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Identity Crisis December 15, 2007

Posted by Doriano "Paisano" Carta in OpenID, social networks.
Tags: , ,

What’s up with the title, Identity Crisis? What’s this going to be about? No, it’s not going to cover the warning signs of psychosis or methods for treating schizophrenia. The title is merely a tongue in cheek description of a common dilemma that most of us Internet surfers deal with on a daily basis. Far too many of us own an incredible amount of online profiles, login names, passwords, bookmarks, social networks, blogs, rss feeds, email accounts, etc. To compound this situation and add insult to injury we have to deal with the same magnitude of information for our friends, family, colleagues, customers, vendors, etc.! Talk about information overload!

In this information age and microwave society, what are we to do with all of this….stuff? How can one person manage and thus take control of not only their own identity and contact information but everyone else’s in their personal and professional life? Possible solutions will be addressed in this piece that I hope will make your life (real and virtual) far less stressful and thus that much more enjoyable and productive. So, where do we begin the process of taking control of your identity and contact information for yourself and the people you know?

Identity Systems

For starters, you should seriously consider laying claim to ONE identity and login ID. There are several Identity Systems available but by far the most popular today is OpenID.

This is their official logo that will appear on any site that will support this single sign-on for life identity standard. An increasing number of websites are added every day to the directory of websites that support the OpenID login. Here is the OpenID Directory that adds new sites every single day.

How do you get your OpenID login account? You simply need to create one at any of these free OpenID Providers. As a matter of fact, you might already own an OpenID account and not even realize it!
If you belong to sites like AOL, LiveJournal, technorati or WordPress, then you can that login on any website that supports OpenID logins! For example, the login name for any WordPress.com member would be the following: username.wordpress.com. Personally, I like the OpenID propvider MyOpenID.

Note: Despite the ever increasing acceptance of the OpenID standard, there are some that are still concerned about the security aspects of having ONE login name for ALL your accounts. In reaction to all of the valid concerns regarding security, OpenID has recently announced their OpenID 2.0 standard which addresses many of the weaknesses of its initial release. I truly believe OpenID will continue to be THE number one identity system in the world because it is the most decentralized system and will always remain open source.

OK, let’s assume you’ve decided to ditch your dozens of login ID’s and passwords for a single OpenID account. Now what? You still have a boatload of websites that you belong to. How do you keep track of all of them and most important of all, how do you share this information with other people? Also, how do you manage the massive amount of contact information for the people you know?

Contact Management & Social Aggregation

Plaxo is considered the ultimate online contact manager that synchronizes all of your contacts from your local address book with your centralized online address book. It works with Microsoft Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo and GMail. The most unique and useful feature of Plaxo is its ability to update contact information between members automatically whenever someone changes their contact information. For example, if you changed your job, then all of your business contact information would obviously change as well. This usually means notifying everyone in your address book about the changes. If you have a great deal of contacts then this is no small task. Then there is the reality that most people will not update your contact information in their address book for whatever reason. Plaxo solves this problem by automatically updating your contact information in everyone’s address book, provided they are Plaxo members too, of course. It works the other way as well whenever people change any contact information then that information is automatically updated in your address book. You don’t have to do a thing. Plaxo also syncs your calendar appointments, tasks and notes.

Plaxo recently added a new social aggregator feature called PULSE that will allow you to share all of the social networks and services that you use with anyone you want. It will allow you to see which social networks and services your contacts use as well. Obviously, the choice is up to you whether or not to share any of this information with anyone. Here is a brief screencast that shows the main features of Plaxo: Plaxo screencast

Directory of Social Aggregators & Profile Sites

There are new social aggregators popping up every day because the identity crisis spreading across the globe has reached a fever pitch. Here is an exhaustive list of the ones available today. While Plaxo can provide sufficient social aggregation, you might still want to try some of these services just to compare things. Many offer features others do not. The new term that most of these sites will use is LifeStream, which means displaying your activities on the internet in chronological order. Some will display just your timeline and others will display your activities along with those of your friends.

30Boxes ***Pai’s Pick***









Plaxo ***Pai’s Pick***





Second Brain



SocialStream (Google) video ***Pai’s Pick***

SocialURL ***Pai’s Pick***




Final Thoughts:

Yes, this is one man’s attempt at providing a solution for controlling the utter chaos and madness that we are all dealing with in these web 2.0 daze and social networking craze.

I firmly believe that less is more. The sooner we take control of our own identity and our contacts and address book, the sooner we will relieve the stress of information overload and start enjoying all of the wonderful new sites and services available online today. Here is a brief highlight summation of what you can do to end your identity crisis today:

1. Create a single login ID with OpenID (MyOpenID ).

2. Join Plaxo to control your contact information as well as everyone else in your address book (also includes calendar, tasks and notes).

3. Use Plaxo’s Pulse or another social aggregator to exchange social networking information with others.


1. nickev - December 17, 2007

Hey, great post!
I use 8hands for my social management and i love it.
I highly recommend it to anyone who uses more than one social networks cause it actually provides your own personal network, where you can IM, share media and keep track on all of your profiles.

2. Feed Me, Seymour! « American Pai® - February 20, 2008

[…] you can do something similar with any of the countless social networking aggregators as covered in Identity Crisis, but that solution requires others to stop what they are doing such as reading their feeds and go […]

3. You 2.0 « American Pai® - February 23, 2008

[…] Management: Identity Crisis covers ways to take control of your online profiles and personal brand. Using OpenID is the key to […]

4. Jim Spencer - February 23, 2008

Thanks for the article.
I had been humming along in the web 2.o world and despite reading about openid from many angles, never got one. You article led me right to it.
You might consider adding a bit of text to this article explaining the considerations in choosing your id. Should a person use their name or not, a business name, how is length a factor, syntax (periods, hyphens)or any gotchas that can come up. btw, got here via Twitter (@fairminder)

5. OneClick OpenID: ClickPass « American Pai - March 11, 2008

[…] jump thru and too many clicks to use your OpenID account instead of creating yet another new one. Identity Crisis covers OpenID in more depth if you want […]

6. joec0914 - March 15, 2008

It’s not necessary or advisable to use only one OpenID. It’s very useful to think of OpenIDs as the Internet login equivalent of a general credit card like Visa or MasterCard. Most people carry two or three different cards, and some people have dozens.

Why? Having one general-purpose card is obviously much more convenient than having a card and account with each individual store or retailer you do business with (or for OpenID with every site you have an account with). But having two or three general purpose cards is much safer in the sense that if one is compromised or lost, you can still use the others. A second advantage is that you can, to some extent, cut off the ability to profile you through your purchases on one card if you spread your purchases out over different cards.

In my case, I put all my business-related purchases on one card, and all my personal purchases on another. Plus we have one extra that my wife uses most of the time. This gives us isolation of records, but with a no-effort backup in case a card is lost or compromised or the bank puts a hold on it for some reason. An even better idea is to keep yet another different card at home that never leaves the house in case your wallet is lost or stolen and all your other cards are lost.

Exactly the same strategy could be used for one’s OpenIDs. Segregate the uses, keep one for backup. The OpenID implementations do need some improvement when it comes to deprecating and replacing IDs that may be compromised. But this is real strength of OpenID, in that its architecture does not dictate the implementation or strategy of authentication.

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