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NOAGGREGATE: what if I don’t want my digital bits to be connected at one place?

Ton in Weaving Webs: How to Quickly Find Somebody’s Online Traces?:

As I do after each conference I am currently busy finding people on-line and adding them to my ‘social filter’ after BlogTalk Reloaded. Basically that means finding their on-line presences and adding them to my feedreader, and connecting to them in different environments such as Plazes, Skype, Flickr, OpenBC/Xing, LinkedIn, 43People etc. Weaving them into my social web so to speak.

Ton is not alone in that: each f2f meeting I participate in follows with a surge of “let’s be friends” requests over many platforms. It’s becoming a practice that eventually will be supported by some tool that Ton wants:

Would there be a way to create a search agent that takes the name of a person you’ve met? Ideally you would provide such a search agent with your own account data of all the environments you are part of that you want to have searched. And then it comes back with a number of likely search results that might contain any or all of the following for instance:

Possible blogs of that person
Possible Flickr Feed, or 23 feed
Possible Skypename
Possible IM names
Profile in OpenBc.com
Profile in LinkedIn.com
Profile at 43people.com
Possible Plazes account
Possible del.icio.us account

I have a very mixed feelings about it, similar to those in the comment by Marc Canter:

Clearly their is a need for such a search function, but it steps right onto the issue of privacy and security on the web.

For me, as someone who wants to ‘bookmark’ digital bits of people I met offline, having a tool like that would be great. For me, as a one ‘being searched for’, it sounds like a nightmare: I’m not happy when others connect my online dots on one page, especially if I don’t know them.

For me leaving my bits online is a conscious choice, but leaving them disintegrated ‘all over the place’ is a consious choice as well: if I make choices to share specific things in specific contexts and not put all on the same page I have a reasons to do so. And I’d like those reasons to be respected by whatever search tools (as they currently supposed to respect NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW of web-pages). At the end I want to have at least some rights over my own bits (e.g. digital traces not being aggregated without explicit content)…

So, coming back to Ton’s problem – one of the options that I could imagine is ‘Plaze-based’ search, an advanced version of something I experienced at SHiFT:

  • there I could easily see others on the same network and add them as contacts
  • once they confirmed I could get their basic info (like IM names or web-site links)
  • I can also see ‘plazes we have in common’, which could provide some context on the specific location (often associated with an event) where we have met

Of course, this is yet another centralised system (with all the problems of that), but at least it does a few things:

  • makes ‘search’ much easier (by showing only people who are at the same location with me at the moment)
  • provides people with choice of how much ‘aggregated in one space’ information they want to share with me
  • provides me with some clues about the history of our relationship (if you want to get into that deeper – make sure to check danah boyd’s Master thesis for the idea of Digital Mirror, pp. 53-59)

So, two questions regarding all these:

  • Can my Plaze-based search be generalised to any cross-platform search?
  • Are there any chances that eventually I will be able to add NOAGGREGATE tag or something like that (‘aggregate only for my contacts’, ‘ask first’, etc.) to my digital bits to control how they are displayed? Anything practical I can do in that respect? [pinging Suw at ORG]

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2006/10/09.html#a1842; comments are here.

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