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  • A lecture on Internet identity, social networking, trust networks and the rise of citizen publishing on the web. The lecture was given to a select audience of communications and campaign professionals at Felix Meritis (Amsterdam, Netherlands) on the 27th August 2007.


    I have been a technologist since 1986 and working exclusively with the Internet since 1996. When asked about this lecture I realized that I have not been affected on the Internet by a single campaign so I set out to discover why. This lecture will I hope introduce you to another "space" on the Internet; a space in which I and many others occupy.

    Who am I?

    Sounds like a mid life crisis question doesn't it. Who am I? I suppose to answer that we must first look at my identity. In the dictionary "identity" is defined as "the condition of being oneself and not another". I think of identity is a combination of who I am and what I like, so... name is Tom Calthrop, I was born in Amersham in England, I now live in Stockholm and I work as a social innovator with an organisation called Barnraiser. I was born in 1967 which makes me 39 years old and I am the current holder of a 25M swimming certificate. I like books. I like films, I'm addicted to Internet news services, I prefer Linux to any other operating system, I love cycling... oh and Swimming (now over the 25M mark).

    Identity was historically verbal. I say who I am, you say who you are, we shake hands (or equivalent) and a trust relationship is formed. We progressed to paper and trust was enabled on a global scale so that I can prove who I am and how old I am.

    So identity is what I say about me and what others say about me, which of course is more trusted so identity is also reputation. Reputation comes from trust and trust comes from knowing me.

    How does that translate to the Internet? Well I register with a site, then I am let in, then I go to another site, then I register, then I get let in, then I go to another web site, then I register, then I get lets in, then I return to the original site, forget my password, so I press the "lost password" button, then I get an email, then I get let back in, then I forget the reset my password so I forget the password by which time I've forgotten where the other two web sites were – lame isn't it.

    When I invest time and energy in a site I gain trust within it which in tern leads to my gaining reputation, but I cannot take my reputation from site A to site B so my reputation and trust is not really mine is it? It is a web sites record of my trust with them; so it's theirs not mine.

    Identity standards such as OpenID allow me to take ownership of my identity on the Internet giving developers the chance to build software that can manage my trust and my reputation on-line.

    Individualism and me

    The Internet has empowered me. I have a voice, I have freedom of speech and the freedom to express myself. I can now write my blogs, publish my videos, upload my music and create galleries of pictures for my friends... and I'm not the only one....


    The blogosphere is now 70 million blogs worldwide. That's about 120,000 new blogs created daily, or 1.5 million posts per day. 1.4 new blogs are created every second and 17 posts are made every second.1 Never before have we seen information amassed and shared on such a scale and it's not just text either.


    As of August 2006, YouTube was hosting over six million videos, growing at about 20 percent every month. The total time up to August 2006 that people spent watching YouTube since it started in February 2005 is 9,305 years.

    3 out of 4 American young adults watch video online or download it. More than half share the links with others. 73% have said that they have watched videos with others.2


    As of the end of August 2006 Flickr has 4.5 million registered users with 17 million unique visitors per month. They have just under 230 million total photos uploaded and 900,000 new photos are uploaded daily on average.3


    The music industry has been busy over the last few years. Whilst music companies continue to issue lawsuits while watching their business erode artists such as "Enter Shakali" flourish as 100% Internet based distribution. They have just been nominated for best British band, best live band, best album and best single at the Kerrang music award

    LastFM internet radio and music community website, founded in 2002. It is one of the world's largest social music platforms with over 15 million active users sharing their tastes in music.

    ...yes we, my friends are on a role for we are empowered individuals......

    ...oh, but are you my friends aren't you?

    Me and my friends

    According to the dictionary a friend is defined as "a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard". Mid life crisis part II; I seem to have less friends - shouldn't I be popular by now? I am an individual, but I want friends and thus web based social networks flourished...

    Asia has 437 million Internet users, Europe 322, North America 233, Latin America 110, Africa 34, The Middle East 20 and Australia and Oceania 19, which if you are into social networks means 1.175 billion potential new friends! The reality is that most of us have on-line friends lists that match our real world friendships.

    See, I want new friends but I want control of information beyond those people, after all I am leaving my trust network if I step outside this. It is one thing publishing a video to my friends and another publishing to 1.175 billion people, so I'm empowered, but within my network and I still have fear as I step out from that (empowerment sort of). A survey of American youth revealed that 81% of youth would blog if they could guarantee that only their friends would see it.

    My trusted network

    So I've created a "trusted wall" around my Internet world, a world that is centered around my Identity, my trust and my reputation amongst friends – a trusted network in which I can build reputation with my friends; a network in which I can share information and trade using videos and alike for collateral.

    So my network is like a closed group then? No, my friends are a network which is not a group. See Groups require unity, networks require diversity. Groups require coherence, networks require autonomy. Groups require privacy or segregation, networks require openness. Groups require focus of voice, networks require interaction.

    So how does this work for you?

    If over half of people share videos then you have a mechanism by which to spread your message. If people want to trade then you have a mechanism to create currency that will spread through trusted relationships (which with reputation has high value). I am an empowered individual, capable of making my own decisions with influence from my network. If you affect me in a positive way so that I adopt your campaign as mine, then it is mine to take to my network, mine to spread. I will gain trust and reputation from it, so convince me, empower me and give me tools so that I may share my campaign with my network....

    But first, in order to affect the digital world one must build reputation, which requires trust. To achieve this the first step is to take a presence within social networks; something only you can do; hence the first question you need to ask yourself is - Who am I?

    Big thanks to Dick Hardt for his presentation at OSCON which was the trigger for much of the thoughts behind this blog entry.