Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Thoughts on the WebFinger Protocol

This comes as a response to Dare Obasanjo's post Some Thoughts on WebFinger and Personal Web Discovery. I am not going to summarize what WebFinger does, other than to paraphrase, WebFinger allows you to associate more of your identity with your email address. Smart, right?

Dare suggests that WebFinger might be more useful in making your online identity portable, rather than for its intended usage for end users. Which I agree with. I would like to keep all of my online identity in one place, but I have to take issue with the use of an email address for any purpose other than sending and receiving email (and I admit, I use my gmail address for plenty of authentication out of necessity and convenience), because it encourages and softens people up for abuse by the password anti-pattern.

If there's one thing I appreciate about Facebook, LinkedIn and their kind, it's that they shield people from my email. I don't want to ever give anyone my email, because I want to be able to turf it if I need to, at which point, people can still find me on Facebook etc. But, it's true, having an uncommon name is a mixed blessing. WebFinger seems like a good idea, but it also sounds kind of like it's grooming people for the password anti-pattern. We should be telling people "Don't give away your email, don't give away your email password..."

(From my comment on Dare's blog)

This what my daughter thinks about gatekeepers:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The News Garden and the Wire

Full disclosure: When I created this 'blog, the name "eardrum buzz" was a catchy phrase, and there was always the possibility that I might get a bit of free publicity if electro-hipsters Wire decided to sue me over fair use of the title from one of their songs. So I am guilty also of link-baiting with the title of this post.

What if Twitter were to take the direct access they have to their own data-flow and shift focus to curation? What if Twitter presented not only currently trending topics but also mined this data further, to provide analysis of the people who trended the topic?

Facebook is acquiring FriendFeed, and I find myself agreeing almost exactly with Robert Scoble that FaceBook is just not an appropriate place to conduct public conversations, even though creating a space for conducting semi-private conversations is not such a bad thing.

I go to Facebook to catch up on current affairs in my personal sphere, such as people's birthdays I might be missing. It is a garden where I can share news with friends, but... there is no discussion. Facebook will have to offer me a great deal more in the way of current affairs in the world at large for me to check in more often than once a week.

By drawing resources away from FriendFeed, is Facebook setting its targets on Twitter? No more than it already has. Twitter and FriendFeed are both networking tools; Facebook is not.

But what if Twitter shifted away from the notion of connecting me with existing contacts? The Suggested User List is a step in this direction, though arguably, a misstep. The thing Twitter really offers me that I find nowhere else is the immediacy of trending topics. And by immediacy, I mean that by the time a topic has trended, it has developed to the point where it cannot be ignored. In this sense, immediacy describes a combination of presence and latency.

But, this still has more immediacy for me than than CNN.


What if Twitter were to shift focus to curation? In other words, when a topic trends, what if Twitter told me what group of Twitterers originated the topic? I could use this information. If Twitter did this for me, I would rely on trends and the public stream more than my own personal network, because this would cut the distance between me and an ostensibly reliable source of information.

And I would follow these people.

If Twitter curated a list of the users who have consistently been involved in the early phase of trending topics, clearly, these would be people I would want to follow (if I was interested in these topics), would they not? My assumption here is that by the time a topic trends, it has become reliable. Perhaps by the time a topic trends, it has already become stale. I would argue, it has become stable.

But this would be my ideal Twitter. A public stream that brings me closer and closer to the immediacy of "What is happening, right now."