Surfing The Net With Dory – The Absent-Minded Online Service


Is it me, or is dealing with online content a lot like a conversation with a certain memory-challenged blue tang?

Sure, individual sites remember me from time to time, but the Web as a whole is constantly asking the same questions, starting from zero with every new site, making me give the same answers, time after time.

From the cross-site perspective of an individual user, the Internet is like a friend who forgets us from one minute to the next.

Swimming a little deeper… Five significant problems have bubbled up as more people take advantage of more online services: Profiles, Passwords, PIM, Personalization and Privacy.

Profiles: “Nemo? That’s a nice name…”

First up are profiles. Like most people, I am sick to death of entering my last name, address, preferred credit card and all the rest in site after site online. Yea, yea, I know, there are more than a few systems to manage the mundane but intimate details that comprise my digital identity. But honestly? I’m too busy to figure them out. The ones I can understand are from providers I don’t trust, and the providers I can trust just don’t seem to understand.

OpenID you say? OK, and you can explain to my Dad he can log in to e*trade with a url. Windows Cardspace perhaps? Sure…From the good folks who brought you Passport, BOB, and WebTV before spending $6 Billion to become an ad network.

Great software seems made by people smarter than me for people dumber than me, and nothing I’ve seen meets that standard. Without that, I’m stuck in a discontinuity: Even if a few of these identity management systems are better than entering my vitals again and again, none is as easy as filling in the form one more time. And the beat goes on.

Passwords: “Yes, trust. It’s what friends do.”

The related problem is, of course, remembering your passwords. I now have 120 unique online passwords to manage, which is utterly out of control.
The systems to manage this are a little better, including a few decent Firefox browser add-ons and tools like Sxipper. Still, there’s no way to sync either of those across browsers, and no smart way to export and transfer that data short of a metal briefcase and handcuffs.

I’m convinced most people just use the same password everywhere, despite being aware it’s foolish to do so. Others have 2 or 3 in heavy rotation, use a variant on the site name, etc., which means it doesn’t exactly take a Navajo codebreaker to compromise someone’s identity in potentially damaging and dramatic fashion.

PIM: “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. P. Sherman…”

PIM is next, meaning personal information management. It’s become increasingly clear that there’s a core set of information – my calendar, address book/social network, birthdays, notes etc. – that I need direct access to in multiple locations.

The options here are comparatively good. I can store all of it in iGoogle, MyYahoo!, .Mac or Plaxo, and access it from anywhere. But, each of those systems is binary with respect to sharing with other sites. I either provide my password and they get it all whenever they like, or I don’t and I’m out of luck. The result is that, once again, I need to refer to Outlook/Entourage when I want to forward something to somebody online just this once, which dramatically reduces my willingness to do so.



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