Owning your digital self

One trend I mentioned last year was distributed social networking. I think it is inevitable, but will take a long time to arrive.

I hate sounding like a neckbeard. I’m not paranoid about losing control of my personal data or scared of a corporations holding it. However – having watched social networks evolve since sixdegrees.com – so far, social networks have all been groupware for consumers supported by advertising. Facebook (or Twinkboogle you could say) is not a safe place for your personal identity.


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This is generally true of the internet’s architecture. The internet is organized around servers, not people. The expectation is that organizations will manage servers, and users will use them. As those servers meld with our brain, we’re all going to need a little more control.

It is (for the most part) convenient to have Twinkboogle keep my list of friends, allow me to message them, and share photos and notes. However, it is fundamentally frustrating that as services come and go, I need to re-build my friends list, and copy my photos around.

Humans are going to meld with computers. At that stage, we won’t want to mentally sign in to Twinkboogle when we wake up in the morning. Today I consider myself to be a “Mac” not a “PC.” Today, I’m OK with my iPhone photos being saved immediately to my Apple photostream. In the future, I will also backup my brain securely to multiple commercial brain backup providers. But I’m going to want to control my own most intimate thoughts.

There’s a fine line between managed hosting of my data (I’m ok with that) and giving up control of the brain-internet interface. As the interface gets more intimate, the more assurances I want that no corporation is going to get in the way of me accessing my memories or having a conversation. The code has to be bug proof, I’ll want lots of choices of brain-plugins. Just like this blog. It is WordPress, a free and open software stack. I pay Hostgator to host the code and data. It’s inconvenient, but I can take the data, upgraded the software, or change providers whenever I want. I will want that same level of control for my brain software stack and storage.

So far, attempts at letting us own our own identity online (like OpenID) have failed. Every time I sign in with a password, I think – why can’t my computer just tell them it’s me? That’s coming. One project I just started looking into is tent.io. I’m going to set up my own identity server on this domain and publishing to it from my phone. It’s a start.

What do you think? Is owning your own data and software stack important? Or is that just too geeky and something you’re happy to keep trusting corporations to do?

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