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You Are The Platform

By - November 08, 2011

A funny thing happens to me after each Web 2 Summit – I tend to curl up for a week or two and shut down my idea receptors. It takes a ton of output to curate the show, and then running it for three straight days is rather like running an intellectual and social marathon. You’re “on” the whole time, scrambling backstage, pretending to have it together onstage, greeting amazing minds, cheering them on, delivering what I hope will be thought provoking interlocution, and, of course, remembering to thank everyone for giving so generously of their time and treasure.

So when people ask me what I thought of the show, or what the key themes were, I usually have something of a blind spot. I can remember everything up to the start of the event – all the preparation, preproduction interviews, the endless research, etc. But once we kickoff (in this case, with an interview with Sean Parker), it goes kind of black. My next memory is usually the final cocktail party on day three. I know my Dad and my wife are usually there, and I know I have a fine bourbon in my hand. And I’m happy. And I want to sleep.

Which I’ve done a lot of these past two weeks. But this last show was too rich to not review a bit, in particular for themes that should inform our collective decisions as we move our industry forward. In this post and I hope in others this Fall, I hope to outline some of those themes.

The first one that really jumps out at me is one I’ll title “You Are The Platform.” That phrase was used by Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation in her talk at Web 2, and echoed by Jeremie Miller, founder of Singly and the Locker Project. But before we get to those two, I want to start with Chris Poole, founder of 4Chan and Canv.as, where he outlines a problem with how we currently think about who we are online.

Poole argues that identity is prismatic, and that both Facebook and Google force a “fast food” approach to identity – one size fits all. “They shouldn’t set the bar” for what identity is, Poole argues, “we should.” (Each of the videos below are just five or ten minutes).

How do we do this? Baker argues we have to take control of our data, away from a “20th century factory model,” where the platform for our data is highly centralized (IE on Google, or Facebook, Amazon, or Twitter). She asks us to think differently about managing our data:

In short, Baker suggests that we should each be the platform for our own data, determining how it’s used and in what context, depending on the kind of data (health, social, family, interests, etc).

Sounds great, but how do you operationalize such a concept? It sounds like a lot of work. That’s where Jeremie Miller comes in. His company, Singly, and associated Locker Project is an audacious attempt to “put the person at the center of the data.”

Singly and the Locker Project are in the early days, and the chances they won’t work are probably high. But the approach they augur, I believe, must ultimately become reality. This concept of “you are the platform” is really, really important, not just technologically, but socially, politically, and culturally. Watch this space.

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16 thoughts on “You Are The Platform

  1. Anonymous says:

    Are you familiar with Kim Cameron’s Laws of Identity (http://www.identityblog.com/?p=354 or ‘in brief’ http://www.identityblog.com/?p=353)? Your statements here remind me of a lot of what Kim was trying to get at – the data is ours, we should know how it’s used, and how it’s used should “make sense” to us.

  2. Priva Norte says:

    Have you seen some of the work from the World Economic Forum on “Rethinking Personal Data” (http://www.weforum.org/s?s=rethinking+personal+data)? Fascinating work on conceptualizing and architecutre for data currency with the indivudal (data owner) at the center.

  3. Interesting stuff, and also interested to know how

  4. Interesting stuff – would be interested to know how you think this compares with some concepts I’ve been looking at about how consumer-centricity is forcing change in the way in which traditional tech companies need to look at their surrounding landscape (see http://mmitii.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/its-all-about-the-apps/)?

    • Anonymous says:

      Singly is a good example of how some feel this problem/opp will be attacked. It’s designed as a platform for consumer’s data, which is leveraged by app makers.

  5. Great information videos and I like what they said about the future. Now I want my Singly!

  6. [...] Singly – watch these guys and their technology, they will be at the start of a new generation of privacy-centric web service usage. See "You are the platform". [...]

  7. [...] that question, but I think it came up because I’ve been pondering the implications of “you as the platform” quite a bit lately. If it’s *our* data in Facebook, why can’t we take it and use [...]

  8. [...] Web 2 last year a significant theme arose around the idea of “You Are the Platform,” driven by people and companies like Chris Poole, Mozilla, Singly, and many others. I think [...]

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