The middleman won't go away

Via Findory's personalized page, I came across this, which led me to this, which then led me to this and this post by Matt Terenzio, speculating on the future disappearance of infomediaries:

"If I want to sell my bike, I expose a blog post with the classified ad or auction details and sit back and wait. No need to login to eBay, they’ll find it.

In the way that Blogging is making publishers out of everybody, RSS and Instant Messengers will make peer web services out of every possible item (pun intended) you can imagine."

The whole post is worth a read, but I'm pulling the snippet out as I respectfully disagree with his specific belief that 'infomediaries' will disappear and want to explain why I disagree.

I agree with Matt that the practice of login in and entering approximately the same information in multiple marketplaces is lame, for two reasons. One, the moment I log in and enter my data, my data has become the marketplace's data. That's lame. Two, doing this several times over to enter several marketplaces is not just lame, it's downright inefficient.

Edgeio is a good example of how this aspect of information distribution can become more efficient and convenient for the selling party, and how the data can remain the seller's data. As a seller, all you need to do in order that edgeio lists your product on its site is to post your listing content on a blog, or a site that outputs an RSS feed and include tags for that item.  If other marketplaces also decide to go down this route, the seller's item can be also listed by these marketplaces using exactly the same means. So for the seller, they can publish once, run anywhere and maintain control of their data. In this context, edgeio is acting as an infomediary leveraging the distributed power of RSS and giving control back to the user.  In this scenario, the act of the seller creating an feed RSS with an item to sell won't achieve a great deal unless something picks up the listing, and does something with it, like distribute it to potential buyers. So edgeio is acting as an infomediary.

What is meant by 'an infomediary'? This definition seems consistent with my understanding (and Matt's I assume?) of the word:

"An infomediary is an online resources that collates data from a variety of sources and acts as a middleman between those distributing the information and people who want the information."

To 'collate' and to 'distribute' are the two key verbs here.  I'm trying to think how Matt as a seller could make an item he wanted to sell discoverable to a large number of prospective buyers without these two verbs being invoked somewhere along the process.

Here's the scenario Matt provides to show us how we can rid ourselves from these two verbs, 'collating' and 'distributing':

"Imagine this scnario.

“Where is that RSS 2.0 spec?”

. . . searching . . . found 2376 copies, would you like one?

“Yes, and bring me the twenty highest ranked Blogs that link to the spec and see if any of the authors are available to speak with.”

I know some of you are saying, “Big deal, you are describing a peer to peer world which may or may not happen for a great number of reasons.”

I say it is a big deal. It’s a peer world much richer than file-sharing or chat. It’s a world where everything that wants to be available is available, to anyone, at any time, with NO INTERMEDIARIES!"

So here's my question Matt - in line 3: "...searching...found 2376 copies, would you like one?" - what is the thing doing when searching and returning results?

Regardless of whether search was executed against content that was either physically hosted at the originating servers, or on a true peer to peer network, or a pre-built index, and regardless of how the actual search of the content was happening,  the 'thing' doing the searching would collate the data it needed to present back to the user. If the user answered 'yes' to the question "would you like one?" , it would need to render a copy of the data on screen, or in other words distribute the data.

In own Matt's scenario, the defining verbs of the word 'Infomediary' still require to occur, regardless of the architectural characteristics of the search solution (the middleman). Just because the process of 'infomediation' might move to the client (in the P2P scenario), or become a free service (e.g. not taking commission on a sale) it doesn't mean that act of collation and distribution will disappear. The middleman won't go away, he'll just move.


Tags: web, tech, search, infomediary, tags, RSS, Attention