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Friday, October 11, 2002

Doc Searls on Identity Infrastructure

[I'm posting this initially without links, as Doc was talking fast and I've got to catch a flight. Will put them in later.] As his warm up, Doc ran a slide show of the stills he's been taking with his video cam through the show...scary! ID vs. ego -- what would Freud think? (Blogging this talk is not going to do it justice because Doc's slides are great; hopefully he'll post them.) His identity involves being Senior Editor of The Linux Journal, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and author of his weblog. You're most likely to find him via his weblog (gave astronomical stats about his Google juice), although the other two certainly are popular. Providing history of his association with Weinberger, Locke and Dyson; coining of RageBoy moniker, Locke's alter "ID." AKA Doc: parents tend not to name kids after dwarves, gunslingers, etc. But Doc was in radio at Duke University [God, AKMA has a huge, wonderful laugh]. "Doctor Dave" character came from a nickname and a cartoon of a gremlin-fellow burning his eyes into a typewriter. Current news: RB's in love, Doc's highlighting "What Do Women Really Want? Me." [RB arrives just in time for the punchline...] Doc blogged a suggestion that Esther Dyson is Locke's love interest; took it down when someone emailed him, "Really???" Audience hisses, he may put it back up. Great slide-gestalt about the industry-speak at this event [DMH aside: in case you were wondering? the terms "space" and "value added" are alive and well and have spawned evil progeny]. Doc's linking to the Web Economy Bullshit Generator. You get the idea. But, what are we making with the Net, and how? Giving example of trying to get online in London. Internet cafe, laying out all the WiFi nodes in London. Discovered the nearest node and off he went to Kynance Muse. Sat outside at Cafe Delice for coffee and free broadband. Others are coming along doing the same. Doc: "Excuse me is this your node?" stranger: "You're Doc Searls! Well fuck me, I'm Ben Hammersley!" And Doc hung out with Ben, wife and friends for the rest of the weekend. "Blog globally, flog locally." Contemplating the irony of infrastructure, plugging a passer-by's business on his blog. Noticing no one's using the public phones on the street. Weekend culminated in Doc hanging out with wild local geeks at Garlic and Shots. Meets Matt Jones the Warchalking guy, who asks Doc what he thinks. "I think it's the freakin' second coming!" and off they went, and watched nature take its course. Self-making infrastructure at work. A wireless end-run around ISPs and the entire phone company. WiFi once again proves that the Net is fundamentally Gonzo. Markets are conversations; conversation is fire; marketing is arson. Capsule version of what Locke talks about in Gonzo Marketing. What Digital ID needs is something that catches fire. The big boys aren't going to do it. One of us is going to have to invent something that mothers necessity. That's how things work in Silicon Valley, that's what we have to drive here. Craig Burton's (Burton Group) model of the Net. Networks used to be all about pipes, protocols and stacks. Novell changed that. Craig thinks of the Net as a world. "Think of the Net as a hollow sphere made entirely of the people and the resources it connects. It's the first world made by people, for people. We've only begun to terraform it. One of the virtues is the emptiness in the middle. It's all end-to-end." Everything's the end of the sphere, whatever it's sitting on. No one owns it. Everyone can improve it (protocols and products that use them). Marc Andreessen said, "Technology trends start with technologists." So what were technologists up to when they started this world? (Great slide of Internet pioneers.) They were not up to business. They were trying to create civilization in a very general sense. Stewart Brand, Long Now Foundation. In civilization, the slowest thing to change is nature, fashion and commerce change most quickly. The "founders" didn't come from those quickly changing top layers. The Net infrastructure and protocols they created actually support markets. Eric Raymond helped us characterize them as "bazaars." Most geeks do want infrastructure to support markets; just a matter of perspective. Net infrastructure is human-created geology. But Hollywood's anti-Net forces don't understand the Net's infrastructure. Only understand content and distribution. Rob Glaser commented that they don't understand infrastructure that changes faster than interest and fashion. Hollywood sees the net as a plumbing system for intellectual property and other "content," and geeks (and Larry Lessig) see the Net as a place, a commons. But metaphor-wise, the Net has become this natural resource of building materials for business. All this free stuff; think Paul Bunyan, everything grows on trees. We use construction metaphors: projects, architectures, designers, builders. About who does the work and how, and there's no Microsoft [from Rob Glaser]. Commercial interests often don't see the free and open sources of infrastructure, and free software and open source geeks often don't see the creative nature and accomplishments of commercial interests (see Dave Winer). It's easy to collapse distinctions and confuse what appropriate opposites are. If you get past the politics you have a useful framework. Things get driven to ubiquity, and from ubiquity comes infrastructure. Companies like IBM work this matrix like a chess board. You either cause ubiquity or adapt to its inevitability. Apple's great at this too, especially since Jobs came back. Open source, Apache, Jabber (iChat), mpeg 4; strategically they can sort things out. They're giving away their iApps, even though not open source, not in the public domain. RealNetworks just got into this game, has similar strategy. Web services are the result of infrastructure chaos. In the chaos emergent behavior and adoption happens. Identity services will come out of this chaos as well. We can't build the products we need until these things get adopted. Layers of civilization, the Burton matrix: what they have in common is infrastructure, which wants to be open and in the public domain. We want more of that in order to build the stuff that's commercial on top of it. How do you get this? Cause chaos, then take advantage of it. Like Real. Infrastructure supports commerce, commerce supports infrastructure, symbiotic. Hollywood sees it differently: commerce governs infrastructure and the natives can go to hell. Doc thinks Hollywood will fail because this is *our* world. Identity infrastructure will be built around sovereign, individual IDs. Doc doesn't think anyone wants to be treated like or thought of as "you the consumer." [See Brad's comment from my DRM panel yesterday.] What if I'm coming at you with something that makes me a more powerful and interesting customer? An interesting follow-up from Cluetrain. Doc met an African guy on a plane. Markets are not just conversations, they're relationships. In your culture, the guy told him, you have a whole language that says business is about the bottom line, language of exchange is richer and more established than the relationship vocabulary; trumps it when things get tough. The Net is not about the bottom line, it's fundamentally about relationships. Once we empower the customer to come to companies with more ways to relate, we will have the ID structure we want. But we need that fire to start, so support the geeks at the center of your Earth (e.g., the PingID folks). Question from David Weinberger: Wish you could have spoken on the first day so you could have conditioned more of the discussion here. Question is, are you saying infrastructure can never be done from the top down? No, but Microsoft actually contributes to the bottom layers too, has open-sourced alot of things. The problem with using Microsoft as an example is it's a conversational black hole, you introduce it and the conversation falls in, no other light escapes. Microsoft is in a better position than Hollywood because they have alot of relationships with alot of customers. They have a concept of what that means. Example: creation and turning loose of Usenet newsgroups. Marketing 101: "Excel is full of crap one person asked for." An uncredited reason for Microsoft's success. Talking paperclips were put there for the customer, somehow. Question from audience member: how do you create chaos as you discussed, and what about tension between technologists who want control over identity infrastructure, and individuals who don't want anyone to have that control? Most people don't want to know more than that when they're using their credit card for transactions on the Net, they're not going to get screwed. Doc: about setting fires, see Warchalking example, Cluetrain example. Recognize a good idea that no one's talking about or doing, realize everyone thinks/wants it, put it up there and see what happens. Being a powerful customer doesn't have to be complicated, and individuals don't have to care how things work. Just need to show up a little stronger than they're doing now. It's not enough to be a "IK Flyer," for example. Somebody has to facilitate the demand. There's a blank space where the invention is needed. Is it a smartcard? Could be, don't know. Question from audience member: Re your diagram with the "me" in the middle. Idea that ID is something that you do to people, versus something that people do for themselves, for convenience. "Digital action figures," someone chimes in. Doc: watch the prepositions for how we understand things. Listen to Hollywood, it's all "through" the Net, as opposed to "on," "in," etc. Digital Hollywood conferece. Utterly unwired. Doc asked about TiVos. Everyone had them, loved them, was fast-forwarding commercials. Question from Chris Locke: when I got into whatever this is, I was concerned about fixed field databases -- first, last, mother's maiden name. When we start to talk about Digital ID, you're talking about fashion and commerce as the defining forces, which characterize humans in transactional terms. Glad to hear you talking about weblogs, because they change that. Humans are humans. Doc concurs, his blog is public email. There are more facets to the way he relates to the world. Frank Paynter, me, the shirt my Dad made, "Blogged by Doc Searls on X date." God bless him. [Yes, do!] Question from audience member: All of identity not about transactions. Hear, hear.

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