Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

The problem with creation date metadata in PDF documents

Last night Rachel Maddow talked about an apparently fake NSA document "leaked" to her organization.  There's a lot of info there, I suggest you listen to the whole thing:

There's a lot to unpack there but it looks like somebody tried to fool MSNBC into running with a fake accusation based on faked NSA documents, apparently based on cloning the document the Intercept published back on 6/5/2017, which to all appearances was itself a real NSA document in PDF form.

I think the main thrust of this story is chilling and really important to get straight -- some person or persons unknown is sending forged PDFs to news organization(s), apparently trying to get them to run stories based on forged documents.  And I completely agree with Maddow that she was right to send up a "signal flare" to all the news organizations to look out for forgeries.  Really, really, really import…

Why I'm No Longer On The Facebook

I've had a Facebook account for a few years, largely because other people were on it and were organizing useful communities there.  I stuck with it (not using it for private information) even while I grew increasingly concerned about Facebook's inability to be trustworthy guardians of private information.  The recent slap on the wrist from the FTC for Facebook violating the terms of its prior consent agreement made it clear that there wasn't going to be any penalty for Facebook for continuing to violate court orders.
Mark Zuckerberg claimed he had made a mistake in 2016 by ridiculing the idea of election interference on his platform, apologized, and claimed he was turning over a new leaf:
“After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it.  This is too important an issue to be dismissive.” It turns out, though, that was just Zuck ly…

Personal Web Discovery (aka Webfinger)

There's a particular discovery problem for open and distributed protocols such as OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts, Activity Streams, and OpenSocial.  It seems like a trivial problem, but it's one of the stumbling blocks that slows mass adoption.  We need to fix it.  So first, I'm going to name it:

The Personal Web Discovery Problem:  Given a person, how do I find out what services that person uses?
This does sound trivial, doesn't it?  And it is easy as long as you're service-centric; if you're building on top of social network X, there is no discovery problem, or at least only a trivial one that can be solved with proprietary APIs.  But what if you want to build on top of X,Y, and Z?  Well, you write code to make the user log in to each one so you can call those proprietary APIs... which means the user has to tell you their identity (and probably password) on each one... and the user has already clicked the Back button because this is complicated and annoying.