CLOUDDimensions: WHO I Am™

During meetings this past week in New York City and Philadelphia regarding CLOUD in both finance and health, two separate questions were raised that help frame a deeper discussion regarding WHO I Am™.  The first question posed was in relationship to Facebook Connect, OpenID and CLOUD’s concept of WHO, and the second was in regards to whether WHO I Am or WHAT I Am would be the container by which various dimensions and data would be stored.

WHO I Am

Technology Problem or Time for a Paradigm Change?

Since CLOUD believes the future of the Internet lies in a paradigm shift and not just a technology shift, the initial drafting of CTML (contextual markup language) is still in the future.  Crafting a new standard while the issues are still framed by paper-based paradigms like web pages would be putting the cart before the horse.

However, it is useful to discuss some of the more philosophical underpinnings embedded in these questions from our northeast roadshow. Since log-ins and forms have boxed us in to solutions that mimic how we’ve handled these issues in the past, it is better to not allow them to box in our visions of the future.  Rather than thinking about WHO I Am in the context of web pages or forms, let’s think about this question in a broader way.

Does My Birthday Define WHO I Am?

Each of us is defined by not only our relationships with other people but by a collection of information that is gathered up over a life time.  Does our address or our birth date really define WHO I Am?  Birthdays or addresses, in some ways, are simply tags (WHAT I Am), tags that mark some aspect of our paths through life.  As discussed by our recent posting on WHEN I Am, even birthdays are not fixed in time as evidenced by our own country’s change in calendars in the 1700s that moved us from the Old Style to the New Style calendar, a change that also “moved” George Washington’s birthday by some two weeks.  Of course, the date of our birth is an important mark along any path.  It is “where” we each start.  It is the ultimate expression of two WHO I Ams combining so as to create a whole new WHO I Am, but the birthday as a discrete data element doesn’t define us or define our WHO.

No matter how well OpenID captures my data and enters it efficiently into the multiple web pages and associated forms, it is still entering data into forms.  And, that is the problem.  Even the OpenID foundation web site recognizes this, “OpenID is a safer, faster and easier way to log in to web sites.” But I don’t want to log into websites.  That’s the whole problem.  With all of these websites, I have my data scattered everywhere. Having my birthdate entered into more web silos, faster is exactly the problem.  Why reenter the birthdate at all?

Somewhere on the Internet, there exists a data point that validates that I was born.  I have in my filing cabinet a physical “tag” that proves where I was born, when I was born and to whom I was born.  It is called a birth certificate.  That “tag” is the most valid version of my birthdate in existence.  I’ve certainly written my birthdate down on a lot of forms in my over 40 years on this planet, but not one of them is validated.  The OpenID-style approach makes it easier to further populate the Internet with this same date.  But that completely misses the point.

With the many eGovernment efforts occurring globally (I was born outside of London), it is entirely within reason to expect that my birth certificate, or more importantly, the data and tags contained within it, would be accessible electronically.  This validated birthdate should never be required to “move,” just like web pages don’t move.  It should become one of many tags or threads that intersect to form my evolving WHO I Am.  On my path through life, I have also been tagged by the United States government as a citizen (of which I am very proud), and every ten years, I receive another WHO tag from the US Government in the form of my passport.  None of these tags are part of my identity, but the accumulation of these tags create a very robust “tag cloud” that makes it quite clear that I am WHO I say I am.

WHO I Am and Digital Weaving

So, WHO I Am is a really a tag cloud and not a data container.  It is a cloud formed by our connections to other people and other experiences.  These connections are much like the threads of a weaver (discussed further in my End of LInearity blog), and these threads/tags “flow” through my WHO I Am.  The richer these connections; the richer and more colorful is the fabric that is woven by the “flow” of my tags.  As a result of the distributed nature of information in a CLOUD-enabled Internet, the idea of “logging in” goes away.  It is entirely within reason to envision a CLOUD-enabled web page or other presentation layer that allows me “to pierce my fabric” (in the words of a recent lunch companion) to see my connections to other WHOs or my other WHATs (from health to education to finance and beyond).  No logging in necessary, because that is just not WHO I Am.