I don’t exactly know how it all spun out of control, but I’m fairly certain I have a Blogger and Friendster and MySpace and GameSpot and YouTube and Flickr and Technorati and account. In all likelihood, my username clogs the registry of another handful of community apps gathering dust. Pat Robertson, forgive me if you’re reading this, but in an effort to establish human connections online I’ve been intimate with dozens of web 2.0 communities, and the names of most I cannot even remember.
Please don’t judge me, because I cherished every one of those applications, if only for a few minutes in the parking lot behind the wi-fi cafe.

The trouble is, even with widgets and extensions and aggregators I just couldn’t bloody keep track of them any more. Moreover, in the pursuit of intimacy with many communities I found myself sacrificing a quality experience with any one community. Every web 2.0 flavor of the week diluted my attention from flavors past, and with a startling cumulative effect. Yep, establishing online connections required an unforeseen amount of maintenance, and my real life grass needed mowing.
Content notwithstanding, MySpace (and less profoundly, Friendster) made an early effort to centralize identity and facilitate human connection. This is my blog. These are my friends. This is which dark blue background tile of L’il Bow Wow I think would look good with this dark blue type. But still, one’s identity exists in MySpace’s domain, logistically isolated from the other communities and connections that define and individualize (Flickr, et al). Isolation in web 2.0? Poppycock.
It seems web 2.0 and beyond is fertile ground for a unique, centralized online identity “site” that integrates, manages and makes sense of the online communities that define every web user. Operating at a unique (if anonymous) “human” identifier (http://us.universalusername.xy?), this site could address some significant mechanical objectives:

1) For the owner/operator, a centralized identity could operate as a dashboard for all of the communities of which they are a part. So, instead of hopping from site to site, uploading photos, posting comments, rating user submissions, and slowly abandoning half of the communities at which they’ve registered, individuals could interact with all of them in a user-customized interface. Given faithful integration of external community applications, this “life overview” jump-evolves the personalized home pages of old.
2) For wandering web users, a centralized identity could provide a more complete and compelling picture of the individual. To wit, if identity is defined by the totality of life experiences, can one’s online identity be similarly defined? Will fellow interlopers find the most profound introduction to the individual in the broadest accumulation of their online efforts? I suspect so.

I don’t want to abandon the opportunity for human connection, but the disparate, clunky community sites that require my attention have stretched me thin. And given the increasing niche focus of community applications, I only foresee the din increasing. So, am I proposing a new web 2.0 application to confront the deluge of web 2.0 applications? Erm, well … have you got a better idea?

2 thoughts on “ASpaceCalledMine

  1. Nice post. I agree that it’s a real pain to maintain your online presence on the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of social networking sites out there. Centralization would definitely help, but I think a key requirement of this centralized identity site would be an ability to mimic our relationships in real life. We’d need a way to segment our friends list into groups (friends, family, co-workers, inner-circle, etc.) so that we could push the right content to the right people. We need some way to avoid showing Aunt Edna (hey internets: she’s a fictional character) shots of her favorite nephew doing beer bongs (again, fictional!) at last Saturday’s beach bash.
    Until this comes around, I don’t think that a centralized identity will gain traction, as we’re different things to different people.

  2. Too right, Brad … I’ve considered that permissions (perhaps login + cookie-based) might tailor the access to my identity, but that complexity seems to thwart the fluidity of centralization.
    Instead, perhaps the entirety of the internet becomes one’s “extended network” (akin to Friendster or MySpace), wherein there also exist first- and second-degree friends, relatives, coworkers, etc. as you suggested. These group IDs could include infinite variations based on similar participation. That is, those individuals who themselves have a Flickr account could likewise see my snapshots; an aquaintance within my Friendster community would have increased access to my other (perhaps slightly more restricted) posts. To generate these multi-level groups algorithmically and assign permissions authomagically would alleviate much of the user-centered effort — from there, users could make minor privacy tweaks to keep Aunt Edna in her place: in the rain, on the roof of the family truckster, dead.

Leave a Reply