Identity

Adrian Hon

Last Thursday, Adrian Hon came in to talk about Six to Start, games design and story-telling.

We’re about storytelling and play.

Storytelling is a huge part of the world’s culture, and great stories have always had the ability to move and excite us, whatever the medium. 

Play means a lot to us, too. We draw inspiration from video games, boardgames, casual games and playful applications and services.

Play helps us learn, grow and deal with new experiences – and when play and storytelling are combined, they give us the opportunity to deeply engage with our audience and get them to do things – as a large single group, or individually. Great storytelling and great gameplay are at the heart of what we do.

Adrian began by looking at the role of story-telling in human society, the reception of the first European novels, the ways in which our strong identification with literary heroes and heroines has been elicited and the great role now played in our lives by online text. You can get a good sense of what Adrian said from his posting earlier this year, How we Tell Stories.

This brought us to We Tell Stories ('six stories, written by six authors, told in six different ways — ways that could only happen on the web … released over six weeks'), pausing briefly to look at amillionpenguins.com. In particular, Adrian talked us through Charles Cumming's The 21 Steps and Mohsin Hamid's The (Former) General. The latter grew out of an idea for a CYOA with a difference, but emerged as something very different — a "still life": 'while it does have branching, it doesn't allow the reader to affect the outcome of [the] story — only their own experience of it'. You get an excellent sense of the excitement surrounding this project from Six to Start and Penguin Books launch We Tell Stories and, of course, We Tell Stories received great acclaim, winning both the Experimental and Best of Show award categories at this year’s SXSW Web Awards. More about We Tell Stories on the Six To Start site (and there's a screencast). I'm looking forward to using We Tell Stories with my Year 9 class this year.

A number of our students have been playing Smokescreen, Six to Start's new game, developed for C4.

there is no better way to inform and educate people about online security and privacy than through a web-based game. — Smokescreen: Why Interaction Matters

Adrian describes Smokescreen as ARGish. Unlike Perplex City (designed and produced by Adrian at Mind Candy), a massive treasure hunt lasting 18 months and playable just the once, Smokescreen is replayable and each mission can be played in 10–20 minutes. The game is also marked by a strong story — and you might argue whether it is more an interactive game or an interactive story.

At the time of the talk, just 6 of 13 missions were out. My murky slides (sans flash, in a darkened room) give a sense of the realism of the game — Gaggle, fakebook, tweetr — and two, short, Six To Start videos follow:

L1010571

L1010572

L1010573-1

I think we might use at least some of Smokescreen in this year's ICT course (also Year 9).

Questions followed — about platforms, episodic games, recommendations, the time he gives to games (books claim pride of place), his role at Six To Start … We're very grateful to Adrian for taking the time to come and talk at St Paul's. These words give some indication of how he set the bar higher for us:

I feel there are two, equally mistaken, views of games. One is that stories in games are basically mediocre, and will remain mediocre, due to business reasons. There is no doubt that many publishers are demanding juvenile and  dumbed-down games, and that this makes it difficult to write a good story, but it shouldn’t make it impossible. The other view is that the stories in games are already more than a match for books and TV. I would disagree with this as well. … I think a good story in a game relies on having writers who have independence, and the trust and respect of game designers. … Writers are important. When a game’s graphics grow old, and the game mechanics become dated, all that’s left to remember is the story. As designers and writers of games, we all need to set a higher bar for ourselves. …

When I compared videogames to the development of books and novels, I was being serious. Historians will look back hundreds of years from now, and they will say that the explosion of narrative and game forms that we have now was a momentous time that transformed the way that people think and see the world.

It’s hard to imagine a world without books; without Lord of the Rings, or Catch 22, or Pride and Prejudice, or Great Expectations. Equally, it’s already hard to imagine a world without games. Just imagine where we’ll be in a few decades time. We have the opportunity to make those new types of games and stories that will changes people’s lives in the future, and there are so many possibilities. We just have to open our eyes to them. — How We Tell Stories


AUP

ICT AUPs are hardly sexy, but they of course reflect how an institution thinks of its computing resources and of its users. We drew up a revised AUP last calendar year and have just gone live with it for this new academic year.

In the development of ICT at St Paul’s, we have put the emphasis upon users being both informed and responsible. The course for our first years (13 year–olds) is open to all in our community to make use of and, within the constraints of a busy school’s life, we try to communicate widely key points about online life — from the way stuff endures online, is read by unknown publics, etc, to the exercising of thoughtfulness and the nurturing of a good ear for context and (therefore) register. Underlying all this, two things: the value in creating and nurturing your online identity, and the whole business of learning to be accountable for what you post or send.

The debt to danah boyd in our AUP will be evident, but we’ve also drawn upon a number of other writers. Last year’s introductory lesson on blogs and wikis cited danah, but also included this:

In all online activity,  you must post responsibly and wisely.  How we behave online affects our reputation — and the reputation of others. Here are some simple guidelines for participating in online life: ‘be civil’ (Jeremy Keith's Irish music site, The Session); ‘be polite and respectful in your interactions with other members’ (Flickr); ‘use common sense while posting’ (Last.fm); ‘Use your best judgement. Don't forget your day job’ (IBM, pdf); ‘IBM's integrity & reputation, as well as your own, are in your hands’ (IBM Virtual World Guidelines).

I like the point an IBM blogger made concerning IBM’s Corporate Blogging Guidelines, something I apply in my mind to a good ICT AUP, too: ‘a commitment that we all have entered into together’. Schools, with their transient populations, have to renew their commitment continually, not only every year but many times each year. This is the guts of teaching and of good schools. It’s tiring, but very rewarding.

Another reason why AUPs test schools: ‘most schools and districts are operating under Acceptable Use Policies that were written before there was a Read/Write Web’ (David Warlick, in 2007). As I’ve said before, no-one I know saw what we were really doing when we started connecting our schools to the web. The shared perception was that we were enlarging our libraries. When we began more fully to appreciate that we’d in fact joined the read/write web, the need for a very different kind of AUP was evident.

An AUP should, to borrow Roo’s words from his 2008 post about IBM’s conduct guidelines, Policing vs Guidelines, be ‘annually revisited (though not necessarily annually revised)’. This is what we’re running with this year:

ICT: policy for good use

This policy is binding. It has been kept as simple as possible and is intended to encourage creative, imaginative use of our computing facilities. If you exercise due care and consideration, you will be observing its spirit.

The school provides both networked, desktop computers and wireless access to the internet through the school’s own filtered connection. Wireless access (which does not provide direct access to the school’s network) is available in specified locations for authorised users to use via their own devices.

Identity and responsibility (online and digital)

Respect and maintain the integrity of digital identities — yours and others’. For example: log on only as yourself; keep your login details private and make them secure; do not leave any device logged in and accessible to others.

Exercise informed judgement about disclosing your personal details and do not give out another person’s details without their clear consent.

Except for Coletines, financial transactions by pupils are permitted where you act within the constraints of the school’s rules and with your parents’ approval.

In the digital realm, once something is posted online it has a persistence that is not like something that is said. It is also searchable and replicable and you cannot be sure who your audience is or will be. Once something is posted online, its effects are often magnified and can be mirrored out of context. All of this requires experience to understand. Remember: when you post, you have not only your own reputation to consider but also that of others and that of the school. Every member of the community has to take responsibility for his or her actions online. If you are in doubt, it is best not to post, send an email, etc.

Network and hardware integrity

Respecting and maintaining the network and the computers the school provides is largely common sense. For example, if the functioning of the system were to be impaired by the introduction of a virus, it would have a possible impact not just on the school’s network but on all devices using the school’s facilities. Attachments sent to you should be assessed case-by-case: unexpected or suspicious files should not be opened.

Many different devices exist which can be connected to a network or a computer. Every user needs to exercise judgement: for example, storage devices (eg, USB sticks) with non-executable files on them are clearly fine, but should have been virus-checked first by you. Harder to assess can be executables designed to run safely from a USB stick (etc) — eg, a browser. If in doubt, consult with a member of the ICT staff.

Devices that are themselves computers (in whatever form) should not be linked to the wired network without first consulting either the Director of ICT or the IT Manager.

Laptops and other portable devices can access the internet (and, via this route, the school’s systems) by using the wireless network — accessible from a number of points within the school.  Anti-virus provision for all mobile and portable devices is the owner’s responsibility.

Downloading files: again, exercise judgement and be aware that viruses can be hidden in documents and images (for example) and not just in executable files. To guard against accidents, the school’s own machines do not allow unauthorised software installation. Think about what you are doing and always seek advice if in doubt.

Respecting the network’s integrity extends to how messages are sent. There are many ways of spamming people, or generating needless messages, and no-one should be doing this. Another example of unacceptable practice would be attempting to send messages anonymously or pseudonymously.

It is standard practice in organisations to audit users’ internet activity and all staff and pupils are audited in this way. Audit trails are rarely examined but exist as a safety net should things go wrong. Should you find yourself looking at or opening material you consider the school would think inappropriate (or material you find disturbing), simply inform a member of staff so we can work with you to address the matter.

Note:

  • On our intranet, there are hyperlinks to further info for: disclosing your personal details and financial transactions by pupils are permitted where you act within the constraints of the school's rules.
  • “Coletines” refers to pupils in our junior school, Colet Court.
Technorati tags: , , ,

Chthonic

If we dream of people we have long since forgotten or who have for long been dead, it is a sign that we have gone through a violent change within ourself and that the ground upon which we live has been completely turned over: so that the dead rise up and our antiquity becomes our modernity.

Reading Blind Pony’s To Die No More, the Nietzsche made me recall this:

Digging over at an outlying corner of the vegetable garden this afternoon, I unearthed a length of chain with a rusted spring clip on one end and recognised it as a goat tether I had last used twenty years ago or more. It was about a foot down under a retired compost heap and must have been buried, at least in part, by the ploughing of earthworms.

To discover my own life becoming archaeology like this was a shock. I had now lived my way into a timespan in which my own artefacts, tools or relics had become archaeological finds.

I was no longer digging up things from my own past metaphorically but literally.

From Roger Deakin.

Technorati tags: , ,

Guarding our data

BBC NEWS:

The mass of personal information on government databases must be protected or public trust will be damaged, ministers are being warned.  Information Commissioner Richard Thomas says getting details wrong or mixing them up has huge costs to the people concerned, government and businesses.  Details should not be shared just because technology allows it …

Experts estimate that information about the average working adult in the UK is stored on 700 databases. They include information about people's health records, credit checks and household details. "Never before has the threat of intrusion to people's privacy been such a risk," said Mr Thomas. He said many databases were being used to good effect - such as systems for renewing car tax online rather than waiting in Post Office queues. But there can be problems, such as when the Criminal Records' Bureau mistakenly labelled thousands of people as criminals. …

There were severe consequences for people if information on (a) database was out-of-date, inaccurate, or given to the wrong people, he said. He pointed to the case of a father investigated by social services after his young daughter said he had "bonked" her - it turned out he had hit her on the head with an inflatable hammer. While social services had closed the file, police and health authority records were not updated and said the man had been suspected of child abuse.

Information Commissioner's Office; Annual Report, 2005–6 (pdf).

Technorati tags: ,


Women and children first

March of this year and Wendy Grossman reports in the Guardian on the fingerprinting of children in UK schools:

Last week, news emerged that Primrose Hill primary school in north London had been fingerprinting pupils without their parents' consent. It seemed shocking yet should not have come as such a surprise. Micro Librarian Systems' Junior Librarian has been marketed in the UK since 2002 and is estimated to have fingerprinted hundreds of thousands of British children.

That so many schools have been happy to install such systems, often without thinking it necessary to consult parents, is a reflection of how this technology is infiltrating society. We can expect more of the same, for children and adults, should the ID card, debated once more this week in parliament, become reality.

May, and here's the Yorkshire Post:

A Yorkshire school is taking fingerprints from pupils – to keep a check on payments for school trips. The system, which means pupils can be instantly identified when they touch a scanner attached to one of the school computers, is expected to recoup the £2,500 cost of its installation by saving time on form-filling. If the experiment in "biometrics" works, it might be extended.

… The organisation of trips at Ilkley Grammar involves a turnover of £250,000 a year, mostly collected in £10 or £15 instalments. It means close to 20,000 transactions a year. The fingerprint recognition system means that when a pupil takes a payment instalment to the school office, his or her account can be called up automatically, with no question of any confusion between names.

Head teacher Gillian James said in an explanatory letter to parents that the system would store a number based on a fingerprint reading. No fingerprint images would be stored. The Information Commissioner and the Department of Education and Skills had said they had no concerns.

… 42 of the 1,532 current pupils, aged 11 to 18, had been kept out of the fingerprint registration process for one reason or another. One of the objectors is Christian White, a journalist who reports on Westminster for the BBC but lives in North Parade, Ilkley, and has a 14-year-old step-daughter at the school. He said yesterday: "Mrs James has effectively admitted this is not just a trivial bit of bureaucracy. It is the thin end of a wedge, the start of a process which could eventually enable the school to track our children every minute of the day. And it is a matter of proportionality. You do not give any organisation more intimate information than it needs to do its job and if my bank can manage my salary without getting my fingerprints, I don't see why the school cannot manage a couple of £12.50 payments from a 14-year-old for a trip to Lightwater Valley."

The Ilkley system was installed by Pinecone Associates of Carrington, Greater Manchester. Its marketing manager, Martin Parsons, said yesterday: "It is misleading to talk about fingerprinting children. The fingerprint is just a convenient shape to read to create an identity profile."

That last bit is priceless.

3 July. The Daily Mirror — back to school libraries and Micro Librarian Systems:

FURY erupted yesterday after it emerged an estimated 700,000 children are being fingerprinted at school. Systems in 3,500 primary school libraries allow pupils to take out books by scanning their thumb prints instead of using a card.

But campaigners warn the technology is a massive invasion of privacy and a step towards a "database state". With an average primary school size of 200 pupils, pressure group No2ID says at least 700,000 pupils are regularly having their fingerprints scanned. And there are fears schools having children's fingerprints could lead to the information being stored on government computers with DNA records and personal details. It is also seen as "softening up" resistance before people are asked for biometric data such as eye-scans to put on compulsory identity cards. …

Andy O'Brien, managing director of Micro Librarian Systems which makes the fingerprint systems, insisted there was nothing sinister about the new scanning technology. He said: "Ultimately, this is completely optional. If parents object because they don't like the use of biometrics their children can still use a library card or pin number. But this can make libraries a really cool place to go for children."

Another priceless moment in that last sentence.

Leave The Kinds Alone campaigns 'against schools fingerprinting our children'. ARCH supports 'equality, choice, respect and privacy for all children and young people'.  Thanks to ORG for some of the links here. No2ID is here.

I go back to the end of the Guardian article:

Stephen Groesz, a partner with the law firm Bindmans, has been consulted by parents from Charles Dickens school in Southwark, and believes the system is illegal on several grounds. "Absent a specific power allowing schools to fingerprint, I'd say they have no power to do it." Police legislation, for example, is specific about when, by whom and how fingerprints may be taken and what they may be used for. "The notion you can do it because it's a neat way of keeping track of books doesn't cut it as a justification."

Privacy advocates say these systems have a more subtle danger: habituation. Andre Bacard, the author of The Computer Privacy Handbook, said if he wanted to build the surveillance society, "I would start by creating dossiers on kindergarten children so the next generation couldn't comprehend a world without surveillance." But who needs dossiers when you have fingerprints?

Thank God for the news that it may be a while yet (not 2008!) before ID cards become reality — Sunday Times and BBC News.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,


Amartya Sen : tryanny posing as tolerance

Absorbing interview with Amartya Sen in today's Guardian:

In the light of the recent furores over Islam and multiculturalism, Sen has written a new book, Identity and Violence, to be published in this country in July, which will take a trenchantly critical look at the British interpretation of multiculturalism. Sen sees it as his mission is to rescue what he sees as valuable in the idea of multiculturalism from the prevailing British idea of "plural monoculturalism", which he takes to be damaging and divisive.

What grates on Sen is the idea that individuals should be ushered like sheep into pens according to their religious faith, a mode of classification that too often trumps all others and ignores the fact that people are always complex, multi-faceted individuals who choose their identities from a wide range of economic, cultural and ideological alternatives. "Being defined by one group identity over all others," he says, "overlooking whether you're working class or capitalist, left or right, what your language group is and your literary tastes are, all that interferes with people's freedom to make their own choices." What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities. "That is what is happening now, here," he says, a little indignantly. "I think there is a real tyranny there. It doesn't look like tyranny - it looks like giving freedom and tolerance - but it ends up being a denial of individual freedom. The individual belongs to many different groups and it is up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority."

Sen is also critical of the growing consultative power given to the religious organisations of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. It does, he believes, magnify the power and authority of religious leaders at the expense of a healthy democratic debate. "Suddenly the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim organisations are in charge of all Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Whether you are an extremist mullah or a moderate mullah, whether you're Blair's friend or Blair's enemy, you might relish the idea of being able to speak for all people with a Muslim background - no matter how religious they are - but this may be in direct competition with the role of Muslims in British civil society."

When it comes to a deeply political problem such as terrorism, for the authorities to advise "action within the community" is, he believes, a great mistake. Sen was in London on the day of the July 7 bombings, and heard the ensuing appeals on the part of the authorities for "the Muslim community" to get its act together. "That was an attempt to bring even more religion into politics, which is not needed," he says. "To classify Bangladeshis, for example, only as Muslims and overlook their Bangladeshi identity is seriously misleading. To drown all that into a vision of 'you are just a Muslim - please be moderate and likeable and replace all those extremist imams with moderate and likeable ones', that is simply wrong-headed." … It is not that he is hostile to religion, he says; it is simply a question of context. Gandhi was very much a religious man and a religious Hindu, he reminds me, but when it came to politics he was thoroughly secular.

Technorati tags: , ,


Attention, Reading Lists, RSS, etc, etc

Attention continues to get my attention. David Sifry, in his recent update on the blogosphere and its staggering growth, says:

We track about 1.2 Million posts each day, which means that there are about 50,000 posts each hour. At that rate, it is literally impossible to read everything that is relevant to an issue or subject, and a new challenge has presented itself - how to make sense out of this monstrous conversation, and how to find the most interesting and authoritative information out there.

Alex Barnett posted on this issue:

The live web discovery problem is different type of discovery problem to that the traditional search engine space has been trying to solve. Companies such as Technorati, Icerocket, PubSub, Memeorandum, Tailrank, Digg, FeedDemon, Rojo, and Bloglines and many other start ups that have cropped up in the last couple years recognize this and are helping us navigate the torrent. However, in my view, what's missing from the current generation of the aggregators, feedreaders and live web discovery engines is the ability to scope these services against my attention data. Some of these services provide tag and keyword RSS search subscriptions and have some personalization features.  These are steps in the right direction, but we've got a long way to go.

(There's a podcast available with Alex, Joshua Porter and Steve Gillmor discussing attention.) Which makes me recall Herbert Simon's words:

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.

Reading Lists, as I've blogged before, are hot and are being talked about in the context of an 'attention-based recommendation system'. (Listen to another of Alex's podcasts, here, with a discussion between Alex, Danny Ayers, Joshua Porter and Adam Green about Reading Lists.) Dave Winer's guidelines are lucid and helpful (and see his OPML Editor doc) and I have really enjoyed Danny Ayers' take and this comment by Darren Chamberlain:

I think I don’t get the idea of a reading list. Is it just the portion of a blogroll that you’ve been reading most recently (the blogroll’s intersection with your attention data)?

dd's comment points to a key significance of Reading Lists, their dynamic nature. EirePreneur has a post touching on Reading Lists but focusing on Feed Grazing and (wait for it) Web 3.0 that has set me thinking, and Danny Ayers' comment there ('the near-future of the web is going to be a generalisation from a Web of Documents to a Web of Data') is my excuse for not yet blogging about last week's conferences.

Alerted by Alex and Robert (and Greg Linden's comments on the latter), I'm playing with Megite (my personal Reading List here; not a good idea, it seems, for me to have included the BBC News feed — it swamps everything), and have now also gone back to Findory and TailRank. (There's a post about all this by Richard MacManus, too.) Alex:

Megite is going letting me do what I've been asking Memeorandum (or anyone else that will listen) to let me do for ages  - to pivot off my own OPML file. The feature isn't switched on for everyone yet, but I've pinged the Megite developer, Mathew Chen, so hope to hear from him soon. … I'm more convinced than ever that the ability to render a personalized experience based on Attention data is where its at. And I'm not talking about just clickstreams. Your OPML file (specifically your list of RSS subscriptions) is one example of this Attention data set. It says a lot about you: the topics your interested in and the people you listen to, and much more. There is plenty more Attention data that can be leveraged though. My tags, my wishlist, the books I own, etc. We're just at the beginning of the Attention Engine race.

In the comments to Alex's post, Greg Linden says: 'Thanks for trying Findory! The relevance rank is not random nor is it solely based on your OPML file.  Findory decides what is relevant based on the articles you read. Play with it, click a few articles, and watch how it focuses in. Findory learns very quickly'. And Kevin Burton: 'TailRank has had this live for 2 weeks now'.

Swarming media has a post on some other, related implications of all this — the way we're projecting our deterritorialized, multiple identities in cyberspace:

The obvious unwanted social implications extend to surveillance and impersonation, but culturally, we are creating selves outside ourselves. Many-tendriled projections.

Compare James Governor on Declarative Living.

Meanwhile, FeedBurner's FeedFlare API (the release of which coincided with last week's Future of Web Apps conference) has got my attention:

The really big idea … was … the notion of providing a universal framework/API to enable any third-party web service to integrate with a publisher's content, without concern over what content management system the publisher is using.

The 101 ideas FeedBurner published for FeedFlare underscore the role of RSS as a way of gluing things together. Mitch Ratcliffe on the original FeedFlare announcement:

Using metadata this way will allow greater integration of intelligence in the management of feeds. The announcement talks about more browser-friendliness, which is a big plus, but RSS is fading into the communications between applications and, I think, that's where it will take deepest root.

Kevin Burton:

(FeedFlare) should allow more innovation in the space.  For example I could add TailRank features directly in FeedBurner.  Other smaller companies could add plugins for their content as well.

In a year or two, what will be the place and nature of RSS aggregators and these rich RSS feeds? Richard MacManus has a post today declaiming, 'Personalization + Clustering is the next big step in RSS. If 2005 was about Aggregation, then 2006 is all about Filtering.' Danny Ayers focuses on the technicalities behind this and in the comments adds: 'the smart aggregator (with hooks into things like the Technorati API and a bit of P2P) is probably a quicker route than trying to put all the processing online'.

Union Square Ventures invested in FeedBurner believing that RSS will become mainstream, but they, like Fred Wilson, know there's some way to go yet. Matt McAlister's gloomier still. Me? — I think Lloyd Shepherd has it right: 'the fact is that RSS is gluing all sorts of things together at the front end and the back end. … it’s entirely understandable that the RSS front end is still a bit squishy and unfriendly - people are still trying to get to grips with the possibilities of it at the back-end. Not because people are stupid, but because those possibilities are just so huge'.

Back to Attention. The Guardian picked up on this last week and advertised AttentionTrust.org. I joined this a while back and am now beginning to see its value through using the AttentionTrust approved service, Root Vaults. You can download AttentionTrust's Attention Recorder extension for Firefox here and you have the option either to record your attention data direct to your hard drive, or to Root Vaults or ACME Attention Service.

These are some of the things to do with attention, RSS, etc that have been crossing my radar recently. (There are others, but I'm sticking here with the ones that have really preoccupied me. Companies like Attensa are on my screen, too …)

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,


Canter on Web 2.0

Matt Gertner:

… we should be wary of writing Web 2.0 off as vacuous before it has a realistic chance of achieving its potential, particularly since this is likely to take several years. … Web 2.0 may be a messy term, and it’s undeniably over- (and frequently mis-) used. But it’s still a useful way of encapsulating a real and important trend.

I'm all in favour of educated scepticism, but some reservations seem to fly in the face of what end-users are experiencing (and then to bring down the fundamentalist shutters on any further discussion). As usual, Richard MacManus has some sound reflections on the wave of anti-hype. (Incidentally, through his site I came across Michael Casey's LibraryCrunch and a posting there about libraries and Web 2.0 — something to which all schools and universities need to give a lot of thought.)

I've been reading Marc Canter's Breaking the Web Wide Open!: 'The online world is evolving into a new open web (sometimes called the Web 2.0), which is all about being personalized and customized for each user. Not only open source software, but open standards are becoming an essential component'.

Open standards mean sharing, empowering, and community support. Someone floats a new idea (or meme) and the community runs with it – with each person making their own contributions to the standard – evolving it without a moment's hesitation about "giving away their intellectual property." … The combination of Open APIs, standardized schemas for handling meta-data, and an industry which agrees on these standards are breaking the web wide open right now. So what new open standards should the web incumbents—and you—be watching? Keep an eye on the following developments:

Identity
Attention
Open Media
Microcontent Publishing
Open Social Networks
Tags
Pinging
Routing
Open Communications
Device Management and Control

… Today's incumbents will have to adapt to the new openness of the Web 2.0. If they stick to their proprietary standards, code, and content, they'll become the new walled gardens—places users visit briefly to retrieve data and content from enclosed data silos, but not where users "live." The incumbents' revenue models will have to change. Instead of "owning" their users, users will know they own themselves, and will expect a return on their valuable identity and attention. Instead of being locked into incompatible media formats, users will expect easy access to digital content across many platforms.


Yahoo! and identity

When del.irio.us appeared on the scene, the attachment people form to their online, digital identities and the "places" where they meet, the web tools they use, was once again made apparent. Before that, back in May 2004, Clay Shirky commented on the MT 3.0 pricing debacle:

The dilemma for people who build communal tools is this: if you want something that hooks people emotionally, you cannot have rational users, and vice-versa. And when you build a tool that helps create a social fabric, changes to the tool trigger social anxieties. Always. … because MT has succeeded in creating social value, you cannot expect users to act rationally to change. If you want users to really care about a piece of social software, they will invest in it emotionally. If you change the bargain they think they are operating under, even if that bargain is merely implicit and obviously unsupportable and even if you have the absolute and unilateral right to change it, they will freak out. This reaction is part of the social weather, and like the real weather, complaining about it is both immensely satisfying and basically useless.

So, here we go/went again with Flickr and Yahoo!. Barb has a good post about this, quoting MIT professor Sherry Turkle: 'the opposition to the change illustrates the attachment many feel toward their online identities. So many of us don’t have a gathering place that feels comfortable and communal. … For those who found that on Flickr.com, its transformation into a ‘service’ on Yahoo is a loss'. Barb comments:

As we create these new facets of our digital selves online, it will become more and more critical that each individual have as much control over our own identities as possible. I believe the best way to do that is to ensure open standards, such that my growing, faceted digital identity is not solely under the proprietary control of each and every individual third-party I desire to do business with. Psychologically, we all have a drive towards wholeness and towards some holistic picture of self — and there is a real emotional effect generated by having bits of our identities increasingly fragmented into small, locked-in pieces that are ultimately under the control of profit-seeking corporations. The larger those corporations are, the more powerless we feel — compare trying to deal with Sprint customer service versus addressing an issue with an item you bought at a store locally. The transfer of identity from (once) small Flickr to ginormous Yahoo is a shift in power dynamic, and it has real psychological consequences for the site’s members.

I haven't joined Flick Off and will live with the change of login, but, on the one hand, the feelings aroused by Yahoo! itself and, on the other, the core issue of identity, do interest me. I see Tom Coates was surprised by the kerfuffle making BBC News: 'That the controversy about Flickr and Yahoo's merging has hit BBC News is incredibly startling to me. Yahoo clearly have some perception problems'. Yahoo! has had a lot of goodwill running its way recently, but reaction to the relationship between Flickr and the Yahoo! mothership has been edgy and has found a focus in this issue of login. (The ineptness of their Toolbar installation procedure is an unambiguous black mark. Jeremy Zawodny has been resolute in expressing his views — ' Leave my settings, preferences, and desktop alone!'. See also Lloyd Shepherd.)

Mary Hodder explored the Flickr login issue and commented:

My own Yahoo ID is not what I wanted, even from 9 years ago. It's got an extra "o" on the end of it, because at the time, the name I wanted (an old nickname from my boyfriend at the time) was gone. So since it had the extra "o" on the end, which I've never really felt good about. If it had some random number on the end, which at the time I was getting it, Yahoo offered me as a choice, I would feel even more random about my ID/email at Yahoo. It's one of the reasons I made that email sort of a dumping ground for (frankly) garbage. I couldn't get the name space I wanted, either for login (backend) , or as an email (front end and to be shared with others) that I cared about or for things that I want to keep well, like my Flickr account, which is perfect and pristine. So, by asking me to tie my perfect and accurately representative Flickr name space ID on their frontend, to my bastardized Yahoo namespace on the backend (for authentication), it feels bad. And I suspect this may also be what's behind some of the discomfort people feel when Yahoo asks us to enter a Yahoo ID to login, in order to come to a Flickr ID on the front end.

Put succinctly, 'When is a login not just a login? When it’s also an identity' (Barb). I don't understand why Yahoo! doesn't support more than one identity standard — as Marc suggests. What has surely emerged by now is that in this respect we're no different online than offline: we inhabit a number of (overlapping) "identities", we become attached to these and perceived lock-in is a turn-off. I go back to Barb's earlier posting:

There are those who will look at the whole debate as trivial. After all, we as Flickr members merely paid $40-ish dollars to use a service on the web — what’s the big deal? The big deal comes when users are not mere users any longer, and we’ve thrown heart and soul and effort into creating a body of work that stands as a reflection of ourselves, our lives, and our communities. In fact, this is precisely the allure of Web 2.0 — that we can invest a “mere” web service with so much meaning. It is also precisely this transformative process that makes the companies themselves valuable — if you can capture the hearts and minds of your members to such a degree that their participation in your site creates a new facet of their identity, you have what VCs consider gold in your hands. But tread lightly, for even the smallest amount of disrespect shown to those identities generates just as much animosity, anger and fear as it would in the non-digital world.