Thursday, October 23, 2003

Keeping my Identity

DIDW was very thought provoking and I keep coming up with new issues. The latest being who do I trust to keep my identity? This has both legal and social implications. I see my identity as a cloud of facts that surrounds me and changes in both time and space. The major reason I do not manage my identity is that I do not want to be responsible for it. This is both a data management issue and a legal responsibility issue.

Many people worry about third parties such as banks and the government managing parts of their identity. I would worry more if I had to manage my identity, keep it secure and be legally responsible for it. There is a lot to be said for having multiple third parties being your trusted identity providers.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Personal Identity - who am I....

I spent some time last week at Digital ID World. I was there to be part of a panel on Web Services and Identity that focused on enterprise issues. The other part of the conference was looking at the issues of personal identity and how it related to the digital world. The danger of the identity problem is over-simplification.

The nature of personal identity is really around a collection of facts about me, with axes in time and space. At different times I have different identities, a friend, an employee, a customer, a relation etc. In different places, native, business traveler, tourist, etc. Which facts about me are both necessary and provable to determine my identity to solve the problem at hand.

I am not sure the problem can be solved by either a single device or a static set of assertions. I need to be able to reach into the network and present a set of provable assertions to define my identity and other parties need to be able to ask for a collection of assertions. Once provided the provable assertions they identity consumer needs to be able to state what they are going to do with the information, i.e. how persistent it is and will it be attached to my identity cloud.

The idea of an identity cloud that has clusters of provable facts in time and space is the mental model I am creating around identity as anything else is too simplistic.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Is persistence becoming a commodity..

Several announcements such as this one Big Blue retools database pricing | CNET are pointing in the direction of databases becoming a commodity. The next step is just making persistence a part of the information flow. One of the major advantages of XML and XML Schema is that they are all readable and can be persisted in a single step from the information flow.

This is a disadvantage for the database vendors as they have profited from the complexity of storage. Now if it becomes a commodity in the cloud, a part of the fabric of the network, then what is the actual value of persistence?

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Is Google a more dangerous monopoly than Microsoft?

As a monopoly Microsoft controls the tools and platform the majority of people use to access the internet. While this has significance in terms of how the browser and the desktop evolves it is not nearly significant as the control of how we discover information. This thought was sparked by the article Google CEO speaks out on future of search where Eric Schmidt talks about the need for personalization in search. and Google's acquisition of Kaltix a personalization technology for search.

Google is becoming the gatekeeper of information for the new millennium. The first place I, and many others go to find something is Google - the power and responsibility this gives Google is enormous. The view I and others now have of the world is to some extent controlled by Google. This control of information dwarfs any monopoly Microsoft has of the desktop. There are two filters Google is starting to put on my information flow - one is advertising and the other is personalization.

The lure and power of advertising dollars has resulted in a media industry that (IMHO) is bland and vapid. The content of television is extremely bland due to the power of the advertisers - lets not offend anyone. Already we are starting to wonder if search results are being ordered by dollars rather than relevance in Google. Can Google resist the power of the advertisers, today yes perhaps as a private company. When they become public the need to deliver quarterly numbers will put tremendous pressure on them will the separation of commerce and search survive?

Personalization of search results also worries me as if I people are only served information that pleases them there is a strong tendency for us to believe that our world view is correct. I look to a search engine to expand my horizons not shrink them into my safe zone. Personalization has a tendency to link us to others that thing the same and have similar tastes. Is there a personalization setting to challenge my thinking?

Google is doing the right thing to generate revenue and compete economically but is this the best thing for society as a whole?. I, and I am sure others treat Google like a library - an impartial source of information, it is now becoming a bookstore that tries to merchandise the information it is offering. What happens when the library disappears and we only have the merchandising?. If Google is the only search engine around we are suddenly in a world where our information access is controlled by a single entity that has at the heart of its economic model advertising dollars. If Google does not serve up the information - does the information exist?

If Google does become an information filter - we need another way to have direct un-filtered access to information - the PBS of search. One interesting project in this area is Nutch founded by Doug Cutting the creator of Lucene. A free society requires free access to information - lets make sure information access stays open.