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Product idea: Constance the Connector.

It’s been a few weeks since I started talking about Constance, and since then I’ve come up with a completely different way of thinking about operating systems. There are three players who could profit from my thinking — Apple, Google and Amazon — and I would be more than happy to share my thoughts to the first one of those three who salutes.

Meanwhile, I give you Constance, which is in some ways the logical counterpart to Heidi, the self-maintaining CRM system I started talking about last August. Constance the Connector is a server-based service that maintains your handle — a topic we have discussed before.

So: Here are ways you can know of me:

  • By name
  • By street address
  • By phone number
  • By email address
  • By Twitter handle
  • By social media profile
  • etc.

For now, if you want to address me by one of those means, you have to know the specific proper noun to be used — my actual name or my current email address. You are responsible for maintaining that information, and everyone who wants to make contact with me must do the same redundant and error-prone maintenance.

A Heidi-like CRM can do some of the maintenance by means of assiduous, arduous data-base mining. But if I don’t make my new street address public somewhere, your of-course-I-haven’t-forgotten-about-you greeting card is going to bounce.

There’s more: The way things work now, I have no control over who addresses me or how. I’m not just bitching about spam. I want cold-calling salespeople to go straight to voicemail — and when I have determined that I don’t want to hear from a particular caller again, I want never to hear from that person ever again.

So think of me this way, instead: @gswann. That’s my handle: @gswann. Sending em an email? Send it to @gswann. Want to try to get me on the phone? Dial @gswann. Snailmail? Send it to @gswann, you dinosaur. Want to pull my LinkedIn profile? It’s @gswann.

That much is just the handle idea — but with a twist. What we’re doing with the handle @gswann is sending a request to the Constance server for the current mission-critical contact information associated with the @gswann handle.

So I can change my email address three times a week and never miss a missive. When you’re addressing that mailing label, Constance can look into my calendar and note that I will be in Las Vegas for the rest of the week. Your package will go to where I really am, not to where I am usually to be found.

There’s more: The Google+ idea of circles is beyond useful: If you’re in my circle of friends and family, my street address is my home. If you’re a client or a vendor, your mail will go to my office. If you’re not in my CRM data-base, your first phone call to me is going to go straight to voicemail — and Heidi is going to start digging for information about you, pulling your Constance profile among other things. If you’ve hit my spam circle, you’ll never get anything but a busy signal from me.

That’s empowerment: Until now, any sort of message has been in some respects a weapon: The sender has all the control, and the recipient is very possibly an unwilling victim. Constance gives the sender very high quality contact information, but it gives the recipient complete control about how to react to an incoming message. If I want to hear from you, the path is fully cleared. But if I don’t want to hear from you — not now or not ever — I get to decide how to use my time and resources.

I’m not done. The social media world has you leaving footprints all over the place. Constance should curate your social graph, so that hard-chargers like Brian Brady can subscribe to an RSS feed that includes your contributions to every site you visit. But Constance should also give you instant-autofill for each new user profile you are asked to fill out.

You are maintaining this, after all. Constance can do a lot of Heidi-like chores to make it easy for you to maintain your contact information, but it’s still up to you to keep your addresses up-to-date. But why should you ever have to do this more than once? The Constance API will not only auto-fill new profile requests, it will auto-maintain your existing profiles. Practically speaking, my Facebook or Tumblr profile should be @gswann. In other words, the apposite web site should send a Constance request when my profile information is queried. Even if it is maintaing a local copy of its particular data fields, it should revise its records with a Constance call whenever my profile is requested.

I can do more: Why not sub-handles, faux-handles, phandles? In other words, demi-anonymous identities you can use where you don’t want to reveal your full details. Where might that be? Games, dating sites, pornucopias, etc. Using a camouflage handle and a circle that is very limited in the information to be shared, you can exert that much more control over how people are able to contact you.

This is the software-as-a-service idea, the real payoff from cloud-based computing. Constance is a web site to you, the place you go to maintain your contact information and your circles of contacts. But Constance is an API to sites like Twitter or LinkedIn: An API call with @gswann as the parameter results in an XML payload of contact/profile information. The receiving site does what it wants with the data it understands and ditches the rest. And Constance is also a limited-context API for your existing software clients. A request from your email client yields my email address, but your Twitter client would get my DM handle instead. Typing @gswann into your phone would call me, but the call would be handled according to which of my circles, if any, you are to be found in.

We are organizing every bit of information you might want to share with other people, with web sites and with software clients, and then we are delivering it, upon request, according to the controls you have put in place. The amount of information you might share is potentially infinite, but each data request yields only the mission-critical data that you have elected to make available to that recipient.

Though my names might be legion, you need only remember @gswann. Whatever you send, however you send it, Constance the Connector will get it to me in the way I want it.

 
Our story so far: Lately, I have been tap-dancing around an idea for a new kind of computer-user operating paradigm. I haven’t explicated the central thesis yet, but it should be easy enough to infer from the essays I’ve written so far:

Related posts:
  • Google discovers what computing is actually for: “In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”
  • Q: Your smartphone has just been stolen. What should happen next? A: Your phone should get the cops on the horn and lead them to the thief.
  • Product (category) idea: Antoinette the anticipator.

  • 6 comments

    6 Comments so far

    1. [...] BLOODHOUNDBLOG UNCHAINED There’s always something to howl about « Product idea: Constance the Connector. [...]

    2. [...] respects, both, and if all of those devices are reporting their mission-critical data back to a universal user-profile, like Constance the Connector, then any sonar-equipped device could determine and report with pinpoint accuracy precisely where it [...]

    3. Al Lorenz February 1st, 2012 12:44 pm

      Greg, Constance is elegant. Something like this will happen.

    4. Greg Swann February 1st, 2012 1:08 pm

      > Greg, Constance is elegant. Something like this will happen.

      Hope so. Hide and watch. I have a further elaboration on this idea to come: Sarah and Constance working together can manage a huge amount of your daily scutwork with next-to-zero oversight on your part.

      From to the multiplexing idea I post about Sunday, here’s a product idea: A wi-fi dongle for audio equipment. The user-interface is an iPhone/iPad/Android app. It makes your local music library and the entire on-line sonic world available to the dongle, which in its turn pumps out audio to the auxiliary jack on the connected stereo or boom-box. Now your entire inventory of legacy audio hardware is net.enabled, and, unlike web radios, you don’t have to navigate a stone-useless device-specific, hardware-based user-interface. This is a stand-alone product, ready to roll today; it requires none of the other stuff I’m talking about. I like $14.99 as the price-point at retail.

    5. [...] could be a whole lot smarter than present-day cell-phone vendors seem to be. A lot of the Constance the Connector ideas would be best implemented on a truly smart phone system — one that pre-manages your [...]

    6. [...] a thumb but eager to please. This is not to say that software like Sarah, or Heidi or Antoinette or Constance cannot have built in “expertise” — pre-programmed canned responses. It’s [...]