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03 January 2004

FOAF and people search

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. This thinking was only partly prompted by the discovery of my Google shame. (When I was at Digital ID World 2003, Tom Coates broke the bad news to me: the first search result for "Fiona Romeo" in Google was the least flattering picture of me, ever. Other results included a credit on an INXS fanzine I helped produce when I was a teenager; a petition that ostentatiously describes its signatories as ‘Australia’s brightest young expats’; an unsubscribe request; and debating credits.)

Anyway, this experience - and many others, less trivial ;-) - made me think about the ownership of my own identity. And this is where I've got to so far...

People are not content but there is often content written about them. When someone is searching for someone else by name they are interested in one of two things (I think). Either they want to contact that person, or they want to learn more about them. In the first case, they want to find a 'primary' result for that person that contains their public contact details, e.g. an email address or personal site URL. Their FOAF file would be perfect in this case. In the second, they're satisfied with whatever documents containing that name have the most Google juice. There should be a way to differentiate between those two searches.

I should be able to create a FOAF file which becomes the primary search result when someone searches for 'foaf Fiona Romeo' in a search engine, or when someone types 'FionaRomeo.person' (or something similar) into a web address bar.

Content about me is still valid and of interest and should be displayed as a distinct set of search results (within the same page).

Where there are many results for a name - because full names are not often unique (although mine seems to be) - results could be filtered by friends or location. And a 'profile' could be validated by reciprocal links between friends. ‘I know that this result for Fiona Romeo is the correct one because her friends link to it.’

Maybe it's just me who wants this level of control? Maybe most other people are just that bit more relaxed than me...

See also: Anil Dash's post about the growing ubiquity and simplicity of FOAF

Posted at 09:17 AM in Identity | Permalink


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