The one thing I do not like about LinkedIn is that it is a closed environment. If you want to pull content into LinkedIn from elsewhere on the internet, their attitude is ‘that’s great!’ but if you want to take content from LinkedIn and reproduce it outside, their attitude is usually ‘NO WAY!!’ That is understandable as the LinkedIn business model is based on people visiting their site and not based on people being able to get the same stuff somewhere else. So what has this got to do with revenue assurance? Well, as you may have noticed, there is a fair bit of activity at Morisso Taieb’s LinkedIn group dedicated to RA, and there is a fair bit of activity here and other places about RA, but whilst the activity at LinkedIn and some other places is closed, talkRA and a few others are decidedly open.

A model like the one at LinkedIn depends on such a large number of people using and contributing to the closed resource that people do not mind the imposition of an artificial barrier between what is in and what is out. These internet monsters are always at threat from smaller disruptive players who want to break down the barricades. Disruptive sites may take an open approach because that is their philosophical inclination (think how Wikipedia gatecrashed the party for the traditional encyclopedia industry) or because it is necessary to their business model, as least at their current stage of development (think how Google Knol is now trying to compete with Wikipedia). Paradoxically, the more competitors you have that take the closed model, the more likely the open model will prevail, as the closed environments are stealing and sapping each other’s energy, whilst the open environments get ripped off/promoted equally by both open and closed environments.

By now, it must be clear where I sit in the philosophical debate between open and closed environments. It is quite similar to the debate the mobile operators had towards walled gardens for the internet. I always thought that was short-sighted too. Should you sell your customers the whole internet, or just a tightly defined subset? You might as well ask your customers if they would like a whole pie or just a slice of pie. The right answer is the one every 5 year-old would give: the whole pie, please. Unless all your competitors are only serving slices too, then any pie customers are going to tend to gravitate to the suppliers willing to sell the whole pie at no more cost (whether measured in money, time or effort).

As for revenue assurance, I doubt there are enough people doing revenue assurance to support three or even two closed environments for debate and information sharing. That makes LinkedIn the current odds-on favourite to be the last man standing in any competition to see which closed sites people get bored of first. I will not speculate which RA sites will die in 2009, but I would be surprised if I do not find myself writing at least one obituary before the year is over. At least, I hope the owners of the dying sites will do the decent thing and end their misery. There is nothing more depressing than seeing the ghost of a site still lingering on the internet long after everyone has lost interest. If talkRA’s numbers were to flatline, I would kill it off straight away. Saying that, there seems little likelihood of that according to December figures per Google.

The nice thing about the open model to distributing content is that, instead of competing for readers, you can actually share them and benefit from association in a way that is denied by the closed environments. Think of them as little mammals compared to the great hulking dinosaurs. They may not look like much, but – WHAM! – when disaster happens they are the ones left alive long after the dinosaurs are dead. These tiny, but clever and adaptable animals might even learn to cooperate and peacefully coexist, and hence achieve a lot more in the long run.

The open mentality runs right through talkRA’s design so far, which is why it provides RSS and Atom feeds (and probably lots more too – I lose track). The new podcasts will also be made available via iTunes. At the same time, nobody has to sign up or register to get it. But in all the excitement to give this stuff away, I totally forgot that there are also plenty of good people doing similar things and sharing their revenue assurance content openly, and a fair few readers who will not be reading it because they have not found out about them. To solve that problem I have started the task of republishing useful syndicated feeds on talkRA. That way, they get to share all the readers we already have here – and you get to see everything that is happening from the one page. Take a look at the right column and you will see the syndication of content from other sites writing or discussing the same topics as talkRA. So far, I have just included those sites that I would read anyway, but if you know of others that should be included, let me know. Now how about that for serving you the whole tasty pie?

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is a recognized expert on communications risk and assurance. He was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and others.   Eric was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He was a founding member of Qatar's National Committee for Internet Safety and the first leader of the TM Forum's Enterprise Risk Management team. Eric currently sits on the committee of the Risk & Assurance Group, and is an editorial advisor to Black Swan. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.   Commsrisk is edited by Eric. Look here for more about Eric's history as editor.