Tag Archives: data portability

Plaxo and TripIt: “Social and Useful”

In these early days of the emergence of the Social Web, we’re never surprised when the services we use do not work together. Fragmentation and frustration rule the day, and 15 years into the consumer Internet revolution, we are still doing lots of things manually that will *someday* happen “magically” in the cloud.

Well, today I experienced a little bit of that near-future magic, and I wanted to share it with you…

First, the context. Plaxo [disclosure/reminder: my employer] rolled out a new release today that included a first-class integration with TripIt, a travel itinerary service that I had heard good things about from my colleague Joseph Smarr, but never actually signed up for. Well, it was also the day before our flight down to Austin for SXSW and a week before my flight to Las Vegas for Microsoft’s MIX 09 to speak on a panel about Activity Streams. So, it was unavoidable that I should check out TripIt and set up an Activity Stream from it into Plaxo.

First, I went to Outlook, where I had an email from Carson Wagonlit, our company’s official travel agency. I clicked on the link to view my itinerary, and was surprised to see an “Add to TripIt” link. A lightbox popped, prompting me to email the itinerary, which was as simple as typing in my email address. Yep. No heavyweight registration step, just kicking off my relationship with TripIt wid the act of emailing a single itinerary! Sweet.

Add to TripIt

I was instructed to check my inbox for an email from TripIt, and moments later it arrived. It included a link to my itinerary on TripIt, which I clicked on. After filling in just a couple pieces of info and choosing a password, I was a full-fledged TripIt member, all set up and ready to go.

I went back to Plaxo to add the TripIt feed. This functionality is *way* more buried than it ought to be, but since I work at Plaxo, I knew exactly where to go. (Do you think maybe we’ll make this more prominent soon? I do.) This is what I saw:

TripIt Activity Stream Setup in Plaxo

I chose Friends and Family, since I don’t want my travel plans shared with all my business connections (or the world, for that matter). I clicked on “Connect your TripIt account” and saw this in a popup:

Sign In to TripIt

So I signed in with my new TripIt credentials and saw the TripIt consent page that was asking if I wanted to grant Plaxo access to my private TripIt feed (Activity Stream). It’s yet another great example of the power of the open standard OAuth:

TripIt Access Request

I clicked on the “Grant access” button, and I was done. I had a TripIt account, and my Activity Stream from it was now flowing into Plaxo, sharing my itineraries with my family and friends. Not long after I saw this in my Plaxo Pulse stream:

Vegas Trip in the Plaxo Stream

There are so many things about this that are way cool. First, the event looks great, because it includes more details than most third-party feeds into Social Web aggregators. Second, this is a private feed, shared with only the subset of my connections that I choose to share it with. Third, they can (and did) comment on it, sparking interesting conversations. Fourth, they can get the info about my travel plans, though not in a level of detail that I would be uncomfortable with. And fifith, I see a link that is only visible to me, which connects to the full itinerary details over at TripIt. Pretty sweet, huh?

But that’s not all. When I go to my Plaxo calendar, I see my trip to Austin for SXSW and my trip to Vegas for MIX 09 are there, automatically injected as a result of connecting my private Activity Stream to Plaxo.

This is a *great* example of data portability with the user in control, and a glimpse into the world of the Social Web we all want to bring about. If you’re heading to SXSW, give it a whirl!

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The End of “Social DRM” is in Sight

I am pleased to see a major shift underway in the prevailing thoughts on one of the most important topics relating to data portability, interoperability, and the emergence of the Social Web — the question of whether the service providers need to protect us with “social DRM” or trust us to do the right thing. Microsoft’s Dare Obasanjo has an excellent post on the topic, outlining the two schools of thought, and publicly declaring that he has shifted sides in this critical debate:

The issue of what to do with content a user has shared when they decide to delete the content or attempt to revoke it is in an interesting policy issue for sites geared around people sharing content. When I’ve discussed this with peers in the industry I’ve heard two schools of thought. The first is that when you share something on the Web, it is out there forever and you have to deal with it. Once you post a blog post, it is indexed by search engines and polled by RSS readers and is then available in their caches even if you delete it. If you send an inappropriate email to your friends, you can’t un-send it. This mirrors the real world where if I tell you a secret but it turns out you are a jerk I can’t un-tell you the secret.

The other school of thought is that technology does actually give you the power to un-tell your secrets especially if various parties cooperate. There are ways to remove your content from search engine indexes. There are specifications that dictate how to mark an item as deleted from an RSS/Atom feed. If your workplace uses Outlook+Exchange you can actually recall an email message. And so on. In the case of Facebook, since the entire system is closed it is actually possible for them to respect a user’s wishes and delete all of the content they’ve shared on the site including removing sent messages from people’s inboxes.

I used to be a member of the second school of thought but I’ve finally switched over to agreeing that once you’ve shared something it’s out there. The problem with the second school of thought is that it is disrespectful of the person(s) you’ve shared the content with. Looking back at the Outlook email recall feature, it actually doesn’t delete a mail if the person has already read it. This is probably for technical reasons but it also has the side effect of not deleting a message from someone’s inbox that they have read and filed away. After all, the person already knows what you don’t want them to find out and Outlook has respected an important boundary by not allowing a sender to arbitrarily delete content from a recipient’s inbox with no recourse on the part of the recipient. This is especially true when you consider that allowing the sender to have such power over recipients still does not address resharing (e.g. the person forwarding along your inappropriate mail, printing it or saving it to disk).

And, as he points out, Dare is not alone in this shift. Mark Zuckerberg and the team at Facebook clearly appear to be shifting stance as well. In his epic post On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information, in response to the confusion over the update to the Facebook TOS:

Still, the interesting thing about this change in our terms is that it highlights the importance of these issues and their complexity. People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other. There is no system today that enables me to share my email address with you and then simultaneously lets me control who you share it with and also lets you control what services you share it with.

We’re at an interesting point in the development of the open online world where these issues are being worked out. It’s difficult terrain to navigate and we’re going to make some missteps, but as the leading service for sharing information we take these issues and our responsibility to help resolve them very seriously. This is a big focus for us this year, and I’ll post some more thoughts on openness and these other issues soon.

Some of us tried to get this debate started in September of 2007, with the publication of the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web, by Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Michael Arrington, and Robert Scoble. In hindsight, the world was not yet ready for that debate; few took notice, and no actions came in response. Then, in January of 2008, when Plaxo was trying to get a Facebook contacts importer ready to launch, which would have enabled social address book sync between Facebook, Plaxo, Outlook, the Mac address book, Yahoo Mail, and more, it turned by accident and miss-communication into a major incident. By then the world was ready to argue and debate the key questions, but not ready to come to any consensus.

But over the course of 2008, projects like Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, MySpaceID, and the quickening drumbeat of progress for OpenID and the Open Stack helped the industry to think through the issues preventing data portability and interoperability. In the end, we’re all coming to realize that rather than try to prevent anything bad from ever happening via “social DRM,” we’re going to have to trust our users, so that we can enable amazing things to happen — like all your tools and services working well together!

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A Portable Social Graph Spotted in the Wild: Plaxo Now Live in Google Friend Connect

In another sprint, Joseph Smarr and the team at Plaxo, working closely with their counterparts at Google, now have Plaxo/Friend Connect integration live. Joseph has a nice writeup on the Plaxo blog. [Reminder/disclaimer: I work at Plaxo.] [Screenshot below.]  

As regular readers know, I am a strong proponent of letting users access their local piece of the social graph at services all over the web. Clearly, Plaxo sees a market opportunity to become a major “social graph provider,” and this integration with Google Friend Connect is a good sign of progress in that effort. It is especially cool to see the “virtuous cycle” features of the integration; feeds of content flow back into Pulse from the Friend Connect site, enabling social discovery. In many ways, this looks like the beginning of the “Social Web.”

I’m currentyl in Washington, D.C. for the Graphing Social Patterns East conference, and will be speaking on a panel this afternoon on the Privacy and Data Portability. Facebook’s Dave Morin will be on it, so today’s news on Google Friend Connect should make for some interesting discussion.

Reactions coming in now. Nice post by David Recordon.

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Data Portability Momentum: Go, Digg, go!

"Free the data!"

Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb helps us sort through the latest.

Our friends over at Digg blogged today about their enhanced support for data portability:

“The Data Sharing Summit in San Francisco was a gas. It was a real pleasure to work with like-minded people from organizations, large and small, all supporting DataPortability. At the Summit I had the chance to show off Digg’s latest DataPortability enhancements. Although the enhancements are not visible on Digg.com, if you use Digg together with other social networks, these enhancements can make the Web more fun and useful. Among the recent enhancements:

– We’ve added XFN to your user profile. XFN is an open standard that makes it easier for other social Web sites to recognize your Digg friends.

– We’ve improved support for hCard, another open data format for communicating Digg user names, nicknames, and photos, so that your favorite friend-following tools can more easily display your friends’ activity.

– We’ve added RDFa, making Digg part of the “semantic web” where Web pages become more sophisticated, beyond simply words and pictures.

These efforts support our philosophy that you own your data.”

This is another great sign of the momentum building for the notion that users own their data and content and should have control of who they share it with and the freedom to take it with them weherever they go across the Social Web.

And trust me, there’s a lot more to come. We entered the year with a bang, with many saying “2008 would be the year of data portability.” I have to say, I have never been more certain of our industry’s collective ability to deliver on that promise. What we need to work on becomes clearer and clearer, and more significantly, all the big players are now unconflicted in their support of all things “open.”

What if all the big players, who are the custodians (not owners) of vast treasure troves of personal data, could agree on standard ways of providing access to contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, profiles, photos, etc.? Is there anyone who doesn’t think that is the future we should be working towards?

Heads-up, if you run a service based on lock-in of your users’ data, think about another plan, or get out of the way.

Update: Here’s the view from TechCrunch.

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The Social Web is Broken

BarCamp, social graph

I, along with many of you, am fighting hard to keep my head above the surface, as I tread the rising waters of the nascent Social Web. New sites are popping up every day. Join one, and you’re likely to go through a drill that’s become all too familiar: Generate another username/password pair. Recreate your profile. Slurp in your GMail or other address books. Build up your friends list all over again. In the process, generate a ton of connection request emails (also called “bac’n” — not quite spam, but not good for you).

Robert Scoble highlights these problems in the upcoming May issue of Fast Company magazine in an article entitled, “How to Fix the Web.” Those of us working on the problem, appreciate the continued advocacy from Robert, who became a poster child for the issue of “data portability” in early January. Sharing the controversy with Robert, I did feel some intense heat from a very polarized debate at the time, but in hindsight, the pain was worth it. Within days, the DataPortability.org workgroup managed to sign up Google, Plaxo, and Facebook, in a move widely credited with setting the stage for 2008 to be the year of data portability.

For those interested in helping move the ball forward, I encourage you to attend the Data Sharing Workshop in San Francisco in the next two days. It kicks off at 9:00 AM tomorrow.

In my view, we are really on the cusp of the opening up of the true Social Web. Making it all possible is a collection of building block technologies (OpenID, Oauth, microformats, OpenSocial, the Social Graph API, and one or two still-missing pieces). But none of those technologies is anything a user needs to know about or understand. These enabling technologies need to get wrapped up into three or more critical services of the Social Web: Identity Providers (examples Clickpass and Yahoo!), Social Graph Providers (stay tuned: Plaxo? Facebook? Others?), and Content Aggregators (Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed, Iminta, SocialThing, Facebook, and a new one every week!).

Want more detail on this vision and how it snaps together? Be sure to see Joseph Smarr’s talk next Wednesday at the Web 2.0 Expo.

Or see the great post by Kaliya (a.k.a “Identity Woman”), who is facilitating the unconference aspect of the Data Sharing Summit.

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Three “Data Portability” Related Events for Your Calendar

IIW 2008


The last year has been an amazing time for building momentum for the emergence of the Social Web. We’ve seen the “open” and “data portability” memes move from the periphery to the core, picked up by Plaxo, Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Facebook, among many others. We’ve seen major advances in the embrace of open standards, including OpenID, OAuth, and microformats. And we’re also beginning to see a swell of public awareness and the stirrings of demand for users to have ownership and control of their data, and the freedom to take it with them, wherever they go.

So where do we go from here? And how can you jump in an help turn the vision into reality? My recommendation would be to add one, two, or even all three of the following events to your calendar:

Data Sharing Workshop, April 18 – 19 at the SFSU, Downtown Campus

Internet Identity Workshop 2008, May 12-14, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

Data Sharing Summit, May 15, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View

Here’s a link for registration for Data Sharing Workshop and Data Sharing Summit.


Great things have happened at previous versions of these influential grass-roots events. Joseph Smarr, Marc Canter, Robert Scoble, and Michael Arrington co-authored the Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web for debut at the Data Sharing Summit, where the document generated vibrant discussion, conceptual buy-in from some of the biggest companies on the Internet, and a ton of signatures from the people who are working on the building blocks of data portability and the Social Web.

Bill of Rights

And to be clear, these are not stiff, formal, traditional conferences. They are all highly collaborative events, with no one setting the agenda except the interesting people who show up. I advise you to become a part of them if you are passionate about bringing about the open Social Web!

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Charlene Li’s Presentation: A Must Read

Okay. Now I’m really bummed that I wasn’t at Graphing Social Patterns. When I read Charlene Li’s slides online, I was blown away. For folks who want to know the next phase of the web, and want to understand where data portability fits in, this deck is a must-read.

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