The Identity Report

Social network portability. Single signon. Digital identity. Keeping personal info private. These are all important things that both users and developers are concerned about. Me too and so I called Kaliya Hamlin, aka “Identity Woman.”

She knows EVERYONE who is working on dataportability or identity and is one of the people who really helped OpenID happen.

So, listening to her on these issues is important and she certainly made me smarter and invited me to a raft of interesting events coming soon.

This was split up into four parts, because BlogTalkRadio’s Cinch service only lets me record for about eight minutes at a clip.

Sorry that I’m so loud compared to her, gotta figure out a better way to do phone interviews (I was using an iPhone in my car).

Part I (the first few seconds are silent, so wait for the recording to start at about 40 seconds into it, these are all audio-only MP3s).
Part II.
Part III.
Part IV.

What did she teach me? What XRI is. That lets developers build features that will federate between social networks your email address, photos, and other personal identifying info. Right now it’s a real pain, because if you need to change something, like your email address, you’ve got to do it on all your services (and I’m on more than 20 so far).

Also discussed:

(Breast Feeding Moms)

Higgins: Open Source Community for Common Identity Framework

Two Identity + Semantic tools being developed – these kinds of things are critical to creating data sharing across context

Higgins OWL & XDI-RDF (drummond explaining it to Chris Mesina).

We talked about the state of dataportability and what she’s seeing developers trying to work on and the events that she recommends, in particular these two:

1. Identity Information Workshop. May 12-14 in Mountain View, CA
2. The Data Sharing Summit, May 15, in Mountain View, CA.

If you are working on this stuff and you aren’t following Identity Woman you really should.

I love my friends but why am I between them and you?

One thing that happened in 2007 is that we finally saw real value in having lots of friends on online services. Keep in mind that “friends” online aren’t quite like “friends” offline. First of all, they don’t take you to dinner on a Friday night like Rocky did. Second of all, you might never have met them face-to-face. But let’s leave that argument out of it for this post, OK?

The thing is my online “social networking” friends have added a great deal of value to my life. Let’s detail how.

1. On Flickr they bring me great new photos. I’m even using new software from Dave Winer to display their photos on my 60-inch big screen. Hundreds of new photos come every day from my contacts. My Flickr account is here and I am taking new contacts.
2. On Upcoming they bring me tons of new events. I have hundreds of friends on Upcoming and learn about events before anyone else. Turns out that if an Upcoming friend adds an event to their listing then it also shows up every time I visit the Upcoming home page. That’s why my event listing calendar is the best in the business.
3. On Twitter I have more than 6,000 friends (you can add me here). They bring me a constant stream of interesting stuff. Same over on Jaiku and on Pownce (on Pownce they even send me videos and music, among other things because they have a private file sharing system).
4. On Dopplr my friends tell me where they are going on business trips and I can meet up with them. You can follow my business travel on Dopplr here.
5. On Facebook my friends bring me a constant stream of applications (more than 600 waiting for me to try right now), videos, pictures, news, and other things.
6. On Google Reader my friends bring me a constant stream of great blogs and news items (more than 200 were waiting for me since 2:30 a.m. when I went to sleep). Even without you being able to see my friends, they do help me improve my link blog. You can join me on Google Reader at
7. On Yelp my friends bring me great restaurant reviews. I just joined Yelp, so haven’t written any reviews, but I’m here if you wanna follow along.
8. On Plaxo my friends’ stuff is mashed together in the Plaxo Pulse and they keep my rolodex up to date too.
9. On iLike my friends bring me new music.
10. On VodPod my friends bring me new videos. I just started on VodPod, but I’m Scobleizer there.
11. On Mahalo my friends bring me new information and improve searches. I just started feeding items into Mahalo here.
12. Over on Satisfaction my friends help me get customer support.
13. On Seesmic my friends send me video messages. I’m “Scobleizer” on Seesmic, please add me if you’re on that system.

I’m sure I’m missing some great systems that use friends. Are you using any?

But, I’m shocked that the industry hasn’t gone the next step: let me get out of the way as a gatekeeper!

See, I’ve brought together a unique group of friends. I’d love it if you could get to know them. See the events that they are telling me about. See their photos. See their news on Google Reader (although I am still getting tons of duplicates there, hope the Google Reader team fixes that soon). Learn about the restaurants they like, etc etc etc.

But I can’t. The only way I can help you get to know them is to manually share their stuff out. Even then, it’s pretty tough, particularly on sites like Facebook which really doesn’t like having stuff go onto the public web (like videos or photos).

If there’s someone who can solve this, and mashup all the feedback coming to me from my friends into something that looks like a Tumblr page, that’d really rock and be a useful resource for all of us.

Why do some friends’ networks add value? Because of their nicheness. My friends are all geeks. They care about tech. You won’t see quilting events come through my friends pages over on Upcoming. And if I ever saw something like that I’d remove it cause I’m about geeking out, not quilting (although I know a few geeks who are into stuff like that).

The stuff that’s coming to me from my friends is really high quality stuff. I just wish I could share it.

Well, until they allow me to remove myself, I guess I’m a gatekeeper. That makes me sad cause my friends are so cool!

UPDATE: over on Twitter Matt Galligan recommended Lijit, which does some of what I’m asking for here. I’ve signed up for that as well.

Hi5 CTO talks about Open Social, among other things

[podtech content=]

Hi5 is a social network that’s very popular. They are seeing 100,000 new users every day. Facebook is seeing 200,000.

Since Hi5 is one of the partners in the Open Social platform, along with about 16 other social networks including MySpace, I wanted to find out about the social networking space from a company other than Facebook.

Also, at Facebook you never get to interview the geeks who actually build the service, so when I got a chance to interview Akash Garg, the Chief Technical Officer behind Hi5 I jumped at the chance. Geeks usually tell more details than the CEO will. Akash didn’t disappoint.

We talk about a variety of things about the social networking industry as well as his opinion of Open Social.

Steve Ballmer still doesn't understand social networking

A few years ago I wrote to Microsoft’s leadership and asked them why they weren’t involved in the new Web 2.0 space. I got an answer back that was about 2,000 words long and included the words “business value” 13 times. Translation: Microsoft’s leadership thought that Web 2.0 and social software like Flickr didn’t have business value and was too much of a potential fad to invest in.

Glad to see that Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, is consistent. Notes that Geocities lost most of its value after being acquired by Yahoo and says “it had most of what Facebook has.” Let’s come back to that point in a second.

The thing is that Ballmer has bought into the advertising hype too. I remember when Microsoft’s President, Kevin Johnson, came to our group when I worked at Microsoft and explained that the advertising industry is 10x the size of the software industry and that he was going to steer Microsoft more into an advertising-driven business rather than just one that made its revenues from selling software. Translation: Microsoft was going to compete more with Google, Yahoo, and other companies going after the advertising pie.

Don’t miss this quote. It’s demonstrates everything that is wrong with Microsoft’s approach:

“There can’t be any more deep technology in Facebook than what dozens of people could write in a couple of years. That’s for sure,” Ballmer said.

When I worked at Microsoft I heard this over and over and over again from various engineers and program managers who STILL haven’t competed effectively with WordPress, Flickr, Skype, YouTube, or any of the other things over the years I’ve heard this “we can build that in a few weeks” kind of arrogant attitude attached to.

But, remember eBay? Remember how dozens of competitors tried to get into the eBay space? (and still are?)

Why aren’t they succeeding? Because eBay is NOT about the technology. It’s about the community and unless you have something that’ll convince the buyers and sellers all to switch all at one moment you’ll never be able to take eBay’s market away. Translation: it’s too late and eBay has huge defensibility around its business because people won’t move away from it even if you demonstrate 5x better technology.

Same with Facebook. I’m not moving away from it. Why? I have 5,000 reasons why (and another 500 already who want to be included in my Facebook network). Unless you can convince them all to move I’m not moving. This is why LinkedIn isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, even though I like Facebook’s approach a lot better. It’s also why MySpace isn’t going anywhere. My son says his friends are all on MySpace. My brother’s bar is on MySpace. They aren’t moving no matter how hard I evangelize Facebook.

Which gets us back to Ballmer’s quotes.

First, let’s share this one: “I think these things [social networks] are going to have some legs, and yet there’s a faddishness, a faddish nature about anything that basically appeals to younger people,” Mr Ballmer told Times Online yesterday.

I’m 42. Hardly young. And Facebook is appealing a lot to people in my social network and age group lately (and so is Twitter and other social tools like Pownce, LinkedIn, and sites that use social groups like Yelp, Flickr, I guess Ballmer missed that. This is what happens when Microsoft executives don’t get outside of their ivory towers very often. Steve, you really need to go to any tech industry conference and hang out in the hallways. Don’t come to San Francisco, you won’t believe anything you hear here anyway. But go to, say, LeWeb3 in Paris and hear what they say about social networks. You’ll probably hear Bebo. Facebook. And a few others. From even the old folks. Last night I was at a National Geographic event and lots of people were talking about Facebook.

Here’s another quote:

Mr Ballmer also noted that sites such as Geocities, an online community that was bought for $3 billion by Yahoo! in 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom, “had most of what Facebook has.”

Oh, boy. No way, no how.

First of all, I never joined Geocities. It never had utility for me. It was a place to build free Web sites. I found it had all the disadvantages to me that MySpace has and NONE of the advantages of Facebook. It was NOT a social network that exerted the kind of social pressure on me to join the way that Facebook did. I tried to ignore Facebook for years. Same with MySpace. But people I kept meeting kept begging me to join. Kevin Rose, when we had dinner, told me I was blowing it by not being on Facebook. That NEVER happened with Geocities.

Also, Facebook is now a business card collection. A rolodex. That has real utility that’ll keep me using it long after it joins the “old fad bin.”

Oh, and anytime people say “this thing is a fad?” I think of blogging. Lots of people told me that when I started it too. It wasn’t. Neither is Facebook.

But all this makes me think that Ballmer is trying to send signals to Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) that the price is too high and that this is just a negotiating ploy. Nice one! But it doesn’t give me confidence that Microsoft is going to figure out Web 2.0 or social networking strategies anytime soon.

It also makes me realize that Ballmer has no clue about the future of advertising. If he did he’d be talking about how Facebook’s ability to concentrate people into buckets in a new way should be copied and studied. That’s where Facebook’s real advertising value is and Microsoft hasn’t demonstrated ANY ability to see that yet. Of course, Facebook itself hasn’t shipped its advertising platform that’ll demonstrate its vision there either, but I hear it’s coming.

Will Microsoft get a clue before Facebook gets an entrenched advertising platform going?

Ballmer proved with Google and with these quotes today: no.