Work on identity aggregation – three streams in search of a single solution
I seem to have been skimming a lot of articles on models of drawing together the different identities we leave scattered hither and thither about the Net in the last few days (something I whimsically termed the diaspora of you on an earlier post – everyone wants to invent a tagline) .
There seem to be two distinct approaches to thinking about this this – technical solutions (Read/Write Web did a great overview a couple of months ago) and aggregator solutions which could include everything from Google’s “next-gen” social networking work-in-progress Social Stream to bundlers of activity like Tumblr or the more complex iStalkr.
iStalkr (still in Beta) seems to be trying to achieve a lot of what Google is aiming at with Socialstream. Google’s post characterises Socialstream as “A service model [that] allows many social networks to be linked together, letting them share both content and the nature of the relationships of the people who use them.” Essentially a news reader for identities, then. iStalkr already delivers a version of that kind of experience by aggregating the “lifestream” type content of one’s activities in (say) LastFM, Flickr, Twitter, blogs and anything else that can be delivered as an RSS (tangent! if Tim Berners Lee invented the internet, surely Dave Winer deserves wider recognition as the man who more than most other people made it into something alive…) in such a way as each distinct “moment” (my term – I mean a record of the song I’m listening to now) can be cross-referenced with the moments of other users.
What I like about this is the way it offers a chance to network in a slightly more granular, intimate, fuzzy way than “Hey, didn’t you go to the same university five years after me?”. At the moment, though, it’s slow and the visualisation doesn’t seem to enable you to layer the streams of others over your own. Interestingly, it also uses the XHTML Friends network for users to manage information about their relationships. This is what I’d identify as a third steam of interest – freeing up the tangle of your relationships with people on different social networks from that specific context without losing the those aspects of that context that you’d like to be portable. So how does a protocol/service like XHTML (apparently the first microformat) relate to this?
Well, it potentially becomes useful when someone looks at integrating services like OpenID (uploaded identities managed by a central server) or Sxipper (managed locally via Firefox plugin on your machine – see also Podtech’s interview) with relationship mappings like XFN in in terms of pulling together the management of the password/profile aspect of one’s life with the web of relationships we take with us as we move from location to location. Then one needs to draw in the third dimension of the diaspora – how these relationship intersections interweave with the trail of “moments” we leave behind us behind us – songs listened to, status updates posted, comments left – in terms of who is allowed to know what about whom.
What would such a thing actually look like? Hopefully not Yahoo pipes, for starters. Perhaps it’s a job for these people?