October 2005

Virtual Vanity

Every so often I vanity-google my own name, just to see what happens. I'm sure you do the same; who can resist?

I've been the number three "Ian Young" (according to Google) for a while. At number four is a chap at Intel who also shares a middle name with me, although as he apparently has 34 patents and invented the insides of lots of cool things he really by rights ought to be higher. He gets top billing for "Ian Alexander Young", though.

Judging by the logs, some people find it easier to google for "Ian Young" than they do to remember the URL for this site. When looking at the server logs for the last month, though, I discovered that a fair number of people look for "iay" too. I've been using that identifier to log into things since about 1979 and sometimes have difficulty remembering my "human name", but I didn't realise this applied to other people too. Of course, they may have been looking for The Institute for the Study of Antisocial Behaviour in Youth, which comes above me in that search. No, the picture of the antisocial youth on their web site isn't of me.

This is all rather strange but to me the most bizarre thing of all is that my Second Life avatar gets two of the only six hits for "Alexander Daguerre" (with the quotes this time). I suppose if I had thought about it, I could have looked for a combination Google had no record of and had the results page all to myself. How long before people start choosing names for their children that way?

Barnett in Second Life

crowd overviewBarnett answering questionsclose-up with heckling

On Wednesday I attended Thomas P.M. Barnett's appearance in the virtual world Second Life.

Images: an overview of the gathering crowd; Dr. Barnett answering my question about the ICC; close-up with mild heckling. Click on the images for larger versions.

Summary: a significant event; a brave experiment; a qualified success; lessons can be learned.

Virtual Barnett

Thomas P.M. Barnett is a man with a vision of a better world, and clear ideas about how to get there from here. I don't necessarily agree with (or even understand) everything in his brief (e.g., audio at IT Conversations) or his book The Pentagon's New Map, but if he gave a lecture in my home town I'd pay good money to go and see him.

I'm therefore delighted to see that he is planning to give a lecture later this month in my other, virtual home town of Second Life.

I'll be interested to see how well Dr. Barnett's hurricane presentation style translates into the virtual environment; it looks from Hamlet Linden's coverage as if there will be some streaming video for at least the visuals. I'm also curious to see how he handles being heckled by space aliens and tiny purple warthogs, but perhaps everyone will be on their best behaviour.

Dick Hardt at OSCON

Speaking of identity, Dick Hardt of Sxip gave a cracking keynote at this year's Open Source Conference.

If you're at all interested in digital identity (and you're not allergic to Larry Lessig's presentation style), I highly recommend spending taking the fifteen minutes required to watch this. It is very light on technical details, but gets across the critical differences between "old style" digital identity and the so-called "Identity 2.0" systems that are starting to emerge. It even manages to be entertaining while it does so. And the pictures of a Vancouver "Cold Beer and Wine" store bring back memories…

ACLU Pizza

I've been scanning old entries from Kim Cameron's Identity Weblog, catching up on things I missed the first time round. I'm only up to January so far, but there's a lot of good thinking in there as well as links to some gems. One of the things I hadn't seen before is an ACLU advertisment portraying a world in which the local pizza delivery company knows far more about you than they need to.

I find this to be quite a plausible and chilling picture of Identity Gone Wrong, although I'd probably worry more about those in authority having this kind of ability than about the pizza company. I'm sure there are people who would say that such things couldn't happen, and that the ACLU are being needlessly alarmist. However, as you're watching each of Kim's Laws of Identity being broken, it's quite easy to hear someone softly saying "we're doing this for your convenience" or "we're doing this for your security" in the background.

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New Host

This blog and the associated site, with its multiple custom databases and funny little web applications, has moved from "somewhere in England" to "somewhere in California". Things seem to be stable, but if you see anything peculiar going on or can't reach me using my normal address, let me know at iayoung@gmail.com instead.

The new host is at DreamHost.com in Los Angeles, where I've had a shared hosting account for some other projects for about a year now. DreamHost do ridiculously well-equipped shared hosting plans for hardly any money, so if you're looking for something in that line you should definitely consider them. Their best deal at the time of writing is to use the promotional code 888, which gives you 80% off your first year.

They also run a slightly pyramid-like referral scheme, so failing the above offer you could try the promotional code IAYHALFERS which rebates you half of my referral kick-back; on most plans, that's worth $48.50.