The Internet is a museum that is filled with many wonderful works of art, all of which you can appreciate from a sneeze-free distance but which, unless you intend to buy something must never, never be touched.
The Internet of tomorrow--MyInternet--is also filled with wunderbar things but the velvet cordons are almost completely absent. The curators of MyInternet (the technocrats) will not throw you out if you express your appreciation of a Michaelangelo by running your hand across it. Indeed, they will encourage you to adjust the lighting above a Ming vase or to reframe your favorite Sheeler in the powdered aluminum that you know the artist would have preferred. In some wings of the museum, you might even be allowed to paint a portrait of your own lover atop the original Mona Lisa. If you're feeling ambitious, you might even be allowed to build a entire new wing.
To build MyInternet, I believe that we need to build social software--sites, applications, development tools, and an ethic of usage--that are philosophically congruent with the following tenets of personalization:
- Only ask for customer information if you plan to use it to...
...to what end? To improve the end user experience? To increase customer loyalty? To entice users to use a product to its fullest potential?
- Only require authentication when there is a business need to validate identity.
Whose business need? The customer or the social software maker/distributor?
- [What do you think should be on this list?]
- Never sell customer information.
Unfortunately, this is one of those promises that the designers of social software can make to a customer (or ourselves) but cannot necessarily keep. If your shareholders, VCs, or investors someday decide that the benefits of selling customer information outweigh the not insignificant risks, they will probably figure out how to do it. Verge on the side of caution. Under promise and over deliver. If you are determined to adopt this non-tenet of personalization, you can probably think of ways to architect your application that will "protect" the privacy of customer information to lesser and greater degrees. I reiterate my belief that it's best to avoid making promises or adopting a design philosophy that you cannot or do not intend to keep or abide by.
- Stowe Boyd has proposes six of the Ten Commandments of Social Network Applications over at Corante.org (with comments by Clay Shirky).