In the early days of computer networking, email systems weren’t interconnected very well. You might be on Prodigy, Sprintnet, Compuserve, attmail, BITNET, DECnet, uucp, X.400 or SMTP or some other email system. If you learned the magical incantations, you could manage to get a message from one network to another, sometimes traversing intermediary networks.
If you weren’t connected directly to the internet, you could send an email to an FTP email gateway to get files send to your email. More recently, people have talked about how to interconnect IM systems. They’ve looked at adding in chat rooms and even SIP based phones.
At Personal Democracy Forum, a new type of interconnectivity came up. How do we interconnect our online social networks? What might this interconnection do for us?
One early effort was FOAF, or the The Friend of a Friend project. Various people tried various things with FOAF. Tribe.net supports FOAF. Some of the early software in the Dean campaign supported FOAF. There were a few FOAF crawlers around, but none of this really got off the ground. It hasn’t proven useful for adding remote friends.
At PDF, Chris Messina brought up XFN, the Xhtml Friends Network. I’ve made changes to my support XFN. I’ve tagged my links accordingly and submitted my site to Rubhub, which is one of the few XFN tools out there that I can find. Unfortunately, Rubhub isn’t listing my site yet. So, I haven’t found anything useful from XFN yet. However it does have potential.
I went through about 25 of the social networks I’m part of and added up the links I have in all of them. The total number of links was nearly 1200. A few networks dominated my list with Facebook, LinkedIn, LiveJournal, Twitter and PartyBuilder accounting for over half the links. Change.org is the one that is climbing rapidly right now, after just coming out of Beta.
Now it is worth noting that there is probably a lot of overlap in these 1200 links. It would be really interesting to see what that overlap is. Perhaps more interesting is to find where I have friends on multiple networks, but don’t know where they are on other networks. Beyond that, it would be interesting to have an amalgamated friends list, showing all my friends, which networks they are on, and a summary of all that is going on in my networks.
Can we use XFN, FOAF or other tools to better connect our social networks? What changes can we bring about by making better connections? It will be an interesting thing to explore. Until then, if you are friends of mine on one of the networks listed on the right, and on any of the other networks, but not my friend there, please give me an add. Likewise, if your not on some of these networks, and want to get started, please join up and let me know.
One of the things that is important about any conference is the face to face networking that goes on outside of the keynotes and panels. At Personal Democracy Forum, I received lots of different cards, links etc., and I thought it would be helpful to highlight some of them.
I was part of the Change.org beta and have been very interested in the site. They are a site where people can list nonprofits that they are interested in, encourage people to donate or take actions on behalf of the nonprofit. This week, they came out of beta. They’ve added a section for politics. Please stop by and add .
I spoke with Heather Cronk for a little bit at Personal Democracy Forum. Heather used to work with the New Organizing Institute, and has moved on to PledgeBank. PledgeBank is similar to Change.org, but they have an interesting take. People pledge to do something, if a bunch of other people pledge to do the same thing, sort of like grassroots driven matching donations on our local public broadcasting station.
PledgeBank is part of MySociety.org, which has been doing some very interesting work on eGovernance in Great Britain.
I spoke with Jo Lee for a little bit. She handed me a card for ringtones08.com. They also have a MySpace page and have started a facebook group. At RingTones08, you can upload Ringtones for the 2008 Presidential Election. I played my Howard Dean Scream Ringtone for Jo Lee and she encouraged me to upload it. I will sometime soon.
I spent a little time talking with Gwen Rose from the Vote Solar Initiative. They grew out of a bond initiative in San Francisco in 2001. They work on the state and municipal level to support solar energy projects. They have an action alert network that encourages people to contact their elected officials.
A problem that they are running into is how to find the best tools to contact members of state legislatures. I kicked around some ideas about using the grassroots to come up with better ways of contacting state legislators.
Later, I ran into Sarah Schacht from Knowledge as Power.
Knowledge as Power is a 501(c)3 aimed at providing citizens timely access to legislative information and encouraging people to contact their state legislators about issues. I spoke with Sarah about the problems that Gwen had been having and suggested that the two might want to explore ways to work together.
So, if you didn’t get a chance to attend Personal Democracy Forum, at least follow the links and stop by and say hello.
Gavin Kennedy and I have been trading blog posts concerning Adam Smith and trade policy today. His current post is Let Debate Continue (it's better than fighting a trade war).
Gavin Kennedy, in his blog, Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy criticizes my by recent blog post Unshackling Adam Smith’s invisible hand – Carbon Credits, entitling his post, How to Start World War III & IV. Does he really believe that tying trade policies to energy consumption or environmental policies would start World War III & IV?
NAFTA's explicit inclusion of environmental issues in dispute settlement jurisdiction didn’t start a World War. Why would they in other trade agreements? It appears as if Kennedy is just being a polemicist, not seriously interested in thinking seriously about how trade policies affect our world.