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In the west (and particularly in Europe) we tend to settle for the less-than-inspiring experience: the experience with the product that we cannot configure and use;

the experience with the train service that sells us the long distance ticket on the sardine-packed train with no seat;

and the experience with the institution that takes no extra step to realize the goal in such a way as would benefit everyone: the applicant, the civil servant who's getting paid to perform the job, and the group of people who are benefiting from the existence of that very institution.


Each of us have, I believe, had a truly great service experience at some point: one where we walked away energized and optimistic, with renewed faith in humanity's strange but nonetheless remarkable ability to excel. In my own life, I can speak of a few examples of exceptional service (Thai Airways) where everything from check-in to layover to final destination ran like comfortable clockwork.

Same goes for the product that "just works" (I found that many Sony products fit this) - we want to go out and buy the whole catalogue. And as far as institutions go, both Estonian Migration and Health administrations proove - hands down - that you don't actually need a huge budget to run a successful, relatively non-abusive "in-the-black" public organisation (Estonian corporate Tax: 0%; Individual tax 20%, population 1.34 million). Nor do the consumers of these institutions need to deal with demeaning sniping, general incompetence, abuse of power, and intellectual violence which unfortunately so typifies nearly all other western European bureaucracies). It's a more-than-reasonable institutional experience that doesn't cost much! It rather seems like the cooperative spirit between the client and the civil servant is built-in from the start of the relationship.

In short, the positive experience teaches us that the great product/service/institutional experiences are well within the range of the possible.

Of course, those of us who have had terrible experiences (product, service, or institutional) know well the anger, depression, loss of motivation and energy that these experiences can lead to. We complain to our friends and family (Note: the people in our lives who deserve that grief the LEAST), and it changes absolutely nothing. My point? Such substandard treatment is not only unacceptable, it is dangerous for human endeavor (ALL of us are consumers).

Not to mention unnecessary.

Too often we are told by employees of those who provide substandard goods and service experiences (particularly monopolies or state institutions in Europe) that "that's all we can do" or "I can do no more for you". And we must be resigned - forced to accept this at face value. This wouldn't be so bad if, regulatorily at least, there weren't an element of personal disempowerment built into the arrangement as well.

Fortunately for us, we really don't have to go there.

In a P2P network, we always have potential to access to the best that this network in question has to offer. If one company's monopoly on a particular type of service and lack of accountability for poor performance leaves us in a bad spot, if we wanted to, we could a.) Petition the company or the consumer organisations with meaningful numbers to force the quality of service to improve (or else a better solution will be sought) b.)force the institution into obsolescence, or best yet, c.) create a new framework that disrupts the current model and leaves it obsolete. All with the strength of numbers that the P2P network provides.

When we move to a new country and get established, isn't it as much our network of sympathetic friends and coworkers, who helps us get set up and established - (as opposed the disjointed band of utilities, public organisations, product retailers with whom we must deal)?

P2P, if I may conjecture, is all about empowerment. It is about having (and sharing with all) access to the best that the public and private sector have to offer, and about demanding change, in representative numbers, from those organisations that fail to deliver what is needed - the great, and failing that, superior consumer experience.

If you want it that way, and are willing to do what it takes, of course.

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Comment by John Hammink on May 20, 2008 at 10:35
Michel - You had mentioned why not putting this on the regular P2P foundation blog. I tried to do this but did not have the login, etc. credentials. Please let me know. Thanks!

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