Scripting News for 8/20/07

Podcast: Open identity in 2007 

On Saturday, after reading Brad Fitzpatrick’s piece about Social Graphs, I did a podcast explaining why it’s not likely that existing networks will allow users from other networks to use their services.

Here’s the 1/2 hour podcast.

Dan Farber asked me to summarize, I suppose that’s all right. I don’t do many podcasts these days. I did this one because I want people to listen. These are relatively complex economic and political issues, and simple thinking won’t yield useful answers.

But I will try to summarize anyway.

1. Brad is absolutlely right, many people are tired of entering the same relationship information for lots of different social networks. I am one of those people. Maybe you are too. Maintaining this information is even more problematic, that’s why we tend to use one “current” social network, and leave a trail of moribund networks behind us.

2. The more tired we get, the more demand there will be for a single resource that allows people to establish and maintain these relationships, and use them in a wide variety of different applications.

3. While Facebook, admirably, takes risks with users’ data, the users are a lot more conservative than we techies might like them to be. Wishing it weren’t so won’t change the way they feel.

4. There are enormous economic incentives for companies that run social networks to not let users of other networks access their services. Shareholder value is a function of how many users they have, how they are “monetized” and how hard it is to switch. The harder it is to switch, the more money each user is worth. Any exec that did anything to decrease the number of users they control would probably be fired. So anything that depends on this isn’t very likely to happen, in existing networks.

5. However, a network that, from Day One, allows users of other networks to participate, and allows developers to access user’s data, with the user’s permission, but without permission from the network, may become the www of open identity systems. As much as it is considered politically incorrect in the tech world to say this, don’t bet on OpenID being that network. You would have gotten roasted in 1991 for saying OpenDoc wasn’t the future, but it wasn’t. For the same reasons OpenID isn’t.

Now if you want to understand why all these things are true, give me 1/2 hour of your time, listen to the podcast. Take it for a walk, or take it with you on your commute. If you’re interested in the future of web technology, I think it’ll be worth the time. 🙂

Adriana Lukas: Users do not stand still.

More on the Gnomedex mess 

I ran into Tom Conrad of Pandora at BarCampBlock yesterday in Palo Alto and he volunteered that he was at Gnomedex earlier this month, and from his point of view what happened during Jason Calacanis’s presentation wasn’t that big a deal.

I asked him to explain and he told me the story, which he repeats in a blog post this afternoon. I totally appreciate that Tom was willing to speak up. Thanks Tom, I won’t forget it.

Aidan Henry sees it as I did, but I missed his post when it appeared a week ago. “Gnomedex presentations are meant to spur discussions and conversations around trends, standards, principles, ideas, and concepts — not specific companies.”

RIch Skrenta who knows SEO, reviews Mahalo.

Fast Company: “As a kid, he was tossed out of school for fighting and mopped blood off the floor of his father’s bar; his mother, an emergency-room nurse, would stitch up the combatants at a local hospital.”

Video cameras, Day 2 

Elaborating on yesterday’s post about video cameras…

I think it’s silly for a group of people in a garage in Palo Alto to think somehow there’s something significant about them standing in the garage on a Sunday morning listening to a talk about the history of the place. It’s a nice place to be if everyone is acting like a normal person, not like a TV star. But with three video cameras running, one a big professional rig (it seems to me) people are exaggerating what they say. As I talk, I wonder which soundbite is going to appear on the blog everyone points to tomorrow. My mind moves away from the garage, out into the future, and I want to get the fuck out of there as fast as I can.

I’m at a cocktail party, but I’ve been drinking water because I’m being taped in every conversation I have. One guy is even live-broadcasting to god knows who. I feel like a presidential candidate. What if I say something which, taken out of context, sounds like I have a belief that’s politically incorrect. Think that’s crazy? In 2003 if you said the war in Iraq wasn’t patriotic, and that Bush wasn’t a visionary, people looked at you like you’re strange. I don’t have to imagine living in a totalitarian state, we’ve been there, maybe we’re still there. But I really would like to be at a party with friends and have a chance to relax and enjoy myself without having to worry whether what I say there makes sense when viewed in a completely different context by people who weren’t there.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that with so much seriousness, having to be so careful so much of the time, maybe people can understand why in the future we may think the greatest luxury is to be so far away from video cameras that our words won’t be recorded, so we can just be dorky shlubby nobodies whose words would seem foolish if the wrong people were listening, even if just for a short while.

Godwin’s Law 

I got a chance on Twitter the other day that I don’t think Godwin’s Law is funny, esp in the times we live in. Its assumption is that things never get so serious as to justify a comparison to the most famous fascist regime in recent history.

But Godwin’s Law is cruel because there are still survivors of the Nazis alive today, and it cuts off their using the Internet to teach. And their children are very much still alive. You may want us to forget, but Jews will never forget what happened there.

9 responses to this post.

  1. RE: Open Identity

    Aren’t the basic tools for this already in place? And, didn’t you already build a rudimentary system for this years ago with the whole “Share Your OPML” thing?

    If I allow a URI to act as a proxy for my identity (e.g. Dave Winer =, Cameron Watters =, it becomes trivial for me to use OPML (or another format if people are so inclined; let’s just pick one, though) to maintain an open system of all of my relationships at

    It would be simple to write single-purpose software to maintain that file, or one could use any of the various OPML creation tools already in existence. Then, just point the social network de jour at your relationship map, and viola, it sucks down your relationships. If it can’t find somebody in their system (identified by their URI, of course), it can either ignore it or (shudder) send them an invite.

    Facebook sort of allows this now by suggesting that people import their Gmail address book and do the lookup by e-mail, but the use of a simple OPML file allows room for handling more complex issues (like URI changes) in the future.

    I’m clearly missing some important thing, but that seems like the kind of approach you’d advocate on something like this…


  2. Posted by Tom Hunt on August 20, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Re: Godwin’s Law

    Godwin’s Law is descriptive not proscriptive. It’s not like a law against driving on the wrong side of the street. It’s like the Second Law of Thermodynamics saying it’s unlikely that all the air in a room won’t move to one corner. A “violation” of Godwin’s Law could be 10 years of a chat room with no references to Hitler or Nazis. On a site like a reference will come sooner than on But eventually someone will call someone else a Nazi.


  3. Posted by Kevin Stone on August 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

    re: Godwin’s Law

    Maybe I’m not seeing in the same light as you are but I don’t follow your issue with the “law”. It simply states that at some point in an Internet discussion some reference will be made(calling someone a Nazi, comparing someone or the view they express to a Nazi). I’ve seen it on many occasions and it’s is typically “you don’t agree with my point of view so you must be a Nazi”. The “law” is generally invoked and the discussion ends since the person making the reference has now sunk to the extreme lows of name calling.

    I don’t see how this relates at all to actual discussion of the Nazi party, the part the play in history, or the atrocities committed by them. My view is that it continues to serve as a reminder to how bad it was. No discussion, no matter how heated or perverse, can come close to the acts committed and the person making the reference needs to take a step back and think about it.

    Just my view, for what it’s worth…



  4. Okay I’m just going to respond once, and hopefully that will be enough.

    I can’t recall seeing Nazis or Hitler mentioned in discourse without someone almost immediatly bringing in Godwin’s Law as a rebuttal.

    I of course understand that this is a misapplication of Godwin’s Law, but what difference does that make. It’s used to stop the discussion.

    I saw it applied recently where a perfectly valid reference to Nazis was stopped with an application of Godwin’s Law (not by me, btw). So then the discussion could turn to whether it was applied correctly but by then the point is missed. And I’ve certainly had times when I wanted to say that something Bush is doing is very much like something Hitler did, but didn’t want to go there because I knew what wouldl come next.

    I’m sure some idiot will chime in that there’s a mention of Hitler in this comment. Just wait a few minutes. THe asshole won’t even read as far as this paragraph.

    So my point was that a whole avenue of discourse is cut off.

    Forgive me, because I write for people with a college education who give me the benefit of the doubt. I resist spelling out things that intelligent people can piece together themselves. Really, I think this whole comment was unnecessary, you could have figured it out from the post itself.

    In any case, now I’ve explained it.


  5. Posted by JR on August 20, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Gnomedex mess

    May I suggest some music to help make things better (TurkeyInTheStraw.mid) …


  6. Posted by Hanan Cohen on August 21, 2007 at 2:47 am

    RE: Open Identity

    Just found out about a website called

    You give it access to one of your webmail address books and it searches all your contacts and shows you who is registered in what social network.

    Instead of saying “many people have registered in many places” you can see an actual example of this.


  7. Dave wrote:

    “I feel like a presidential candidate. What if I say something which, taken out of context, sounds like I have a belief that’s politically incorrect.”

    To me, this is part of the problem itself: a media system (and a political system) that rewards (provides positive incentives for, and insufficient accountability for) taking things out of context.

    In the future, it has been said, everybody will be on TV. Perhaps that time has arrived, in part because of all we’ve done to enable peer-to-peer publishing and democratize the media. I believe it will take some time for the standards and protections to catch up, and I agree that there will be potentially devastating social consequences for some individuals in the process.

    I’m going to Burning Man next week. There, elaborate legal and social safeguards have been put in place to give people the freedom not to be filmed/videotaped without permission; the organization takes on the role of enforcer/reviewer of all material, with signed contracts and even lawsuits used successfully to stop publication of unauthorized material. People voluntarily give up their freedom-of-publishing rights in order to enter a privatized space where freedom of expression can more fully flower.

    That said, these firewalls are sufficiently permeable that a politician or celebrity might have to use a disguise in order to be able to fully participate without fear… precisely because, as a society, we have said (legally) that “news” and freedom of publishing of “newsworthy” material trumps prior restraints.


  8. Posted by Raines Cohen on August 21, 2007 at 4:28 am

    P.S. I’ve seen my step-grandfather’s tattoo from the Camps. Never Forget.


  9. People who build networks always fight against interconnecting them with other smaller networks on even terms; they will always insist to collect some kind of tax or tarriff from the smaller network operator for the privilege.

    This has happened more times than I can count, and it’s just in the nature of how network operators view the value that they have built. This happened with Usenet in Europe (EUNET), continuously on the Internet backbones with peering and transit agreements, and as far back as the first telephone systems where people had to keep multiple phones in their house to talk to everyone.

    Network participants tend to benefit from interconnectivity, but since the operators can’t capture that value directly (and incur costs in provisioning it) they fight against it.


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