Chris Messina at Google – Good for him, Google & The Identity/Social Web Community.

I was one of the first people to congratulate Chris Messina on his blog when he announced he was going to Google. It was a personal congratulations. I wasn’t sure if it was good overall for the open web vision or the community as a whole. In the end after thinking about it for a few days I feel it is a good move for them, for Google and for the community. The rest of this post explains why.

With Chris going to Google it gives them three seats on the OpenID board (Joseph and Chris are both community board members and Google has a corporate paying board member seat filled by Eric Sachs). It concentrates a lot of power at Google and I agree with Eran’s concerns from Marshall’s RWW/NYTimes article …why be “open” if you can just have an internal product meeting with Brad Fitzpatrick and a few other Googlers and “ship” a product without reaching out to others. I agree with the concern and I think there will be enough eyes on these individuals in particular and Google in particular to challenge them if they do that.

Thursday morning I sat at “geek breakfast” in Berkeley with a friend discussing Chris and Joseph’s move to Google. We mused about how many people we knew who “get social” have been at Google and because “Google didn’t get social” they were unhappy so they left, Kevin Marks being just the latest example leaving in the fall for British Telecom/Ribbit where he works for JP Rangaswami, the CIO who really gets open.
Given this, if “just” Joseph Smarr was going to Google he would be more “alone” trying to “do social right” at Google. Yes, he would have allies but no one quite as high profile as himself. With Chris Messina there too, there are now two major committed community leaders who can work the politics involved in helping Google to “get” social and actually do it right. If anyone has a hope inside that big company it is those two and I don’t think either could be as effective alone.
If Chris and Joseph fail, that is if they get frustrated and leave (which they can at any time they want cause they are very “employable” because of their profiles by a whole range of companies in the valley) then is a sign that Google doesn’t really “get” social and isn’t moving in the right direction in terms of supporting the emergence of an open standards based, individually empowering & social web.
With Zuckerberg’s statement’s about privacy and the recent actions by Facebook to make user-information public, Google has a huge opportunity to live up to its slogan of “not doing evil”. Over the fall Google made some promising statements on the meaning of open and took action spinning up the Data Liberation Front.
I know many people who currently are and have been at Google. All of them talk about how secure things are internally – it is not possible to go into their systems and “look up a user” and poke around at what they have in their e-mail, or what they have searched on or what is in their google docs. Algorithms look at people’s stuff there, not people. Google takes their brand and reputation for protecting people’s private information seriously. I am not particularly starry eyed about Google thinking they can do no evil – they are just a company driven by the need to make a profit. I worry that they might be becoming too dominant in some aspects of the web and that there are legitimate concerns about the monopoly power they have in certain market area.
I don’t see this as a Google vs. Facebook fight either. Chris, Brad, Eric, Joseph are all at Google & David Recordon and Luke at Facebook; they are all good friends socially and are just six people in the overall identity community made up of about 1000 people at 100′s of companies. Yahoo!, AOL, Microsoft (enterprise & MSN side), are all involved along with PayPal, Amazon, BT, Orange, Mozilla, Sun, Equifax, Apple, Axiom, Oracle, & many many more. They all come together twice a year at the Internet Identity Workshops and other events to collaborate on innovating open standards for identity on the social web.
I invite those who want to participate in the dialogue to consider attending the 10th Internet Identity Worskshop May 18-20.

I take the health of the identity community, its over all tone and balance quite seriously. I helped foster it from the beginning really starring in March of 2004 including 9 months from June of that year until January 2005 it was my first major job – evangelizing user-centric identity and growing the community to tackle solving this enormous problem (an identity and social layer of the web for people). I along with others like Doc Searls, Phil Windley, Drummond Reed, Bill Washburn, Mary Ruddy, Mary Rundle, Paul Trevithick, Dick Hardt, Eugene Kim & many others formed the identity community. Having put my heart, soul, sweat and tears into this community and working towards good results for people & the web, I don’t say what I say in this post lightly.

The Age of Privacy is Over????

ReadWriteWeb has coverage of Zuckerberg’s talk with Arrington at the Crunchies. According to him, the age of Privacy is Over. This is the quote that is just STUNNING:

..we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.

When I first heard it in the interview in the video I did a major double take – “we decided” ?? seriously? The we in that sentence is Facebook and clearly with Zuckerburg is at the helm – He could have said “I decided” and he as the CEO of a social network has the power to “decide” the fate of the privately shared amongst friends in the context of this particular social network for millions of people (see my post about the privacy move violating the contract with users). It makes you wonder if this one platform has too much power and in this example makes the case for a distributed social network where people have their own autonomy to share their information on their own terms and not trust that the company running a platform will not expose their information.

It is clear that Zuckerberg and his team don’t get social norms and how they work – people create social norms with their usage and practices in social space (both online and off).

It is “possible” to change what is available publicly and there for making it normal by flipping a switch and making things that were private public for millions of people, but it is unethical and undermines the trust people have in the network.

I will agree there is an emerging norm that young men working building tools in Silicon Valley have a social norm of “being public about everything”, but they are not everyone. I am looking forward to seeing social tools developed by women and actual community organizers rather then just techno geeks.

I will have more to say on this later this week – I was quite busy Saturday – I ran the Community Leadership Summit, yesterday I flew to DC and today I am running the Open Government Directive Workshop. While I am here I hope to meet with folks about Identity in DC over the next 2 days.

Suicide Options for Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

I have another post up on ReadWriteWeb that went up just after Christmas covering people who are choosing to leave Facebook or considering doing so along with the tools to help them.

Fed Up with Facebook Privacy Issues? Here is how to End it All.

It highlights two different Web 2.0 suicide machines; one is an art project called .

The service creates a virtual memorial for you and posts you on a suicide wall & they give you points for how many friends you had and how many of them choose to follow you to the “after life”. The leader board is here.  You can see the RIP page for one of the creators of the service - Gionatan Quintini here.

It received a cease and desist from Facebook and responded.

The response is not covered in the article (it wasn’t out when I wrote it). It has some great quotes that sound like language coming from the user-centric identity community.

5. My clients have the right to receive information, ideas, and photographs from those people whom are the legitimate proprietors of this data and can decide to share this data or to store it, with the prior consent of its respective owners. All of this is freedom of expression and the manifestation of thought and free circulation of ideas that is accepted and guaranteed in Europe and in the U.S.A.

6. Facebook cannot order the erasure of data that does not belong to it, acting against the free will of the owners of such data. This is not protection of privacy, but rather a violation of the free will of citizens that can decide freely and for themselves how to arrange their personal sphere.

We shall see how Facebook responds to this.

Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is more comprehensive – covering LinkedIn & Twitter as well.

Here is the previous Read Write Web post on the changes in what is and is not public.