Don Marti

Wed 13 Jul 2005 06:21:31 AM PDT

Upside-down buyer's guide

Doc has been contemplating business, identity and vendor lock-in, and makes me think about an interesting experiment -- use links, tags, and a microformat to help people buy a "commodity" IT product, the 1U or 2U rack-mount Linux server.

First step would be to come up with a microformat for a "server RFQ". At the beginning of the experiment, these could be relatively loose -- just a bunch of "ol"s with "id"s such as "required-parts" "preferred-parts", "disliked-parts", "forbidden-parts", "required-features" and so on.

There would also be a section for "status", which would be time until buying decision, "deferred" "cancelled" or "ordered". If and when the idea got more popular, the RFQ could be more detailed, and sites and apps could offer server RFQ construction wizards. The nice thing about using a microformat is that (1) it's human-readable in a browser and (2) you can add free-form commentary on what you like or don't like in a server.

So you want to buy a server? Write your server RFQ, put it up with a rel="tag" link to a Technorati tags page for "server RFQs". and another tag link to a new, unique tags page just for that one, such as "".

Along come the vendors who want to sell you a box, and are naturally watching the "server RFQs" tag like hawks, I mean like some animal that doesn't want to eat you. Like Easter Bunnies? Vendor sales person checks your RFQ, makes a page for you with links to matching products and a rel=tag link to "". This is highly automatable, but careful, vendors -- don't spam. A future web-based product configurator should be able to crawl a server RFQ page and come up with a good quotation in response.

Now, you, the buyer, just watch the RSS feed for -- hey presto, it turns into your own personalized Server Buyers' Guide! When you buy the server, you change the "status" field on the RFP to "ordered", and add a link to the vendor you bought from. This is to (1) give the good vendors Google Juice and (2) let vendors know you're serious in the future so they'll pay attention to your RFQs.

There's nothing that says this scheme has to use just Technorati tags. You could always tag with links to vendors' own tag-tracking sites and to third-party services. The reason I mentioned Technorati is that it just has everything that the system needs to get started with no new coding.