Identity Gang 2 – How did John get involved?

This was the big identity event that I missed while I was away. The good thing about podcasting is that you get to listen to it after it is recorded. There was a question that Doc asked John Clippinger about where he really got involved with the identity conversation…he really was a bit stumped and was like PCForum…John Clippinger and Paul Trevethick came out the Planetwork in 2004 where identity was a big topic of discussion. I met them there.

I knew that Harvard was critical to get involved in the discussion so when I found out about the conference on Internet and Society I flew out there specifically to talk at length with John about what Identity Commons and i-names. We had a great meeting in the Charles hotel for about two and a half hours. I also on that trip spoke at length with Paul and Mary.

Then when we were out at PCForum for a pre-Forum identity gang. John couldn’t make that but got there late in the day. I set up a breakfast meeting with Owen Davis, Drummond Reed and John Clipppinger to talk about identity matters including how to get support from the big players for the kind of research and dialogue needed to address the social concerns. It seems the subsequent conversations went well and they secured some funding.

So…Doc that is part of the story about how John Clippinger and the Berkman Center got involved in the identity conversation.

Tagging using XRI

Drummond just posted a fantastic articulation how on might use XRI to do open tagging. Some of you may not be following the emergence of Tagging in the blogoshpere but it is really real with many services now empowering their members to tag. It has exploded so much that they have begun he World’s First Social Social Tagging Site Tagging Site site Supercilious. Tag Tuesday is the real hub of this emerging developer/social media creator community. Perhaps Drummond has just created the outlines for a presentation there I know Nile was asking for suggestions about who could present the next month so let them know when you will be in town D.

Revolutionizing Marketing: The Business Case for XRI/XDI

Dear Marketing: An Open Letter From Your Customer
by Chris Maher of Fosforus


Over the years, I have had an uneasy relationship with you. I’ve not cared one bit for being your prospect. And, as it seems that being your customer is just an extension of a permanent, unrelenting and ever-more-intrusive marketing campaign, I’m not nuts about being your customer, either.

He quotes David Glen Mick from a paper Searching for Byzantium: A Personal Journey into Spiritual Questions that Marketing Researchers Rarely Ask

Another set of spiritual questions we seldom ask ourselves concerns the effects of marketing and consumption on human character. By character I do not mean human values, but rather our psychological temperament as we go about our daily activities. What kind of person does marketing and consumption encourage or discourage?

Mick’s answers include examples of qualities of temperament that are, in his opinion, encouraged by marketing and consumption: impatience, incivility, judgmentalism and distrust.

He continues to articulate the problems with marketing and gets to the heart of the matter by offering a new model.

What I’m recommending is the creation of (what I will call) a “custnomer”: a data alias or new “name” for that me that gets profiled by your computer systems.

At a minimum, this will mean that my customer records and data won’t have my real name appended to them. There are too many thieves and scammers out there who are seeking to use my good name and the records attached to it. Grab your nearest CIO and Chief Privacy Officer (and maybe the Chief Security Officer, though that person is probably on Zoloft at present) by their lapels and strongly encourage them to begin in-depth research into the promising work on Extensible Resource Identifiers (XRI) and XRI Data Interchange (XDI).

The Daddy of XRI, Drummond Reed, is someone I consider a friend …is, without question, the darned nicest and most patient technology visionary that you will ever come across. There isn’t an ounce of ego in his dealings with us woefully common folk.

Warning: XRI/XDI is not some obscure, trivial “tech thing” that will only be meaningful to those who mumble to themselves and spend half their lifetimes slaughtering innocents and evil-doers… virtually, that is. XRI/XDI has encoded within it is a simple, powerful idea that will come true over time and will change your business: “My private data is mine.”

He goes on to highlight data anonymity and the work of Latanya Sweeney, Assistant Professor, Institute for Software Research International at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Here’s how Sweeney describes what she does:

Perhaps the biggest clash between technology and society involves privacy. The task of maintaining privacy and confidentiality in a globally networked, technically empowered society is quite difficult, tricky and fun.

Data privacy (or more precisely, data anonymity) is emerging as a new study within computer science that is the study of computational solutions for releasing information about entities (such as people, companies, governments) such that certain properties (such as identity) are controlled while the data remain practically useful. While these problems have been studied, in part, by statisticians and earlier computer scientists, their solutions have been rendered insufficient in today’s technically empowered society. So, in data anonymity, we develop new approaches and tools for today’s computational environment.

My colleagues and I (in the Laboratory for International Data Privacy, for which, I am the director) take a two-prong approach to data anonymity. On the one hand, we work as data detectives and on the other hand, we also work as data protectors.”

The best part is he finished up with the new business model.

I’m thinking that there’s probably some trustworthy business entity—although, I’m hard-pressed to figure out which it might be—that could serve as my proxy. (Now, banks and/or credit card companies, before you leap to any conclusions, take a long look at your information assurance practices and see the part of this article about the Trusted Computing Group.)

I would willingly provide just enough information, credentials and data that authenticate who I am and which, say, establish my credit-worthiness to a “trusted relationship proxy”: some government-certified, insured, audited, secure entity that would establish and manage the data version of “me” and would become the “gateway” to all (or many) of my most important business relationships. Think of this proxy as an agent who serves as a buffer between me and you.

Canadians in Identity – Canadian’s Identity: The Essay Series Begins

Burton Group‘s Catalyst Conference was great for several reasons. One of them included the fact they actually had a BOF (Birds of a Feather) session for Canadians.
Last time I was in Seattle over at Kim Cameron and Adel’s house enjoying a glass of wine before dinner with Paul Trevithick, Drummond myself. Drummond was the only non-Canadian there and we got to talking about why there was so many Canadians working in this niche of the industry. I think part of the reason is because of the Canadian cultural obsession with identity. I have found what I hope will be a series of essays that good job of explaining this.

The first is the middle section of an essay by Bruce Mau a Canadian Designer entitled the United States of Switzerland.

If you have other articles that help explain this let me know and I will grow the collection.

Identity and Gaming

To prepare to talk with Susan Crawford I thought I would scan her three year old blog for any menitons of Identity. It turns out that Susan has done some extensive thought about identity and in particular in the context of online gaming. She has a link to a paperWho’s in Charge of Who I am?: Identity and the Law Online. Here are some good quotes…

Online identities are emergent. Identity is by definition a group project, something created by the context in which the identified operates.

Online walled gardens will be come more prevalent, as concerns about security, viruses, spam and the unknown increase, as valuable content is made accessible only to those who have been permissioned to see it, and as hardware and software systems made available to the masses increasingly taken on “trusted” aspects. Online games are precursors of these future more serious, walled garden online worlds. Key characteristics of both games and walled worlds are limited access, clear boundaries, rules, roles/players, and feedback mechanisms that create reputation. … These characteristics of games make them ideal laboratories for experimentation with rulesets.

This is a great mention of the word – rulesets. I have been thinking a lot about them ever since I read Thomas Barnett’s book – The Pentagon’s New Map. How we as a society and how institutions that govern us determine what the ruleset’s are is important to think about. With the complexifying world we live in – robust, legitimate and fair systems to create good rulesets are needed. This is particularly true in the online space that is really built by and for us. I hope that all the effort that has gone into creating the Identity Commons structure can be just such a place.

Back to Susan…

Who owns identity? who owns reputation? From the intermediary’s perspective, software creates rules that control what social context can be moved elsewhere. Your identity is “really” a database entry, and the intermediary can argue that your identity is their intellectual property, not yours. You may attach great importance to it, but this identity (and its reputation) will not as a practical matter survive outside the world in which it was formed. Walled world designers have incentives to raise switching costs and capture all the vale of this reputation. In other words, controllers of online worlds are gods. But users may defect from environments and attempt to constrain them in how persistent their reputations and identities are. The difficult task for developers/intermediaries is how much freedom to give their users. This takes us from the realm of risks to the realm of opportunities.

AS real work becomes a more common online activity, identity created in connection with groups will be more and more meaningful.

Human nature will always tend toward group-ness.

  • What would be made visisble? The fact that someone’s identity has been taken away, and the reasons why? Or speech-related actions of the intermediary that have an impact on identity (but are less then “disappearing” someone?)
  • What about reputation? Is it right that a user must leave her reputation behind when she leaves a particular online world? Is “reputation portability” possible? Or is reputation so context-dependent that the online world should be permitted to own it? And what does the online world own exactly? A group-created construct?
  • Is this entire problem avoided by staying out of “walled gardens” and maintaining our own domains? Will this be possible, as online worlds become more and more attractive, and as hardware and software increasingly intertwine?

In the end, it boils down to the fact that the best government is the one that you can trust, which will be the one you know personally: the people close to you in your virtual community, who are held accountable precisely because of community ties. Your best government is going to be each other, because the man behind the curtain isn’t going to know any more than you know him.

We are still in the early stages of the first two steps dealing with any technology: fear and opportunism. Enlightenment is not far away. I want to suggest that we skip quickly through the fear, linger on the opportunism, and move on to human betterment. This social benefit may come (as so many things do) from playfulness. Games have a great deal to teach us about how we establish and maintain identity. Now we need to consider who is in charge of these identities. It may be, in the end, that we are.

We need to forge a direct link between how we live and work online (especially within walled gardens) and how we structure control over online resources. If the new mode of work online is collaborative peer-production of resources, who will own a shared online space of identities? This ownership may have to be collective. The fundamental problem that is yet to be address is that while reputations and identities are group projects, legal ownership of collectively-created intangible identities currently appears to reside (by default) in online intermediaries. We may need to make some noise about this and ensure a better fit. Perhaps the game should belong to the players.

She raises some interesting questions for us to think about. I think looking at the governance and how to actualize that – this is what the distributed governance form of Identity Commons is designed to do. I didn’t really realize that she was involved with XNSORG several years back. She really liked you all and mentioned Bill Washburn and Drummond Reed by name.

While talking with her about identity and her paper she mentioned her connection to the State of Play conferences. The third one is coming up this fall and is entightled Social Revolution. Two panels look very relevant:

  • Collective Action in the Metaverse: Groups, Community and Power
  • Identity in the Metaverse: On-Line Identity in Virtual Worlds

It is the day after Web 2.0 but might be worth the trip :)