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03TH December 2012

Creative problem Solving - Culture - Entrepreneur - Good Story - Leadership - Trust Cloud - Uncategorized - Vision

Would you date Fake Grimlock? How Dinosaurs can find love in the Sharing Economy


Meet Fake Grimlock

Meet Fake Grimlock

Mary Meeker just called it: Sharing is now a megatrend.

In her wildly popular bi-annual prognosis, Meeker points to the demise of asset-heavy life especially among 20 somethings wherebye sharing economy and  smartphones free time and money, creating an asset-light generation.

So how does this relate to virtual dinosaurs and dating? Hang on, let me tell a good story. Dialing it back a bit, I was watching Cat in the Hat with my son this morning and began to wonder about how that famous tech character might teach us something about a this big trend, now that Mary called it. Suppose I pose these questions abut the tech world’s favorite virtual persona Fake Grimlock… as only Dr. Seuss could:

Would you meet him in a mall? Would you pass him in the hall?
Would you let him drive your car? Would you let him drive it far?
Would you let him watch your pet? Would he eat them, hmm, sure bet?
Would you let him tutor the kids? Could you, would you blink an eyelid?
Would you let him sleep upon your couch? Would he scare you with those teeth- Ouch!
Would you date him late at night? Would you lend him money? Right!

Which means, essentially, if you were going to do a “Sharing Transaction” with an unknown Peer, do you trust the person behind fake grimlock? He’s extremely well known in a small circle of tech entrepreneurs (and deservedly so- he’s hilarious in a CAPSLOCK kinda way). But my point is, there are millions and millions of Fake Grimlocks out there.

From Spencer 323232 on gMail to Pineapple88 on EBay, people have for more than a decade created and maintained personas and avatars for everything from virtual gaming to very real Craig’s listings. Taking it back to Dot.com days, we used to hear the reason the internet was popular was … no one knew you were a dog. People could go online (Chatrooms!) under any handle they chose and behave pretty much with impunity. It was the digital equivalent of turning out the lights at a teen mixer. Stupid ideas came and went, as did plenty of fortunes and not a few great companies. But the ability to take on an alias, or even build an avatar in another parallel world lingered as a quaint benefit from back in the day. To some gaming sites, it’s a hell of a business that virtual world.

But now comes along Social, Mobile and Local where a billion people share their profiles, activities, photos and innermost thoughts with perhaps way too many friends. Privacy was redefined, or its boundaries were pushed out by the devils favorite vice, vanity. Rachel Botsman called it early with her Colaborative Consumption moniker, and subsequently has talked about trust within peer networks a lot. Now, as big data companies are starting to realize this data is meaningful, strong voices are pointing out that people should own their own data. Tim Berners Lee is one such voice, having started what I call the “Data to the People” movement with this Guardian interview. Add to this a rich mix of a green consciousness, underemployed/over-indebted college graduates and a sluggish economy and you get the Sharing Economy a/k/a the very more wordy Collaborative Consumption. Al it needs now is some glue, or as Neal Gorenflo recently said in a post to Shareable Magazine the dramatic transformation of the economy that’s needed is not going to happen until a large coalition begins to work together.

This is precisely why companies like TrustCloud, Connect.me  and MiiCard are helping stitch together a trust and reputation metric for the Peer economy. Basically, in 2012 everyone knows you are  dinosaur, and if you are transparent enough with it, more and more people are ok with it. So, for argument’s sake, let’s say Grimlock does not want to reveal his identity, but he wants to claim credit for all the good things he has done online. He has a ton of influence and follows (you can see that from twitter or Klout) but maybe he also contributes to Stack Overflow and helps out on GitHub under Grimmy22. Maybe he maintains an ebay account where he is top rated as a seller, but under FakeyBoy101. He has a few verifiable email addresses, and actually lives somewhere under the name Human B. Good. What if Human B Good claimed all that data and consolidated in one place- without actually divulging that he was Grimmy22, FakeyBoy101 or any other avatar. But he claimed the credit for all the good things he does for the community under whatever name. If he was transparent enough to verify and share his human identity, he’d be golden, or the human behind him would be. And all without blowing the connection to the mysterious Grimlock. Here’s my point: thousands of people every week are coming to that conclusion and getting TrustCards.

So… let’s look again at these peer transactions

Would you meet him in a mall? Would you pass him in the hall? 

This is the perfect CraigsList question. If Grimlock offered me $100 cash for my old iPhone in some dodgy exchange in the mall parking lot, it’s a pass. To much risk there. But if Human B. Good made the same offer (and had claimed all the virtuous data Grimock threw off), it would be a different story.

Would you let him drive your car? Would you let him drive it far?

This is the GetAround/Relay Rides/ Ridepost question. As Anotonin Leonard’s partner Benjamin Tinq (both OuiShare guys) remarked, “Ten years after Jeremy Rifkin wrote The Age of Access, shared mobility is fundamentally changing the way people think about car ownership, among other things. Especially the younger ones, to whom owning a car has lost its appeal of independance, which is now embodied by electronic and social media devices. So you want me to hand over the keys to  a $30k asset so Grimlock and his monster buddies can go up skiing Vermont for the weekend, and he will give me… $30 per day? Can you say asymmetrical risk? And for some extra credit reading, has anyone really looked at their insurance coverage when you turn your car into a small business. The answer is pretty disappointing (and the backup from the sponsoring sharing network won’t be good for much either, especially as that risk scales). But Human B. Good give me a better feeling about his identity, interactions and behavior with his TrustScore. Perhaps things would have been better for HighGear had they such a system in place. RideShare is already doing this, and more will follow I think.

Would you let him watch your pet? Would he eat them, hmm, sure bet?

Talk about precious assets! I would not turn Baxter over to Grimlock for fear of dinner! Rover.com is already onto this, and has trustscores flowing out to their 70,000 dog watchers nationwide. Essentially, people Human B. Good would get the job, and Baxter would come home safe (and incidentally, my home would be safe, seeing as how Human B. Good has the keys to the house).

Would you let him sleep upon your couch? Would he scare you with those teeth- Ouch!

This one comes right out of AirBnB’s book- and Wimdu, LoveHomeSwap, HomeAway, InterHome and lots of others. While millions of room nights have been booked, as the early adopted give way to a more mass acceptance of “crashing on the couch”, so to will a demand grow for “who is this”, and from both sides of the transaction. AirBnB has had its “Ej Incident” and the “Hookers on Holiday“, which at the very least left a bad taste (sorry) for the hosts. I’ve heard there are plenty more where those came from. But there is risk on the guest side as well, just ask the poor blokes who wired in advance for their Fun and Sun Holiday in France and got… (sorry) just pictures for their trouble (the house did not exist), and the hosts, well what do you think? Again, no keys in this scenario for Grimlock. Human B. Good, more likely.

Would you date him late at night? Would you lend him money? Right!

So after the roundup of the “Sharing Companies”, it makes sense to imagine the other places that a trust and identity system could help other Peer economies. While I have heard stories of young ladies throwing themselves at Grimlock at his personal appearances, I’m not so sure that is scalable. Dating is the ultimate peer transaction, and one where a few simple verifications would do a world of good. To wit: a) does the guy really make $100k+ and b) are those photos of the girl recent or retouched? Likewise, peer lending could be greatly enhanced with a similar solution. Of course, the incidence and transaction data that flows back through the intake API becomes crucial to the richness of the scores.

So to wrap this one in a bow… there is a great saying about trust and context: I would trust my dog with my life, but not with my hamburger.

Grimlock has done a good many great things for our tech community across a few social networks. He is known to the community, and he adds to it. And that’s fine for the virtual world. But for the rest of us, so much of our lives pass between the virtual and real worlds. And many of us have piled up so much virtuous data, it’s time to start harvesting it, claiming it and organizing it in one place that makes it useful to a variety of networks.

We all have our data from our own versions of Grimlock out there. Start using it.

 Full disclosure: I mention TrustCloud here. I am an angel investor in same. 

 

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