)

3) The rate of change increases and innovation increases . On the Web, the rate of innovation is faster

Carriers have always had assets. But customers do not value Carrier assets(ex Bandwidth). Customers like services.

The question then is: How can Telecom assets be packaged as services? Obviously these services need to be making money.

Not all services will make money. We can divide the world into three simplistic segments:

a) Where mobile came first(Korea, Japan)

b) Where the Web came first(North America, Europe)

c) Where there is neither web nor mobile. Most of the emerging markets + Africa etc

The point is: services have to be seen in context of the ecosystem(that’s why services in Korea and Japan are not translatable to the West). Also, where there is no web and no mobile, ultimately the Mobile will win.

Viewed in this context, the question then is:

We have been talking of API enabling the Telecoms network/Telecoms Web services etc for a while .. What has changed?

Two things:

a) The iPhone has set a precedence for apps and services

b) Mobile data has now overtaken mobile voice in terms of revenue. Hence, Operator attention now shifts to data and to services.

We are also seeing some very unique use cases like the site Zillow whose mobile site out performs the web site

So, what should Operators do?

They should start with the one logical place: The customer.

This could take many forms: Understanding the customer profile, recommendations etc

Finally, I believe that customers trust Operators to provide a reliable service. But will customers trust Operators with their music preferences? This is far harder to achieve and will need the Operator to work with partners and to change their mindset

Finally, we also need to change our own mindset when it comes to the Operator

Consider the privacy issues of Google Buzz when they essentially made a section of the user’s social graph public

However, when Google does it, we call it ‘innovation’ but when Operators try new things, we chase them with a stick i.e. have regulation / laws that prohibit things

Finally, Macromyopia also plays an important part (over-estimating the short term effects and under-estimating the long term impact).

That world is upon us now and is being driven by the new Digital consumer

Presentations for CTIA Mobile Web and Apps event

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CTIA Mobile web and apps which I chaired was a great event and at times there was standing room only with lots of active participation till late in the evening

I had a lot of requests for the presentation. We will be making them public (where the speakers agree). If you are interested (and want to sign up to future updates) please email me at ajit.jaokar at

Wont be until next week when I get back to London though :)

Some of the speakers were

Ajit Jaokar, President – futuretext – chairing

Srinivas Mandyam, VP of Mobile Engineering – AT&T Interactive.

Aditya Khurjekar Verizon Wireless

Craig Cumberland, Director of Web Products and Technology- Nokia

Tarang Shah, Senior Vice President of Startup Analysis and Technology Innovation – Bank of America

Mike Lurye, Director of Product Marketing- Amdocs Interactive

Noam Raffaelli, Vice President of Product Management- Qualcomm

Chetan Sharma Consulting, President – Chetan Sharma Consulting

Joe Lalley, Senior Director of Product Development for Global Digital Media – MTV Networks

Gary Schwartz, President and CEO – Impact Mobile

Dr. Taek Chung – LG Electronics

Tim Haysom, Chief Marketing Officer- OMTP

Deepak Swamy, Associate Vice President, Communications, Media and Entertainment Business- Infosys Technologys Limited

Peggy Ann Salz msearchgroove

Remco van den Elzen, Co-Founder – Distimo

Richard Smith, CTO – OpenPath Products and more ..

Many thanks to all for making this a great success!

Mashup event on the value of Digital footprint

This thursday, there is a mashup event on the value of Digital footprint. The event is targetted towards people in PR, marketing, branding, security, fraud, data management,customer loyalty and others.

You can read more about it and the registration details, venue and fees at the My digital footprint blog

Mobile data charges: We risk making the same mistake of climate change scientists by choosing extreme use cases


Most of us agree that Climate change is a risk. We want to leave the world a better place for our children and for that, action is needed else we will end up losing the current ecosystem. However, Climate change scientists have been on the back foot recently since they chose to publicise the dangers of Global warming by choosing extreme use cases.

Specifically, the claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt away by 2035 by the IPCC was unfounded and not based on real research

Extreme use cases (like Himalayan glaciers melting away) get headlines (even when they are wrong!) .. But as we can see, they do damage to the real issue(Climate change) in the long run

There is a lesson for this as we start to discuss mobile data charges and ‘unlimited’ data charges.

The BBC reported on a headline grabbing article from research conducted by Which magazine which says that a person was charged £41,000 after downloading a television programme onto his phone when roaming ..

This got headlines .. but seriously .. what is the use case here?

Who wanted to download whole movies when roaming and why?

Sadly, it takes us away from a more useful use case of accessing mobile services on the go in a transparent but not necessarily ‘unlimited’ mode.

There is a big difference between ‘transparency’ and ‘unlimited’

For example, when I go to France I get a message like this

Welcome to FRANCE. Vodafone Passport calls cost 75p per call + your

home rate (inc bundled mins) to make and receive. SMS’s are 11p. Data

is 0.5p per KB up to 1MB (£4.99 inc vat). The next 24MB is free then

£4.99/25MB. Sessions reset at 00:00GMT. Call 4636 for free pricing

info & 112 for emergency svcs

While we could say that this message could be improved a bit .. but for most of us this is ‘good enough’ i.e. we CAN live within this limit. If you were just checking text based emails , you would most likely stay in the 1M(£4.99 / day) limit. Which is fair ..

Now, one could say: Does that mean we will be stuck to low data usage when roaming forever?

The optimist in me says that this is where normal competitive positioning within Operators will play out. Ex: Vodafone will offer a ‘special deal’ when I can go to Spain and upload pictures/videos etc for a different price plan perhaps in the holiday season. Others will follow. This is normal competition

However, I fear that focusing on use cases like ‘downloading movies when roaming’ will do more harm than good in the longer term(BBC headlines not withstanding).

It may well be a ‘Himalayan’ blunder!

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Google vs. Times of India: Google has no advertising ..

Recently, I heard someone say(forget the person), that their mother likes Google because Google has no advertising!

In other words, she did not feel that the discreet text based advertising from Google was ‘advertising’ as she was used to (in your face, old style aggressive broadcast media type advertising)

Contrast that with this one .. India’s largest newspaper Times Of India (Wikipedia link intentional so that I avoid linking to them) set up in 1838.

THIS is an advertisement from their site .. AFTER another initial ‘welcome screen’(also a different advertisement) and also additional popups.

Basically it takes over the whole screen ..

The Web would be overwhelmed with this extraordinary foot in the door stupidity of old media had it not been for Google!

So, Thank God for Google which shows us relevant and discreet advertising which some people consider is ‘not advertising’

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