Browsing Tag


Identity: Identical Choices and Opposite Positions

On Thursday, the Social Media Club Atlanta met – Peter and Tessa continue to maintain the momentum with the re-launch of the group in late 2008.  Thursday’s meetup was a very interesting discussion on how folks manage and view their identities online.  There were several key areas of examination on the agenda which the panel discussed, while moderately engaged in buzzword bingo – which had Chris Brogan as an square:

  • Is your online identity different from your IRL identity?
  • What does it mean to “manage your online identity”?
  • Are there any off-limits topics on blogs? Who decides?
  • Rethinking the personal/professional dichotomy and tearing down the walls of compartmentalization yea or nay?

I basically have been thinking about this consistently for the last 36 hours, thanks to the engaging discussion. This is why I thought I might write a piece on it.  The premise that you should be able to express and share online without fear is definitely a freeing concept.

Everyone WAS Correct

  • Folks should be who they ARE online
  • Online activities should not impact careers
  • Not hiring someone because of online content is bad
  • Folks should be able to blog about what they want
  • Sharing and developing ideas is a good thing
  • Your ability to develop deep relationships should be seen as a good thing

No doubt all good things.  There however was a the feel of a naivety which themed across the general conversation.  It had that college coffee discussion feel – theoretical and altruistic views of how things should be and encouraging “action”.  An intellectual/theoretical discussion on the merits of social media, identity, access and the potential offline impacts with a bunch of blogger types is always a good time.

Very few things are as rewarding as in depth conceptual discussions with like minded folks – ya find that common thread and GO!    Great ideas, but somewhat unsustainable concepts since choice, participation and freedom is bi-directional.  I draw the personal parallel to my participation in the Workers World Party in college.

The Parity of Rights

The most common theme across all participants was the impact on social media and their careers.  In principle, I think that social media offers an interesting differentiation for job seekers.  That being said, a general concern surfaced on the unjust use of  Google during the job hiring process, leveraging online content in hiring decision cycles and the potential reality of job loss due to online content.  Compartmentalization, management and tolerance peppered many of the responses.  After all – a good worker is a good worker, sorry to go all Workers World on ya.

Again a great discussion around how ideological constructs can conflict economic decision criteria.  The problem with rights – they cut both ways.  The same decision making ability one has on how they manage their online identity online is the same right/ability enjoyed by those that are making a given decision.

Freedom of expression and the parity of rights is an interesting thing.

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Brand Damage? A Wal-Mart use case

Wal-Mart is a great brand which seems impervious to damage, almost Teflon coated like the skillets you can find in aisle 6 in housewares.  Low Prices as a brand promise appears to not only be valid in tough economic times, but also in not so tough.  I know their tagline is different, but the promise is the same.

The recent Black Friday death and miscarriage in a Wal-Mart store more than likely will have no impact on the choices consumers make, neither will the numerous YouTube videos about the incident.  Wonder why that is? Is consumerism solely price based?  A professor I had would say that price is the biggest P, as a product guy I think Product is, but we all have our own view.

Can a Wal-Mart avoid damage to their brand over the recent events?  Sure they can – the brand’s value has to be like eleventy billion dollars and most folks care only about what is in it for them more so than how things are working out overall.   Think about it – Wal-Mart has had a Wal-Mart sucks movie made about it, nasty t-shirts abound and countless discussions have been had about the ruining of main street America based on it’s geographic focused site selection and extended assortment of goods which no mom and pop retailer can counter, in price, service or in value.

photo by you.

As an aside, service doesn’t appear to be that important to the US shopper, but in other markets it does and the Wal-Mart brand doesn’t “live” in other markets.  Wonder why?

What is kind of interesting is that in more conscious based markets, like the EU, Wal-Mart is a different brand – ASDA and their message is more or less – We are your friend, let’s do good together.  In fact their tagline is People, Prices, Planet – completely different promise than Wal-Mart, below are some shots I took about a year ago while in the UK to back it up.  I knew I took these for some reason…

IMG00134 by you.

ASDA is also service focused, there are more associates in any given ASDA I have been in that most Wal-Mart’s I’ve entered and they even want to make sure your car works, as you can see from this sign from the car park of an ASDA in Preston, UK:

IMG00133 by you.

I guess in the end, a well developed brand can avoid most situational brand blights, as long as they deliver on the promise they make to the marketplace.  Wal-mart never said they were going to help your town, keep you safe while shopping or provide you assistance in the parking lot – only that you Save Money and Live Better.

PLEASE NOTE: Live Better apparently doesn’t mean you will survive a shopping experience/day at work.

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Complexity: The Context of Identity

The emergence of new technologies continue to change how many of us – as individuals, business folks and our online identities management of our interactions and information is becoming increasingly more complex. Ultimately, online identities can represent people, companies, products and brands. Identity online is becoming more like a house of brands, than a branded house for many of us. The complexity of managing a portfolio of identities/brands is becoming increasingly more challenging as we engage our personal networks, customers and business networks. Context and the complexity of context is making it even more difficult.

Context Defines Identity?

So I was watching The Soup the other day and I was generally amazed at how many of the personalities/identities I actually knew. The problem is I only know of these identities/celebs because of the Soup. I have no other context, except for Anderson Cooper, who wase featured on one of the more entertaining segments in the episode I just got to watch thanks to Tivo. The other thing which has got me to thinking about identity is some work I have been doing with ASC X12 and the context of where the market is, where the organization is and where it needs to go. These two things got me thinking back to how can context of a given set of interactions impact identity or the management of identity.

100_0772 by you.

The Echo Chamber

Context is one of the more interesting challenges of identity and I as a user of many platforms have way too many context sets to manage. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to streamline my online experience of late, but have been challenged to keep up with the pace of network specific interactions. My initial streamlining was related to getting yet another ID at to help keep a consistent pulse across my networks and for that use case it works. The problem with is that it is not conversational – you end up with orphaned replies on Facebook, twitter and other social networks.

Leveraging a tool which only speaks AT others rather than listening too is not a good thing for maintaining and developing relationships… With you end up with replies which echo into silence, until 3 or 4 days later when you check in at that given platform. Privacy and conversation are key drivers of the increasing identity crisis folks who are attempting to manage identity online with one way updates just doesn’t solve for.

Do I want my professional network to know the same thing my personal network know? How many networks do I need to update with my the latest picture of my kids?

The 4 P’s of Identity

When thinking about the say 8 accounts I commonly use, the ability to engage AND manage the relationships, responses and outreach can be a daunting task. Beyond the basic administrivia of each account, the challenge of trying to understand how to manage the mix of my activities and platforms continues to grow.

While is interesting, it mainly is a broadcast tool, unless there is some well hidden feature I can’t find.   As a tool, it only represents the ability to consolidate presence, not the ability to manage platform capabilities, promotion and placement. Identity as a brand or product is essentially what develops in each of the channels you participate in. If each instance of identity becomes a product, that means as platforms change, people migrate and new capabilities are available on a single platform identity/brand equity is diluted and management gets more complex.

So what are the 4 P’s of identity?

  • Platform – The holder of the ID account from a technology perspective is commonly the definition of a given platform. Typically platforms have unique account management and network capabilities which are not open, for the most part, for third party management.
  • Presence – The capability set typically associated with where you are and what you are doing. Twitter or the Plurk are good examples of platforms which support presence.
  • Placement – Group membership on a platform is one way to look at placement, but as are the ways which you allow to be contacted or how you can be engaged in context of group or platform.  On some platforms you may expose email, others you might constrain to the core messaging option, such as inbox messages or the wall on Facebook.
  • Privacy– Each platform, identity and group has privacy management attributes and rules which need to be managed. The management of privacy is uniquely related to the relationship you have in context of a platform and group.

100_0756 by you.

Why is identity such a challenge online?

If you share content online, it doesn’t go away.   However, if you share something at a dinner table it might be moved from memory, but it definitely isn’t a broadcast or a sustaining reality.  Just imagine if that incredibly stupid thing you said after your 3rd bottle of Silver Oak lived on forever?   It is the broadcast and permanency of content/interactions which make managing context and identity a far more complex thing. As an example, my offline identity is pretty much Jon and maybe a couple of nicknames, each with their own context, but mainly that context isn’t necessarily shared, even if the moniker is used more widely. I recently got a new nickname, Echo, while a seemingly fun name and definitely has an affinity to who I am that identity has no context outside of 3 people, the adoption is getting wider than expected.  While Echo usage is growing, the context isn’t being shared.  On some level the visibility of context is greater and can be shared, not so much in the real world.

The key challenges of managing the 4 P’s of identity are unique to being online and the fragmentation, management and interaction requirements require some type of solution.  Technologies to update, integrate and provide security/authorization are out there, but a great deal of work is needed to actually manage, protect and OWN your data.  Perhaps interoperability isn’t enough, we need to also support portability to better manage identity.

DataPortability – Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut on Vimeo.

Full Disclosure – Bad spellers untie

Since there are a considerably more readers these days, I thought I would piece together a thanks for stopping by piece, but got distracted with this email. I got a slideshare notification on someone putting a pitch in a group, so I thought I would I’ll look at the preso again. Glad I did – not only did I get to reminisce on the salad days when I had more time. I also got to find out I have a spelling error.

So now I have a topic of sorts – bad spelling and slides. At the end of the day – I haven’t been able to fix the error so it will live on the interweb forever. While I will admit an error, I’m not going to let you know exactly where the error is. C’mon – transparency can only go so far. (Hint: I before E, except in words like neighbor or their.)

On a technology note, I think slideshare is one of the more interesting widgets available for blogs. It offers something more visual for my blog and it is within my skill set.

So can look for the error or look at some other folks slides on if you haven’t used slideshare before.

More Recent Slides

Experimental Slides

So there are probably spelling errors in a couple. 😉