Respecting your customers

Catching up on non-ITxpo related topics this morning, two things caught my eye. First, my delayed reaction to the announcement that the New York Times will be putting some of its content, notably op-ed columns, behind a for-pay wall starting in September. This is of course brilliant because the Times’s editorial opposite number, the Wall Street Journal, has its constellation of right wing editorial columnists available for free. So now there will be even less of an opposing voice online. What’s most depressing as a user and reader of the Times is that this move comes after a history of reader-and-blogger-friendly decisions, including RSS support. So long, NYT, we’ll miss you. Is there an editorial forum out there that wants to stay on the record, and stay in the conversation? (For straight news, the BBC is looking better all the time.)

Second, the announcement from Microsoft about their new ID infrastructure, InfoCard. On the surface, the announcement sounds a lot like Apple’s Keychain; a local system solution to hold identity information such as login names, passports, and certificates. The difference is that InfoCard, like its failed Passport predecessor, can also hold credit card information. The shift in Microsoft’s identity management strategy, from central control to user application, represents a clear victory for Microsoft’s customers, and may be a pretty good indication that Microsoft is doing a better job of listening than it was four years ago. (More information about InfoCard, including a description of the user experience and some underlying technology notes, courtesy Johannes Ernst.)

Connection? Your customers will be the people who tell you whether your new business plans will succeed or fail. Learning to listen to them is an essential skill that must be mastered if you are to compete.

—Which gets me nice and warmed up for the final session I’ll attend at ITxpo, Are Your Customers and Users Revolting?, where three Gartner analysts will discuss customer collaboration and communication technologies and the implications for enterprises. I’m going to see if I can arrange some sort of connectivity in the room so I can blog the session, but otherwise I’ll take notes and post later.