Aggregating people

A number of different things have come together for me today, this post titled Is there a need for New Newsreader?, Zeldman’s post about distributed content and Kent brewster’s FOAFster which linked me off to all the things that MyBlogLog provides (a service I’ve never really looked at very closely).

FlickrFOAF

These have tied together with thoughts I’ve been having about wxVenus, and more generally about social-network-on-the-desktop type software for the past few years. It makes me think again about how I browse feeds, how I access them and when.

Since people started outsourcing their content stores to del.icio.us and Flickr, and using blogging systems to produce their content, they’ve all suddenly got feeds for this content, so should the method of navigation actually be by person, rather than blog title? Obviously this is how systems like FriendFeed work, but it doesn’t yet seem clear to me how this relationship between a person and their data is best expressed and how to best obviate much of the need to either boil the ocean (get everyone to sign up to friendfeed) or to automatically assign feeds to a person (acronyms like “RDF” and “FOAF” spring to mind but don’t seem to actually be useful in this example).

For my use-case it’s rare that I subscribe to a lot of content from a lot of people, rather I subscribe to most of the content my friends are producing, and a single source of content from some stranger on the internet whether it be their blog or Flickr photos. From where I sit, these are two fundamentally different ways of viewing data: person-centric and data-centric and I’m less and less convinced that it’s possible to model these two views in the same application, or at least expose data sources from the two views at the same time.

There seems to be a fundamental mismatch between the way we use aggregators (whether they be river of news, multi-pane windows or whatever) and the way we consume information from people we know. I have no idea what the resolution of this impedance is, but I’d really like someone to come up with a good solution sometime soon.

Videntity imports hCard and FOAF

Flickr hCard import

Videntity.org, an OpenID server by Dan Libby, now imports user profiles from sites which provide your profile in hCard or FOAF. I hadn’t bothered previously filling in my profile details, but now that I’ve pointed it at my Flickr profile page and my directory page from work (both of which are marked up with hCard) it’s rather terrifyingly filled in all the details for me.

This third-party service now knows my full name, nickname, job, work phone number (which I’ve made private but is still readily available on my work page), and the city and country I live in.

I also pointed it at my last.fm account, but that just confirmed my other details and expanded “UK” to “United Kingdom” (disclaimer: I have now added my jabber address by hand).

It’s been interesting watching these details import and just how much overlap there is between the information on them – not just in seeing how many times I’ve entered the same information but how it actually acts as a positive feedback mechanism, allowing certain bits of my profile to be marked as more reliable than others.

Also interestingly, I seem to recall trying to post to Sam Ruby’s OpenID comments thread using my videntity as a url (both http://pip.videntity.org and delegating from http://philwilson.org/blog, both of which the OpenID tests seem to validate), but it never worked. Alas.