Wednesday, June 23, 2004

RSS, relationships, and identity

Doc Searls wrote about RSS as an email replacement. Then Ross Mayfield responded. Then Doc responded to Ross with some dense linkage, which hit my feeds when I actually had some time to process it all.

While no one is claiming that RSS is email, Doc thinks RSS can fill a relationship void in email. Well, potentially, yes it could be used to do that. But as Adina Levin says (referenced by both Ross and Doc),

...signing up for an RSS subscription isn't a "relationship", any more than signing up for a magazine is a relationship. If the information flow is one-way, then it's publishing or marketing, not a "relationship"

It's possible to have "relationships" facilitated by RSS, but that only happens when the receiver talks back -- clicking through to the source to comment or hyperlink or trackback.

I'd take Adina's point one step further: a relationship isn't just about words exchanged, but rather the sum of conversation and actions that affect the other party, even if the other party isn't directly involved.

Some one may bring you lunch when you are working under deadline. This is clearly an action that could positively affect your relationship, even though a conversation occurs when they drop it off. Or, your boss may speak highly of you to her peers. This is a conversation about you, which affects you, but doesn't include you. It won't affect your relationship with your boss unless one of those peers lets you know that the conversation took place.

There is also much discussion in these posts about identity. Ross is concerned about a composite identity controlled by others:

...the deepest question I am wrestling with on identity is in social networking. When a composite identity is formed in a network without your participation. Your friends upload your contact information to make you a node in the network, your emails with them and information scraped off the web builds an identity that you donĀ¹t own or control.

How is this any different from real life? If some of your boss' peers don't know you but have heard of you, what forms your identity in their eyes? Your boss' comments about you, emails that you sent to other folks that were forwarded to those peers, information about you on the corporate intranet, etc. You have an identity that you don't directly control.

In other words, your reputation (or whuffie).

Are you sharing the context that forms your reputation? Not really. Might you receive solicitations based on your reputation? Certainly.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, reputation that is aggregated publically is ethically less problematic than reputation that is aggregated using the traditional techniques of gossip and slander.

When people write blog entries responding to things you wrote, you can see and respond to the kudos and brickbats.

Found your post from Technorati, and Doc's in the aggregator :-)

yours recursively, Adina

9:41 PM  

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