posts tagged with the keyword ‘identity’

2011.06.30

Lookalikes

  1. Nicolas Cage
  2. Mark Mallman
  3. Ray Romano
  4. Bre Pettis
  5. Some guy named “Eric”

At various points in my life I’ve either been told I look like one of the guys listed above, or I’ve been mistaken for one of the guys listed above.

Sometimes I took it as an insult, and sometimes I took it as a compliment.

The photo of Bre was taken by David Neff. The rest I totally nicked from the Internet.

2011.06.21

Contemplating the Vortex

I keep hearing about how Facebook and Twitter are changing the way things are done. From drafting a constitution to fixing Summerfest, these “new” sites are making new things possible… sort of.

But really, this is nothing new as far as the web is concerned. A typical web site from 2002 could easily have solicited feedback on how to improve things within a country, or a festival, or your own home town. In fact, some did, but there were some crucial elements missing, including critical mass, and reputation.

Critical mass in that there’s more people online now, being more engaged, thanks to sites like Twitter and Facebook. For the typical non-nerdy type, Facebook is the simple way to be online and connect with friends, and family, and brands. Twitter is pretty similar nowadays, though maybe slight nerdier, and even that is debatable now.

When I talk about reputation, I’m talking about the fact that with Twitter, and Facebook, you very often have a well formulated idea of who someone is. It’s typically built by looking at what the person has to say, and to who, and who has things to say to them. Their reputation. Their identity.

In the olden days (1997-200?) reputation was often tied to your blog, where you did your talking and where people talked back to you. (I’m sure similar things could be said of forums, etc. but I’m not convinced it’s the same thing.) I know there have been anonymous bloggers, but if I look back at the people who were blogging at the same time I started, I knew those people, and I trusted those people. I read their blogs daily, and they read mine, and we commented on each others posts, and we had conversations. It may have been a fixed point in time which created this situation, and perhaps it is an illusion… I don’t know for sure.

But the point is, I think what Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, and other sites have going for them nowadays is this element of trust and reputation they give to the users. These elements (should) allow a conversation to happen without the doubt that can often exist online, where you don’t know if a dog is a dog or a guy pretending to be a dog.

I’m still thinking through this whole idea… but would love some feedback on it.

2011.05.22

Multifaceted

Meet Melissa… Cupcake Lover, Runner, Cat Wrangler, Shoe Freak, Novelist.

Meet Mikey… Designer, Beer Drinker, Bicyclist, Avid Reader, Coffee Snob, Banjo Player.

These aren’t real people… Well, they probably are real people, because it seems more and more these days, you can’t be just one thing.

Years ago, I don’t think it was strange for people to describe themselves using just one title: Programmer. Accountant. Sales Associate. Event Planner. Truck Driver.

One thing just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now you can’t just tell people you’re an Engineer, you also have to let them know you’re in a band, or you collect Star Wars fan art, or grow your own green beans.

Is the Internet to blame for this? In some ways the web has allowed people with niche interests to find each other. Nerds of all kinds can find nerds with similar interests, and a place to proudly proclaim their nerdiness.

And of course you’ve got that Facebook profile or Twitter bio to fill out… and you can’t seem like some sort of weirdo who only does one thing. Are you just going to tell people you are a Writer, or will you get into your love of restoring old Vespas?

So I’m not quite sure if it’s a fear to proclaim that you are just one thing, or this finally admitting that we are multifaceted people with diverse interests.

Is part of it personal marketing? The belief that you need to sell yourself? Who wants a screwdriver when you can get a drill driver than can drill holes and put screws in things? Perhaps people think that if they have more skills they are more valuable. (Take “valuable” to mean “a better person” or “worth more money.”)

I suppose this all ties into identity in some way… Have you ever had a hard time answering the question “So what do you do?” when meeting a complete stranger in a social setting?

2010.08.31

Lanyard

Lanyrd has launched. It’s a social conference directory. You log in using your Twitter credentials. It sounds like a neat idea. Obviously I need to complain about it…

Lanyrd is for Twitter users, and no one else. Got a Twitter account? Click the gigantic “Sign in with twitter” button. Don’t have a Twitter account? Sorry, you can’t use it. I could not find any way to create an account, or even login using an OpenID. Twitter users only are invited to this party.

Now, I’ve been a fan of Simon Willison for many years. He’s a blogger/developer who has done a lot of interesting things. He’s even written a lot about OpenID over the years. I sort of feel like that’s all been thrown out the window with the launch of Lanyrd. Twitter is your only identity.

Now, to be fair to Simon, I have no idea what is planned for Lanyrd, and it may grow to support other identity options, or maybe it’s just another tool that was built for, and works specifically with Twitter. It does make sense, as it would use your Twitter network to make all the connections.

But part of me sees this fracturing of the web, and makes me a little depressed. If Lanyrd was a services I wanted to use and I was not a Twitter user, I’d feel excluded. It makes me feel like Twitter is my main identity online, and I guess that bothers me. I’ve been using things like usernames, and emails, and even URLs to log in to web sites for years, but now it’s just my Twitter account. Don’t have a Twitter account? You’re out of luck.

Again, I don’t mean to be hard on Lanyrd or single them out… I guess I just see sort of thing as another step in the centralized identity that you can’t really own, and I’m a fan of decentralizing things.

I guess the old method of making connections would be something like:

  1. Create account.
  2. Verify account.
  3. Provide your email address, or Gmail account info, or address book, or some other means of exposing your connections (including perhaps, your Twitter info.)
  4. Have the system attempt to make connections for you.
  5. Approve the connections you want to make.

Yes, that’s probably inefficient, and a lot more work, but sometimes freedom comes at a price. There must be some sort of middle ground between making a system elegant, simple, and easy to use, and providing choices. I just don’t know where that middle ground is.

FOAF probably isn’t the answer. XFN probably isn’t the answer. OpenID isn’t the answer in this case… Maybe giving up and accepting the giving away of your identity to a free service is the only option.

2010.08.26

OpenID

I often feel like most of the people I deal with don’t care much about their identity online and who controls it. Plenty of people are fine handing it over to Google, Apple, Microsoft or another large company instead of having some say in it themselves. I’m going to show you a simple method of gaining just a little bit of control back… it’s called delegation.

When I first signed up with an OpenID provider many years ago, I wasn’t exactly happy about giving my identity to someone else, but I didn’t want to run my own OpenID server. The solution is to delegate your identity.

Think of delegation like forwarding. You can forward your phone calls, or forward your email, and the people who contact you never need to know what your actual phone number or email address is… they just use what you give them. And if you change your actual phone number or email address, you don’t need to tell everyone about it, as they are using the one that does the forwarding, and that one still works. It’s like DNS… your domain name stays the same (hopefully!) while the IP address can change. Abstraction is a wonderful thing.

So how do we delegate our OpenID? Well… you’re gonna need a web site… Do you have one? Good! If not, go get one… go ahead, we’ll wait. Come back when you have one.

Got a web site? Good!

We’ll also assume you have an OpenID. You probably have one… If you have an account with Google, or Yahoo!, or LiveJournal, or Flickr, or any of these guys… then you have one.

OK, back to your web site (since you have one now!) You basically need to add a bit of code to the head of your home page.

For instance, if you wanted to use Google, it would look something like this:

<meta http-equiv="X-XRDS-Location" content="http://www.google.com/profiles/[USERNAME]" />
<link rel="openid2.provider" href="https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/ud?source=profiles" />
<link rel="openid2.local_id" href="http://www.google.com/profiles/[USERNAME]" />

Where [USERNAME] is your profile username. You can use the Delegateid tool to figure it out. (See their blog post for more info: Delegation Made Easy.)

If your provider supports the old version of OpenID you may have two more lines, which will say openid rather than openid2. Paste them all into place.

Now when you need to login somewhere that allows you to use OpenID, you can just enter your own URL. You don’t have to remember the URL of your Google profile, or your LiveJournal address, or any of that non-memorable stuff. Your URL is your identity.

In the future, as long as you still have your web site, you can use that as your OpenID. If you ever change your OpenID provider, it should just be a simple matter of updating the delegation code and the magic bits will do the right thing… much less painful than changing your actual phone number or email address and having to tell everyone. With delegation, you just update your own site, and let the machines sort it out from there.

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