This domain has been in existence since 2002. It was registered for the purpose outlined in the blurb below. Two domains were registered at the time; VeryTrue.com, for the purposes outlined here, and VeryTrue.org which was intended to eventually be passed on to a third-party non-profit entity whose purpose would be to keep VeryTrue.com as a business enterprise honest, and to create open-source systems necessary to support and verify the trust system.
VeryTrue.com is intended to be a news site that deals in:
Important Stuff, old or new.
Real news that is important enough to pass on to your friends.
About this document
This document is simply descriptive, but we hope you can get the gist of the ideas involved:
We do not presume we know more about any of this than you do; we are just placing what we are saying in context.
The core thing we have to offer is trust. We see our role (the role of VeryTrue.org) as a trusted intermediary -- an agent -- that acts on behalf of clients.
The role we want to occupy is one of fiduciary responsibility on behalf of the consumer. Therefore, we have to respect privacy to the point of making it impossible even for us to breach confidentiality. We cannot manipulate our clients to their detriment. At all times, the client has to own their data, their time, and their attention.
Although the intention is to 'deliver eyeballs' to advertisers, our primary directive is to act in the interests of our readers. If it is genuinely likely they would be interested in buying a given thing and the supplier is definitely at least as good as any other, then we put the parties together by presenting an advertisement and easy methods of contact that retain privacy to the extent desired by both parties.
The News Site
What we would like to do is create a 'news' site that:
- Unequivocally adheres to the highest ethical standards.
- To amplify the above: our goal is to gain and retain TRUST
- Has a "most important" editorial policy (see below).
- Is a genuinely reliable source of information.
- Is clean, plain, displayable for print, and displayable on all devices.
Editorial Policy -- It must be important
The 'most important' editorial policy would have to be 'titrated', but the idea is to take all known facts, including the ones that came in today, and essentially pick the top stories. What is important to the reader will vary somewhat from one to the next. As we get to know them, there will be a bias toward presenting things that act in the interest of the reader.
Traditionally, media have come to the table breathless with excitement about whatever they think will put the most bums in seats, eyeballs on screens, and within the most lucrative demographic(s). The goal is to make money, even if that involves pointless and degrading (to all involved) sideshows like 'managed reality' shows.
It has become common practice, for instance, for network news programs to spend a considerable portion of airtime reminding viewers of some dreadfully important thing that they can't quite get to as the show goes along. They deliberately cheat you of your precious time and attention so that they can deliver that ill-gotten time to their real customers -- the advertisers.
Our goal is to create a site that does the opposite to some extent. If WAR has been declared in your back yard and you are in imminent danger, then that warrants larger type and prominent placement. That should make the news feed that ends up in your inbox. If it is a slow news day, our hope is to present something low-key that is important in the grand scheme of things, but can be safely ignored today. That should NOT make it into your inbox. Many days don't have much news. We ourselves would appreciate it if we could rely upon such a site to not waste our time with things that are not of immediate importance to us and to make our time profitable by presenting either truly amusing things or stuff that will genuinely inform us of something important. With apologies to Ms. Hilton, that would NOT include rehashes like "Paris Hilton Goes to the spa again today, same as we told you yesterday".
Truth is relative. The fact that an important thing is six standard deviations out, and that there is data to support that, might reveal an important truth to someone who has the background to understand it. It would not likely be meaningful for someone without the appropriate background. As time goes on and we know more about the readers (blinded so we do NOT know their identity), we can present things in a way that is meaningful to them. When Avraham Trahtman solved the "Road Coloring Problem", it was very interesting news related to work done by our company. We were glad it came to our attention. Most people would not care. They don't know what the conjecture was, don't care to know what it was and if the knowledge were forced upon them, they would not care about the resolution of the problem.
Push vs. Pull vs. Placement
In the past, media was broadcast. Over the last few years, narrowcasting has become increasingly more narrow and specific. However, what is most important is that the 'push' aspect of 'casting' is being replaced by 'pull' media.
We would like VeryTrue.com to be a sort of 'placement' media -- Neither push nor pull. It is there if you want it and we have taken care to only bring to your attention that which we feel will have a net benefit to you, not us. As time goes on and we have the resources, we would like to bring into the system a 'pertinent fact' library that allows people to research a topic and have confidence that either the information is reliable or we at least assign a 'reliability rating' for the item in question.
To make the best of things, we need human beings in the aggregate (a social network) to help us to verify facts and assign some notion of how correct they are. We propose a 'trust metric' that we create that balances information's verity with the impact of that verity. If an article alleges that a meteor is about to destroy Australia, we would like to be very certain of that before publishing. With apologies to Ms. Kardashian, if an article alleges that Kim Kardashian used to prefer green but now prefers pink, we would still like it to have some probability of verity (and importance), but it should not be held to the same standard.
Through a system of trust that is verified using PKI, we could have a very large number of people act as 'primary' sources on the scene. We would not have to know the actual identity of the person or entity. We would only have to know the extent to which we trust the key that signed the report. Experts in programming, for instance, could validate that some other person was an expert in programming without ever having any knowledge of that person's identity. Should enough professors of Mathematics sign a given person's key as being qualified to pronounce on Algebra, then a report coming in on that key or a report that came in from elsewhere that the key holder signed would gain that level of 'verity'.
Rapid Verification for Breaking News
Over time, as readers from all walks of life had signed keys that allowed them to comment reliably on an article's verity, articles could rapidly be validated or debunked. In fact, we could ultimately form queues of 'pending' articles that could be promoted by those qualified to render an opinion as to both its verity and to its importance and/or relevance.
In terms of breaking news, no other news organization would have any hope of competing unless they did the same thing as us. You should not hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Say, for instance, a section of an important building collapses. An advocate for traditional news media uses the camera in his phone to send to the home office. Similarly, the VeryTrue participant sends the same thing to us from his phone at the exact same time. Who runs the story first and who is to be trusted that the story is accurate? This is the best-case scenario for traditional media because they have video and can get some idea of whether it has been faked or not. However, a persistent troublemaker can (and eventually will) pester the traditional media outlet with false reports. We have a trust metric for the story that came into our system. Either we trust the sources enough to publish or we do not. There is no way for someone to 'game the system'. A media competitor cannot responsibly publish until they do some kind of verification. Neither can we, but for us, the source carries its own verification. We can always publish faster than they can and we can always be more reliable.
Why would people come to the site?
These things would bring people to the site:
- Information they find important to know
- Trust in the entire system
- Expedited shopping
Fame with Anonymity
With respect to Fame: Plenty of people would love to be well known and have a voice that is heard, but not all are willing to pay the price that fame brings with it. Others are willing to risk their privacy by becoming known as themselves. Because the site would have genuine credibility, someone would be likely pleased (we would) to have a story published there. If the site became very popular, the holder of a given key (known or unknown) would truly be famous.
With respect to 'Expedited Shopping': People do buy things, you know. That is what money is for (duh). When someone wants something, he or she would normally like to have it at the time the decision is made to purchase that thing. In the case of a name brand that they had in mind, which is sitting right in front of them on a store shelf, it's a no-brainer. That's a sale in the bag. In the case of something like "a good camera for me", they have to do research to determine what that is. They then have to shop around to find a vendor they trust and a price that is reasonable. That takes time. If they trust us to only allow trustworthy vendors with reasonable prices/value and we have (like Amazon, etc) a rating system that (unlike Amazon, etc.) cannot be 'gamed', they can go straight to buying the item. Unlike many other sites, we have access to information sufficient to make a purchase (we already have a way to bill them and ship to them). Unlike other sites, we don't up-sell high-margin junk while they are checking out. They click a button to buy, click another to confirm and it's on its way. If we think they might possibly actually "want fries with that", we can display it nearby, and if they like, they can check a box to add that as well. We won't go into how we get it there, but we have something else on the go that could deliver many things within literally minutes of the order being placed.
Indemnity for Buyers
With respect to indemnity: With sufficient information on the customer, the vendor, the product, and other pertinent details we can offer indemnity for various aspects of the product at a price that is below the cost of a general indemnity with respect to a given purchase. This could cover compensation for things that are DOA, extended warranties, etc. Many people would like an extended or enhanced warranty on some things, but they are all typically high-margin-up-sell-rip-offs. People with half a brain don't trust them. Many would probably welcome the chance to indemnify various things if they had a realistic option.
Why would advertisers come to the site?
These things would bring advertisers to the site:
- Information they find important to know and use
- Trust in the entire system
- Brand enhancement
- Expedited sales
With respect to Brand Enhancement: Just being accepted as an advertiser on our system says something good about you. It is an implicit endorsement. Say, for instance, that you are an automobile manufacturer and we continue to advertise your cars. It means there were not enough lemons to make indemnity infeasible. You are likely to get a good car from someone who is accepted as an advertiser on our system. If you don't, we will make it right. As long as you remain an advertiser in good standing, you bask in the glow of reflected trust from not just us, but the entire community we serve.
With respect to Expedited Sales: Sales are easy and fast for the consumer and the consumer has trust in you already. You have not pushed an unwanted product onto someone; you have supplied something to people at the time at which they wanted it. You spend no time checking the customer to see if they will pay or are eligible to buy your product and indemnity leaves you with nothing to decide beyond advertising your product. The nature of such a system is that (again, with indemnity) you can be paid the moment your product leaves your door. A sale for which you are not paid is not really a sale. These sales become 'real' as soon as you fulfill your end of the deal by shipping.
Indemnity for Sellers
With respect to Indemnity: As mentioned above, it can expedite cash flow. It also removes any burden on your part to verify the customer can/will pay. For little companies, this takes risk and discomfort out of the equation. For big companies, it can eliminate an entire cost center. Depending on the product, it can cost as much as $200.00 or more to verify an individual prior to a sale. We are in a better position than you are to indemnify this process, so it is cheaper. The difference goes right through to YOUR bottom line.
It is Doable
Finally, we expect you have some idea that this stuff is technically doable. We are certain that it is and we have been professionally involved in digital security since before the world wide web existed.
If you got here, thank you very much for your time. If you are a media professional, we are hoping that whatever project you are currently involved in dovetails into this. It's a long shot, but it would be nice. Failing that, we hope that this has piqued your interest enough to discuss a little further, and even if you do not want to involve yourself, it would be helpful for us to gain your advice.
Trust is the Ultimate Commodity
Right now, the entire planet is vying for attention. Trust is rapidly becoming the ultimate commodity and it is in very short supply. There is nothing at all illegitimate in creating a trust level and then leveraging that trust (with complete transparency) to earn money based on things that involve trust. What involves trust? Well, just about everything. In a way, currency conversions, credit card surcharges, costs for bank drafts, etc all involve a 'trust tax'. Due to rapidly increasing rates of fraud, the 'trust tax' is going up. If we could cut the tax in half from 4% to 2% and indemnification and administration only cost 1% (that's a lot for a computer-mediated transaction, you know) we could take 1% with a completely clear conscience. Competitors would have no chance of competing because our 1% is essentially less than their cost of fraud, waste, sunk overhead, etc.
Major Competition is Weak
One of the beauties of the current environment is that every major player in nearly every major industry that is easy to move into (media, telecom, banking, insurance, commodity products, fashion, health care, education) has fatally exposed flanks. All of those industries have sunk costs in depreciating assets. All of them are deregulated or about to become 'De facto' deregulated. All of them rely fundamentally on trust and all of them have flagrantly breached that trust in very public ways. All of them rely upon non-commodity 'branded' margins in an economy that is becoming completely commodity-based. Their operations are predicated on margins that they cannot maintain. Many of them could be completely displaced in a matter of months. All of them are vulnerable to competition that could be fatal within less than five years.
Changing Environment Makes it Difficult to Cheat
Once upon a time, the bad guys could hide under rocks, use misdirection, set up patsies, etc. Why, one well-known media mogul stole huge sums of money not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES. It was taking a dip stealing a relatively small amount that landed him in jail. The days when robber barons can do a simple swindle for huge sums of money are ending. Unfortunately, most of the established players don't know another way. Every time they are caught, they simply look for a new swindle. The Internet is changing things so that the swindles are revealed before they are even set in motion.
We would love your help
We would be delighted if you were receptive to helping somehow. That could take the form of modest encouragement, a little advice or it could take the form of agreeing in principle perhaps to lend your name later as a board member, spiritual adviser, or whatever role takes your fancy.
The company (Trantor) has many things on the go. We have held things close to the vest for so long that it is exhausting to contemplate having to build such a system alone. There is a wonderful opportunity to do something good in the world and profit mightily doing so.
Restore the Fourth Estate
This would be an amazing thing to do. You could help restore the 'Fourth Estate' to some semblance of respectability.
It can still be fun!
We are not, as this note might imply, humorless Gradgrinds. We do not see any conflict between being irreverent, cheeky, or downright crazy and having integrity, decency, and trustworthiness. As mentioned above, 'Truth' is a relative thing. We are more concerned with trust and verifiability than with any notion of absolute 'Truth'.
It can be Interesting
This is an interesting exercise. It calls for the invention of some sort of broad editorial regime that allows people from all types of interests and political points of view to be 'fairly' represented. That is, there will be a 'front page', but there will also be editorial content. Unlike other sources, though, our editorial slant would reflect many points of view and except for the founding principles (a charter, corporate by-laws, or whatever), we would have little control over where that went. We would have to create a policy that prevents 'tyranny' from developing either tyranny of a minority or the majority. That would require some sort of 'journalist manifesto' that defined what was proper and what was an improper influence. Trantor is competent to design and build a system to enforce such a policy. However, the company is not competent to design the rules in isolation.
Thanks for Your Time
Ok. It is done. You may breathe a sigh of relief. We would love to hear from you any time (even years out). Until then, we wish you all the best. You may not be Kim Kardashian, but you could still make the news!
Thank you for allowing us the imposition on your time. We hope it was at least amusing to hear the ideas.
[Modified from text at: http://verytrue.com/ July 18, 2013]
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