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November 13, 2007

Reminder: Internet Identity Workshop - Dec. 3-5th

by @ 5:56 pm. Filed under Uncategorized, Identity, conferences

Kaliya who has been helpful behind the scenes in dealing with issues related to EComm 2008, has asked me to help spread the word of IIW:

I am writing to invite you to the Internet Identity Workshop December 3-5 in Mountainview California.
This will be our 5th such event - we host one approximately every 6 months.
This niche continues to be pivotal
* OpenID is taking off with 160 million identities and over 600 relying parties - AOL and IAC are currently supporting it.
* Instagram has exploded, how to buy followers on Instagram become a trend.
* Open Social has been announced.
* MSFT CardSpace has shipped on Vista and Open Source card selectors are available - Higgins and Bandit.
Identity technologies and issues are ever present as Web 2.0 matures.

The Internet Identity Workshop offers a unique opportunity to interact directly with the “experts” and “innovators” in this space. Using Open Space technology for most of the event participants define what gets discussed the day of the event. We are not guessing what might be important 6 months from now….we are defining WHAT IS IMPORTANT the day of the event.

We have gotten rave reviews from those who have attended in the past
Dale Olds on the last IIW:
There is just no easy way to explain an Internet Identity Workshop. It is an unconference, which is important, but that’s not really sufficient to explain it. It attracts a group of people who care deeply about Internet identity technology, its design and adoption, and its social, political, and economic impact. Many of them are people who have debated, supported, and known each other for a long time, so there is a sense of camaraderie. But it’s definitely not a closed group. It’s outrageously open and inclusive of newbies. Some of the most important decisions and leaps of progress in Internet identity systems have happened at IIW, or as a result of relationships established there. In addition to all of that, there is the untalent show, which is unfortunately self explanatory.
Here is the Announcement ONLINE
Here is where you can Register
Here is the wiki page
You can tune into the pulse of the community on our aggregate blog
or check out the range of working groups at Identity Commons
It is also a uniquely affordable event - seeking to cover the costs associated with it not make money as so many tradeshows these days do. Independent folks pay $175 and those with ‘large companies’ pay $300. We also have highly affordable sponsorships topping out at $5000.
Monday afternoon will offer an opportunity to those who have not attended an IIW before to get oriented what we have been up to. Tuesday and Wednesday have ‘user-generated agenda’s created live in the morning.]
I hope you can make it.
Even if you can’t I would appreciate you letting colleagues know about it happening or if you blogged about the event coming up . We have a choice of two banners you can use :) see below.
Please e-mail me if you have any questions about the event or user-centric identity in general
Kaliya, Identity Woman

October 23, 2007

ETel 2008 - Uncancelled ;)

by @ 12:15 am. Filed under Personal Musings, conferences

Since I have a very good memory for certain things (not the shopping) I could remember who I really wanted to speak at ETel 2008 (out of the 90 proposals submitted). There were ~30 I wanted to see on. I am pleased to say that all ~30 have confirmed that they will provide the necessary backing for an “EComm 2008“. In addition another 18 people I had my eye on to suggest for ETel 2008 are now confirmed, making 48 speakers. Speaker count is only one metric; quality, combination and so on are key. But it is a good sign. Since it has the best 30 that had been planned for ETel 2008 as the foundation things can only get better.

We need to see some more leading academics put into the picture, so I’d like to hear of suggestions in those directions.

In addition the Facebook EComm 2008 page grows daily and presently stands at 108 members.

I was determined that O’Reilly sticking up a “cancelled” would not be accepted by the community and by others still to experience it. That is not to say that I do not have gratitude to O’Reilly for pioneering the event in the first place back in 2006. And I understand that they must have their own internal reasons for striking it off. But the community must go from strength to strength. It had too many good places to go and tasks to complete for it to be killed off at the starting blocks. The reasons given largely related to economics surrounding the event and portfolio alignment. Yet the first two ETel’s were the community finding itself and realising together that something great was abreast. Future ETel’s were to collectively define the approaching tsunami of change, connect the widespread dots and begin to weave out the underpinnings of the new communications landscape. Together we were going to do a hard “rethink” of communications with the aim of filtering out the irrelevancy which has perpetuated the space for far to long and on the flip side draw out the serious opportunities for the new innovation.

And it was not only me who had such sentiments. I noted some snippets put up immediately following the cancellation:

“ETel was one of the few events where those interested in the bleeding edge of communications could easily meet and mix. It was a place where you could see an Asterisk hacker sit down with an Orange or BT exec, and have a meaningful conversation. It wasnt just for telephony geeks either. Last years mashup showcase was a phenomenal blend of the web and the phone network where Web 2.0 met telephony.”
(Alec Saunders, SaundersLog)

“The issue with using VON as a converged venue for either a follow-on to ETel and/or an arch-econ conference. VON is shaped around commercial interests and trends. ETel really had a whole different approach, and while ETel did have commercial exhibitors and sponsors, it was much more about DISRUPTIVE innovation, much more about ideas. VON is a lot more like what COMDEX always way — a trade show — while ETel appeared more open to new and non-commercial aspects of communications”.
(Sheldon Renan, Cook Report Mailing List, permission from author to share)

ETel was growing into a trusted thought leadership property [his highlights] to rival the exclusive and expensive foocamp, TED, and PopTech. The trillion dollar communications business has no other event that routinely brings out revolutionaries, stimulates debate, elevates thought leadership, reveals stealthy blockbusters, and give great hallway. All without vendors buying stage time.
(Phil Wolff, Skype Journal blog)

The replacement event will be held in Silicon Valley during 12-14 March 2008. We are currently in contact with three possible venues. The tentative format will be regular conference (that is scheduled) on the first two days and on the final day it will utilise an unconference (open space) format.

October 12, 2007

ETel 2008 - Cancelled

by @ 11:24 pm. Filed under conferences

I’ve just sent this out on a mailing list and thought I’d copy it here also:

ETel 2008 has been cancelled rather abruptly by O’Reilly in the past
two hours. See the notice at
I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural Emerging Telephony
(ETel) 2006. For those who were also in attendance you may recall the
healthy dosage of buzz, energy and passion. There was a clear feeling
that big change was afoot and along with it large exciting
opportunities. Everyone seemed to sense that the communications
landscape was tiltering on the border of a precipice and that on the
other side lay something more democratic, more powerful, and more
meaningful. There was also a great sense of community around the love
of communications and the new possibilities ahead now that voice was
becoming commoditised. Some compared ETel to the Homebrew Computer
Club except rather than computation falling into the hands of masses,
telephony this time round was; voice communications was being
democratised and we all had a role now to play in its future. It was
abundantly clear that ETel was serving a community not well serviced
by other voice related conferences – where else could telecom
executives and phone hackers meet?
In 2007 I was invited onto the Program Committee to help decide on
speakers and topics – unpaid, and for the sheer passion. I was also a
speaker. For ETel 2008 I was invited back onto the Program Committee
and have been working far too many hours unpaid to make ETel 2008 a
big success. I could seriously see from the topics and speakers that
were lining up that ETel 2008 was going to raise the bar, so my unpaid
efforts behind the scenes seemed to be worthwhile (from a community
perspective).But sometime back I sensed something was wrong – small things like
when a name change to ‘EComm’ was put forwards by myself and others on
the 2008 Program Committee yet it did not appear to get any serious
consideration. The basic premise was that “telephony” was too narrow a
term for what the conference actually covered and in particular what
we wanted to cover in 2008; for example talks around communication
facilities provided by social networking sites and “lifestream”
aggregators as the embryonic signs of the 21st Century communications.

I believe we need a place for those chasing the emergent
communications landscape to gather and share information face-to-face.
It seems clear to me that O’Reilly has decided not to provide that
venue anymore. The only option I see is that the ETel community picks
itself up and finds a new avenue to share bleeding edge innovation,
ideas and products. Otherwise the community will be fragmented and at
best dispersed into the remaining conferences where it clearly does
not fit!

I initially considered an “unconference” in the spirit of
BarCamp/PodCamp. Certainly I’d like to see an unconference element,
possibly even a third of the event time. But I’d also like to see
regular structured talks.

It would be a complete understatement to say that I was extremely
disappointed when I heard earlier that ETel 2008 had been cancelled. I
fact I was utterly pi**ed. But when there is a community, there is a
way 

What I’d like to do is to gauge the level of interest out there in
trying to keep the community together and all being well, build upon
it. Details are scant at the moment but the proposal is for an
“Emerging Communications conference” (EComm) in California during
March 2008. I look to the community for feedback right now – at the
moment the best channel for this is one-to-one correspondence with me
using the email address:

I’ve also created a stub EComm Facebook group (see to replace the now
defunct ETel Facebook group
( Please join the
stub group – details of the group will appear over the following days.

In the next day or so there will be a mailing list setup to have
discussions regarding the proposal for an EComm 2008 – details of the
list will be posted at – please subscribe when
the mailing list details are put up. Alternatively feel free to start
building thoughts/suggestions/Etc. at the virgin Wiki -

I have many other things I need/wish to commit my time to, so if there
is not a good amount of initial enthusiasm I need to step aside from
aiming to make an EComm 2008 a reality.

What I would like at this point is to judge the degree of support. To
enable me to do this, I’d appreciate a reply (private if you wish and
it will be kept private) to categorise your view by picking a letter
a-f which best describes your feelings with regards aiming to keep a
conference of sorts in place:

a) no chance, the community needs O’Reilly, let it disperse
b) maybe, not that keen
c) will wait and see what others do
d) I’d be willing to attend
e) I’d be willing to speak
f) I’d be willing to attend/speak and give up time/energy as far as
possible to ensure it is a success
g) Hell my company will sponsor – let me go find that cheque (check) book.



October 4, 2007

Where my “head is at” - Links I Found of Interest out of ~9000

by @ 7:46 pm. Filed under Shared Links

I visited around 9000 sites over the past ten days, marking around 300 articles for further reading. Those I found interesting in terms of thinking where I want to go, I noted. Below I share those notes. (I think it is good to share as it lets others know where my head is at, at least approximately, and serves to highlight interesting topics/links). I’ve bundled them into rough categories with rough notes.

Social Graph

I’ve been tracking what was stated as the ‘social graph problem’ by Brad because knowing the relations between people and being intelligently being able to process that information is a major key towards achieving The Vision. But I still feel that they (Marc C/Brad F/David R) are skipping a major step (unless they just want something rather narrower in terms of user case). Plus I am surprised at all this graph talk without a mention of the use of RDF for data storage.

Anyhow main links: (don’t bother leaving a comment which is not praise, it does not get posted)

Also worth a quick scan on a similar vein:


I’d note his statement-

my belief, going back to my time with Flock, is that having consistent identifiers for the same person across multiple networks, services or applications is going to be fundamental to getting the next evolution of the web right.


For one thing, the world today is too network-centric, and not person-centric

This is normally a mantra of mine but I replace the word ‘network’ with ‘device’. I’d like to think that the Cisco rebranding (dropped “systems” and the likes of is at least to some degree recognition of this and the notions conveyed in WON by Benkler).

Web 3.0

Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a video regarding ‘Web 2.0 vs. Web 3.0’:

I’d note-

Web 3.0 will ultimately be seen as applications that are pieced together. The applications are relatively small, the data is in the cloud, the applications can run on any device, PC or mobile phone. The applications are very fast, and they’re very customizable and furthermore, the applications are distributed virally; literally by social networks, by email. You won’t go to the store and purchase them…

This supports my view that Web 2.0 was amongst other things the start towards the Semantic Web (except I’d note the vision now seems to be that a lot of the intelligence will be of the human collective kind rather than some software ‘agent’ driven):

If you know about RDBMS it provides a nice intro into RDF based storage. I’d note-

As people are increasingly coming to believe, Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web have a lot in common: both are concerned with allowing communities to share and reuse data. In this way, the Semantic Web and Web 2.0 can both be seen as attempts at providing data integration and presenting a web of data or information space.


I very much agreed with this-

Indeed, if there is to be a Web 3.0, it is likely to include only a portion of the Semantic Web community’s work, along with a healthy smattering of other technologies. “The thing being called Web 3.0 is an important subset of the Semantic Web vision,” says Jim Hendler, professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who was one of the initiative’s pioneer theorists. “It’s really a realization that a little bit of Semantic Web stuff with what’s called Web 2.0 is a tremendously powerful technology.”

Not a bad Semantic Web introduction here:

‘RDF and SPARQL: Using Semantic Web Technology to Integrate the World’s Data’:

Couple new interesting semantic web services:

‘August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web’ [fiction]:


I believe that both ‘Time’ and ‘Events’ ontology’s will come in as critical for future advanced social applications so I noted a new time/event ontology here -

Which lead me to a post on his blog; it is for music but I see parallels with the method he is following:

Nova Spivack blog worth noting - also this post in particularl:

Attention Economy

Google and Attention Economy:

I’d note-

1. Gmail & Gtalk Trends which also capture my attention metadata. This would allow me to see when I email most, how often I email and the same would be true of my IM conversations and VoIP calls.

4. If I could then share my attention metadata with other people I trust (whitelist) I could then let them learn about websites or feeds that I have been using. This is a similar idea to Dave Winer’s OPML share service and once again the basis of a discovery engine as opposed to search.

Google have recently announced they are developing/extending more of their search services which I am sure they will eventually add in Trend analysis, such as Google Books (what books I read), Google Video (what videos I watch), Google Checkout (what items I buy) which already has a purchase history option.

Attention profiling mark-up language:

Good set of tutorials which overviews the topic (that is ownership of attention data):

(note one of the links it links to is which has some good comments).

Sam Sethi who on another article interesting states-

Bottomline: RSS 2.0 (with or without Dublin core), XML-RPC and SOAP are going to be replaced by Atom 1.0, APP and RESTful”

Voice 2.0

I found the notion of pushing ads contextually as per Google with AdSense but using speech recognition interesting:

I’d note- is a showcase website that you can use to taste the future of calling…Experience phone conversations that are enriched with relevant and interesting content…Extend relevant and timely ads to consumers as they discuss daily wants and needs relevant to your offers...Imagine the possibilities opened by being able to deliver contextually relevant advertisements to consumers in real-time when they are listening, ready to act, and capable of spreading your message… [my emphasis]

MySpace mobile free service:

I’d note-

MySpace mobile will work with any U.S. carrier, the AP article says. Initial advertising will include clickable sponsorships and banner ads. Eventually MySpace will try to sell more targeted advertising, using registration data from cell phone carriers as well as GPS data from phones with that capability. [my emphasis]


Discovery rather than search metaphor:

Quote from their site-

Discovery moves beyond Internet search by harnessing the collective power of web users to guide one another toward the items they will find both relevant and compelling. Discovery provides a more natural metaphor for how people search and shop, yielding higher click-through rates and enhanced add-to-cart volumes.

The same company is mentioned in this article:

The article states that it was formed by the founders of (which Cisco acquired the assets of).

Sharing rather than search metaphor – very nice article:

By same author along similar lines:

I particularly like the line-

People are sharing more and searching less.

Certainly the amount I use Google goes down and the more I discover watching others bookmarks or via another shared means.

“natural language search engine that reads and understands every sentence on the Web”:

Web Evolution

Nice article:

I’d note-

forming your online identity, controlling what personal data you give to whom and aggregating all your and your environments lifestreams in an open social network is simply essential for the further development of the web.

10 Future Internet Trends:

Knowledge within Enterprise

Article on FaceBook as a form of business collaboration:

I’d note-

McDonald’s began moving toward social networking after an internal study showed that employees were often looking for colleagues with expertise in certain areas or for authors of information they found useful [my emphasis]. McDonald’s employees and some partners will soon be able to create their own profiles on the company’s Awareness (formerly iUpload) social media platform, from which they can blog and participate in communities…Teens and undergrads started the social networking trend; now business professionals and IT pros are coming up to speed…Knowledgeable peers are only a few clicks away.


“Deploying Web-scale Mash-ups by Linking Microformats and the Semantic Web”:

(tip, press ‘A’ to see all slides in a single browser window)

Intel’s new mashup maker is pretty cool and appears semantic web based:

Note from the site-

Intel® Mash Maker is an extension to your existing web browser that allows you to easily augment the page that you are currently browsing with information from other websites. As you browse the web, the Mash Maker toolbar suggests Mashups that it can apply to the current page in order to make it more useful for you. For example: plot all items on a map, or display the leg room for all flights.

Mashup maker but also does screen scrapping:

Mashups: Web Meets Telco

Digital Identity/”Lifestream” Aggregation


Site states-

The target user is someone with a profile on at least two networks - MySpace and Facebook, for example. You tell ProfileLinker your site credentials and it pulls your bio, friends and other information from those sites and centralizes it. You then use ProfileLinker to manage your activity on those networks: aggregate and manage multiple social profiles; discover new social networks and communities of interest within social networks; and receive notification of messages and friend requests from multiple networks.

Personally I think the solution is crap but I like noting the angles people are trying to solve these emerging problems.

List of twenty means to aggregate your social networks (I am not overly impressed with any):

XFN for identification consolidation:

I think there is a fair chance that oAuth will come into the picture at some point and the following is not a bad introduction:

I’m surprised that YoWhassup has not had much attention on the Web (I guess it is due to not having PR channels Etc.) as both the solution ideas and thinking is ahead of the pack:

It relates in part to what I have been meaning when using the phrase “unified social communications”.

I’d note-

And this not only means filtering out the crap, but also detecting new, trustworthy, important and interesting people, news and knowledge that help you live your life with more comfort and ease…incoming or outgoing lifestreams

I’d also note-

YoWhassup is the first site to consequently bring all your personal information together in one place. This is also true for your attention data. How we do this? Keep tuned, this is a killer!


one place for all your facettes of your identity. Your business identity, your private identity, your local and family identity.

Plaxo Pulse video:

Plaxo Pulse just like YoWhassup are heading in the right direction, although I prefer the memes of the latter. Expect more posts from me regarding these two services.


‘Emerging Ecosystems & Platforms’:

Fourth Platform: Data Spaces in The Cloud (Update)’:

‘Facebook’s Secret Plan’:

I’d note:

They want to be a new type of platform company where data and code are mashed up with people. We haven’t seen one of those yet.

New Books

‘From Exchange to Contributions Generalizing Peer Production into the Physical World’ - download here:


General interest in this space and bookmarked:

FireFox Plugins

I plan to try it out, sites states-

While you browse, RovR will show you posts from them about the page you’re on. RovR’s tray slides in briefly showing summaries of the posts it finds.

Semantic Web Firefox plug-in that syncs with Delicious:

(some background here: and

Portable Personal Data

‘Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open Up’:

‘Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg’:

‘Is Zuckerberg Trying to Own the Social Graph?’:

I’d note-

Facebook is becoming the new AOL of the ’90s. Basically looking at how many of their actions seem to be mimicking the naive behavior that everyone will live within your world on the Internet.”

“I unfortunately have a hard time with it given the number of moves Facebook has made to own the ecosystem.

It is disappointing hearing stories from developers who see F8 as a very one sided platform; you’re allowed to put your data in but not take it out.

Plaxo on the case:

I’d note-

The answer is NOT to have one company own the social graph and require all apps to be re-built on top of a proprietary platform in order to gain access to it…We have to help users regain control now, and we can’t assume that all social sites will be cooperative…

Users won’t generally want all the same friends on all the sites they use, but they do want to know when anyone they know on a given site is also using other sites they also use. In other words, the goal is to aggregate who you know across all the sites you use and then let you choose who to connect to where in what capacity.

While having an open-source, non-profit entity collecting and serving the entire social graph may be better than a single proprietary company or a mess of disconnected companies, we think the ultimate solution has to be that each user owns and controls their own profile and list of friends. Different people will trust different companies to act on their behalf as stewards of their online identity and relationships, but no single entity should ever have to be the gatekeeper for the entire world.

…freeing their data from walled gardens and putting users back in control of who they know.

‘Pulse Groups? Roll-Your-Own Social Network(s)’:

‘Google To Out Open Facebook On November 5’:

A site representing the open data movement:

I’d note-

Your content and data should be yours to manage and do with as you please. Your images, writing, tags, profile, blog entries, comments, testimonials, video, and music should be yours to download and move anyplace you want.

We will help ensure that no website ever holds your data hostage.

The following speaks about the lack of granular sharing of personal data in the general theme of the lack of support for social contexts within FaceBook:

I see Paul at Higgins has been busy on something in these realms:

We are devoted to portability of personal social data: the ability for individuals to “take their data with them” as they move across different websites and applications without having it locked into any particular silo.

Advertising 2.0

‘People search engine Rapleaf revises privacy policy’:

I’d note-

It knows more about us every day. We know almost nothing about it….

Google got big by keeping ads small.

Thinking in the right direction IMHO:

I’d note-

Users create print ads, or videos, users vote, and the sponsoring company pays for the best ad

Free communications for advertising:

‘Will A Google Phone Change The Game?’

I’d note-

That equation goes out the window, though, once you combine Google’s financial heft with its ultra-sophisticated ability to target ads to specific customers. “The day is coming when wireless users will experience nirvana scenarios–mobile ads tied to your individual behavior, what you are doing, and where you are” [my emphasis] says Linda Barrabee, wireless analyst at researcher Yankee Group.

The core of Google’s online ad strategy has always been to help advertisers target their ads so they fit like spandex tights with user interests. Employing technologies that figure out where callers are and where they’re headed boosts advertising prices by 50% [my emphasis], according to studies by RCBG.

Even without a network, Venkatachari says Google plans to connect mobile advertisers with users based on information from its search engine, maps, and other software [my emphasis]

Flick.IM also caught my eyes:

I’d note-

Chat is now a platform…it may even let developers provide contextually based services by scanning user’s conversations (with permission). For instance, if you’re talking about a movie, a Flick.IM application could automatically provide links and times for that movie.

Flick.IM has broader ambitions than this IM client, with an overall focus on real-time social networking.

Collective Intelligence

Interesting social appliance for the enterprise:

I personally noted the “social search” and “expertise location” on the features page.

Is this a flavour of the ‘global brain’, to see what everyone else is thinking?

(more on it here:


I’d note-

GeoURL is a directory containing a large list of URLs and their mappings to a certain location on Earth. Its main use is for finding websites according to their proximity to a given location. The GeoURL directory is open, and anyone can add an address to it at any time.

Text (SMS) 2.0

“Virgin Mobile Lights Up Text 2.0 Powered by 3Jam”:

Simply group texting with a reply-all!

Media 2.0

I’d note-

The Media 2.0 Workgroup is a group of industry commentators, agitators and innovators who believe that the phenomena of democratic participation will change the face of media creation, distribution and consumption. Join the conversation..

I’d note-

Engagement is all about making it relevant to the consumer


‘Can the experience economy be capitalist?’:

I’d highlight-

Typically, in commons-based production we have a common pool, accessible to everyone (Linux, Wikipedia), around which an ecology of business can form to create and sell scarcities (usually services and experiences). In sharing-oriented production (YouTube, Google documents), we have proprietary platforms that enable and empower the sharing, but at the same time, sell the aggregated attention (a scarcity), to the advertising market. Finally, in the third crowdsourcing mode, companies try to integrate participation in their own value chain and framework.

For Further Study


Buddystumbler Combines Social Networking And IM:

The aims are fairly (I stress ‘fairly’) in-line with the vision of this site but the solution IMO is far from a good one (to say the least).

‘The Social Side of Performance’

I’d note-

what really distinguishes high performers [in terms of knowledge based work] from the rest of the pack is their ability to maintain and leverage personal networks… In addition, they posit that high performers are much more than “social butterflies,” who tend to have numerous relationships that don’t scratch below the surface.

Apache Cocoon:

W3C SWEO Community Project:

Nice article ‘A Stale State of Tagging?’

‘Social whitelisting with OpenID’

October 2, 2007

Should IM Clients Expose your Buddies?

by @ 9:33 pm. Filed under Identity, Social Networking

Today I had a quick chat with Peter Saint-Andre regarding exposing the buddy-list publicly. I argued that the buddy-list is a social network, so why not expose it to your friends just as social networking sites do? Then you could see which buddies your buddies have; which as a result lets you know who they communicate with (handy to know as it may save some of the ‘do you know so and so’ type questions) and I think just as per social networking sites it would lead to the addition of more buddies (in an iterative fashion). Peter replied that:

part of the bargain [of joining a social network] is that I know my relationship to you will be exposed but that’s not assumed in IM, so if I go publish my buddy list, people in my list might be annoyed or offended

While I agree with that, all we need to do is to introduce the notion and cater around it. So when you add a contact you set whether you want that buddy to be shown to the public and the request at their end will not only ask if they agree to be added to your buddy-list (as is the case today) but will also request if they are willing to be shown publicly as being on the requesters buddy-list. Actually it does not even need to be public but rather exposed only to your other buddies (just like FaceBook). Then on the buddy-list itself you just add in iconic representation beside each buddy indicating if they are shown publicly (or to your other buddies) or not.

What do the others think? Time to help move IM&P clients out of the 1990s?

September 28, 2007

Solve Linking IDs Before Dealing with the Social-Graph.

by @ 6:54 pm. Filed under "Social Layer", Identity, Social Networking

OK first up - I put this site up more as a placeholder for my current academic work. I needed a space to portray the academic persona rather than the more common business persona. After getting some stub articles in place, I’ve left it alone as I’ve been thoughtfully at work. I feel the time is now right to begin speaking out on areas that I have been thinking about. I will start by replying to Brad’s call for feedback on his “Thoughts on the Social Graph”.

As for some background. I first heard the term “social graph” when Kaliya mentioned it on the ID Gang mailing list back in January. Then last month (18th August to be exact) on the same list, David Recordon posted a link to Brad’s “Thoughts on the Social Graph”. I was going to respond immediately, but for various reasons held off until now.

I immediately liked Brad’s direction and sentiment. Earlier in the year I had been thinking about merging “social graphs” as the foundation of the service space that interests me; connecting relevant strangers in real-time.

Although Brad’s aims Etc. are both honourable and pertinent, they are secondary considerations (at least IMHO). My view is to solve the first problem then let’s tackle this secondary one. The initial problem to be tackled ought to be linking user identifiers (think gmail ID, FlickR name Etc.) together. By that I mean knowing that Delicious user X is also FlickR user Y is also Last.FM user Z and so on. Once you know this, one major thing you can then usefully do is extract the “social graph” from each service and perform the things Brad speaks of such as informing you when a friend of X site has joined up with Y new site (and a lot more). It goes without saying that extraction of the “social graph” is a lot easier and proper if the site in question supports data export as it saves nasty page scrapping. But I will respond to the question of open social networks in another post. For now, the primary community challenge ought not to concern itself (as yet) with social graphs but with knowing the identifier of a user across all (if so desired by the user) services used. So to repeat this in a different way, the first challenge is to know the equivalent nodes.

So the question is how do we do this; that is how do we link our online life together in such a way? Well one possibility and one I am against is that yet another privately run site is created, you sign-up there to aggregate your digital life in that privately run space, hope your friends do to and then you become captive/semi-captive to the new hierarchically higher site (so to speak). Examples include YoWhassup and ClaimID.

What is needed is a community owned and managed 21st Century white pages. It may upset some folks but I’d assume there will be a continuation of the proliferation of digital identifiers; at least lets bear that possibility in mind.

Here is how it would work and it is exceptionally simple. A domain is taken (i.e. a .org) to represent this notion of a “community owned white pages”. A basic light weight front end is put on it. It asks the user one thing only - their email address. The site then sends a verification code to that email address. When replied to with the correct code in the body, that email address is considered good and becomes the primary key in a new record (in the backend). The user is then given a drop down box beside their newly verified email address. That drop down box contains a list of all the other services that the user may or may not belong to. This should not only include website identifiers (e.g. their blog URL, Delicious, Twitter, FlickR, FaceBook, YouTube, Joost Etc.) but also communication identifiers (e.g. Skype, landline, cellphone, XMPP, SIP Etc.). The user picks anyone that they wish to link to their email address, say FlickR. The user enters their FlickR ID and clicks submit. Another verification code is sent to the anchor identifier, their email address. That verification code ought to then be presented in a manner in which a) only the person in control of the account could achieve b) the community white pages can check. In the case of FlickR the email could for example ask the user to change the title of a photo (temporarily at least) to match the verification code. The user should then hit a “check” button (to save polling) on the community white pages. The site will then look at the page ( and extract the code and check for a match. If it matches, the user will be alerted that it has been confirmed and in the back end storage the email ID and the FlickR username are linked as equivalent nodes (that is the same person). For contact identifiers the process would be different (or in the case of a blog where say a file would have to be uploaded to prove control). For example with Skype the verification code should either be returned in an instant message or it may possibly be requested to be added (temporarily) in a field in the user’s Skype profile which may then be read by means of the Skype API. Repeat ad infinitum for all the services that the user wishes to make public equivalences. Provide a reverse process for unlinking; include a more convoluted procedure to unlink an account the user has lost control of (i.e. forgot password).

So in summary, the solution is to have the user prove control of accounts with the anchor being the email address. Very simple and requires no sign-up.

Note that the public service should not go beyond letting the user link and unlink identifiers and must remain as simple as possible. The community effort should be directed towards devising the methods to prove control of accounts at popular services.

Other public and commercial services can then be built that leverage the data, including the popular one which Brad refers to. To provide for this the site should provide a machine readable interface. I would expect that folks would wish to leverage the service (courtesy of a machine readable interface) to perform what Brad has proposed as the next step, that is a means to aggregate one’s social networks from a number of services (I’d note I would also include communication client based “buddy lists”). Such services would use the machine readable interface of the community white pages to discover for a given node (that is person), all the equivalences across services which have explicitly defined social networks (i.e. MySpace, YouTube, Skype, eBay and so on). For now this would be achieved by page scrapping or GRDDL until such time that data becomes more portable, after which we expect that each service would then provide a URL at which to read the data. And as Brad points out you can then do things like tell a user when X% of their friends sign up to a new service or what friends they have on MySpace which are not on Facebook Etc. You could also offer incremental services such as displaying the last photo the person you are calling uploaded. Better services would be along the lines of what “lifestream aggregators” are trying to do and to provide similar to Facebook’s mini-feed.

Although the proposed community white pages should be simple, it should not add much complexity to add RSS/Atom subscriptions so that one can be notified when a given person you are interested in (i.e. a family relation) subscribes to a new service (i.e. X person is now using VoIP service X with an identifier of Y, or website V with a username of Z Etc.).

The good thing about this notion of community white pages is that it has an immediate user case of ID in, ID out. You can enter in one identifier and get another back out. So if I enter a certain Skype username for example, I get their Facebook ID back out. Caution will be taken with giving contact identifiers, for example email addresses will be rendered back out as a picture. It means for example that if you know a family members email address, you can find out what other sites they use (along with their identifiers), and stay updated courtesy of RSS/Atom. Even nicer is when telephone number verification is added, allowing you to learn when others change number or what web services a certain phone number (representing a person) uses.

Now one important item I will answer before it is flung at me is the question of personas. You may not want someone entering an email address and seeing that you sell dodgy “leisure” gear on eBay for example. To keep the design simple it is up to the user to segregate their lives into personas by anchoring to different email addresses accordingly. The email address can be considered a key into a single persona.

If we do not take this path private organisations will get ever better at performing it without our consent. Let’s seize the time window to perform it in a transparent, community driven as well as community owned manner. We can then build some staggering apps! The likes of Google are already aggregating what we do across the different services they provide (with a view to pushing contextually relevant ads).

The direction I think we would like to head in overall is what I will coin “unified social communications” which is a layer above the notion of “unified communications”. The services which can be built ontop of this simple infrastructure are quite literally mind blowing if you extrapolate the possibilities and think forwards. But before then, we need to cross the problem of linking IDs. I’ve suggested a simple community based method and would appreciate feedback!

July 31, 2007

Benkler’s WON on mass media

by @ 1:51 pm. Filed under Personal Musings, Benkler

I’ve not posted for sometime as I have been super busy running up what I hope and believe will be the last avenue to try for solving the site vision. But I thought I’d post a favourite part of Yochai Benkler’s ‘Wealth of Networks‘ as a warm up in the hope that I may find time this week to get some postings up around the site focus!

Mass media structured the public sphere of the twentieth century in all advanced modern societies. They combined a particular technical architecture, a particular economic cost structure, a limited range of organizational forms, two or three primary institutional models, and a set of cultural practices typified by consumption of finished media goods. The structure of the mass media resulted in a relatively controlled public sphere—although the degree of control was vastly different depending on whether the institutional model was liberal or authoritarian—with influence over the debate in the public sphere heavily tilted toward those who controlled the means of mass communications. The technical architecture was a one-way, hub-and-spoke structure, with unidirectional links to its ends, running from the center to the periphery. A very small number of production facilities produced large amounts of identical copies of statements or communications, which could then be efficiently sent in identical form to very large numbers of recipients. There was no return loop to send observations or opinions back from the edges to the core of the architecture in the same channel and with similar salience to the communications process, and no means within the massmedia architecture for communication among the end points about the content of the exchanges. Communications among the individuals at the ends were shunted to other media—personal communications or telephones—which allowed communications among the ends. However, these edge media were either local or one-to-one. Their social reach, and hence potential political efficacy, was many orders of magnitude smaller than that of the mass media.

The economic structure was typified by high-cost hubs and cheap, ubiquitous, reception-only systems at the ends. This led to a limited range of organizational models available for production: those that could collect sufficient funds to set up a hub. These included: state-owned hubs in most countries; advertising-supported commercial hubs in some of the liberal states, most distinctly in the United States; and, particularly for radio and television, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) model or hybrid models like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Canada. The role of hybrid and purely commercial, advertising-supported media increased substantially around the globe outside the United States in the last two to three decades of the twentieth century. Over the course of the century, there also emerged civil-society or philanthropy-supported hubs, like the party presses in Europe, nonprofit publications like Consumer Reports (later, in the United States), and, more important, public radio and television. The oneway technical architecture and the mass-audience organizational model un derwrote the development of a relatively passive cultural model of media consumption. Consumers (or subjects, in authoritarian systems) at the ends of these systems would treat the communications that filled the public sphere as finished goods. These were to be treated not as moves in a conversation, but as completed statements whose addressees were understood to be passive:
readers, listeners, and viewers.

The Internet’s effect on the public sphere is different in different societies, depending on what salient structuring components of the existing public sphere its introduction perturbs. In authoritarian countries, it is the absence of a single or manageably small set of points of control that is placing the greatest pressure on the capacity of the regimes to control their public sphere, and thereby to simplify the problem of controlling the actions of the population. In liberal countries, the effect of the Internet operates through its implications for economic cost and organizational form. In both cases, however, the most fundamental and potentially long-standing effect that Internet communications are having is on the cultural practice of public communication. The Internet allows individuals to abandon the idea of the public sphere as primarily constructed of finished statements uttered by a small set of actors socially understood to be “the media” (whether state owned or commercial) and separated from society, and to move toward a set of social practices that see individuals as participating in a debate. Statements in the public sphere can now be seen as invitations for a conversation, not as finished goods. Individuals can work their way through their lives, collecting observations and forming opinions that they understand to be practically capable of becoming moves in a broader public conversation, rather than merely the grist for private musings.

June 3, 2007

Serendipitous Sunday Surfing

by @ 4:35 pm. Filed under "Social Layer", Personal Musings, Benkler

Let me share some results from a short spell of serendipitous surfing in the past hour. The intention was to read Business Week’s Q&A with Tim Berners-Lee (on “how the new Semantic Web could have profound effects on the growth of knowledge and innovation”). But due to interesting Cisco ads (in particular one with the subtext “See how the human network is helping people invest in each other”) I had to take a click.

Prominent on the returned page was a quote from blogger Katie Ledger:

Forrester Research concluded in a 2006 report that increasing person to person communication is impacting the global economy. It is said that your power is in the people you know, not the product you sell. It is changing society as people depend less on cultural intermediaries - media, businesses, and other mass cultural groups.

Because she failed to state which report she referred to, I had a quick search on the Forrest Research site. I could not identity for sure the report in question (in the time frame I set myself as I have other things to do). But I did trawl up some reports of interest.

The first one was entitled ‘Social Computing: How Networks Erode Institutional Power and What to Do About It’ and dated February 13, 2006. The executive summary is:

Easy connections brought about by cheap devices, modular content, and shared computing resources are having a profound impact on our global economy and social structure. Individuals increasingly take cues from one another rather than from institutional sources like corporations, media outlets, religions, and political bodies. To thrive in an era of Social Computing, companies must abandon top-down management and communication tactics, weave communities into their products and services, use employees and partners as marketers, and become part of a living fabric of brand loyalists.

Sounds a great report, wish I had a copy (hint). The other interesting report returned was entitled ‘The Three Rules Of Social Computing’ and dated December 1, 2006. The executive summary is:

During the Consumer Marketing Forum EMEA, three new rules for 21st century marketing emerged: contact is king; the response is the message; and consumers call the shots.

A further Google returned a presentation of the same title dated May 1, 2007. A quote from the notes section:

The neighbors hanging over the fence talking about their new car. Students at lunch showing off their new phone. That was never a big problem though, because it always just involved small groups of peers. It was contained.

Until social media showed up on the scene.

And millions of consumers started to give each other advice on Kelkoo about which TV not to purchase, or Amazon on which “other book to buy”. And now they’re making their own content and ignore our messages.

Suddenly, group dynamics are important – because one consumer message on Myspace can reach a million readers in one day. A few months ago I spoke with a hotel owner in Rome, and he told me he had lost 33% of revenues after one terrible review. Because consumers listen to each other and trust each other.

Who is writing these reviews? Who is passing on emails to friends, who are the influential people in a community who the others listen to?

I liked the slide on classification of people in the community: ‘Creators’, ‘Critics’, ‘Collectors’, and ‘Couch Potatoes’.

A further quote from the presentation:

We need their business, they don’t need us. They can hang up on us.

And with 75% of consumers not trusting us, chances are that they will if we don’t support them better.

And the tools to hang up on us are getting better every day.

Think about Google. It now owns search, email via Gmail, video via YouTube, VoIP via Google Talk.

Google can see what consumers are watching, reading, saying, and hearing.

And with that information, it can filter out all the ads that consumers don’t want. Think five years down the road, when consumers will have Internet TV. Google can then also pre-select the content for them. If consumers don’t want to be touched by our brands or content, Google will let them completely block our messages.

The final report that seemed an interesting read (it is stuck behind a “pay wall”) was entitled ‘The End Of Mass Marketing The Long Tail Turns Into The Thick Tail’ dated March 8, 2007. The executive summary is:

The Web provided niche brands with a distribution channel, as described by the concept of “the Long Tail.” Social Computing gives these niche brands a powerful marketing channel, enabling them to develop deep relationships with communities and increase market share and margins at the expense of big brands and mass media. Incumbents need to change their positioning drastically for damage control.

The sole (or one of) the authors listed on each of these interesting reports was Japp Favier. I thought it would be good to drop him a note. But the irony of it all was that there was nowhere on the Forrester Research site that allowed me to contact him! So I figured there must be an RSS link so I can subscribe to his reports? Nope. OK the site must have an RSS feed. Nope. Seems these folk don’t eat their own dog food.

May 27, 2007

Added two new terms added to Wikipedia

by @ 2:51 pm. Filed under Uncategorized, Personal Musings, Benkler

Yesterday was a gloriously sunny day (as is today) in Vienna. I was away to go out but I noticed to my surprise that Wikipedia did not have entries for ‘Networked Information Economy‘ nor Industrial Information Economy. Thus I added them, missed some sun but slept easier in bed for knowing I had contributed to helping spread knowledge capital ;) . More seriously I added them because any work towards the site vision should ensure it aligns as far as possible with Benkler’s ‘networked information environment’.

It goes without saying, if you can improve the definitions please do. In the meantime here is a favourite quote of mine from The Wealth of Networks:

It is this combination of a will to create and to communicate with others, and a shared cultural experience that makes it likely that each of us wants to talk about something that we believe others will also want to talk about, that makes the billion potential participants in today’s online conversation, and the six billion in tomorrow’s conversation, affirmatively better than the commercial industrial model.

May 23, 2007

Ted Wallingford: ‘Social Nets and Cell Phones’

by @ 1:23 pm. Filed under Social Networking, Mobile Devices

Firstly humble apologies for the lack of posts. This has been due to a combination of illness, work and holidays! I’d like to begin back by highlighting a blog post from Ted Wallingford entitled ‘Social Nets and Cell Phones’. For the sake of the attention deficit screen parsers out there, I have highlighted certain points below but would stress the post is worth a read in its entirety.

Cell phones are going to become the dominant means of social networking.

Agree. But I’d personally note that I prefer to use the terminology “wireless handless device” rather than “cell phone” as the latter presupposes GSM or CDMA cellular radio technology whereas I expect to see such handheld social networking on devices utilising other radio means also (disruptive RF technologies but also the likes of WiMax/Bluetooth). It also presupposes that the voice application is the center feature of the device and everything else to some degree turns around that, whereas the dominate feature may be social networking and social media, with voice being an adjunct feature. While I’m narking I’d also pickup on the assertion made that cellular handsets are “powerful enough to handle common video and audio content swiftly and easily”; they are not from my experience.

You’d think that your cell phone carriers would realize how much stands to be gained by embracing social networking through their infrastructure, allowing users to generate and consume content using the smarts on the endpoint device to make it all easy. Instead, the old guard of media giants (Sony, BMG, etc.) have convinced the cell carriers that paying fees to download crummy 30-second VCAST streams is a better use of their 3G infrastructure than actually empowering their subscribers to do what they want to do.

It is a highly personal device (hence the fascias and ringtones), it is with you all the time and it provides mobility thus potentially always-on connectivity wherever you are. All would sound good at this point.

…nobody uses their cell phone for social networking above and beyond pay-per-use SMS messages and (crummy) photo e-mailing (which by the way doesn’t always work quite right when sending media messages between carriers). Come on AT&T (and Verizon), you know these offerings SUCK, and your customers are going to know it very soon too.

I’d contend that customers have known it for years and certainly a high percentage of the folks in the telco engineering departments do. But I will make another related post regarding that to save a big divert to rant at this point. I’d note though at this point that IMHO it is a major reason (aside from ridiculous pricing policies and lack of transparency in many cases) of the failure of mobile data (3G). Besides who is to say that operators should have a role to play at the service layer? The subscriber would be far happier with an always-on, fat mobile bit pipe with a good international data plan.

…the Cell Phone is the NEXUS of mobility, identity, and social networking.

No disagreements that it has that potential, hence this site which looks at what is required to help and what standards work could be required to achieve mobile “social networking nirvana”.

And it’s a huge opportunity. The cell phone/personal media device is the last stop for social networks–the last frontier for media-driven leisure networking.

I’d highlight it’s a huge opportunity and that is why it has been a cornerstone of my interests for the past couple of years. I’d actually state that I am surprised at the lack of development in the mobile social networking space (note the likes of Helio-MySpace partnering just does not cut it) to date. But the fact that within the past month I’ve saw articles in prominent newspapers (Der Standard and the New York Times to name two) and caught the odd television news item on the potential of mobile social networking (yesterday on CNN as an example), I would imagine the next few years will show increased effort in this space. I would not confine mobile social networking to “leisure” as I see equally fit as a business/enterprise tool (“find me someone in our organization who knows about x or worked on y project”). I’d also not state that it will be “media-driven”, textual navigation and presentation may be well suited in many cases. An obstacle to cellular based social networking is operator’s mobile data rates and their walled Internet gardens - at least here in Europe. The other month I was stuck for Internet access and decided to use my 3G (enabled but normally with the 2100Hz band disabled to save battery) phone as a modem. A preliminary call (since their websites are generally so hard to navigate or do not contain the information) to check the pricing revealed it was £3.00GBP per meg! And remember in Europe if you are not in your designated home country you may pay up to quadruple that amount even within Europe! As an aside, the phone would not work as a modem even though that feature is part of the operator sell of it being a business tool (XDA/HTC) – Googling confirmed other users were also unable to get it to work. Social networking and user generated content sharing could have been the killer apps on 3G (as I keep saying, focus on aiding people to people flows of information and media). But I would not hold my breath at this late stage that mobile operators will turn themselves around so much as to become leaders in the social networking or user generated content space. I will finish off by recounting a conversation I had this year with a telco representative who was participating in industry standard engineering efforts for the future:

Him: Is MySpace
Me: Yes
Him: What is it?
Me: A social networking site
Him: What is Second Life?
Me: A virtual world
Him: But MySpace is not a real one, is it?
Me: MySpace is an online social networking site
Him: So it is not real is it? So what is the difference with Second Life?
Me: Second Life is a virtual world meaning it tries to represent the physical world with computer graphics; like bodies and tables
Him: But MySpace is not real is it?

From my experience a problem within telcos is that the people making the decisions in relation to services are generally speaking beyond an age such that they seem incapable of grasping why a 12 year old kid is spending all their available time on MSN. They generally tend to think of the Internet as that request/response thing (for what I’d call ‘electronic company brochures’) or for buying cheap books and flights (”Web 1.0″ springs to mind). As soon as the issue of services come up, they buy into whatever vendors are pushing (e.g. “rich media messaging”), what their own internal staff are doing on a standards body (e.g. “fixed mobile convergence”/”voice continuity”) or are trying to be innovative by copying Internet efforts (e.g. a rebranded softphone). I guess we need a mass cull followed by a strict talking down to those employees left standing to leave them in no doubt that centralisation, scarcity and command-and-control is out. Decentralisatoin, abundance and open APIs are in.

(Note that Andy Abramson seems to think that Ted ought to have put a disclaimer on his post)




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