Saturday, February 18

Who the hell am I? For that matter, who the hell are you? And how do you keep track?

I have a problem. I have too many identities.

I have accounts on 4 IM services, and I access those accounts from 2 clients each, on at least 3 computers, on a regular basis. I play 3 online games regularly and a few more sporadically. I log into websites and post on blogs, as well as blogging myself. I have three names/handles/monikers, each for a different group of activities. I have more logins and passwords than I care to think about. Sometimes, I have to think carefully about who I am right now, to avoid tying my identites together.

Not all of that is bad, of course. I don't use my real name on this blog so that if and when I say something that someone (or something) doesn't like, it's not trivial to find my home number and bother my wife about it. I don't use the same name to blog as I do to IM, because I don't really want people I don't know sending me IMs. Same with gaming -- the fact that you read my blog shouldn't let you find me in-game.

All that said, I do often wonder if my online identity is too fragmented, if I'm doing myself a disservice by keeping my interests separate. The problem is, how do I tie everything together? I don't really want to take the time to implement a personal portal (thanks for the link, and the plug, Coté!), and even that would probably not be of much use to anyone besides me. I don't want to have to put all my eggs in one basket, either. And I haven't found an application -- hosted or installed -- that I trust to maintain my identities for me. In fact, since the whole point of having separate identities is not to link them on the Internet, I don't think I'll ever trust a hosted application to do it for me. And the downloadable tools I've briefly looked at to do that kind of thing don't link sufficiently well with my online life as to make them usable. Flock comes closest, but it's scarily beta, and scarily web 2.0. It seems to me like there might be no right answers to this problem.

Do you, gentle readers, have similar problems? How do you solve them? What haven't I thought of? Are there no right answers because I'm asking the wrong questions?


Jeff Freeman said...

I've been getting a bit annoyed by this as well - not only in managing my online identities but in managing *my* social network.

The social networking stuff out there - Friendster, Orkut, mySpace, Yahoo360, etc. - are all fine and all, but they only track your network *internal* to their network.

Maybe with a halfassed nod towards blogrolling (love bloglines, but if a site doesn't have an RSS feed, you can't store it's URL in your blogroll. Gah!).

Meanwhile, there are folks I want to link to across these various networks (and in NO networks), and it wouldn't bug me in the least to hand the keys to a plethora of these systems over to a meta-tracking system that gave me a re-skinned view of *my* social network.


Fraxas said...

the problem with handing over my keys to a 3rd party to reskin and reaggregate my social networks is that then, there's a single organization out there that has all my keys. Kinda not the point of having separate identities.

Cote' said...

Yeah, everyone has this problem. While I suspect it'll never get "really" solved, there is hope at least being able export your info from each site.

For example, you can export your blogroll from bloglines and upload it into feedlounge because they have an OPML export. There's been work to even synch up keeping track of what you've read.

The problem to solve isn't a technological one, but a business one: how can groups of people make money off their software if users can seemlessly move from site to site?

On the other hand, we can look towards things that layer on top of the web like Flock, greasemonkey, or something else...and you'd probably need to give over passwords.

Someone left a comment about which is working out for me so far. Hopefully there'll be more stuff out there.

Dan Nugent said...

External social networks sound like an interesting problem because they're of very little inherent value unless you can also see what the nodes you link to are linked to.

FOAF kind of addresses that, but who's got time for FOAF? (A cookie to the person that can explain OWL/RDF/RDFS to me) And for that matter, FOAF doesn't really give you any interesting knowledge about the nodes of your nodes.

Also, it sounds like loaf, which makes me giggle.

oz said...
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