ZoomInfo.com … a nice search engine!

After reading this post, I went out and played with ZoomInfo … it’s got some very interesting features.  You are able to search using various keywords, names, etc. and it seems to come up with some pretty impressive results.  Looking for a business in a particular market?  Looking for people in a particular role in a market?  Give it a try … there are some really interesting results.

First Semantic Search Engine?. Business search company ZoomInfo announced today the launch of what it’s calling the first-ever semantic search engine.

The site works by applying tags to information that distinguish between key concepts, such as a person, an industry, or a compa… [KurzweilAI.net Accelerating Intelligence News]

Identity Tuples

One of my friends asked me some questions the other day about my
constant focus on identity within the context of community. As
usual I was being asked about the “real” application of this notion …
not just the “philosophical” perspective. Well … I’m always
thinking the “real” application … I just don’t seem to express it

I started to think about how – from my perspective – this notion would
be implemented in code, or within an identity store. All of this
relates back to my work on digitalMe while at Novell … and a group of
us were working towards this back then. As I thought more about
some of my recent comments, I realized that one of the “real world”
aspects was what I’ll now call “Identity Tuples”.

What exactly is an Identity Tuple? First, lets look at what most people use as examples of identity … simple name/value pairs.

  • age = 32
  • shoe_size = 12
  • job_title = CTO

There are a number of critical issues with this perspective, and to me it is the gross assumptions when we view this that make it nearly useless. Let’s first look at “age = 32” … uh, well 32 WHAT? Oh of course most people will call me silly and state “32 years of course!” But that is an assumption. And even if we do say that “age = 32 years” then we still have to reference what a year is, or also identify the context that the measurement “year” exists within. A “year” is what, exactly? 365 days? Nope … it’s actually 365.242 days. Who says so? NIST! Ok … and the second flaw in this perspective? WHEN was this true? Well, it would be at some epoch in time … or between some range of dates. Lastly, who is the community or authority that states this as fact?  When we state that “age = 32” it is a very incomplete statement. This is where an identity tuple can come into play … instead of storing “age = 32”, we would actually store:

It is how Identity “attributes” can be stored and represented.  What this provides is support for the fact that identity evolves with time!  I understand that most often people are asking about my identity right now, but there is considerable identity information that relates to the past, or trends in your identity.  Credit History is a classic example of this.  Likewise, if you have children you would know about the “growth charts” that compare your child to the averages of other children.

The other core value of Identity Tuples is that the context, or community, where this attribute is distinguished is referenced with the identity information.  To me, this is critical to be able to properly assess the identity information and determine its value to me.  It’s not enough to say that I am {x} years old … in the case of liquor laws, we want that information from a credible source.  We have to identify the community which will support my claims.

Now some people reading this will notice there are some subtle flaws in this example … it’s a rough example.  But it is an attempt to describe some of what I see lacking in existing solutions … and what a real solution will one day have to have to be more effective.

Amazing … Novell opens the door for new leadership!

Wow … I’m wondering if there might be a glint of sunlight out there
for Novell.  Once again … and long over due … there has been a
change of guard in the executive ranks of Novell.  Jack Messman is finally out the door, along with the CFO.

I have to admit that I’m only willing to call Jack an executive … not
a leader.  From all of my experiences, and watching the direction
that Novell has taken, I would have a difficult time calling him a
respected leader. 
Instead, most of the employees that I have talked to felt that he
created an oppressive, dictatorial workplace that suppressed the
potential of the company.

All I am hearing today are the IMs of joy coming from all directions … employees and investors.

Good for the board of Novell.  No matter what, the culture and the
overall energy level in the Novell offices just jumped several notches

Tagging++ … where the web is heading?

I have to admit that I really love RSS. Not necessarily
“blogging”, but the concepts of RSS itself. It is an amazingly
simple idea, and yet it can be used for extremely powerful
solution. The whole world of blogging, and news aggregators, is
built on the foundation of RSS.

Of course, then came “pinging”. When a RSS feed is updated with
new posts or data, it can “ping” a service to notify others that it has
been updated. This provides a way to subscribe to the updates of
huge numbers of RSS feeds and blogs. So if I can then get all of
these updates, how do I make sense of them? Enter “tagging” …

Tagging is an ingenious idea … it embraces the concepts of
“microformats” where additional metadata can be embedded into content
like RSS feeds and blogs. In the most simple cases, tagging
allows for a post to be “categorized” using simple keywords …
anything. So now if I subscribe to the updates of large numbers
of posts, I can scan each post for “tags” and create new outbound feeds
(which is what Technorati does) or do my own sorting and filtering based on tags.

Tonight I was reading about Edgeio in a post by Tom Raftery.
This is a whole new step in tagging … and it’s really getting me
thinking. This is where the tags can now designate a post in a
blog for a specific purpose! This is not just about categorizing
… but now hinting at what the content is … and allowing for
specialized engines – like Edgeio – to consume the posts to create new
aggregated solutions. In the case of Edgeio, the new tags are for
“listings” … posts about things that you want to have listed on the
Edgeio web site.

What I really like about this, is it that it represents the latest
turns in the whole microformat/tagging process. Now, I can simple
posts something in my blog, and provide some custom tags that will tell
various engines out in the Internet what my intentions are with that
post. Already I’m using tags to allow people to simply subscribe
to tag feeds … RSS feeds of posts along a particular topical
category. But now I’m able to tag a post to indicate to some
engine that this is a post that I want it to consume and take action
on! This is an impressive capability.

I can start to think of other directions that this could take. For example, Flickr
– the popular photo sharing web site – could now begin to support tags
that would indicate a post contains photos that are to be included into
Flickr. So instead of uploading my images … I simply blog about
my photos, including the images in my posts. Flickr could detect
these images based on tags that I include and automatically consume
them. This is where whole new types of tags and actions can begin
to take place … and create some interesting new directions with the
web. This introduces yet another “neural” aspect to the
applications emerging on the Internet.

The evolution of RSS

It is very cool to see how RSS is being used for a wider range of
solutions than just blogging.  In experimenting with my iPod, I
have been studying the RSS enhancements that Apple has started to use,
and this article talks about a bunch of the enhancements that Microsoft
is experimenting with.

Where I have been thinking a lot lately is on new ways to use
RSS.  Since there are now so many news aggregator applications
that can consume RSS, it’s about time to think of new ways to create
feeds that are customized to the requestor.  And these would not
necessarily be the time-ordered “news” feeds … but maybe new forms of
reference material on demand.  What about educational content
being delivered on demand via RSS?  You simply subscribe to a
“feed” that begins to release content to you – posts or enclosures – on
a regular basis.  Your aggregator consumes the feed and presents
you with the content is more of a “chapter-order”.  At some point,
maybe there is even an extension that tells your aggregator that a feed
is now “dead” … or “finished”.

I’m thinking about how I might experiment with these Microsoft
extensions … in addition to some of the things I’m doing with my
iPod.  In the field of “identity management” I begin to think
about how I might want to give someone the ability to “subscribe” to
“me”.  I could easily do this via SSL, and then add
authentication.  People who I want to share with could then
subscribe to updates to my identity attributes.  Things like
sharing my GPS location could easily be done this way.  It’s fun
to see this whole area of technology get more and more mature.

Microsoft making RSS a two-way street.
Microsoft is creating extensions for the RSS syndication format to make
it multidirectional, a move that could allow RSS to be used to
synchronize information such as contacts and calendar entries across
different applications. [Computerworld News]

Tracking Identity … Cradle to Grave

It is only a matter of time before this is going on almost
everywhere.  It seems today that most of our government tracked
actions are recorded … but in many different and separate
databases.  This appears to be an effort for the Dutch citizens to
see a unification of their identity information for a variety of
sociological benefits.  Yes … I know that many people are
cringing at this.  To me it only makes sense that it’s going ot
occur … it’s inevitable.

Dutch Treat: Personal Database.
Starting in 2007, every baby born in the Netherlands will receive a
Citizens Service Number and will have an electronic dossier opened in a
central database. This will allow Dutch authorities to track each
citizen from cradle to grave. [Wired News]

Experimenting with tags in Radio

I sat here tonight and did some hacking on Radio again.  I’m working on my RadioAtomBridge tool, but I also wanted to add some new functionality to the WYSIWYG editor … making it easier to add tags to  posts.

I added a new toolbar button, and wrote some code that allows me to enter a series of space-delimited words.  Now I can simply click the button, and enter words and hit enter … and I get the tag that you see below!

I’m not quite done with it … but it’s working.  I want to change the icon of the button, and I was hoping to figure out how to insert at the caret position … something that I just could not get working within an iFrame.  Oh well … I got closer!

[tags: ]

InfoCard Insights

While at Internet Identity Workshop 2005 I really enjoyed meeting Kim Cameron in person, along with Mike Jones … both from Microsoft.  They seem to be the current human-side of InfoCards.

I was really waiting to see a good demo of what they are up to, and I
have to say that I like the overall solution.  It’s a very well
thought through solution, and I can see why Microsoft is going to move
forward with it.  I’m not going to get into the good vs. bad
debates … and I’m not going to argue about the evil empire wanting to
own all of our identities.  Its not about that, and I can see all
sorts of places where my companies can participate, and where even
those in the Open Source world could jump in if they felt like doing so.

There was one interesting place where I felt that InfoCards is lacking
… and that is removing the tedious re-typing of identity information
from the user.  I hate entering data into forms.  This is why
I really like the possible Firefox/IE enhanced form-fill
solution.  The browser can start to enter information for me …
and only require my approval before posting.

Why I believe that InfoCards is lacking here is the example that I
asked Kim about during his demonstration.  I wanted to write about
it here, hoping that he might offer a different perspective, or explain
how I missed something.

Kim explained how I can create new “self issued” identity cards, or can
have a card issued to me by a web site or other entity.  What was
interesting to me was that if the site wanted to issue a card to me,
InfoCards would not provide any assistance in providing my information
to the issuer about my identity.  I understand the security
choices here, however this is what I see coming …

I go to Domino’s web site … they offer to issue me a card.  I
get a form and hand enter all of my information:  my name, phone
number, address, favorite toppings, favorite drink.  I get a
InfoCard from Dominos.

I then go to Wells Fargo’s web site … they offer to issue me a
card.  I get a form and hand enter all of my information …
again: my name, phone number, address, employment info, etc.

I then go to E*Trade’s web site … they offer to issue me a card. 
I get a form and hand enter all of my information … again: my name,
phone number, address, SS#, employment info, etc.

I then go to Delta Airlines web site … they offer to issue me a card. 
I get a form and hand enter all of my information … again: my name,
phone number, address, seat preferences, etc.

I then go to JetBlue Airlines web site … they offer to issue me a card. 
I get a form and hand enter all of my information … again: my name,
phone number, address, seat preferences, etc.

Great … I get all these cards that are later useful … but I have
had to enter my info over and over and over again.  Yes … I hear
the Liberty Alliance folks out there yelling “But we’ll federate all of
these companies behind the scenes so that they’ll all know you!” 

Maybe it’s going to take the full combination of technologies to solve
this … I use the Firefox solution (Mike … hurry up and write that
thing!) which actually fetches the form-fill values from a LID or SXIP
Identity Store, and then auto-fills the form that gives me an
InfoCard.  Uh … it’s sounding complex … but maybe that’s it.

Oh … sorry Drummond … I’ll have to think about where I used the i-Name in there.  😉