Archive - Jul 16, 2007
I’ve had some interesting discussions recently about online identities and how we manage them or fail to manage them. An example of this is that a friend of mine was taking a train home from work. He fired up his laptop and logged into Facebook. The young woman next to him said, “I can’t believe your on Facebook”. I suggested that he should have told her, “Yeah, a lot of us check out Facebook and MySpace profiles before we interview anyone.
Even people who think a lot about the searchability of persistent online data can be surprised what can be done with online data. During Gov. Dean’s campaign they explored using Friend of a Friend (FOAF) as a means of connecting supporters. People were surprised to find detailed information showing up about them in unexpected places, through the power of FOAF crawlers exploring the web.
Today, I spoke on the phone with another friend who was interested in promoting the use of open source social networks for political purposes. I walked him through some of the tools that are out there. We started at my Facebook profile. (You probably have to be a friend of mine to see much of anything there.) In it, I’ve added a social networks application that connects up with UpScoop.
UpScoop is a pretty amazing tool where you can upload your mailing list and search to see who on your mailing list is on which networks. It is very slick and amazingly powerful. Looking at my profile on UpScoop, it showed sixteen different networks I was on, including links to my profile on almost all of them.
As I explored this with my friend on the phone, we decided to follow the link to one network that was listed that I didn’t remember joining, RapLeaf. It turns out that RapLeaf is the underlying engine for UpScoop and that their goal is to provide reputation information, based on email addresses tied into various social networks. In particular they focus experiences other people have had with you as a buyer or seller on sites like eBay or CraigsList.
It looks like it will be a very powerful tool and helps drive home the importance of managing your online identity.
All that said, I have a lot of recommendations of things that I would like to see RapLeaf do. First, it would be great if they could add OpenId. There is already OpenID support in Ruby on Rails, so it should be easy to add to their site. RapLeaf is based on email identities and ties it into profiles on social networking sites. OpenID is based on website pages. The two are closely related and ideally should be linked.
Beyond that, it would be great if they could support XHTML Friends Networks (XNF). It would be a pretty simple change to add. All of the links in the social networks section of the page could simply have the rel=”me” tag and the friends at the bottom could have a rel=”friend” tag. This would facilitate tools that explore XFN.
Ideally, it would be great if the could search out blogging systems as well. For blogging systems that will reveal user information based on email address, they should be able to do this simply. However, most systems want to keep email addresses private.
To get around this many systems, including RapLeaf use an SHA1 hash as a method of checking email addresses without ever showing the email address. If systems like Drupal, Scoop, Soapblox and others would allow people to look up people by the SHA1 hash of their email address, these sites could be searched as well. Maybe I’ll add the ability to search for users by the SHA1 hash of their email address on Orient Lodge. It would be great if people added it to some other blogging systems.
There are plenty of other ways in which this could be used in politics. Anyone who is interested in this aspect should contact me offline.