Fixing the Social Web: Aggregating “Me”

PlaxoPublicProfilesFinal

In a recent post, inspired by Robert Scoble’s “How to Fix the Web,” I laid out the framework for the ecosystem of an open Social Web. I envisioned that the user will be at the center, with clear ownership and control of their personal data and content, enjoying the freedom to take it with them wherever they go across the web.

Making that possible, will be the three core elements of the Social Web service layer:

- Identity Providers
- Social Graph Providers
- Content Aggregators

In a guest column today on GigaOm, entitled “The Social Map is All About Me,” Mark Sigal lays out a case for the importance of the third one of these, “the need to aggregate.” Mark asserts that “regardless of where my content and data originate, I have a right to pull this data into MY sandbox, a sandbox where I track my threads, organize my media, filter my views and push my content wherever and however I please.” I couldn’t agree more.

In a world in which nearly every website is socially-enabled or socially-aware, we will all desparately need a dashboard that brings order to the chaos of fragmentation. That dashboard will allow us to aggregate and manage our own “lifestream” and to make decisions about what parts to make public and what parts to share with family, with real friends, or with looser ties. (Plaxo Pulse is an example of such as aggregator today.) That aggregation dashboard will also bring together into one or more rivers of news, the lifestreams from the people you want to follow. (That function is common to all of the aggregators out there, including Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, and the new gorilla entrant, Facebook.)

There are other many other consequences of having a “dashboard for the Social Web,” which I won’t get into in this post. But one that does seem particularly relevant, is the establishment of a user-controlled profile for the public portion of the Social Web. An example of one is the image at the top of the page. Its my actual page, hosted at johnmccrea.myplaxo.com. It combines the portion of my lifestream that I have aggregated into Pulse and marked as “public.” It also shows “me” across the web (at least those identities I have chosen to assert publicly as me). Behind the scenes, Plaxo is leveraging Google’s Social Graph API to make that identity consolidation super easy. The page is maked up with microformats, which means that it is machine-readable, which makes the data usable by other services without re-keying by the user.

Now, imagine if the URL for the page were to become an OpenID…

…but that’s a topic for another post, at another time.

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