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Category: social graph

The Network’s Continental Congress: Searls, Gillmor, Windley, Arrington

Mark the week of May 11, 2008 as a milestone in the nascent politics of the Network, attending the Internet Identity Workshop, I had the feeling of participating in a kind of Continental Congress. In this regard, Doc Searls and Phil Windley are statesmen of the Network doing the good work of bringing the small and large states to the table to talk about politics, technology, interstate commerce, identity and inalienable rights. Acknowledgement is also due to Kaliya for her critical role in facilitating the dialogue through the unconference format.

Windley described the early meetings of the IIW as “brawling” among major vendors and protocol authors. A form of what Thomas Hobbes called bellum omnium contra omnes (the war of all against all). By the sixth meeting of the IIW it’s become clear that OpenID, Cardspace and SAML are emerging as the dominant forces.

The week was capped by a brawling Gillmor Gang with Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington engaged in heated debate over ownership of identity artifacts. The wall at the back of Marc Canter’s revolutionary garden emerged as an offline visual rough draft of our constitutional articles. Canter also put forward the metaphor of tentacles as the current mode of portability, and this connects directly to my observation of the general transition to rhizomatic power architectures.

Chris Saad injected the data portability meme into the flow and suggested personal Access Control Lists, in the form of a “Sharing OK/Not OK” check box on data you give to individuals or companies. It would be interesting to watch Robert Scoble manually configure a complex ACL on his 20,000+ friends (Scoble rushes in where Angels fear to tread).

The one thread I would contribute to the conversation is the idea of data liquidity. Think of data as a financial asset, as cash it is at its most simple and portable; the other end of the spectrum might be venture capital where it is complex and liquidity events are highly limited. We trade liquidity for potentially higher value when we park our data at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter or Yahoo.

  You can hear for yourself here:

In the general argument about identity and user data, Steve Gillmor has played the role of Alexander Hamilton. He argues that because we own our data, we don’t need to petition for rights not surrendered, or for exceptions to powers which were not granted. Hamilton objected to the Bill of Rights on the following grounds:

Bills of rights are in their origin, stipulations between kings and their subjects, abridgments of prerogative in favor of privilege, reservations of rights not surrendered to the prince. Such was “Magna Charta“, obtained by the Barons, swords in hand, from King John.

Hamilton continued:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?

These are dynamic times akin to the days in 1787 when the Federalist Papers were authored. Hamilton, Madison and Jay (under the pseudonym “Publius“) often published between three and four essays per week. Doc Searls just announced at the Berkman@10 event: The Publius Project is a “compilation of ‘essays and conversations about constitutional moments on the Net’ at the singular moment that happens to be now.” There was a moment in all this when I thought we were laying down cow paths onto paved roads, but Doc has connected the dots at just the right moment.

During the process of thinking and writing about the week that was, a song kept playing in the background of my thoughts. The song is called “Playmate” and was written in 1894 by Philip Wingate. I first heard it in the film Reds, and more recently in The Savages. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about it that expresses the emotional and human center of these constitutional conversations.

I don’t want to play in your yard,
I don’t like you anymore,
You’ll be sorry when you see me,
Sliding down our cellar door,
You can’t holler down our rainbarrel,
You can’t climb our apple tree,
I don’t want to play in your yard,
If you won’t be good to me.


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Internet Identity Workshop 6: Cinema Verite

Here are some moments from the Internet Identity Workshop 6 in Mountain View, California. The event is being held at the Computer History Museum. This is an early experiment with capturing video using the Flip Video camera.

The Opening Session: Welcoming Newbies to the Community

Day Two: Setting The Session Agenda for the Unconference

Day Two: Wrapping up the Sessions

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Against Portability: Who Owns The Pen With Which You Write?


Fountain Pen

I wrote the notes for this post with a fountain pen in a notebook. Ink on paper. The use of wet ink implies a certain amount of danger and permanence. We have a mental model of writing that includes one hand, one pen and one piece of paper.

Much of my day was spent in consideration of the idea of data portability and collecting up all the bits of stuff we have scattered about on various servers attached to the network. We’ve created identities on many systems and used local tools to write text, or store a photo or a video.

Who owns the pen with which you write? Who owns the paper? The issue of data portability has to do with writing your data with a borrowed pen on someone else’s piece of paper. Portability requires the building of protocols to move structured data around based on authenticated identity. If your stuff is in a public RSS feed, then it’s just a matter of aggregating feeds. A number of players have done this already. But if you really want to move your stuff from one place to another, that’s a problem.

What if I had my own pen and paper. When I wrote something I kept the drafts and the finished copy in my files and sent a copy to the public social network, wiki, or blog comment? My files could be local on a hard drive, or in the cloud–but I would control them at the point of origin. There would be no need to collect them up from various spots around the network. If I wanted to move from one service to another, I could request my data be erased and have the raw data available to move to another service.

What this thought experiment reveals is the value that a particular service adds to the raw data. And of course, some data can get very complex and interconnected. But there are many types of data for which this would work very well.

You may say, that no such service exists. Neither does data portability. I wonder which would be easier to build? Which would be easier to implement? I wonder if you could make any money selling pens and paper?

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Gesture Bank Robbed: Clues Point to an Inside Job

Bank Vault

It’s just been reported that the Gesture Bank was robbed, and officials tell us that everything is gone. The complicated security measures, the armed guards, the thick metal walls, the alarms, the hidden cameras and the lasers were all overcome in this daring daylight robbery. Some form of military-grade explosives were used in the dramatic breach of this highly-secure vault. Local law enforcement officials, however, speculate the perpetrators were amateurs, “when we arrived on the scene, there were gestures everywhere. Man, they were scattered from hell to breakfast. It doesn’t look like they actually got away with much.”

Portable Eye Tracking

Thousands of ordinary Americans had deposited their hard-earned gestures into accounts using the portable attention recording equipment supplied by the bank. The promise of fungible gestures growing tax-free in their accounts fueled dreams of early retirement and a life of leisure for many.

Clockwork orange

In recent years, the Gesture Bank had faced controversy with its compulsory attention collection proposals. A number of politicians and advertising executives believed that achieving critical mass in the gesture market was a necessary step in transitioning to the new economy. Deposit growth was falling short of projections and some felt stronger measures were required for the safety and security of our nation.

Gesture experts have been puzzled by evidence at the crime scene, it appears all the gestures that have been recovered have been uniformly sliced into 140 character strings of hypertext. The recovery has been very difficult as the gestures seem to be re-absorbed into the the network through the web, IM and SMS. The gestures that have been traced inside the network seem to have formed into a continuous stream of 140 character units; investigators provided this visualization for the media.

Gesture Bank officials are concerned that it will be impossible to identify all these gestures and connect them back up to the people who originally made them. “What people don’t seem to understand is that without a bank and accounts, there’s no way to know who made what gesture.”

Some believe that the Gesture Bank robbery was an inside job, that the unidentified suspect wasn’t working alone. There’s a growing political movement that believes gestures should not be kept in vaults, that gestures should be out in the world and circulating among the people. Highly-placed sources within the bank have reported that this new political idea was spreading like a virus at the highest levels of the organization. One member of the Board of Directors hasn’t been seen around the plush executive suite in many months. Some felt that he signaled his intentions when left this image pasted to the door of his office as a final gesture.

You don’t need a weather man

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