Online There's More Than One of You

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on this blog that highlighted the issues around managing our digital identity.

"Managing our digital identity through those sources we know about is a challenge for a significant percentage of the online population"

Then this morning, (ex Yahoo!) Cathy Ma posted a link to her recent blog post about the Personas project being run by Aaron Zinman at MIT. Personas tries to "show you how the internet sees you". So I duly surfed over to and plugged in my full name and some time later a rather slick Flash animation gave me this supposed "characterization of the person".

gary gale Persona

Anything but the most cursory of glances quickly showed that something was wrong. If this is how the internet sees me, where does sports, fashion and medicine come from? So I tried again, this time under my usual net nickname, vicchi. Some more chugging and analysing later and I had a second characterization of the online me.

vicchi Persona

It's different but it's still not right, sports are still there but now they've been joined by military, aggression and illegal. So I reran both characterizations and this time looked at what was going on and I went through the full spectrum from WTF to OMG.

3158864420_cca98b531a_oThe characterizer was looking at a selection of web references to Gary Gale and to vicchi, but it wasn't just me, it was any reference that could be found, which means that my supposed characterization is a mashup of all the possible Gary Gale's and vicchi's.

Sadly, this relegates the Personas project to merely an intriguing but ultimately flawed experiment, because unless you have a really unique name, online there's going to be more than one of you.

Gary Gale

I'm Gary ... a Husband, Father, CTO at Kamma, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user