You Will Not Always Matter

Imagine that the coffee shop you visited today knew that you would leave a Yelp review.

What would happen? Maybe they’d treat you well, an extra dose of courtesy or maybe a little more food. They might offer you a brownie for free at the end of the day or something, since they’re getting rid of them later anyways. Any number of small details could make a difference– and tip your 3-star review into a 4-star one. Little things make a big difference.

Maybe this is what Google means when they say “Everything is better when it knows who I am.” If you’re a prolific sharer, you get a better deal, or they know how you like your espresso, so your experience is just a little better than usual. They know your preferences. This is the direction foursquare is going– they know when I share, so they know that I’m valuable.

But there’s another side to this too. Right now, my mobile phone company knows how much I spend, so it knows how to treat me. If I’m only spending $30/month, it knows I’m of little value– in other words, everytime I call, I’m telling them “Ignoring me will cause you little to no dip in profitability.”

They know this because they know me. Is this what Google means, too?

What if everyone knew that I would make very little difference to their bottom line? If I choose not to share, or don’t know how to, I become less significant. There is a real cost to opting out of the system, and that cost becomes greater as everyone else gets more known, especially through the kind of passive sharing Google takes part in. This will get more intense as they get more of your data– GPS info through the Nexus One, never mind what we’re curious about on an everyday basis, etc.

Every piece of information a company gains about us is also a way to segment us– valuable vs. not-valuable. That’s why invisible means impotent. And by definition, most people will be non-valuable, just like people with less influence can’t get into cool parties.

“Do you know who I am???”

“Actually no, I don’t.”


How do you feel about this? I mean, it’s kind of inevitable, so does it even matter how we feel? Should we just accept that in some places, what we think doesn’t matter?





10 responses to “You Will Not Always Matter”

  1. Andy Avatar

    Have you seen Gattaca, where the normal people only get to be cleaners?

    1. Julien Avatar

      @Andy — actually I have, but I don’t remember that at all. Should probably watch it again. 🙂

  2. Andy Avatar

    The point you’re making is an interesting one, but you would have to be Google, Facebook or Twitter (at this moment in time, eventually Foursquare, possibly) to know whether I’m important enough to treat well.

    Btw, who is your phone company? You’re getting a great deal 😉

  3. Clinton Avatar

    But if you opt out of the system, could you not also be a wild card?

    Also, as each person gains influence, does everyone actually become less influential?

  4. Elesha Gabriell Avatar

    I do agree with you Julien. You will not always matter. I encounter students and faculty with their primary concern of the security of their data. A large vocal group of the community misses out on the free flow of information because they choose to believe that they will be targeted for some conspiracy theory of a project that will make their worst fears come true. They choose to believe that “they will always matter” and that every piece of avertising is someone or thing out to get them.
    Personally, I think that we actually miss out on spotting our own mistakes and success because we do not keep a record, or choose not to micromanage ourselves so that we can really see things as they are.
    ….In over my head..probably

  5. Serge Lachapelle Avatar

    Bah…I believe that this one lost, ten found theory is doomed in the long run…its more likely one lost, one hundred more lost with Twitter…

    Who knows who’s connected and not. That coffee shop has no idea who’s a yelper or not and that’s the real power of the collective…(yes, resistance is futile…)

    I thing we are entering a period where power will be with the people…at least for a while…until they figure it out again…

    It will be interesting to see who figures it out first…Hopefully I will and then I will become very rich and rule the world….

  6. Chris Avatar

    I was gonna say what Clinton said – perhaps the tables will reverse.

  7. Elesha Gabriell Avatar

    Influence is Dynamic. The shifting of it moves like the weather.
    I think that the Art of Creating The Optimal Position of Influence or group of people that influence is what will always matter.

  8. Dave Doolin Avatar

    I’m with Serge, we have some power until “they” figure out how to put the information back in it’s cage.

    Better move fast, Serge, you aren’t only one with delusions of grandeur. Why, once I’m King…

  9. Kev Avatar

    Actually, this reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about and meaning to ask for a while now. You don’t ever seem to question the role of technology, or the all-pervasive presence of the internet. Maybe I just haven’t gotten there yet, or I’m trying to read into something that isn’t there, but it seems to me that: All of the hype and buzz surrounding social media networking overshadows real questions about what the internet is, exactly. I go through spurts reading Trust Agents, usually when feeling optimistic and interested in the internet’s potential. But I inevitably find myself wondering whether I am the only one who senses something sinister lurking behind all this connectivity. Maybe I read too many books by Herbert Marcuse (“One Dimensional Man” was really good). Or maybe I watched too many movies. Probably both. But still, you know what I mean? Of course you do. But is it worth talking about?

    By the way. I miss your podcast. Media Hacks is good, and different. Been listening a long time. Kind of amazing. From Kingston to Seoul to Ottawa to Montreal. The random thoughts and music where always reassuring somehow, walking around in Korea in a different universe. Anyway, keep up the good work.

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