Saturday, February 7, 2009

What you blog is who you are (WYBIWYA)? Identity Crisis Looming?

I still remember when Desktop Publishing swept away "typesetting" studios like a technology tsunami in the 80's. "What you see is what you get" became the marketing battlecry of a new generation of technology evangelists, touting Mac's and 300 dpi Laserprinters as if they had invented the anti-gravity belt and the cure to the common cold.

20++ years have passed, and now we are very deep in a new publishing tsunami, that has put several million people in the global content creation business. Not that everthing that's facebooked or tweeted has great value, but it certainly creates a digital footprint that presents both opportunity and risk. Opportunity since 1:1 online marketing will be able to shift into a completely new level of accuracy in the next 10 years, and consumers will enjoy the benefits of "target" marketing that evolves beyond hyperannoying spam into "permission selling". Maybe. Hopefully.

Risk, because the majority of people really have no idea how much of their personal details they are willingly, and maybe overly naively exposing to "identity bandits" in the waste lands of online crime.

I don't want to make this more dramatic than necessary, but I see details on the Web that I don't even know about people whose homes I visit on regular basis, and who I have known for decades. Why don't we just post our social security numbers, bank accounts, mother's maiden names including our password list in to the cloud and be done with it?

Ok. Sarcasm aside. There is, like I said, a real opportunity. What you blog is who you are, and I will continue to be out there in the blogosphere. I will also continue to try to educate and warn about the Über-exposure to private details this opportunity presents.

Enterprise Software vendors are called upon to both offer their expertise in this space, and to rapidly learn about the new challenges of an emergent digital identity footprint that is vastly different than what we have learned from enterprise software in the past 5 decades. Companies like SAP, IBM and others have for many decades successfully dealt with securing the identities and assets of millons users ... but this is a new world out there ... and new ideas are urgently necessary.

I look forward to hearing your views and ideas about identity management in this new frontier


  1. It won't be long before future presidential candidates and their appointees will be vetted not just for their taxes, but what they posted on Facebook. And our kids seem willing to post a lot about themselves. Take that recent scandal about Miley Cyrus for example.

  2. So there will be a pre-post culture and a post-post culture?

  3. Chris, you ask how companies like SAP, IBM, etc. can successfully deal with securing identities in the future. With web 2.0, it seems we are moving in the phase of not only securing our identities but physically managing them as well. There are lots of tips on the web on how to manage both your private and business digital footprint. Pew (2007) has also published research on the growing awareness on digital footprint awareness (see: I would think that for software companies this would then mean that they need to provide tools and support to not only help individuals and businesses secure their identities, but most importantly, track and manage them.

  4. Case in point re identity management in social media .. Fake Dalai Lama account on twitter aggregates 16k followers in 2 days and then gets suspended.

  5. There is no fake dalai lama. Only fake followers!

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  7. Suresh RamakrishnanFebruary 9, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    Establishing and managing your Digital Identity is certainly a challenge in today’s complex online world. One of the big problems (and there are many!) is that today’s “identity domains” are siloed – e.g. your facebook identity and reputation is not transferable say to wordpress or ebay. What is needed is a centralized, commonly verifiable digital identity that can be used across the online (and offline) world. In other words, Web 2.0 needs Identity 2.0! The following link is to a superb presentation on this topic by Dick Hardt – one of the leading thinkers in the identity space. It’s a ‘must watch’ both for the content as well as the brilliant presentation style.

  8. Suresh RamakrishnanFebruary 9, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    Here is the link from my previous comment ...

  9. Thanks for the link, Suresh. Interesting that Dick is now working for Microsoft...