Saturday, July 26, 2008

Digital Identity and Profile / Update Aggregators

I have been considering the concepts of digital identity and the way it is used in current social networks.

The idea of a digital identity seems to mostly have been implemented as a profile with name, address, web links, some media and a friends or followers list at this point. It is a start. Better than nothing.

Some services are trying to move the dime off of having to create a unique profile for every additional social network you join. This is the next obvious step. It seems to me that it runs into the beautiful irony that now you have to join the correct digital identity aggregator to match your networks. If you don't, now you have a new layer of aggregators you have to join.

This issue will generate a grand but fruitless debate about standards. The folks that develop a standard will see it as a solution to bring peace and harmony to the world. Plenty of others will see it as giving up a proprietary advantage. (Here comes the data portability gang) 

I am always reminded of the X-Files episode where Muldar was granted three wishes. He wished for world peace. He got a world where he was the last human on the planet.

If you have two people you are going to have two opinions and two motivations and disagreements. This is not a bad thing. 

Diversity is a strength that we need to embrace, not control.

Take much of the effort and resources used to try to mold the digital identity world to a single standard and apply it to understanding the reality - even the virtual reality - of differences and how to accommodate that with the goals of social.

I have tried to think of instances where standards have worked. I figured this would help show the limits of standards.

The first, as a web user, is the Internet Protocols or the World Wide Web core level structures. But, of course, after thinking about these I quickly come to the admission that this is only one existing standard among many for electronic communication.

Finding standards that work seems to always include finding definitions to severely limit the environment in which standards are sued. The smaller the environment - the more closed the environment -  the better chance standards can exist or succeed.

What are your examples?

After more thought I am down to standards such as human beings need food of some sort, air to breathe and water.

I guess that a better list might actually lead to world peace and harmony. But that list seems beyond my ability. How about you?

What is it that gives us the hubris to believe that even though we can not all speak the same language on this planet, share the same beliefs or have the same cell phone backbone we somehow think we can set standards that will give us this online?

Is our vision of the online world so much smaller than the reality of the physical world?

I think the story of the Tower of Babel is a story not of punishment, but of freeing the creative human experience. That freeing leads to the ability to test learning and growth in many more ways. The benign despot may well be the most successful form of government every conceived, but it would have put Charles Darwin out of the theory business.

It is going to be fascinating to watch as we - all of we - continue to address these basic human issues down the road of this online journey.

No comments: