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.

Passport Biometrics. Why?

From Tara over at Horse Pig Cow she highlights this issue she learned about while in Europe by a fellow blogger.

Here in Europe we’re currently forced to get passports with biometrical data because the US wants us to do so. There are a lot of discussions about this and not everyone is happy with it. There is still no explanation from my government on what this is for. But there might be at least some control and protection of my data by my own government against other interests.

The reason this is happening around the world is a phenomena called ‘policy laundering.’ This what happens when governments want a policy.

Policy – “biometrics embedded in passports” and even more specifically being able to read these biometrics without touching the pass port. Basically mandating RFID chips with your biometrics in your passport.

So would this pass in the US? Not likely. So they took the ‘policy’ to the international standards body that determines international standards for passports. It is this body that decides that the policy.

The blogger continues and touches on issues that we are tackling in the identity world.

And now there’s this huge database of the same data building up without any control.

And that’s a big part of my problem: I don’t have control over my own data. At least none that I know of. Everyone can upload pictures of me and tag them with my name and e-mail address and I don’t even know it. In Germany it’s a human right to know what others know about someone and I see some possible violations of that in your (and other’s, for sure) service.

Owning your own data or at least having a copy of it is what we have been talking about in the identity community for a while.

Jigsaw aggregating everyone…

I have had a challenge with my RSS reader. Making things slow as molasses. So I have not really be reading to much. I decided to do some surfing around and likely will abandon readers all together except for maybe 20 core blogs. The rest I will do by surfing and searching.

Today I found this by surfing through TechCruhch. Jigsaw I quoted it extensively because it was so startling and relevant for the identity community to consider.

Jigsaw is a marketplace for contact information, and it is very efficient. It boasts detailed personal contact information for 2.5 million people, and 7,000 new people are added every day. If you want the name, title, email address, direct phone line and/or address of any executive of any company, there is a very good chance Jigsaw will already have it in its database and will sell it to you. And if you are a sales guy and have no ethical concerns about where you get your contact information, you probably already know all about Jigsaw.

Unlike competitors like Hoovers and InfoUSA, which gather company information by semi-legitimate means such as scouring SEC filings, cold calling companies and asking for information, and reviewing other public documents, Jigsaw simply pays people to upload other people’s contact information. Users are paid $1 for every contact they upload, and some users have uploaded information on tens of thousands of people. See the demo (and note the other demos on that page as well). Jigsaw is also self correcting, and incentivizes people to also correct bad contact information.

That’s right, the next time you hand out a business card to someone or otherwise divulge your contact information, you may be handing it out to the entire world.

Here’s how it works: Sign up and start downloading contact information. This includes name, title, company, address, email and direct phone line. For example, a quick search brought up all of this personal.

But wait, it gets much worse.

Anyone can find out if Jigsaw has their contact information via a link on the home page, but amending or trying to delete that information simply puts a flag on the data with the changes noted – but the original information also remains.There appears to be no way to remove your own contact information from Jigsaw once someone has entered it into their database. There is no method that I was able to find on the website to do this (including in the privacy policy), and an email to the company asking about this went unanswered (its been three business days now).

Jigsaw has a carefully worded privacy policy to deal with the fact that they are the antithesis of privacy. They say “This privacy policy covers how, when and why we collect, use and share information about our users…This policy does not apply to our collection and use of data about companies and contacts contained in our database system.”

Is Jigsaw legal? Maybe in the U.S., although I’d love to see a class action case brought against them. Is it ethical? Absolutely not. Every Jigsaw employee and investor has dirty hands and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Like Plaxo, Jigsaw makes money while pushing costs to other people. In Plaxo’s case, its spam. In Jigsaw’s case, its making private contact information public. The problem here is that Jigsaw’s actions aren’t easily found out by people getting constant cold calls and emails – it’s very unlikely they’ll know that these people got this contact information at Jigsaw in the first place.

If they wanted to do this right, they’d set up a marketplace where individuals could choose to sell (or give away) their contact information. The owner of the data could set the price, and Jigsaw could take a cut. Would this model work? Perhaps not, but that just proves my point. The only reason Jigsaw does work is because they don’t have to bear the costs that they push to third parties – all of the people who are in their database.

The Intention Economy by Doc

This piece on the Intention Economy by Doc is really great. It speaks to what I see as the subtle convergence of ideas from communities that I belong to. In spiritual activist world intention is a big deal “what is your intention” is not an infrequent question or frame invited around self reflection.

The social venture and social enterprise communities are big into finding a balance between intention and making money.

From the article.

Is “The Attention Economy” just another way for advertisers to skewer eyeballs? And why build an economy around Attention, when Intention is where the money comes from? 

I have developed a real problem with the perspective behind what a number of people have been saying about Attention behind the podia. That perspective is sell-side. Its point of view is anchored with sellers, not buyers.

Hence my idea: The Intention Economy.

The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don’t need advertising to make them.

The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that.

The Intention Economy is built around more than transactions. Conversations matter. So do relationships. So do reputation, authority and respect. Those virtues, however, are earned by sellers (as well as buyers) and not just “branded” by sellers on the minds of buyers like the symbols of ranchers burned on the hides of cattle.

The Intention Economy is about buyers finding sellers, not sellers finding (or “capturing”) buyers.

Even though I’ve been thinking out loud about Independent Identity for years, I didn’t have a one-word adjective for the kind of market economy it would yield, or where it would thrive. Now, thanks to all the unclear talk at eTech about attention, intentional is that adjective, because intent is the noun that matters most in any economy that gives full respect to what only customers can do, which is buy.

Like so many other things that I write about (including everything I’ve written about identity), The Intention Economy is a provisional idea. It’s an observation that might have no traction at all. Or, it might be a snowball: an core idea with enough heft to roll, and with enough adhesion to grow, so others add their own thoughts and ideas to it.

As for the Linux connection, I believe that The Intention Economy is, by necessity, built on free software and open source principles, practices, standards and code. It’s not something that requires any company’s “platform” or “environment”. That’s why, much as I like the services provided by companies like Orbitz (which is built on LAMP, and does a very good job), I believe no company’s system can encompass The Intention Economy. The encompassing has to work the other way around. In other words, silos are fine. But the choice can’t be “nothing but silos”.

I think the foundational statement here is this necessity these new economic models be built on free software and open source principles, practices, standards and code.

You can see this trend happening in the face to face community gatherings of techies with the flowering of independent conferences that are built on open source principles. They don’t have a high barrier to entry and people come together because they have an interest – they figure out what they want to talk about and do together. We have used these to bring the identity community together at the Internet Identity Workshop. Camps are happening etc.

The essential nature of identity systems that go to the core of who we are – or are becoming in the digital age means that the platforms that we use to exchange this information must be OPEN. Jair and I have talked about this a bunch. We must be able to see the code that our operating systems are built on if they are managing our personally identifying information. How do we know there is not an NSA back door into Microsoft vista to peer on us. Despite what MS says can we believe them – we could if we could see the code. Hopefully they will get with Jeffery Moore and understand the comodification of the stack.

We also must improve privacy protection for third party storage of information – breaking out of the ‘secrecy paradigm’ that the courts interpreted – if someone knows information about me then it is not secret so they can share it. This does not jive with or norms of social disclosure of information.

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Conferences…issues

Scoble just did this long… post on conferences and the issues around creating them. Adding to Jeff Jarvis’ post here.

I left this comment….

Hey Scoble,
We in the identity community are trying to figure out the venue thing too. 1st key is a place that lets you bring in outside catoring.
We are also doing 75% open space at our next conference – so no planning for ’sessions’ the attendees create them based on what is alive in the room that day. This is how you have a discussion with 2000 folks – not trying to have it all in one big room. You can also use process like Appreciative Inquiry where a whole room of over 5000 folks can have a meaningful conversatino ‘together’. I think we should have a conference for conference organizers to mull on options and issues faced by our crowd. Innvation is needed in this space and market needs are largely unmet.

The breakdown on the Identity Workshop was a fee of $75 for a two day conference that included lunch.
Those of us who organized it did it volunteer and we broke even. Everyone loved us bucking the trend of the ‘expensive’ conference. We are hoping to pull it off again this year in May.

The details – We had about 70 paying attendees. 80 people attended. Lunch was $800 a day -$10 a head (and people liked the food)
We paid the venue about $800 a day (but the wifi was iffy and chairs not super comfy). We got someone to help with refreshments for about $400. A neutral sponsor came through and sponsored dinner for everyone the first (and only) evening of the conference.