The Door Whisperer

I'm playing around a bit more with our Journals mobile upload feature.  It not only lets you blog photos, but also short videos.  Here's my son learning how to command doors:

I've got it set up to drop the results into a draft blog first, then previewing and copying the results over to a public blog later.  It'd be nice to automate that step a bit more.  Sometimes you really don't want to liveblog your mobile life.


OpenID podcast (idcast.org)

John Mills just put up the podcast for the first idCast discussion from yesterday.  I really enjoyed talking with Jon, Gabe, Drummond, Scott, Mike, and Dmitry about OpenID.  I think the discussion around XFN, microformats, and OpenID is just getting started.  (And I apologize to everyone for my flaky mike or network or whatever the problem was -- Jon did a great job of cleaning things up.)

The value of open identity

This seems to be turning into OpenID Month, but Fred Stutzman just posted a great explanatory article about OpenID at dev.aol.com:  OpenID and the Value of Connected Identity.  It does an especially nice job going beyond the single-signon aspect and talking about the value of connecting all your the various relationship networks together, with you in control over how they're used.


Your blog is your OpenID

As of this morning's Journals update, you now have a couple of new choices to use for your OpenID:
- or -

When would you want to use one of these instead of http://openid.aol.com/screenname?  It depends on what you're doing.  If you're leaving a comment over on a LiveJournal, you may want to point back at your blog so they can come and comment on yours.  This lets you do that in a verified way.  If you have more than one blog, the first URL gives a synopsis of all your blogs, and you may want to hand that out instead.  These are for experimentation only at this point and may change, so please don't use one of these for a permanent identity quite yet.  They both delegate to http://openid.aol.com/screenname so all three are effectively transparent aliases of each other.  Which one you use is up to you.

Another subtle change:  When someone comments on your blog, their screen name now links to a search for their AOL Journals.  So when you click on their signature, you can get to their list of blogs if they have any.  This makes it slightly easier to go back and comment on their blog.

We're also experimenting with hCard support.  The signatures on entries are marked up so that hCard processors will pick up on the fact that they name a person that has a URL -- and that URL is an OpenID.  We don't do this for comments yet.  I think we'd want to give commenters control over how much information gets published about them.  Combining this with OpenID opens some very interesting possibilities.  People who opt in would be able to verifiably link their comments across OpenID-enabled sites, automatically track responses to their comments, or find other people who write similar comments.  And a lot more things I haven't thought of.


Digg += OpenID!

I'm about to run out the door, but just had to blog (flog?) this:  Digg will support OpenID!  This is obviously huge, and particularly cool for us considering the features we're about to put into production for AOL Journals tonight.

(There are so many OpenID announcements that I feel the need for shorthand.  Thus, "X += OpenID", plus ! for a particularly good move.)


AOL and 63 Million OpenIDs (from dev.aol.com)

I'm following up on the OpenID discussion over at dev.aol.com/blog:
Yesterday, I blogged about AOL's work-in-progress on OpenID. It generated a lot of positive commentary.I realized after reading the reactions that I buried the lead: Thereare now 63 million AOL/AIM OpenIDs. Anyone can get one by signing upfor a free AIM account. This is cool.
(full article)

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AOL and OpenID: Where we are

It's not really a secret that AOL has been experimenting with OpenID.  As I've said, I think that user-centric, interoperable identity is hugely important to enable the social experiences we're trying to provide.  This is a work in progress, but things are coming along thanks to our authentication team's diligent effort.  Here's where we are today:
  • Every AOL/AIM user now has at least one OpenID URI, http://openid.aol.com/<sn>.
  • This experimental OpenID 1.1 Provider service is available now and we are conducting compatibility tests.
  • We're working with OpenID relying parties to resolve compatibility issues.
  • Our blogging platform has enabled basic OpenID 1.1 in beta, so every beta blog URI is also a basic OpenID identifier.  (No Yadis yet.)
  • We don't yet accept OpenID identities within our products as a relying party, but we're actively working on it.  That roll-out is likely to be gradual.
  • We are tracking the OpenID 2.0 standardization effort and plan to support it after it becomes final.
Update:  Thanks for all the responses; I've posted a followup over on dev.aol.com.


How many different identities can one person sanely manage?

...asks John Udell, in Critical mass and social network fatigue.  I'd argue that the answer is about one and a half, in the long run.  (The Shockwave Rider pushed it a lot further, but then he was founding cyberpunk.  Also, he was fictional.)

When "identity" was just basically a system-local nickname used between you and a service, having multiple names for yourself was a minor inconvenience at worst, and sometimes mildly useful for privacy.  Now that the services are more and more intermediaries between people, nicknames are a problem.  Jon notes:
Years ago at BYTE Magazine my friend Ben Smith, who was a Unixgreybeard even then (now he’s a Unix whitebeard), made a memorablecomment that’s always stuck with me. We were in the midst of evaluatinga batch of LAN email products. “One of these days,” Ben said in, Ithink, 1991, “everyone’s going to look up from their little islands ofLAN email and see this giant mothership hovering overhead called theInternet.”
Yep.  Email is still the killer app of the Internet, and it wouldn't be if it were still stuck in LAN mail silos.  Though spam is now so bad that I literally can't send email to a few people who can't manage their spam filters.  That's a real issue and represents a real opportunity as well.

While OpenID isn't a total solution for these issues, it's a critical piece of infrastructure.  As an example of the kinds of things it enables, take a look at Jyte.


Jangl, community, Internets

I'm hanging out at the Community Next conference at Stanford this afternoon.  A couple of quick takes:

Jangl provides control over who can call you; put a widget on your web page and people can call you but not get your real phone number.  And Jangl lets you control who actually gets through.  Really a feature that the cell phone companies should provide but don't -- so if Jangl is successful, will the telecoms just copy it?

Also, from skinnyCorp:
Image from AOL Pictures

(Don't you just ask people to roll coins through the tubes?)

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OpenID + CardSpace = Ubiquity

It's great to see Bill  Gates announce that CardSpace will integrate with OpenID.  Convergence, and momentum, is building.

It's also great to see people like Kevin blogging about OpenID and AOL (OpenID: Should AOL Care?) (Yes.)


The Essential Hardness of Programming

Software engineering's preoccupation is the arrangement of bits, as opposed to atoms. One of the properties of bit arrangements is that their marginalmanufacturing cost is zero; once you have an arrangement of bits, youcan make as many exact copies of that arrangement as necessary,whenever and wherever they're needed.  By contrast, an arrangement ofatoms such as a bridge has a large marginal manufacturing cost, even ifyou just want an exact copy.  Further, there are few physical limits tobits, while there are sharp physical limits to atoms.  The only reallimit to bit arrangement is the human brain, and economics (how badlypeople want bits arranged in particular ways). 

These are the fundamental reasons why nearly every software engineering project is attempting new design, and is thus hard. This is because, in the world of software, design equals bitarrangements and copying a prior bit arrangement has zero cost. Finding an appropriate bit arrangement used to have substantial cost,but that cost is falling towards zero too.  So for a given project, youcan assume that competent software engineers have mostly found andcopied the relevant patterns of bits where possible, and the remainingwork is design

Think about what the statement above means.  This isn't like a civilengineer dealing with slightly differing terrain or traffic loads whenadapting an existing design for a new bridge; it's more like a civilengineer being asked to build a bridge out of Jello on Pluto.  And thenext time, to build atop a moving lava flow on Mercury.  In otherwords, with the easy, mechanical adaptations being taken care of bythose ubiquitous bit patterns, the problems that are left for people towork out are the hard, surprising, novel ones.  Usually with nonlinearAnd in software, design really is everything; once you've taken designto a detailed enough level that the implementation is mechanical... welet the machines do it.

Which is why I winced when I read Scott Rosenberg's interview in Salon. He gets it exactly right when he notes that there's always somethingnew in every software project, otherwise there'd be no point in doingit.  But he goes off the rails when he says, "...programmers areprogrammers because they like to code -- given a choicebetween learning someone else's code and just sitting down and writingtheir own, they will always do the latter."  Jonathan Rentzsch hasalready skeweredthis statement better than I could.  It is of course true that thereare some people who just aren't good at finding prior solutions, or atunderstanding them once found, and they may contribute to unnecessaryre-creation of software, increasing both cost and risk to largerprojects.  But they're not the norm, and aren't a major cause of the"always something new" phenomenon.  The essence of software developmentis new design.

This is also why attempts to map manufacturing based activities tosoftware development are at best rough approximations and at worstdangerous distractions.  Software development is a knowledgeacquisition activity, not a manufacturing activity.