Syndicating talkRA (and the future!)

It is quite amusing to see that talkRA has now been syndicated on the ‘Revenue Assurance Professionals’ group over at LinkedIn. There is nothing wrong with that – we love that people should read our stuff. Of course, there are some things that cannot be syndicated, like the most recent episode of our podcast involving a panel discussion on the use of data warehouses for RA. Wherever possible, we try to make it as easy as possible to read our material – that is why we do not expect people to register just so we can boast about how many ‘members’ we have. We would rather have real and interested readers than fake and disinterested members. To help our readers, we also provide RSS and Atom feeds to make it easy for people to stay up to date without needing to constantly visit our site. All they need to do is to add the URL to their favourite feed reader; most web browsers now have feed readers built-in. Just in the same way that people can follow the feed on their own PC, other sites can syndicate our feed – a fancy way of saying they automatically copy the content in our feed. This is just what the LinkedIn crowd have started to do, by republishing our content over on their web pages.

I find it amusing that talkRA is being syndicated on LinkedIn. I have written before about why I am not keen on closed environments like LinkedIn that force people to log on before they can read the content. If I write similar criticisms of LinkedIn now, they will be automatically republished over there! On one hand, the closed environments are pretending to be a community: “Join our great party – everybody else has!” On the other hand, they put somebody on the door to control who can enter, but not very much…

“Sorry mate, if your name’s not on my list, you can’t come in.”
“Well how do I get my name on the list?”
“Write your name here.”
“What’s the point of that then?”
“I don’t make the rules, do I?”

It is a walled garden, and the whole point is to get you to visit so they can make money by showing you adverts or persuading you to buy some silly certificate they sell. That model will probably persist quite successfully for another ten years or so, but it is doomed. Why have the software of somebody else mediating, editing, and controlling the content you receive? Why give them your personal information in return? Why be forced to read that content with the adverts they force alongside them? Most importantly, why tolerate that, when the content they provide is just recycled from somewhere else? Think of this way: most of the news websites that people read are just copying from news bureaus who already publish their articles on the web – so why go to a ‘news’ site when you can simply go to the source?

Recently the producers of news content complained about how intermediaries like Google are profiting from their work without sharing the reward. The sole reason for intermediaries is that they make it easier to find the things that most people want. But who wants to be most people? We are all individuals, so why not simply take the specific news and content you want directly from source, instead of taking a homogeneous lump of output served up by an aggregator. For example, you will not be finding revenue assurance news on MSN any time soon (and if you did, it would be bound to be nonsense). The very fact you are reading this proves there is a market for niche content that may be of interest to people all around the world, but only a particular few people around the world. LinkedIn is like a half-way house aggregator, making it easier to bring some material together off the back of the business networking service they provide, but ultimately it is still somebody else’s cut of the information. LinkedIn developed good sites and good software first, because they were chasing money. However, the open source crowd always catches up eventually, and when they do, it is game over for the alternatives – as governments around the world increasingly realize when procuring software. Because once you have an open source ability to extract similar data to the type you are getting from LinkedIn (who knows who, please invite me to them, regular feeds of news that interest you) why would you put up with a single advert?

The whole world has been steadily cutting out the middle-men to reduce costs. The internet has been part of that trend. Why buy insurance from a broker, when you can buy direct from the provider? Why go to a bookshop when you get the book delivered from a warehouse run by Amazon? Why sell to a second-hand goods store, when you can sell your old items on eBay? Sites like LinkedIn go against that trend, when playing the role of middle-men for information. Unfortunately, middle men tend to thrive on making life slightly more convenient for the customer at the beginning, but they may not make life convenient in the longer run, and they may not add value in the meantime. Want to read a talkRA article? Should you register for LinkedIn and log-on every time you want to read the article, or just come straight to talkRA, or better still just subscribe to the feed? Want to comment on a talkRA article? Leave a comment about it on LinkedIn and only the people on LinkedIn will be able to read it. Leave the comment on talkRA and everybody can read it. Even the people on LinkedIn can read the comment, because LinkedIn is republishing the talkRA comments too!

Our little site is not going to change the world, but sometimes the world is changing and you find yourself in the right place at the right time to be part of the change. None of the people who ripped down the Berlin Wall could have done it single-handed, but when the time was right they all became part of an historic change. Small things like formulating and sharing the TCP/IP protocols enabled big things like the internet – even for people who have never heard of TCP/IP. Now even totalitarian regimes find themselves negotiating with search engines and being forced to give their people more information than ever before. We are living in a world where the trend is towards freedom and to rip down the barriers (with a few hiccups along the way, of course). It is nice that our little site is on the right side of that trend towards openness, and even nicer that our words get republished even by the sites that prefer to keep things closed! ;)

Eric Priezkalns
Eric Priezkalns
Eric is the Editor of Commsrisk. Look here for more about the history of Commsrisk and the role played by Eric.

Eric is also the Chief Executive of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG), a global association of professionals working in risk management and business assurance for communications providers.

Previously Eric was Director of Risk Management for Qatar Telecom and he has worked with Cable & Wireless, T‑Mobile, Sky, Worldcom and other telcos. He was lead author of Revenue Assurance: Expert Opinions for Communications Providers, published by CRC Press. He is a qualified chartered accountant, with degrees in information systems, and in mathematics and philosophy.