Managing Alternative Identities

From IIW

Conference IIW8 Room/Time: 6/G

Convener: Infinity Linden

Notes-taker: Steve Herbst

Attendees: Steve Ogden Katrika Woodcock, Msft Karon Weber, Msft Steve Herbst, Msft Gabriel Wachob, Socialtext Doug Whitmore, Apple Andrew Nesbitt, Apple Nika Jones, OONO Laurel Boylen, CHI.MP Meadhbh Hamrick, Linden Research Keith Dennis, AssertID Ashish Jain, Symantec Hans Granquist, Netflix

Technology Discussed/Considered:

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

Selected Take-Aways:

There is ample evidence of a critical need to allow users to create and manage alternate identities; there are no standard practices for allowing users to do this.

Context (communication channel) is critical consideration underlying alternate identities. “I like you but I don’t want to friend you in Facebook – can I meet you over here?”

Some users lack an understanding of how the stuff they generate can proliferate. What is our obligation to help them understand? (refers to “Duty of care”, i.e., making it harder for users to do stupid things)

Original promise of the internet: open info exchange w/o reference to race, creed… now you come in w/social capital, reputation. This presents a really interesting challenge when an original promise was the blind nature of the Internet. How to keep this promise alive?

There is a need to establish a shared ontology for alternative identities due to lack of clear consensus on the meaning of terms such as pseudonymity, persona, avatar, etc.


Participants in the session were encouraged to help work toward a consensus identity ontology. A Google group was established for this purpose named ‘idont’.

Stream-of-consciousness notes:

Multiple identities desired 
What is difference between identity and avatar?
To us [Linden Research] an avatar is virtual person w/a mapped identity
Network/svc identity is distinguished from this – some conflict on this
Do users think multiple identities are a problem or is it a resource issue?
We’re getting request from business users…
Linden research is an enterprise play… announced a behind the firewall solution… think there is a large degree of value in letting users go outside firewall and bring goods back into it
Big issue right now is …we live in horror of having to UIDs in public and private areas
QQ lets you have multiple identities – male and female – acquire with one persona, gift from other
That gets into the social aspects of this – also interested in the technical – what does group think?
MySpace … different contacts are all mashed up, business, friends, not like real world
Parental control kid aspect is another consideration – you don’t want kid identities tied to a real person
Think the issue is: how are we building walls between people’s multiple personas?
When I was on r_ I had my regular professional account and my __ professional account – these were siloed and it didn’t work very well.
A situation: I’m getting harassed and I want to switch avatars – how do I do this?
Does anyone have a system where you have to identify multiple identities?
In CHI.MP I can make as many personas as I want. Users register more often than allowed by our terms of service – we don’t have a system in place for tracking – I can go through registry logs and see some obvious clues to whether someone has done this
Yahoo has the ability to create multiple linked IDs to tie in your external services
People can game the system –having Karen Brown and K. Brown is not a problem, but having 70 IDs is a problem
Someone signed up for Donald Trump, and that’s Donald Trump’s problem
Multiple alias associated w/an open ID model
In CHI.MP’s case, you sign up w/one ID, and then for each persona you turn buttons on and off based on what you want to assign to each contact
To invite people to my site I can go through the CHI.MP service
We start out with four personas: public, family, friends, work
I think we (CHI.MP) has done a good job of allowing users to manage personas and switch between them
We don’t have ontology for alternative identities… alias persona identity
How handle: “I like you but I don’t want to deal with you in Facebook – can I meet you over here?”
…can’t you partition your Facebook?...
Its legitimate to tell people you can connect to me here but not there 
Did they complain when you kicked them out? Why would they care?
Security consideration: I don’t broadcast that I’m out of my home broadly 
I had a friend who joined Twitter and she shared her travel plans – and I had to stop her – people just to get what they put out there – people who do are a smaller group
That’s ok if going to friends? No – you can’t control what your friends do! 
…this is where the whole alternate persona thing comes in
When I’m logged in as [my name] I’m really careful…
I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself because it lasts forever
There’s a difference between open and broadcast…
When I talk to my friends I talk to them in a certain context… but I don’t feel comfortable in another context. Context is critical.
People advocate open walls but like garden walls.
The problem is Twitter is broadcast… People need to understand this distinction… But you don’t build your network as fast… you have IM for that… the good news is it spreads so fast, the bad news is it spreads so fast…
Part of it is context, part of it is understanding when I type into this channel where is it really going….
Duty of care plays here – you have a responsibility to protect your customers from themselves
Most social networks don’t comply with rule 10 of the characteristics of User Driven Services
Make it harder for people to do stupid things
…but …When you try to make something idiot proof nature makes a better idiot
Plurk tried to that ‘karma thing’
Do people get too comfortable when you can have multiple identities
In the real world you don’t have such clear barriers
In the future they will all get merged
…I joined Facebook, didn’t touch for 6 mos, then things snowballed… my intent changed over time… oh look, all my high school friends… I don’t want to talk to all my high school friends… there are people who bring up the drunken kegger… everyone’s been at the drunken kegger… hopefully it wasn’t last week or at least you didn’t friend your boss
I scanned Tweets for personality… 
What if he didn’t do that? 
He wouldn’t work for my company. 
This is a conundrum. 
I hardly Tweet at all – because of where we are in our company development.
If you’re not in any of these spaces, why are you in the business and why should I hire you?
Original promise of the internet: open info exchange w/o reference to race, creed… now you come in w/social capital, reputation. A really interesting challenge when an original promise was the blind nature of the Internet.
We’re starting toward anonymity… 
I run a political blog… participants are concerned with credibility w/in blog, anonymity in general – consistent w/in space but could never Google and get info on the individual… 
Pseudonymity – Ian Goldberg: you can’t map your online identity…
Are psuedonomous accounts all about multiple personas? Yes.
We have a million active users and 15m users.

What I got out of this: we need a shared vocabulary, ontology – ongoing debate about this at Linden Lab. People often use vague terminology – more often users misunderstand. Action item: form a mailing list on this.

Yesterday’s first session: what is an Identity (this conference will cease to exist if we figure this one out!)

Set up Google Group…

All join identity gang? – but this won’t solve problem… better to do ourselves… we’ll call it Identity Ontology… idont.