Fuse: Connecting Your Car to the Rest of Your Life

I just backed my friend Phil Windley’s new Kickstarter project, Fuse. Everyone with a car should go back it now. Everyone who cares about data privacy should also go back it.

Every car has an on-board computer with tons of data: your mileage, your average speed, even your tire pressure. When you take your car into the shop, mechanics plug into this computer to access that data so that they can diagnose your car.

I’ve been wanting to access that data myself forever, and it’s not just because I’m a data geek. As someone who travels a lot for business, I track my mileage. Not only is it a royal pain to do manually, it just seems wrong, given that your car already has this data. But until recently, I had no ability to access it.

Fuse unlocks that data, and gives you access. It consists of a device that you plug into your car’s diagnostic outlet and a mobile app that gives you access to that data.

That alone should make you want this. But I’m going out of my way to blog about this project because of what Fuse does under the hood.

The problem with most of the emerging apps in this space is that they essentially trade convenience and coolness for ownership of your data. Most of us don’t pay attention to that. We’re too pre-occupied by the coolness. Some of us feel vaguely uneasy about the trade-off, but we do it anyway. Coolness is a powerful motivator.

Phil has been a leader in the digital identity space for a very long time. He literally wrote the book on it. He’s part of a community of folks who thinks that you — the individual — should own and control your data. Enabling this is a hard technical problem, but it’s an even knottier social problem.

Fuse is built on top of a trust and privacy framework that my friends, Drummond Reed and Andy Dale, have helped evolved. Fuse is cool, compelling, and socially responsible. These are the kinds of apps that will help create the kind of world that I want to live in.

If you’d like to read more about these nitty gritty aspects of Fuse, go check out Phil’s blog. If you’d like to read more about the bigger vision behind technology like this, start with Vendor Relationship Management (VRM).

Don’t forget to back the project!

Hate Has No Place in San Francisco

My face has been up on a San Francisco billboard on 10th and Howard for the past week. I knew the billboard was up, but I didn’t have a chance to see it until today, and I didn’t tell anyone that my face was on it. I wasn’t being modest, I was just busy, and I didn’t think to tell anyone about it.

Frankly, I didn’t really think that anyone would discover it on their own. Sure, a billboard is huge, and it got good placement, but I personally tune out billboards, and my picture was just one of many.

So I was delighted and amused when I started getting texts and emails from friends and colleagues this past week confirming that it was indeed me on that billboard. In theory, I should have expected this to happen, but the reality is that I’m so immersed in my own little, mostly digital world, it’s easy for me to forget the immense power and reach of good ol’ fashioned analog media.

Which brings me to the real story — the story of the billboard itself and the tool, called Louder, that enabled the billboard to happen.

A few months ago, my friend, Christie George, posted on Facebook about an anti-Muslim smear campaign where a certain individual with lots of money and very little sense was purchasing hateful ads on San Francisco city buses. Christie and her friends were organizing a counter campaign to purchase a prominent billboard stating, “Hate has no place in our city.”

The proposition was simple. If enough people gave a little bit of money, we could fight fire with fire by amplifying a message that truly represented the people of San Francisco. As a clever bonus, the billboard would include pictures of the donors. Almost 100 people donated, resulting in a successful campaign and the billboard that is up today.

This notion of crowdfunding advertising is brilliant, and it is made possible by a tool appropriately called Louder. Founded by Colin Mutchler and Christie, Louder is a community organizer’s dream tool, because it enables movements to level the media playing field. Just as Kickstarter is enabling anyone to invest in projects they care about, Louder enables anyone to amplify messages they care about. This goes well beyond Facebook likes or online petitions, resulting in broader reach and greater impact.

I am proud to have been a minor contributor to such a worthwhile campaign. I especially loved getting to experience this innovative way to make a difference.