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October 22, 2004

What's In Your Wallet?

A few weeks ago I bought some business card software. These days I'm brainstorming about a new website concept that I'm putting together. Part of the idea is that people need to moderate their social circles with a bit more sophistication than has previously been done. How do we help manage that? I'm spending more time around the Corante Crew to catch a clue or two. Greg has an interesting set of ideas.

I've cranked out 6 different business cards, and I keep at least 4 versions onhand at all times. The first is the Daddy Card. When I'm at a school function, or out with the kids on a day trip, I leave the business mind far behind. It's lavender with a Matisse kind of graphical sun in purple. It has my home address and phone number. I give this out to potential refrigerator pals - people I wouldn't mind dropping by to grab a snack out of the fridge.

I also have a blog card, the title of which has me listed as a 'Large Mammal'. It also has the Cobb icon on it. My generic business card is for employees of companies where I work strictly pointing them to my website. And the detailed business card is the one shown here, that I give to people I believe may actually give me some business. There are a few others that I rarely use, one with me as publisher of Vision Circle and an older version of the blog card. There's also one that has me listed as a technical specialist in my partner's business. There are two other jobs I do for which I have no cards, but that doesn't concern me much.

I have been multiple people online, and still have mail from at least 6 domains coming to me at gmail and on Outlook (I'm leaving Eudora and GMail for Outlook (and Lookout & Google Desktop Search) and GMail). So I am accustomed to juggling multiple identities. I'm also an online gamer and none of those people fraternize with any of the other people. I need to be different things at different times, and I need different ways of presenting myself on different occasions.

This basic concept, a kind of extended code-switching, is something I think lots of people do. So our identities online need that multiplicity. Speaking of which, I have registered at Multiply (and Friendster, and Linked-In, and Orkut) and none of them really works for me. The best thing that works for me is my blog within my large, constantly evolving website. This is key to the concepts that interest me vis a vis virtual and extended self-representation.

In some ways, I am concerned that the online gamers I play with don't discover that I'm over 40. In other ways I am concerned that potential employers don't discover that I'm a political cartoonist. Most of the time I'm concerned that my blog readers don't discover the names of my kids, but in all those ways I know I'm not truly secure. Still, the illusion that I can hide parts of my life is satisfying. So with that in mind I wonder if we don't work a bit too hard in ensuring a kind of privacy that, with certain selected people, we actually want breached.

It makes me think about reality television. We have, in many ways, become the defensive, cocooned, SUV driving, stay at home people we forswore two decades ago. To that extent reality TV is a way for us to see that other people are as weird as we are - to confirm that our foibles are common ones, given that we cannot communicate them publicly. We want to be accepted for who we are, warts and all, but only to a select few.

As Shrek said, we're like onions. Wouldn't it be nice if I could decide how many layes to peel, on demand, without making anyone cry?

Posted by mbowen at October 22, 2004 12:53 PM

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Glad you found that post on SocialTwister. I hear your pain, in much detail. In a couple of months I will be launching the SparkCard into it's first real beta.

In short, I've designed a system that allows you to manage all of those identities in one place -- even allowing you to go way beyond the basics of a card all the way down to including audio, video, and photos as part of your identity. You'll have full security groups to control who has access to which profiles and even to which parts of those profiles.

If you want to contact me directly I will be happy to let you in on the alpha.

Thanks for reading!

Posted by: Gregory Narain at October 22, 2004 02:00 PM