The Facebook Timeline in the New York Times

December 15, 2011 | Leave a comment

Facebook Timeline: lost a loved one?I’m quoted in the New York Times article about the global release of the Facebook Timeline:

“We’ve all been dropping status updates and photos into a void,” said Ben Werdmuller, the chief technology officer at Latakoo, a video service. “We knew we were sharing this much, of course, but it’s weird to realize they’ve been keeping this information and can serve it up for anyone to see.”

Mr. Werdmuller, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., said that the experience of browsing through his social history on Facebook was emotionally evocative – not unlike unearthing an old yearbook or shoebox filled with photographs and letters.

Regular readers will know that my opinion goes beyond it being “weird”. Here’s how I described it back in September:

Except now, when someone clicks through from anywhere on the web that uses Facebook Connect to see your profile, they’ll really see you: your life in context. It’s a contextual identity; something you won’t get from a real name, a passport, an ID card, or even a DNA profile. Whereas previously profiles were a collection of hand-picked pieces of information coupled with some things you’d shared recently, now you’ll see wedding photos, pictures of drunken nights on the town four years ago, and perhaps a status update you made when you were hurt and upset after something you’ve long forgotten that happened in 2006 – mixed up with more professional status updates and links, of course.

You can read my entire Facebook Timeline post over here, and here’s today’s New York Times article.

Identity: the contexts of the future

November 26, 2011 | Leave a comment

This TEDx talk by Kaliya is worth watching:

Identity, contact management and federated social networks

October 24, 2011 | Leave a comment

Last week, Doc Searls reflected that everything being worked on at the Internet Identity Workshop is meaningful to CRM:

It just occurred to me that everything being worked on at IIW is meaningful to CRM. I had been thinking that only the VRM stuff was meaningful, but I realize now that all the IIW stuff is, because — from a CRM perspective — it’s all about customer empowerment. And empowered customers are entities that CRM will welcome, sooner or later.

I think that’s true, but I also think we can go further than that. A huge part of identity on the web is controlling who can see what: think about the Google+ Project’s approach, where your identity consists of a series of data objects (posts, photos, status updates, etc), each having its own set of access controls. Controlling access to items requires that you have people to restrict access with. Therefore, contact and relationship management is integral to digital identity.

In turn, federated social networks are integral to both. For identity to be useful online, you need to be able to use it virtually anywhere. If identity is a series of items restricted to people based on your relationships with them, those relationships need to persist everywhere you use your identity. Hence, your relationships need to federate across identity-aware applications – and federated social software is the future of identity online.

Identity progressives and identity conservatives

October 18, 2011 | 1 comment

Chris Poole4chan‘s moot, aka Chris Poole, stood up at the Web 2.0 Summit yesterday and painted a more complex picture of identity:

“The portrait of identity online is often painted in black and white,” Poole said. “Who you are online is who you are offline.” [...] But human identity doesn’t work like that online or offline. We present ourselves differently in different contexts, and that’s key to our creativity and self-expression. “It’s not ‘who you share with,’ it’s ‘who you share as,’” Poole told us. “Identity is prismatic.”

I’m going to draw lines in the sand and call Chris an identity progressive, while Google and Facebook (officially, at least) are identity conservatives. The former supports an individual’s right to choose their identity – while the latter assumes that identity is imposed by a higher authority. (With Google allowing rich, famous people like Snoop Dogg to use their stage identities, while banning anyone else who tries to use an alternate name, it almost feels like a class issue.)

On this spectrum, Facebook’s contextual identity is extreme conservatism: not only is the description of who you (your name, location, place of work) mandated, but it’s also expected to include events throughout your entire life, largely unfiltered through the kinds of prisms that Chris spoke about. Twitter, on the other hand, is at the other end of the spectrum: you can be whomever you want to be, as long as you don’t infringe someone else’s rights by pretending to be them.

I bet this is being hotly discussed at the Internet Identity Workshop today. I wish I could be there, but look forward to reading reports from the floor.

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