My Identity. Some New Thoughts

I am seriously conflicted about the state of my own digital identity. On one hand I am thrilled to see the wealth of social sites out there filling specific niches, giving us new ways to share and express ourselves. But, to say that I am a bit underwhelmed by the lack of meta connections these sites afford is an understatement. I have a few thoughts that are really beginning to pull me in new directions.

I’ll start with Twitter as an example of my overall frustration. I use it, not as much as some, but I am usually paying attention to the stream and even update a handful of times each day. It is what it is and I know I have written many times in the past about how much I do really like it. One problem is that there are new services that are moving beyond it and people are noticing. Maybe the features it doesn’t have is what keeps people there — there is something to be said about simplicity. But the only thing that keeps me from jumping ship all together are the people. So the community is the only feature of Twitter that really keeps me there. I know it has provided a tangible result in the binding of the learning design community, but it is missing some of the things that could really make it powerful. The second thing that bothers me is that I am investing a lot of 140 character identity pieces on a daily basis. These things disappear and are not long-term artifacts. No matter, the people keep me there.

Flickr is another example of a place I post pieces of my identity on a regular basis. The features are nice and I really like the simplicity of the environment in general. In this case it isn’t so much about wanting to leave to try out new environments (only because I still think it is the best social sharing photo space), it is that my established network is there. I would never be able to drag them out. So, again, the people keep me there.

I could go on with other spaces, but I’ll spare the review of these other environments. At the end of the day I stay because of the people and the connections.

But, help me envision something that looks a little different. I have a blog — I am guessing you know that as you are reading this post here. I use my blog to act as a bit of a hub to my online identity, but I am very concerned about where all this leads. I am still willing to pay $25.00 a year for my Flickr Pro account, but when they go, so do my pictures and my network. I found out the hard way that Twitter doesn’t keep real historical records of my old Tweets … I wanted everything I Tweeted during class last Spring to use it as part of my research. The network remains, but the pieces of it that I want are gone — the evidence of community growth no longer exists. So, what I am proposing is to not abandon the social sites, but to leverage the network while using my own blog (or personal publishing platform) as the place where everything begins and ends.

So if I post a picture I do it at my blog and my blog also posts it to Flickr — it grabs the meta data, uses my post preferences, gives it a title, and all the other things that would happen at Flickr but in this case the photo still lives in my personal space. Same with Twitter, Facebook, status, and so on. What if it started in my space and ended up in those spaces? I could even choose to show or hide that content in my own blog space, but I would have overall ownership of my stuff — in one place. I’m not asking the network move, I am moving my content from my space to the places where they are. As I want to explore new environments, I can still keep it all flowing from my blog out to those places. It can’t be that hard … who knows how this could help keep our content for the long haul. As I try (and leave) more and more environments I am depositing small identity artifacts that I can no longer track and I am feeling like I am fracturing my it more and more along the way.

Tell me why this is ridiculous and why it won’t work. At the moment I can’t figure out why we wouldn’t want it to work this way.

12 thoughts on “My Identity. Some New Thoughts

  1. But, if you control and own your own content, why should Flickr be an intermediary? If you’re able to publish what you want, the network becomes distributed and decentralized – different for every participant. The activity moves into the aggregator layer instead of the individual applications…

  2. It does not sound like you are worried about your identity by the stuff it creates. I thought you were digging life in the cloud!

    I cannot say I worry too much about old tweets; they seem disposable. And I am not losing sleep over flckr’s light flickering out. But I do my own worst case management; I have all original photos (in a carefully disorganized plastic box of barely marked CDs), but also every year order a DVD backup of my flickr stuff.

    But back to twitter and the other stuff. One route is as you suggest, try to aggregate or mirror content in your blog. I doubt I would do that, as just for the last 2 weeks have been doing about 80 photo uploads per day.

    Another route is the stuff being foundable, cachable in the cloud, and rather than trying to organize things into usual boxes and bins, the great Google shall seek and find.

    Dream? Gmail versus old mailbox file/folder is a huge step.

    I would agree, that for me, my blog is a hub of sorts, but I don’t see it as a container, except for the Important Stuff I feel like barking about. It’s not my identity, it’s not me, just some reflection thereof.

  3. D, the only reason I am suggesting any of these spaces as an intermediary is to provide access to the network where they are. I don’t expect my blog to be there for them — I expect it to be here for me. I am wondering how complex it will be if in the next few years I want to bring my stuff together … if it is spread across the web I think it will be more difficult. The only way this works for me is if my blog software has the power of a tool like Flickr uploader — where I can upload dozens of pictures to the blog and have them pass through to the services of choice. Not sure if that makes sense. I know I can aggregate things back, but I’m not sure that is what I want for the long term. I’m honesty just not sure.

  4. CogDog, the only reason my Tweets are important to me is how much I’ve used in my teaching. Last spring my class relied heavily on Twitter and I was interested in studying its use throughout the semester only to discover those conversations were lost forever — almost like they were face to face discussions. If I would(and the rest of the class)have typed those updates in my own space and let it send them onto Twitter I would have some historical record of them b/c I control the longevity. And yes, I am digging the cloud, but I am worried about what it means for my stuff long term — sort of like the box of 3.5″ floppies I have in my basement, or the dozens of Zip disks, or the other non-readable formats spread across my physical storage environment.

  5. Previous discussions about regaining control of our web content has always made sense to me. I am much more aware of trackbacking to blogs for longer thoughts on which I’m interested in keeping tabs. I have to agree with CogDog–I have DVD backups of my images in addition to posting them on Flickr, simply because technology fails and I don’t trust another entity to consider my content as important as I do. However, I do have my Flickr images rotate randomly on my personal site precisely because they are a part of my digital identity. As far as my posts on Twitter and other nanoblogging sites, I am more tweaked that I can’t retrieve historical data, so now I favorite tweets that I want to be able to recover in the future. Probably not the reason they created that feature, but it works for me so far. And yes, the community keeps me in Twitter because it seems no matter what else we try–Pownce, Plurk, Twine, Yammer–the community always reverts to Twitter. So be it. I use an aggregator where I can for the random online bits, and my site for my thoughts. I might follow in Brad’s footsteps, though, and use the new MT 4.2 professional layout for culling the best links I find. Still watching Brad’s efforts on his own blog before I make that jump, because that means I would then have to maintain links to others’ content, and I’m not completely sure I am ready to take on that role. It’s hard enough to keep track of me. 🙂

  6. Wouldn’t it make more sense for all these services to feed to your blog rather than the other way around?

    Flickr has the flickr uploader. Twitter has many tools and an api that make posting and receiving notifications easy.

    What about all the google docs? You would use google docs to compose, but then use the publish to blog feature so you can own an archive.

  7. When I think about how so many apps I use are cloud-based: google docs, gmail, evernote, tadalist, etc. I really can’t see myself being able to ever own all this.

    After realizing this, I start to really wonder what the dig deal is about owning your own digital identity.

    The part about network lock-in is real problem. I have a feeling that portable networks will come from a portable network service that we won’t own either.

    Flickr for me crosses the line from on-line identity to web app. I don’t just use flickr to share my photos in the context of my network, but I also use flickr to organize, add metadata, edit, order prints.

  8. Brad, my concern is not necessarily related to owning my digital identity — at the end of the day you’ll make what you want of what you see and read from me. I could never control that. I have simply had an ongoing dialogue going on in my head where I am torn between attempting to manage what I put “out there” in my own space (that I own) and spreading it on various sites. I have to admit that I don’t think I use Flickr like a lot of people do. If I travel I’ll take a several hundred pictures and only post a few to Flickr to share. If I want prints I do that out of my local environment — iPhoto and more and more, Aperture. I am living in the cloud only in my mobile Universe. I still maintain all my music, pictures, and historical documents on my iMac at home — with four external drives running various backups a day.

    I think my biggest issue here is finding a way to feel more comfortable with pushing so much of what I do/say/share online into services that may or may not have staying power. My point with Twitter and Flickr is that I would like to try and discover a tool that would fit into WordPress that would let me first upload and store the material in my own webspace and let it push it to Flickr. I love the Flickr Uploader, so the tool would have to work just as easily, but why couldn’t it? Furthermore, and this may sound crazy, but I may not want to share those photos publicly and my blog at all. Instead only sharing them at Flickr. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I’d be happy to buy lunch to discuss it.

  9. Pingback: Research at a Glance — September 29, 2008 « sixslides

  10. All we are is dust in the wind dude.

    I think you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to hold on to everything that you produce. I don’t know if you have any reasonable choice except to assume that all clouds will dissolve at some point and that you need to take special care to identify and preserve the most important things that you create.

    By the way, I know that you can make category-specific RSS tags and that you can forward an RSS feed to an e-mail account and that you can create an e-mail account for Flickr uploads. Just a thought …

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