I am a tag not a number!


Tony Fish, my co-author for OpenGardens held a fascinating event last week in central London. I could not attend it -but it has got great feedback from the participants. Central to the event was Tony’s idea of ‘I am a tag and not a number’. It’s right to the heart of mobile web 2.0 which I have been blogging about.

Here is a synopsis from Tony by what we mean by ‘I am a tag and not a number’

In the good old days, I had a telephone. It was connected via a wire to the wall and I could pick up the handset and dial a number to reach my friends. If I needed to reach someone that I knew – but did not have their number – I would refer to the telephone directory. The telephone directory would resolve a name to a number.

This worked fine when I had one number .. but it all got very complex when I left my youthful years and went to work. Soon I had an office number, a DDI number, my digs and my home (parents) numbers. The office then added email ids and a mobile number. At a personal level, I got a range of IM’s(Instant message Ids) and email ids ( university, first email, grown up email, own domain email).

Now, it is followed by a range of VoIP numbers! And so it goes ..

To ensure that I spent lots of money calling and chatting -some clever people created voice messaging services so that you could ask me to call back if I was not on one of those numbers, or you could only remember one of them.

Some cleverer people created unified messaging in the hope that all my messages would go to one place. However, there is no one place to resolve the ‘number to name’ problem.

This means I have to spend a vast amount of time maintaining an increasing database of people and their various numbers.

The old system of the telephone directory sort of works, search engines can search many directories to find my many numbers and IP addresses – if they are available.

But why bother with numbers in the first place? Why relinquish control to them? Why should we not break free?

For instance – why is it so hard to keep your number when changing houses or mobile service providers?(at a cost I might add!) You have ‘become’ the number. And nowadays, that’s increasingly ‘numbers’(i.e. not just one number)!. People are forced to remember your various numbers – some do – but most will find it increasingly difficult.

But then came tags .. and I believe that tags will erode 100 years of telecoms regulations on numbering and also the one control point that operators still believe is untouchable. i.e. the number itself

Imagine a world where you do not care what your number is or how many you have. A world where tags replace numbers. Others (friends, work mates, people who you see and meet) tag your data so that they can find you again.

Where I tag Tony Fish with my 50 words, others will tag ‘Tony fish’ with their views and that’s how they will remember me. Collectively, my tags will uniquely identify me as ‘Tony Fish’ and not the other 462 Tony Fishes that are about!

A new type of search engine will emerge. The new search engine will not deliver my identity (and breach data protection regulations). Instead, they (the provider of the search service) will offer a service to enable ‘connection’. ‘Find Tony Fish’ will produce the result:- Tony is currently in Starbucks on Oxford Street do you want to ….. meet, IM, Mail, chat to him.

You see ..

I am no longer a number, I am a Tag.

tony slide.JPG

How will this start?

I would not expect that an operator can be the first to implement such a system – due to the legacy of existing systems and their requirement for seeing a business model first. Rather, I expect it will be organic. I will start tagging, you will start tagging and thus a network will emerge. I will add my contacts and notes from outlook, from thunderbird, from Plaxo, from linkedin and then the tags will grow!

A federated service provider will become the ‘search engine by tags’ – searching my professional information. I will have added personal contacts for family so they are in by default(i.e. linked through me). The value proposition for the user appears when someone in your network modifies or updates the data with new details and that data automatically updates your data set, saving time and maintaining contact.

The bigger the network you have, the more frequently your information is refreshed and the more fresh and valuable it is.

As a commercial extension, it would be possible for a service provider to combine tags from several people within a program that would provide to each ‘paying premium member’ an improved data set. The commercial models will grow based on the knowledge and context within the search and tags.

Therefore I can see a federated, consensus driven business model allowing both restricted and free communication services from a search engine. Eventually, everyone tags, search engines get access to my desktop and I permit my presence to be made known.

Thus, I become a ‘tag’ an individual – and not a number!

What do you think?

A fascinating idea and very much mobile web 2.0!

I believe there is a commercial (and a user) need for such as service.

The ‘tag mapping service’ is the key element of this service(and one which could completely transform the telecoms industry) because the end users need such a service, it is cheaper, it is easier to use.

What do you think?

Image source: www.irtc.org/stills/ 1997-06-30/view.html

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