28 September 2006

Stronger than Biometrics

Regularly, I get invited to join a new online network and it seems like the trend's not going to stop anytime soon. It's like the last network to join would be the most indispensable tool to keep in touch with colleagues, friends, past friends, future friends, future employers, future employees, current communities of interests..
Last I joined was LinkedIn, invited by Guillaume that I get to be in touch with more online than in town, although we live in the same town. But I don't really mind that. It's just another way to enjoy a friendship. Like with those friends who read my blog and post comments directly to my mailbox or on instant messenging rather than in here.
So my entire life is now diversely online and whoever can get to know what I did when, with whom and where. The CIA doesn't need my passport biometrics or my octo-lovo vegetarian lunch menu on my last trip with Air France to know exactly what they need to know. They just have to cross the info posted on this blog, or on Orkut, Friendster, Delicious, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn, Viaduc, Rhizome, my photographic work and get in touch with me or my friends on iChat (I seemed to remember I have also an account on ICQ and MSN but I have no clue whatsoever about what my logins are). For most of the network sites, I end up copy-pasting my favorite authors and cinema directors and interests in architecture and design. I think I also put some of my education info in some reunion high school site and another one that opened recently to put in touch travelers from different cities. But those ones I kinda gave-up. To round-up my listing of online identities, I should mention that I also have my usual email address but it wouldn't be complete with 2 other email accounts on Gmail of course. Ah, and also, I have more or less running email accounts from my previous jobs, and a Yahoo ID in case it's not just enough. Lastly, I reopened an Hotmail account to play with anonymity again. Let me tell you it's a hell to play with all the logins and passwords. And since I've a bad memory I've to try many combinations to sign in in various forums, ACM, Apple or Adobe accounts.
Thankfully, I'm pretty sure of who I am and after all, one can say that telling what your last killer design job with the Louvre was or that Fitzgerald is one kinky of an author and The Beatles is the best band in the world and Italian pasta is a hell of a food (especially when the sauce is cooked with caramelized red onions) is not so revolutionary and pretty superficial.
God, what one would do to promote their super online experimental net-art open plaform...


mmm, a post that started so many thoughts that I panicked about categorising them!

The first online network I joined was Friendster. A novel idea combined with peer-pressure that made me click the dreaded 'sign-up' button. Next came LinkedIn, more sophisticated it seemed and possibly a good place to use as an address book (something I can't manage to maintain either on my computer or in the let's-get-organised attempts I bring home in nicely designed pocketbooks). Rhizome was the final submission, purely because I finally got fed-up with being redirected to the restricted.

Needless to say, I haven't spent more than a cup of coffee entering any information in any of these profiles and only LinkedIn seems to stay alive with invitation requests (most of them declined because I haven't a clue about the sender and networking takes place with conversation and not dots around circles). A voyeuristic peek into connections from connections does provide some incentive to spend some time there when accepting an invitation, but the interface design is truly too horrible to make it pleasurable. Still, LinkedIn does hold promise of being a usable online utility for keeping enhanced contact information in one place, such as sharing bookmarks on delicious (who unfortunately suffers the same visual handicap).

Online networks is indeed a growing trend which is interesting to observe and occasionally worth leaving an email address for. These networks seems to be either for social purposes, some specific online utility or a platform for discussion; taking advantage of normal human needs, creating additional ones and succeeding because of very fact that they are using a network to create additional layers of networks which give identities the opportunity to exhibit modified ones.

You said that your online life is diverse and I think this will become increasingly fragmented. It's impossible to consolidate network tools and identities, migrating from one to another leaves cookie crumbs that remain when the packaging has long since expired and outlived it's shelve-live. I find this uncomfortable in some sense that archived parts of your identity doesn't update as you do. Paper trails mould and stain as you grow wrinkles and sunspots; digital timestamps is too small too notice and the words one leave behind doesn't debate with your own developing opinions. However, this could be an amusing map with wrong directions to those who try to find you as run through the networks of online gaming.

Probably the last comment on online networks would be this. There's no doubt that they are fun, and usable. That they can make friends and contacts. That they con store information one is too lazy to backup when you keep reinstalling operating systems, and so on. Network protocols is one of the greatest opportunities and personally, one of the most interesting aspect of having a computer. To manipulate and create with it is stimulating, and personal development and building relationships (and maintaining them) are no small contribution to my life. Especially when you sit on the southern tip of Africa!

The one wary eye I'm looking with is seeing this: somewhere along the line software that uses networks to network people is no longer doing it in the interest of people, but in the interest for people. With all these new online networks this line is becoming a bit too close to the development stage. Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace; these software are too well conceived and too complicated in functionality/ software development to serve only the purpose of that which they promote. For example, MySpace has been bought by Rupert Murdoch. It's not the CIA I'm worried about, it's the intentions of those who own and create these online network tools, and my opinion is that it's sometimes not such a good idea to own the paper people are writing on and the envelopes they post it in.
quick update related to business interests in online communities:

Newsweek, 9 october, published an article "The Battle over YouTube" which mentioned the Warner deal and a few thoughts on copyright, advertising revenue, etc.

On 10 october google bought YouTube (and the editors of newsweek cursed the calendar).

YouTube founders talk about it

and many other people talk about it as well.


some site that seems to have no business interest yet is twitter.

Until I discover otherwise, this is probably one of the loveliest online tools I've seen for a while. On this web/sms/im/public broadcast mesh thing you get to read messages such as "leave the gun, take the cannolis".

and the fluffy blue clouds are pleasing too...

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