It's all spinning wheels and self-doubt until the first pot of coffee.

Don't ask me who I am

I'm tired of filling out profiles, and I'm tired of building up networks of others' profiles online. Everyone needs to adopt something like FOAF hCard and XFN (updated per suggestion from Kevin Marks), and be done with it. The networks should be semi-automated, or at least suggested, by detecting who I know from other places as they hop on another bandwagon with me. (The separations between implicit groups bounded by the particular service are as important as explicitly defined groups.)

LiveJournal was my first experience with much self-disclosure online, into which I dove with much enthusiasm. But since then, I just haven't felt the need to replicate self-disclosure anywhere else but on my own site. Orkut, Rize, LinkedIn, MySpace, Vox, del.icio.us, last.fm, flickr, 43 {Things|People|Places} -- these are sites in which I've had some passing or lasting interest in the last few years, but I wish I could just point them all at a single source for learning about me. It all needs to be turned inside out, and lock-ins removed.

Centrallized identity and social network management for distributed service providers is what I want. I'm sure there's already a movement afoot, and I've just not reached that spot in my to-read list.

Archived Comments

  • bah. they should take vCard data and be done with it. So much already does.

  • Well, one thing I like about FOAF, is that it's extensible. So, as more categories of self-disclosure become popular, they can be dumped into that one central thingy

  • Actually, Les, I haven't seen it either. I'm with you: I sure as hell would love to only write this crap once. Even copy-and-paste is just too much shit to do!

  • This is basically Marc Canter's current mission in life, from the sounds of it. See his PeopleAggregator (http://peopleaggregator.com/) project.

  • Foaf's cute. but I don't think it's any more extensible than vCard is (iirc)

    However, it is nice for actual F-O-A-F semantics. But you'll never see someone's foaf at the bottom of their email, auto-imported into exchange, etc.

    Maybe I'm a dinosaur, but there's all ready too damn much xml in the world by my reckonin'

  • Yes, the Peopleaggregator sets out to solve this :) This http://traumwind.de/tindertraum/archives/debabelizeing_profiles.html is the beginnig of the "IdentityHub" -Martin

  • claimID, claimID!


    Give it a whirl and see if you like what we're doing. Point to it. Point from it. Keep it in one place.

    Terrell http://claimID.com/terrell

  • Nice. I'll concede the point to hCard.

  • Can't we just use the information the NSA is compiling for us? This way we don't even have to enter it ourselves!

  • http://videntity.org/ seems to be offering a bunch of these things together; more as an example, since anyone offering the same information would be a peer.

  • I'm a minor fan of claimID, but I much prefer hardcore decentralization. FOAF would be a lot more useful if it didn't rely on RDF. XFN and hCard are good for what they are, but they're still a far cry from the expressivity of FOAF. Sadly, there's no good format that solves a sufficiently large number of the problems in this space (that doesn't carry the RDF baggage anyways).

  • Right on Les! There are two issues, identification/authentication (hard, but the outlook looks promising) and personal profile/description (easier, already pretty much solved by the tech you mention). Hopefully the two should be joined up before long...

    re. Bob's comment: "XFN and hCard are good for what they are, but they’re still a far cry from the expressivity of FOAF.". Indeed, they also help considerably with the problem of expressing this kind of machine-readable data in HTML. But "FOAF would be a lot more useful if it didn’t rely on RDF." - the power, the expressivity of FOAF comes from RDF.

    I suspect Bob (like Mad William) may be assuming RDF (including FOAF) has to mean RDF/XML. But RDF is a model, it doesn't have to serialize to XML, there are other formats - including HTML (via eRDF). Note too that microformats like XFN and hCard can be interpreted as RDF (including FOAF terms as appropriate) with GRDDL.

    (Incidentally I got to this post before even looking in my personal agg via Marc Canter's on Planet Web 2.0)

  • But you're forgetting that a lot of people, myself included, like to represent themselves in different ways on different sites. This would only really be useful as a starting point, I wouldn't want all my profiles to be identical. I don't use the same info for business (linkedin), school (facebook), friends from home (myspace), people i know from various music forums (last.fm) etc.

  • Danny, I am actually aware of all of those acronyms, however, I completely disagree on the point about FOAF's expressivity relying mainly on RDF. I would contend that FOAF's expressivity actually relies far, far more, simply on XML's ability to namespace things, and thus allow for extensions. Something that a simple XML dialect would also have, but with the added bonus of an infinitely simpler parser, fewer confused programmers, and quite a bit less bandwidth consumed.

  • Indeed Les, this is exactly what hCard solves on the Web with the minimum of duplication of data into hidden places and mimetype hackery/configuration (problems of the other approaches mentioned).

    You can either use a 3rd party service like claimID as mentioned to claim your various profiles on the Web, or you can simply continue to publish your profile information on your about or author page, simply add just a bit of hCard markup, and use XFN Identity Consolidation (rel="me") to turn your about page into your consolidated identity hub.

    While services will undoubtedly continue to ask you a hundred profile questions, the better ones will do something as simple as use the simple open source hKit Microformats Toolkit by Drew McLellan to let you simply enter your hCard URL and fill out all the questions automatically from that.

    And the best services will help you, the user, keep your profile as portable as you would like it, by marking it up with hCard as well. Already, profiles on numerous services, in addition to the abovementioned claimID, like Flickr and Technorati are marked up with hCard and thus ready for reuse with services that use hKit.

    Finally, some have brought up "extensibility" as something that is desirable yet recent lessons have taught us that in terms of standards and interoperability, the opposite is true. The more well-defined not-infinitely-extensible a standard is, the sooner implementers know they are "done" implementing it (interoperably even!), and the less chance there is of a zillion non-interoperable extensions randomly emerging (i.e. Tower of Babel problem) which then cause headaches not only for all implementers, but users as well as the users then have to contend with their data not quite working interoperably across all the different services that all support slightly different sets of incompatible/non-interoperable extensions.

  • I agree with Steve. Who am I? It depends. Who are you, and based on that - what do I wish you to know about me? Who are my friends? Same thing. Even if I wanted to divulge them, I then need to respect their privacy wishes and decide if they want you to know that they are a friend of mine (or not) and how they came to be tagged as friends. A web service which tries to consolidate all of this info is presented with too many privacy conflicts to ever get it right (IMAO). I can recall this concept being tried by a hundred different companies (not to mention open source projects) going back to the early 90's. It was never an issue of technology. The hurdles are primarily social and revolve around trust and privacy - and delegation of these rights to third parties in language even my mother would understand.

  • But you’re forgetting that a lot of people, myself included, like to represent themselves in different ways on different sites. This would only really be useful as a starting point, I wouldn’t want all my profiles to be identical. I don’t use the same info for business (linkedin), school (facebook), friends from home (myspace), people i know from various music forums (last.fm) etc.