The Elusive Holy Grail

First and foremost, there must be a major immediate benefit for the user. Persistent online identity - the long-elusive holy grail of "single sign-on" - offers one such, both for the consumer-oriented and the civic-minded. But how do we get mass acceptance of such a new technology among the civic-minded when it's the consumer that such services are being built for?

One path is to help the average user with managing the most valuable resource they have: their attention. One way to do this is by creating a personalized news and information service that would provide:

  • Less overall quantity of information
  • Higher quality (more relevant) information
  • From better (trusted) sources

The first online personalized news system was called 'NewsPeek', a name I chose as while it provided a peek at the news, there was a clear danger (with a tip-of the hat to Orwell) that he who owned the profiles would wield the power of Big Brother (shades of Microsoft's Passport). Security issues aside (for the moment) here's a brief list of some of NewsPeek's benefits:

  • Easy to find:
    • Sources (people, texts, articles, via links or web-of-trust)
    • More (or less) about the current subject
    • Supporting (or opposing) arguments
    • Majority (global or among my community) opinion
  • Easy to update:
    • Personal profile (show me more/less like this)
    • Filter unwanted (gather desired) information
    • Trust (dis-trust) of sources (=> reputations)
  • Easy and safe to share & collaborate:
    • Privacy preferences for sub-profiles
    • Anonymous/Pseudonymous persona/nym creation

Alas, while NewsPeek is connected to live newsfeeds, it is a demo and the actual implementation of these capabilities falls far short of what we need.