I am seriously conflicted about the state of my own digital identity. On one hand I am thrilled to see the wealth of social sites out there filling specific niches, giving us new ways to share and express ourselves. But, to say that I am a bit underwhelmed by the lack of meta connections these sites afford is an understatement. I have a few thoughts that are really beginning to pull me in new directions.
I'll start with Twitter as an example of my overall frustration. I use it, not as much as some, but I am usually paying attention to the stream and even update a handful of times each day. It is what it is and I know I have written many times in the past about how much I do really like it. One problem is that there are new services that are moving beyond it and people are noticing. Maybe the features it doesn't have is what keeps people there -- there is something to be said about simplicity. But the only thing that keeps me from jumping ship all together are the people. So the community is the only feature of Twitter that really keeps me there. I know it has provided a tangible result in the binding of the learning design community, but it is missing some of the things that could really make it powerful. The second thing that bothers me is that I am investing a lot of 140 character identity pieces on a daily basis. These things disappear and are not long-term artifacts. No matter, the people keep me there.
Flickr is another example of a place I post pieces of my identity on a regular basis. The features are nice and I really like the simplicity of the environment in general. In this case it isn't so much about wanting to leave to try out new environments (only because I still think it is the best social sharing photo space), it is that my established network is there. I would never be able to drag them out. So, again, the people keep me there.
I could go on with other spaces, but I'll spare the review of these other environments. At the end of the day I stay because of the people and the connections.
But, help me envision something that looks a little different. I have a blog -- I am guessing you know that as you are reading this post here. I use my blog to act as a bit of a hub to my online identity, but I am very concerned about where all this leads. I am still willing to pay $25.00 a year for my Flickr Pro account, but when they go, so do my pictures and my network. I found out the hard way that Twitter doesn't keep real historical records of my old Tweets ... I wanted everything I Tweeted during class last Spring to use it as part of my research. The network remains, but the pieces of it that I want are gone -- the evidence of community growth no longer exists. So, what I am proposing is to not abandon the social sites, but to leverage the network while using my own blog (or personal publishing platform) as the place where everything begins and ends.
So if I post a picture I do it at my blog and my blog also posts it to Flickr -- it grabs the meta data, uses my post preferences, gives it a title, and all the other things that would happen at Flickr but in this case the photo still lives in my personal space. Same with Twitter, Facebook, status, and so on. What if it started in my space and ended up in those spaces? I could even choose to show or hide that content in my own blog space, but I would have overall ownership of my stuff -- in one place. I'm not asking the network move, I am moving my content from my space to the places where they are. As I want to explore new environments, I can still keep it all flowing from my blog out to those places. It can't be that hard ... who knows how this could help keep our content for the long haul. As I try (and leave) more and more environments I am depositing small identity artifacts that I can no longer track and I am feeling like I am fracturing my it more and more along the way.
Tell me why this is ridiculous and why it won't work. At the moment I can't figure out why we wouldn't want it to work this way.