Getting over the identity crisis.

Paint me a picture.

When we meet someone in the physical world, we create a mental image of them. We think this image to be complete: there is a face, a name to go with it, and a personality we can animate it with. Of course, this is merely a shallow impression. We will hone this image when we meet him at a coffee shop and have a chat, when we see him dining at a fancy restaurant, when meet him at a party, and through our other encounters. This is comparable to an artist who first sketches a draft and then slowly fills in the details.

On the Internet, the opposite happens. We start with little details – what little we can know of a person through his tweets, pownces, flickr photos, etc – and try to cobble this together in our minds into a coherent whole. Except, we can’t! People switch from one service to another like they change clothes, and even if they didn’t, it would be a pain to follow them around the Internet. At present, we settle for one-dimensional mental images of people. (Some of you will say that search helps in this department but we all know how inadequate that is.)

Icebreaker to the max.

What I’m driving at here is that we need to come up with something that allows people to have a unified online identity. Imagine just how much more value the Internet can provide when we will finally be able to tell who exactly John Doe is in the Internet world. The possibilities that arise when we can see all the Wikipedia entries he has contributed to, all the blog posts he has written, all the things he has ever sold on eBay, all the songs he has listened to on last.fm, and so on and so forth (all subject to privacy limits set by him) are endless and exciting.

This will be like the social sixth sense created by Twitter, only 100X better. This is unlimited ammunition for conversations. This is the kind of thing that will allows us to know each other more, and understand each other more. This will end wars! Just kidding – but you get my point.

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3 Responses to Getting over the identity crisis.

  1. In an ideal world, your idea of a holistic identification system might work, Steve. But in this here world we have, something like what you’re dreaming about will send people screaming themselves hoarse before letting such a service invade their privacy. Remember the brouhaha caused by the proposed unified ID system by the US gov’t?

  2. steve says:

    That’s why I mentioned that all of this, of course, would be subject to privacy controls set by the user. In fact, with a unified identity, it would be easier to protect your privacy compared to the present situation, where a Google search can bring up almost anything.

  3. […] make talk small. I’ve written before about the online identity crisis I perceive we are having. A lot of people tell me that they are not so positive about having a […]

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