Lightweight Identity

Last month, I participated in a PII event and sat on a panel (a format I dislike and try to avoid) moderated by Kara Swisher. Kara posted a video of the panel on ATD a few days later.

Sometimes when you are in a public setting you say things that have been coming together in your mind but you have never articulated before. That happened that day. I said the following about 40 minutes into the panel:

Twitter is default public and everyone knows that's what it is. Your Twitter identity is the lightest weight, most public, and therefore the best identity on the web.

Many other online identites we are all developing are heavier weight. They have more private information about us in them. When the companies that operate those identity services share our information with others we get nervous, upset, and anxious.

Twitter and other default public identities (like my daughter Emily's "Things I Like" tumblog) contain only the information we are willing to have the whole world know about us. And therefore they are better identities. They can be portable without our permission. They are crafted by us with the full knowledge that they will be seen by others, potentially many others.

We just completed a long and taxing hiring process. We had over 250 applicants to our analyst position. We asked each and every applicant to share their online profiles with us. Most shared default public profiles like blogs, twitters, tumblrs, etc. We learned so much about each of the applicants through reviewing those public identities. Default public online identities are very powerful and very revealing about people, maybe more so than default private identities. They can be used for almost anything that default private identities can be used for. But they can be used without asking for permission from the owner of the profile because the information is public already.

This is counter intuitive for many. But I'm pretty sure that default public identities are the future for most things (maybe not healthcare and personal finance and the like) and that they are the best form of online identity.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Brad

    One thing I know with Twitter is that it allows people to really say what they think. I think it is due to the fact that, unlike FB, most people know very little about you. I think this gives people the ability to really voice an opinion.I have often wondered if social media has diminished the need for therapists due to the ability to get things off the chest.

    1. JamesHRH

      Most people who need a therapist use social media to create an image of themselves that is not authentic.

  2. maxniederhofer

    Take a standard public namespace (Twitter username) + make it a readable/writable identity via an email-like identifier ([email protected]) + add public discoverability via e.g. the webfinger protocol (… and you have the beginnings of a true OS-like identity system for the internet.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a cool idea max

  3. Jacob C. Donnelly

    You’re quite right about these light weight, public online identities. They are going to be the future, but it’s going to create a new behavior that humans, for the most part, have not had to do all that much: curate. Other than one’s resume, how often did someone actually have to curate their life to ensure that nothing bad was going to be shown? If there was some crazy weekend pre-social networks, the only ‘documentation” would be physical photographs. And we all know how easily physical can disappear. These days, though, we have to curate all the details of our lives to ensure that there is nothing inappropriate. I created my Facebook Timeline the other day and then I had to go back in and delete a bunch of garbage comments that served no purpose. Did I want a potential employer to read that stuff? Naturally, if the employer is tech savvy enough, he can always go looking through Google’s cache, but I’d rather make it more difficult than less difficult. I wonder if there is a market for personal life curating. Is there some sort of a product that can go through and easily prune one’s online personality? And, then of course, are we all just going to be fake people who pretend to be emotionally stable when, let’s be honest, everyone has a freak out day once in a while. Alas, those are my musings for the morning…Thanks again for the blog, Fred!

  4. William Mougayar

    Fred- this is music to my ears and I totally agree with everything in this post and especially your last statement. The only social network where you can really turn the privacy dials tight is Facebook, i.e. for sharing with close family members only. The rest is all open.And once you see the aggregate of a user’s social network profiles, that’s powerful stuff, and it’s all public. But still, people will be surprised when you show them everything about themselves in one place. It’s like putting a magnifying glass on them. But it’s no different than search results from Google or DDG. 

    1. awaldstein

      There is data and there is interaction.The magic of community and Disqus as a community platform, is that you can vet the data of course but value is created in the interaction.Interaction based on the availability of transparency is more telling than the data itself.Do we need more interactions and connections or do we need more views of the people behind them? They are connected of course.You know what I believe.Interpretation and interaction is interesting, data is just data.

      1. William Mougayar

        I think both are valuable. The interactions and resulting connections are very valuable, but there’s a discovery process when 2 people get to know each other, and if peering over their social profiles and history helps that process, then it’s a complementary benefit.

  5. Adrian Palacios

    I don’t agree with this connection: “Twitter and other default public identities […] contain only the information we are willing to have the whole world know about us. And therefore they are better identities.” I think an argument could be made that private identities, and all the information we are willing to divulge in those areas, are richer (but maybe that’s not what you mean by “better identities”).My Twitter account is public, my Disqus is public, and on Facebook I’ve friended co-workers, family and bosses. So, in these public (or “lightweight”) identities, I have found myself talking less. There are many divergent interest associated with each: potential employers, current co-workers, conservative family members, etc., and I automatically censor myself on many occasions because of who might see what.

    1. William Mougayar

      What are examples of online private identities that you are referring to? 

      1. Adrian Palacios

        For years I had a blog that only my closest friends knew how to access. The conversations and opinions presented there were much deeper, robust, and, imo, a better representation of who I think I am and how I wanted to present myself.Facebook, Twitter and Disqus are very much sterilized representations of what I really think or have to say.

        1. William Mougayar

          “Facebook, Twitter and Disqus are very much sterilized representations of what I really think or have to say.” I disagree with that statement. What you say there is who you are. Otherwise, you’re not being genuine.

          1. Adrian Palacios

            I’ll be the first to admit I’m not being entirely genuine. Is that deceitful? Yes. However, navigating the public sphere in view of my conservative family (politically, religiously, etc), as well as current/future employers, complicates the issue beyond any ideal of “be true to who you are,” “say what you mean,” etc.

          2. Andrew

            That’s the fascinating thing about this whole public/private self thing. It’s really dependent on how public you are able to be with your private life– and it’s not always because you have “something to hide” that you don’t share it all. Whether it’s conservative family members you’d rather not get into arguments with or your job– I’m in media and tend to be pretty open, but don’t get explicitly political with my opinions on local matters. But you can still present your “true” self, even if it’s not all of your true self– I think. Otherwise, what’s the point?

          3. William Mougayar

            I understand your dilemma. Maybe then have a separate hidden identity that allows you to express yourself completely without any fear?

          4. JamesHRH

            Adrian – if you are out of alignment with your family, you are not alone. If you are out of alignment with your employer, you are selling your soul.That is not an authentic life and, long tern, what we know about mental / emotional health says this will produce a poor result for you (and likely others).An authentic life if the most powerful, because no energy is given to sterilizing (which is not to say that energy is not given to communicating empathetically).Authentic people act in a sure footed and calm way because they are prepared – not for every situation, but for every decision. They assess the choice based on their beliefs and experiences. They use the process that best suits their personality. They move forward knowing they will not regret the outcome, as they have chosen from self knowledge.You have to know what you believe, monitor your actions to make sure you are doing what you tell yourself you believe and, you have to have the courage of your convictions.Some pieces may fall in places you do not expect – it is what it is.

          5. Adrian Palacios

            James, I appreciate the idea of an authentic life, and am definitely doing more work towards an authentic, emotionally healthy life because it’s worth fighting for.I think using personal anecdotes from my own life are getting in the way of my main point: I disagree with Fred’s conclusion that “Twitter and other default public identities […] contain only the information we are willing to have the whole world know about us. And therefore they are better identities.” I a merely trying to illustrate how difficult and complex identity is, and it is my opinion that the conclusion Fred makes here effectively ignores that complexity.I think Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry summed it up best so far “By and large I agree with what you’re saying but I would quibble with the value judgement ‘best’. […] Which is the ‘best form’ of online identity? […] Super public or super private? I have no f’n clue. Those words don’t have meaning.”

          6. leigh

            If we were all honest all of the time, we’d end up with no friends 🙂  I believe Sheryl Crow said it best “lie to me” 

          7. William Mougayar

            Did she say it in a song or to Lance Armstrong?

        2. ShanaC

          Do you think we are forced to be sterile in order to get along online because sterile makes it easier to get along with others

          1. Adrian Palacios

            I’m not necessarily afraid of playing nice with others online; it’s more the “offline” consequences of interacting that I am afraid of. As I just mentioned to William, I’m paranoid about who might see what I have to say and how that will affect my relationship with them.

          2. leigh

            what i find interesting is how certain networks that aren’t linkedin into our public identity such as youtube get really nasty really fast.  the nice thing about the connection to facebook or disqus is that when someone is a jerk, you can connect it (for the most part) to who they are.I’ve never been against anonymous posts per say, but I’ve always found it interesting that more often then not GUEST = saying something contentious.  

          3. ShanaC

            I mind nastiness far less than the ability to speak out, and I therefore wonder. Just because you or me find something said nasty, doesn’t mean the facts/opinions contained in what they said was nasty. (though I would say there are certain cases where people are just nasty for nasty sakes)

          4. awaldstein

            Anonymous BBS and forums were/are notorious for nasty behavior.I’ve always felt that transparency in identity reduces jerky behavior. If you are really you and can be seen in public, most people act with more civility. Makes sense.A lot of arguments here at avc about whether anonymous is as strong a participant in a conversation as the transparent real identity. I’ve always felt not.Many think that persistent pseudonyms like @FakeGrimlock:disqus create the same sense of familiarity. To some degree this makes sense but not the same closeness.Distance may create comfort for the pseudonym but it also keeps connections at bay.

        3. Ro Gupta

          have you ever considered using alternative identities or pseudonyms to speak more freely on any of those services that allow it

          1. Adrian Palacios

            I did for a while, but it got too complicated. No matter how vigilant I was, I kept seeing too many ways to tie my “real” identity to my “alternative identity” and gave up–I found it too difficult to manage.

    2. RichardF

      I agree, I think the vast majority of what most people make available in public profiles is guarded and given in the knowledge that because it’s available for all sundry to look at they put out what is of little value to them.In the case of Twitter there is so much shameless self promotion going on that I am on the verge of a major cull and I follow less than 100 people!

      1. Adrian Palacios

        I agree Richard. I even shut down my blog and deleted everything because some of those friends I am no longer in contact with and I don’t want them to have access.And concerning Twitter, yes…I’ve curated my list very carefully and it’s evolved into a tool for work (I follow others who also work in the world of web analytics) more than anything.

      2. ShanaC

        I think the “default public” can make identity not lightweight,but hard. I feel burdenedby best foot forward. And I’m sure the self promoters feel similarly, and are just reacting to that pressure in a very different honest as I am online, I wish I could be more honest for that very reason. I don’t have the courage for that, alas.

        1. Adrian Palacios

          “as honest as I am online, I wish I could be more honest for that very reason. I don’t have the courage for that, alas.”I feel the same way :-/

  6. Andy Ellis

    Balancing authenticity with curation has been a struggle I’ve dealt with since Facebook’s inception.  Once I began using Twitter, my sharing became less filtered because I wasn’t concerned with the baggage of many pre-existing relationships (ironically my Twitter profile is public). Lifting the shroud of a neatly packaged image and sharing without restraint have made online engagement much more enjoyable and Twitter as a platform is largely responsible for that.  Now, I am much less concerned in general with my online identity as it more truly reflects me and I’m getting better about not letting others’ opinions affect me, I”m more comfortable in my own skin so to speak. Harkening back to the adage, “Those that mind don’t matter, and those that matter don’t mind,” unbridled self-expression is a much more productive and enjoyable way to use the Internet.

  7. Elia Freedman

    I’d be curious to know what we’re the most popular services folks listed when you asked for them? Twitter? A personal, public blog or tumblelog?p.s. just got back from vacation and there is some AdChoices button floating constantly in the middle of my screen. What the heck is with that? (I’m on iPad.)

  8. Prashant Gandhi

    I love the aggregation bit… knowing what you write ( blogs, tweets), what you discuss ( Disqus), what you read ( Amazon list if available, Kindle highlights) , what videos you watch ( Youtube), what music you listen to ( Spotify, Soundcloud) etc would tell you so much more about the person than their resume….

    1. William Mougayar

      We’re going to have something related to social profile aggregation with fairly soon. 

      1. Andrew

        I just got into Really like it. What I find interesting is (in my opinion) it looks like email would have it was invented today. Any plans for incorporating email addresses into it (provided people have a minimal profile on there?)

        1. William Mougayar

          Thanks Andrew…I don’t want to hijack this thread into a side conversation. Do you mind email me at william AT and I’ll respond.

          1. Andrew


      2. Prashant Gandhi

        I read about that on AVC earlier… have just requested an invite. Looking forward to using it.

  9. andyswan

    It also helps me figure out who to trust.  There are some people who are very different online vs off….they’re gaurded…afraid of offending….wanting to be “liked” and “followed”. It’s pretty easy to spot them….they follow a LOT of people and their thoughts seem to have extremely well rounded edges.But to me, they’ve simply got no core.  Uninteresting, filtered corks in a tepid stream.  Afraid of their own thoughts becoming public. Not someone I can count on…they’ll be different next year….therefore I don’t even bother to get to know them.On the other hand, you have people like we have here.  Opinionated, intelligent and sometimes polarizing (which is a backhanded way of saying people are DRAWN to them).These are people who I know where they stand.  They demand respect through the respect that they show for their own core.Yes, you can hide anything and everything….but that’s not what is powerful.  What’s powerful is deciding not to.

    1. Prashant Gandhi

      There is other side of this behaviour… false bravado… People hiding behind identities to abuse other followers. I see it happening all the time to celebrities and public figures, especially on twitter.

      1. Otto

        Oh, célébrités pauvres.

    2. John Petersen

      This sums up my feelings perfectly. I want to surround myself both IRL and online with people who are open and honest. Services with privacy filters give people the opportunity to be fake.I enjoy watching my friends filter themselves with their posts on Facebook vs. Twitter. In most of these cases, it does not have to do with the public vs private that Fred references, but because they have different followers on each. I think these people view Facebook at the exact opposite of private because they have 1000 “friends” and never adjust their settings.It reminds me of the scene from Old School when Frank’s wife is walking down the isle and Vince Vaughn’s character says “Do I seem like a happy guy to you, Frankie? There’s my wife. See that? Always smiling. Hi honey. Judging, watching. Look at the baby.”fake = weak

      1. Adrian Palacios

        I disagree with your equation…proposing that “fake = weak” sweeps a lot of complications under the rug when it comes identity. Identity is an extremely complicated issue, and reducing it to such a simplistic notion, especially one in terms of a lack of strength, very much dismisses many of those complicated situations.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. LE

            ” INTERNET BUILT BY PEOPLE BAD AT THAT”One of the reasons to have both creative people and engineering types at the top of a company. If that doesn’t occur half of the organization’s needs are done by the half that is ” BAD AT THAT”. And all the hiring is clones of the math non-social types.All those weird things Eric Schmidt says? An engineer. Lack of creativity at google (oh yeah they have those doodles of course ) lack of people with the other brain.Microsoft and creativity? Bill Gates and all his clones filtering down.Apple? Creative because you had Jobs and people in his image in addition to the tech types.People can’t oversee what they don’t have the seat of the pants feel for. So they shouldn’t but they should be smart enough to put people in charge in high level positions that do understand.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        2. John Petersen

          I agree that it is an overly simplified equation, but I stand by it. If you pretend to be something you are not to try to fit in or be accepted when it goes against who you are, that is fake. I view that fakeness as a person who is not comfortable with himself and hence weak.This is totally different than a person who doesn’t share certain things online or in person. I’m not saying you have to be an open book. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be fake.If you have certain beliefs about religion, politics, gay marriage, or anything, you don’t have to share them online or offline. That’s your choice. Just don’t be fake and say things you don’t agree with to fit in.

          1. Adrian Palacios

            Okay, thank you for the clarification. I was responding more along the lines of omitting opinions and facts, and I agree that being fake (as in saying one thing but truly believing something else) is not best.Nonetheless, I still think your dichotomy is too simple. There are situations IRL where thoughts and opinions can cost someone relationships with their loved ones, disenfranchisement, access to the economy, or even their lives. And this facet of human life is moving online as we become more social.

          2. Josh Haas

            I think that’s a great way of judging what IRL situations are good.  The safer you feel being totally, completely, absolutely yourself, the better your job / community / country is.  At least for me, anyway… if I feel like I can’t be myself somewhere, it’s fight or flight time!  The hard part is what the transition path is.  Pushing the authenticity barrier online can help create better IRL situations, and better IRL situations can make it easier to be authentic online.  My sense is they have to leapfrog each other…

    3. William Mougayar

      Well said. At the end of the day, it’s all about Authenticity. Online & Offline should be fairly similar representations. 

      1. JamesHRH

        Authenticity is a core concept for the third millennium.Basic human models ( personality types, life arc / maturity stages, ethics / morals ) will become transparent and widely shared. This will compress cultures and philosophies into basic camps.For a strong argument for authenticity being scarce and powerful in the future, a fun, spectacularly insightful, although not perfect book – The 500 Year Delta, literally the only futurism book I ever recommend – is worth a read.It was published in the late 1990’s by a suit and a gifted sociological researcher –…

        1. fredwilson

          great comment James. 

          1. JamesHRH

            Thanks Fred!I think the web will make the world smaller in some unexpected ways – this being one I believe in strongly (maybe The Kid’ too 😉 Happy Holidays to you & yours!Looking forward to connecting more frequently in 2012.James

      2. leigh

        lol and as i say to people if you have to sit around a room thinking about how to be authentic there is a much bigger problem going on…..

    4. gregg

      “they’ve simply got no core.  Uninteresting, filtered corks in a tepid stream.”killer line … i dont know what a filtered cork but it i think i’ve run into a few

    5. Mark Essel

      Trust no one. Not even yourself.Trust is something you turn to in desperate times, otherwise it’s not the real deal. Which makes finding out your trust was ill placed a bitch.Self interest just ain’t what it used to be, which makes prediction a game of dice.Then there’s the surprise, the source you had no idea about that has your back in the your darkest hour. For a scientific inclined mind, the enigma of emotional intelligence eludes all models and metrics.

    6. leigh

      “Uninteresting, filtered corks in a tepid stream”  love that 🙂

    7. Preston Pesek

      This is the essential dilemma: while the internet accelerates our ability to evolve, it also leaves petrified former versions of ourselves which we (or anyone else for that matter) may find(!) obsolete and repulsive.  There are certainly moments when taking a shot of tequila or making an off color joke in the right context demonstrates the kind of solidarity and character which friends and employers alike would find essential.  Offline, people have the luxury of being able to assess a situation and tailor their speech, dress and behavior to be appropriate for the live, temporal audience in front of them. Ironically, this set of temporal constraints creates greater liberty in self expression, because there is no risk of misinterpretation moments or years later by an unintended audience who is perhaps making a judgment of employability.  No web product has yet successfully framed the context of self expression to control how the audience will change, how the context will change, or more importantly, how YOU will change through time (OPPORTUNITY).

  10. Harry DeMott

    Having some sort of aggregation process would truly be the best way to figure out someone. I don’t tweet very often, as I’ve never worked it into my life – but I do Fancy many items on and I would argue that those say more about me than what you can read or find elsewhere. Sure all the basic data is out there – name, e-mail address, where I went to school, where I worked, etc… but that’s just what I’ve done, not who I am. Where have I traveled, where do I want to go, what do I do with my free time, what is my relationship to my family, what music do I like, books I love or want to read, food I like, friends I have and how I interact with them (old fashion phone calls and e-mail). That’s really who I am not what I do, or have done.

    1. ShanaC

      Some of the aspects that you talk about don’t transfer well to online land. I wonder if it is possible to have robust identity online as a result.

  11. Dennis Buizert

    I consider two things. Private and Public. Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc public. E-mail and as off recently Path, private. Reason? Path I have a very limited amount of friends on and only share stuff with them I think is best kept in the old school friend circle. The internet nowadays ruined some things for me. Such as; Talking about something or someone in secret without the entire world knowing. Not that I am that kind of person, but I really think it has affected a lot of people. Not using the internet is falling behind and will kill you in the end. I have a few classmates who do not use, twitter, Facebook or even LinkedIn. I think they will struggle later on getting an online presence. 

  12. JFK

    He buddy,Identites? Is that English?JFK

    1. Rohan

      Hey buddy,’He’ buddy? Is that English?Yoda

      1. JFK

        Oda,At least in know what ou mean.Cheers,JFK

        1. Rohan

          XactoHwats life widout some fun?Cheers 🙂

  13. JaredMermey

    Identity will continue to be a huge consideration when designing new products. The amount of “identity weight” you decide to include in your product will greatly influence the community, conventions and conversation quality it can produce. When building our products we spent days discussing identity probably subconsciously thinking about the points Fred makes. (The not having fully articulated thoughts thing holds true in private settings too. I guess you’re just forgiven more easily. That, and you can swear more.) We thought long on hard how to make identity compatible with the other aspects of our business, and the goals and types of communities we wanted to achieve.I’d be really interest to hear how others thought about identity when thinking about product? Or, how identity affected their product after-the-fact if identity didn’t come up in the first place?

  14. William Mougayar

    On that topic, what do you think of social networks that strongly say they own your social data and you can’t store it elsewhere? I’m thinking of FB and LI in that camp.

    1. Tom Labus

      That’s kind a weird.

      1. Dale Allyn

        No, that’s opportunity. 😉

        1. William Mougayar

          Can you elaborate?

          1. Dale Allyn

            Not real comfortably yet (we’re working partially in this area), but my point was that owning/controlling the social data and not allowing easy transport and external storage is a type of exploitation of users. This provides opportunity for those of us who don’t wish to exploit users in this way. As @markslater:disqus stated below, not everyone is comfortable with the data aggregation model(s). I commented on @ccrystle:disqus ‘s blog post as well. 

  15. Ciaran

    It’s interesting that you reference a tumblr blog as a form of identity as I just read about something that the rapper Drake said earlier this year:I’m really scared for my generation, you know. The thing that scares me most is Tumblr. I hate what Tumblr has become…Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments. It just kills me. Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary man, simulation life that we’re living. It scares me.…I’m not sure I agree with him entirely, but it’s definitely an interesting proposition.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      What does “Drake” embody? Does he rap about growing up in a wealthy neighborhood in Toronto? I don’t know for sure, because I don’t listen to his music (I just remember him as the crippled kid on that Canadian show Degrassi). But if he doesn’t, then maybe he’s offering something of a simulation too.

      1. andyswan

        Either way, at least he’s DOING something.  I think his point is very valid.  “Kids these days” sit around and watch other teens screw up their lives on TV instead of doing it themselves.  

        1. Dave Pinsen

          I don’t know about that — YouTube offers a lot of evidence of “kids these days” doing stuff themselves. Which, btw, raises an interesting question: are they doing more or less of that stuff now than 10 or 20 years ago? The difference is that today, of course, it’s a lot easier to document whatever your doing with a smart phone.

      2. Ciaran

        True, though I guess his point is that he’s creating something, rather than just cutting and pasting stuff that other people have done. This of course leads nicely to a discussion of the relative artistic merits of sampling (something I assume he does, as he’s a rapper, though I have to admit I don’t listen to his stuff either)

  16. Brian Manning

    Fred, great post…there’s going to be LOTS of discussion on this one.  A topic that I think is critical here is the issue of sharing with discretion.I’m a member of most of the big social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.).  It’s incredibly easy to share things online and for the most part the people I want to share with are on the social networks I use.  But the thing that’s missing from online social networking, that makes it completely unlike real social interaction, is that there isn’t an easy way to share with discretion.In the offline world, using social discretion is extremely important and extremely easy to do. There are things that I tell my best friend at work that wouldn’t interest my friend from college’s mother.  There are things that I share with my high school friends that wouldn’t interest my cousin.  So in the offline world, like most people, I simply don’t share things with people that don’t care about them.This discretion is perhaps one of the most basic laws of social interaction.  But it’s nearly non-existent in online social networks. For the most part, when people share online, they share with everyone.In the offline world, sharing with everyone, without discretion, causes people to not like you.  Think of the guy that blabs on about something that’s not relevant to you or you don’t care about (he’s sharing without discretion).Online, the lack of an easy discretion tool causes two big problems:–It creates a ton of “noise”; unsolicited, superfluous information consumption–It prevents people (especially older users) from sharing more Both of these are huge challenges for social networking and are reasons I don’t share more online.

    1. fredwilson

      this is something kids are better at than adultsi talked about that in the panel that i linked to in this post

  17. ShanaC

    I actually want online spaces to discuss my health and finances.I actually am a passive observer for at least one health related message board. I’m also a reader of at least one anonymous advice columnist, who talks about stuff including sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll; I’m also a semipassive observer of a mailing list and Facebook group about religion. None of these are really fully part of my public online identity. I would feel even more lonely about something going on in my life if it wasn’t there, about choices I’m already overthinking, if these services and groups weren’t there.They’re part of my identity too. And not passive ones either. They’re just not public in the sense you’re claiming, even if through my behavior they are lightweight.I think we need a different,more encompassing description ofthe relationship between behavior and identity online

  18. timraleigh

    Interesting post. On the internet, I am my dog… I am often amused at who follows me on twitter based on the words in my “twitter profile”. For example I end my profile with “playing with fire” as a metaphor for fooling around (playing) with things I don’t know anything about and then getting in trouble. I am guessing that twitter is using that profile data to suggest my twitter feed to followers with “fire in the profile because I have 2 followers who have fire related products and services. On the other hand they could just be interested in my kibble tweets.

  19. Kevin Pillow

    From what I have observed over the past four years of using social tools is that every user has a unique motivation for utilizing them. I know people who only use them as ways to make money, other people who want to share their  opinions and others that just want to consume content.IMO what users share publicly or privately is also limited by their motivations and it’s a mistake to say that they represent a deep or shallow perspective of a persons identity. It would be safer to say they are simply tools that let people control how they want their identities to be viewed.

  20. Tom Labus

    My comfort level is best on Twitter for whatever reason,But I come as close to what I am offline there.Reading 10 tweets is a better insight to someone than a BS LI account. 

  21. Andrew Watson

    Fred,Good post, particularly in terms of how strongly it makes the “run like hell from Facebook” argument without ever actually stating it. Another part of online identity, in the wider sense, is how your sites like. I like the current uncluttered look of avc, especially since I can remember when you were the king of clutter/bling/sidebar stuff.

  22. harryh

    This is why we link foursquare user URLs to twitter identities.

  23. Laura Yecies

    I find the default public profiles to be extremely powerful.  And it’s certainly not just limited to hiring.  Before any meeting with a new person I review their Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog etc. – in fact I would consider it poor preparation to not do so – ditto for the person who I’m meeting with regarding me.  I find this distinction between public and private evolving in a very natural way online.  Twitter and LinkedIn are public, Facebook is private.  Email, texting and voice are also private.  Even within public I have 2 levels of information I share based on role – when I blog on the SugarSync blog I limit to business topics, I go much wider on my personal blog though some of the same people may read both.Default public data will be more important in business, the private data more important in personal life.  My facebook friends know more important private data about me – they don’t need to refer to linked in.The question I find interesting about this is given the importance of default public, should anonymyty still be encouraged as it is potentially making incorrect someo f the default public info.  Personally I’m not a fan of anonymity.

  24. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    By and large I agree with what you’re saying but I would quibble with the value judgement “best”.I love Twitter. I use Twitter all day. It has, in a tangible and serious way, changed my life. I have several thousand followers there and follow hundreds of people.But I’ve also been using Path. I have very few friends on it, maybe less than a dozen. A friend of mine actually has zero friends, because he uses it as a journal. I love it. It’s gorgeous. Our wife and I are about to have our first child, and I can’t wait to chronicle her birth in a way that I’m going to be able to get back to years from now and that is going to be beautiful and preserved, stuff that I wouldn’t tweet. One super public, and one super private. Meanwhile I never use Facebook because it’s “in between.”Which is the “best form” of online identity? Twitter or Path? Super public or super private? I have no f’n clue. Those words don’t have meaning. Super public might be better from *a startup*’s perspective–because it’s easier to make things viral, because it’s easier to sell (against) info and all that stuff. But intrinsically? One’s not better than the other.

    1. RichardF

      congratulations to you and your wife Pascal, it’s a life changer.Great decision to chronicle her birth.  I set up a blog 4 and a half years ago, just before my son was born, we now have four and half years worth of our lives with him that we have shared with our family, mostly photographs and video taken and posted with a mobile.  It’s hosted on blogger and they have a dynamic template that allows anyone to change the way that they view the posts.  The content that we have amassed is priceless to us.  It’s a real pleasure to look back now.

      1. karen_e

        Do some members of your family object to you posting so much about your child online, Richard?

        1. RichardF

          No Karen, they all like it because they all get to see photos and video immediately rather than waiting for us to email them. We both dislike facebook so wouldn’t use that.

    2. fredwilson

      not sure how a super private profile can be an online identity. how do we access it?and congrats on your upcoming parenthood.biggest game changer in life for me

    3. K_Berger

      This is slightly off topic but talking about parenthood and identity…People can hide things from their spouses.  They can even deceive themselves.  But you can’t fool your kids.  They watch and absorb like sponges until they make an offhand comment that shows they understand you better than you understand yourself.  It is also why I believe the single most important parenting rule is this: If you want your kids to do/be something, you need to do/be it yourself.  Or at least sincerely show you wish you could.  “Do as I say, not as I do” does not fly.Congratulations!

    4. ShanaC

      Mazal tov, may she grow up to be awesome like her dad.

      1. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

        So kind.PEG

  25. Kevin Bradshaw

    We used exactly this approach building Twitter ID used for identification of a participant in a conversation – no pre or post existing social relationship was required. It works extremely well.I like to think of it as the equivalent of walking into a bar, having a great conversation, then walking out again. That to me has always been a very important part of life.

  26. karen_e

    Love this post. I’ve noticed some digital-native parents (hello @bain) creating (humorous) Twitter feeds for their infants. Would they go so far as to include photos, I wonder?

  27. Christian Brucculeri

    Chris Dixon just posted about this, in the context of us now having an ‘Internet of People’ that helps certain businesses work which failed in the past.  We now have trust because of these public identities; it makes online marketplace businesses more likely to succeed.

  28. Brandon Schulz

    Defining an identity’s quality by the access public has to it is very interesting. I think you also stumbled onto another very interesting reality. The less intimate information you have about someone, the less of a chance there is to allow generalizing factors into the identity of that person. No one develops a bias in looking at a 36 year old stay at home dad, with 3 kids, and his entire work history, when that doesn’t show up on a timeline. Instead, people get to know that Dad for the things that are important to him: the music he likes; movies he watches; his opinion and ability to articulate it; and furthermore, the way he engages in community. I think I agree with your statement. Twitter is the purest and best online identity. Thanks for sharing, Fred.

  29. zackmansfield

    I agree a ton with the idea that public identities online create tremendous value – and your assertion that it’s counterintuitive for many is spot on.  It’s why you were a trailblazer among VCs when you were *so* public in 2003/2004 on this blog.  It was not a blog about venture capital per se at the time.  It was a blog about Fred – who was A VC.  But you blogged as much about the music you were listening to or what your family was doing as anything (and who can forget the widgets…SOOO many widgets :)But by reading what you put out there, Fred, I felt like I got to know you.  And was encouraged to do some of the same – blogging (publicly), and then Twitter, etc.  As a tertiary part of this conversation – there’s an interesting interplay here between default public and anonymity online – an issue you discussed here:…Crafting multiple identities online can be valuable too.  But at the root, I think the most value comes from being able to share honestly and openly, to as broad an audience as possible.  And services which fit that framework are what are compelling to me today. 



  30. Adam Feldman

    Really like that distinction between public/private online identities. There’s something to be  said for the value of working within user expectations of what is public (Twitter) and more private (Google, Facebook, almost everything else) login credentials. I also think Linkedin deserves a shoutout here as a pseudo publicly searchable resume database.

  31. reece

    when new founders and/or jobseekers reach out to me about how to get started, i always encourage them to work on their online identityi recommend blogging if they can write, but really encourage twitter and other services, as these are the best way for someone to find them and see what they’re thinkingyour partner Brad put it best, “you can fake a resume, but you can’t fake 500 blog posts”

    1. fredwilson

      or 5,587 posts

      1. reece

        arrgghh… i only have 1,808 on Tumblr!

  32. jameskupka

    does the narcissism inherent to “crafting your identity” trouble anyone else? makes me feel like i’m not living, but rather writing the script to the movie of my life. i’m not sure the flip side – being radically open – is for me, either.

  33. Guest

    I am conservative in my public postings partially because of the permanence issue.  A posting may have a lifespan longer than its relevance in representing me – that is, an older posting may not reflect who I am today, and something I post today may not reflect who I am tomorrow.  I hope that I am growing and developing constantly while web stuff lives forever in stasis.  I reserve the right to change my mind when the facts or the context change.  I don’t want to be embalmed in virtual carbonite.  If people are reading about me rather than conversing with me, do they know who I am or who I was?

    1. andyidsinga

      That’s a very valid point of view.So, one question – why not adopt an online pseudonym (or several) and then guard your real identity carefully? Then we can converse beyond the context of one particular comment etc 🙂



        1. andyidsinga

          Andy 14 would be a jerk anyhow – let Andy 12 have his statues 🙂 🙂

        2. RichardF

          version numbers – fantastic idea

        3. fredwilson

          fred 50!

    2. JamesHRH

      I think the world will catch up to this view.Essentially, President George W. Bush said this, when campaigning for the 2000 election (‘ I was single, young, ambitious, immature – I’m not answering any questions about my conduct before I married Laura / turned 40. It happens’)People just need to suck it up and say so…….but GRIM’s versioning idea would be cool.

  34. Moses Nakamura

    Identity is fundamentally too multifaceted to say that one is closest to your “true” identity.  Every identity is inevitably catering to some audience.  I speak/act differently to my parents than I do to my friends, than I do to my boss, than I do to my significant other.  Identity cannot ignore any of those “masks” that we put on, because identity is a combination of all of them.  There is no one “true” identity that underlies all of the masks.  It is tempting to say that the public face that we have for our public twitter/public g+/public facebook/public tumblr is our “real” identity, but such a thing doesn’t exist.  It is, however, a great approximation for every identity, because we expect that all of the audiences we interact with will perceive us through the specific mask we provide for them AND the public mask we use in these public fora.This does make the public identity powerful, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all.  Thinking about it from a business perspective, if you are trying to target ads to someone based on their identity, in an ideal scenario, you would target the ads based on the specific mask that that person is assuming at any given point in time.  When you are shopping with your friends you will make different purchasing decisions than you will when you are shopping with your parents–whereas your friends might be impressed by big purchases, your parents might be impressed by frugality.In the near-term future, public identity will be the most useful–this is something that Hunch found when it constructed quite good taste graphs for people based solely on their public twitter/facebook data.  It hits the feature set that we want to preserve across most/all of our masks.  However, I would guess that this matches the 80/20 rule, and that with purely public data, we will be able to handle 80% of the problem, but to get the last 20%, you will need a personalized identity for the mask that the user is wearing at that moment.  This is why Hunch was good, but didn’t win, and why companies still need to have their own recommendation engines.The places that I want foursquare to recommend me are under a different mask than the movies that I want Netflix to recommend me, and I’m the happiest when each company recognizes that.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. i’ve written about that. i totally agree.

      1. Moses Nakamura

        Got curious, so I searched for “identity” on AVC.  If anyone else is curious, Both of these posts, What is Online Identity and Profile Pictures seem to get back to this.  Profile Pictures is more relevant.

  35. Phil O'Brien

    Thought provoking post – thanks.  You are right that Twitter is a good, light weight way to get a handle on someone’s identity.  I’d compare it in the real world to the first impression of meeting someone, having a brief chat, seeing what they look like, getting a few snippets of what interests them.  It’s enlightening – and light.Other profiles are much heavier – LinkedIn tends to get you in to CV land.  It’s heavy weight, full of dates/details and very corporate.  There’s no chat – which is where Twitter wins.However, we must remember that none of these are really “identities” – they are just “presentations”.  I think another commenter calls them masks.  In the real world we can’t always be totally open in this presentation (e.g. opinion of our boss, am I looking for a new job, etc).  So all these “identifies” are effectively first impressions – and Twitter does an excellent job of this when a user gets engaged in their style of communication.

  36. gregorylent

    china? egypt? syria? russia? africa in the near future? 



    1. LE

      Almost half of facebook users are under 25 and aren’t going to give up these “cigarettes” that quick.  As a group they will easily engage in risky behavior for pleasure. As they have always done.FB statistics from here:



        1. andyidsinga

          yup …or delete and move on 🙂

        2. LE

          Stuff others services and other users have grabbed or archived that then ends up later slurped by google would be a concern. Would tend to be the really good stuff also. Not a picture of you and your aunt (unless of course you and your aunt were doing something other than cutting your birthday cake). 

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          2. JamesHRH

            so true – people will be way more careful.

        3. JamesHRH

          In 2040, everyone will know what it means when a 34 year old has a FB account with a timeline that only goes back 3 years.

      2. andyidsinga

        Hey LE, why don’t you think they’ll give up facebook that quick?  Wouldn’t risky behavior in your example actually be the act of dumping facebook for something newer and more interesting, more exciting …finding new networks without being encumbered by the legacy of their wall from when they were 15?

    2. William Mougayar

      What’s the next step then? 



        1. Christian Brucculeri

          Very well said–  I also believe this is the next step in the evolution.   What I’m unsure about is whether a new product will be the solution, or if people will simply learn to better use the tools that they have (e.g. Google and Facebook).

        2. fredwilson

          i totally agree

  38. matthughes

    I applied for a job recently and made a big point of emphasis about my online identities (Twitter, Disqus, blog).The company I applied to didn’t seem remotely interested in that information. All they wanted was my “.doc resume”.In all honesty, I felt like they weren’t looking at the big picture.  It was a red flag for me – didn’t take the job. 



      1. matthughes

        Yes but when I tried to ‘discover’ what a floppy is on Twitter I came up empty?

        1. William Mougayar


  39. Keenan

    The real message in this is that default public identities will eventually be MUST HAVES. As Andy said it best, it helps him figure out who to trust. Eventually we will all have to have some semblance of a public identity. As we won’t “trust” those without them. Hiding will no longer be acceptable. I can see a time where we are skeptical of the person who is hiding, not developing a public identity. Hiding will have a cost. If this is true, then being deliberate and purpose driven with our public identities becomes paramount. Crafting, developing and sculpting our public identities becomes an extremely important exercise that could fundamentally effect our lot in life and the opportunities afforded us. The idea of online identities could effectively change how we/people move through life and capitalize on opportunities.  It’s going to be a valuable asset.  I wrote about this phenomenon a couple of years ago.…

  40. Matthew Tendler

    The whole idea of what is “best” is a fallacy, in my opinion. There are things that we want to share and things that we don’t want to share. It’s “best” to know where to post depending on the privacy settings and unfortunately that is becoming harder to be good at. So many companies are working under a false assumption that what is “best” is to convince users to share as much as possible (PII). Why? Because that’s what Facebook and Twitter push and therefore others follow suit. But for every example of why this works in some cases there are examples of why it doesn’t work in other cases. In terms of on-boarding, I’m not sure looking at someone’s public web persona is the best approach or even effective at all. The objective of an employer should be to identify who the person really is behind their public image. I believe LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. give people the power to create polished pictures of themselves just as, if not more, than their resume.

    1. LE

      “give people the power to create polished pictures of themselves just as, if not more, than than their resume”The old expression “not airing your dirty laundry” has been around for some time and at one point we will probably return to that “polished picture”. But the polished picture will no doubt contain some carefully crafted shortcomings to appear real. There have definitely been societal shifts prior to the internet though where it was less of a stigma and actually in many cases a benefit to be a real person and not hide anything (shows like Donahue, Oprah, Sallie Jessie etc where people open up, something pretty much unheard of in the 50’s, and get 15 minutes of fame). This has no doubt been accelerated by the Internet. A base reason for private health information as an example is because people will make decisions based on knowing that info in, as only one example, hiring. There is also other information that people will take into account (fairly or unfairly) in making decisions. That is the basis for why people shouldn’t share certain information.  You typically don’t protect yourself against something until something bad has happened. Then you learn your lesson. “looking at someone’s public web persona is the best approach or even effective at all”If the test is “is the person decent or a jerk” I think looking at the web persona would yield certain false positives to the “decent” question and false negatives but little false positives to the “jerk” question. In other words someone who appears to be a jerk is a jerk. But someone who appears to be decent could be a jerk.After all, if Madoff didn’t appear trustworthy in every way shape or form he would never have been able to steal all that money.

      1. Matthew Tendler

        How would you go about judging if someone is an online jerk? 

        1. LE

          Hard to put into words (as SCOTUS once said) but I know it when I see it.  Evidence of an anger problem is a step in the right direction.  A very occasional “fuck you” is ok. A pattern of “fuck you”  is not ok. I’ve always found that asshole-ism usually runs to the top. So if an employee has an attitude many times what I find is that that behavior is encouraged and supported by management. So my comfort zone could be different than others when hiring judging the same people. Basically it comes down to being able to read people based on a few points of data and make a snap decision. Overtime you can become good at it by picking up on words, vocal inflection, facial expression etc. So now in reading what I have written based on your question I’m realizing that maybe some of the things that I see that stand out are not as obvious to others possibly.(I just watched a video of you talking about diabetes and concluded that you’re not a jerk but I’m sure that everyone else would come to the same conclusion.)

          1. Matthew Tendler

            Flattery will get you everywhere!So the online jerks curse at others AND are so oblivious that they do these random acts of jerkhood on platforms that an be easily accessed by potential employers. I think you need to fire your executive searchers 😉

          2. gorbachev

            Interesting point about being an asshole.I was, um, disturbed by the praise heaped upon Steve Jobs for being an asshole, by the likes of Mark Suster. Apparently if you run a successful company some people think being an asshole is a-ok, and even the cause for the company being successful.Assholes are just assholes. They can be good at doing stuff, but they’re still just assholes and make other people miserable.

    2. fredwilson

      i agree that you need to meet people f2f at some point. but you do need a way to narrow down a pool of 250 applicants to a reasonable number to meet. and a resume is not nearly as good as other data you can get online about people

      1. Matthew Tendler

        I’ve been asking my interviewees to provide me with a list of musicians that they digg. Extra brownie points if they point me to their Spotify, SoundCloud,, accounts. Talk about getting a deep look into their souls….

  41. Brandon Marker

    I was a late adopter of Twitter. I first started very early-on and there just wasn’t anything happening on there for me. Now that I am finally using it I have been thinking a lot about the functionality. Fred, you summed up the idea quite well in the post. I enjoy comparing friends’ Fbook posts vs Twitter posts. They can be VERY different. I know everyone believes my Twitter account is boring because I am not using it to make people laugh like I do on Facebook. But once again, that is my very public identity.I am interested to see if this continues to be the case. I also wonder when more employers will start asking for a Twitter handle, facebook, path,, etc sites to be filled in on your application. I know I always dug through and tried to find everything I could when hiring. This are normally off-limits due to personal privacy but we have to reach a point where we view many of these as public information.

    1. JamesHRH

      Any employer that asked for anything other than a lightweight identity would get told to take a hike.People are allowed to have facets and employers get to see the work side – that’s all.

      1. Brandon Marker

        Definitely, let me clarify. Whenever I say Facebook I mean those who have a public profile (anything lightweight/completely public). This can be damaging to many businesses due to the fact that so many have a large online presence. I know I would never hire someone who had a public profile anywhere that was damaging to client perspective.With that being said, HR could never say, “You have been declined due to your inappropriate pictures on Facebook that are public.” At some point it seems like this could be a valid reason for denial.

  42. Otto

    Pourquoi faire de l’Internet, comme les banlieues?

    1. William Mougayar

      Je ne comprends pas votre commentaire. C’est relie au sujet qu’on discute? 

      1. fredwilson

        translation  of this disqussion please!

        1. jason wright

          “I do not understand your comment. Foursquare is nonsense.” Something like that – Le Web French doesn’t translate well.

        2. William Mougayar

          The original comment was “why make of the Internet the same as the suburbs?”. To which I responded: I’m not understanding your comment. Is it related to this discussion?

      2. Otto

        I thought it was relevant to the discussion.Fred made the point that public identities seem more inclusive, open, and creative. At least that is what I got from it. This is the opposite of default private identities. The suburbs were the best offline analogy I could think of.Suburbs by their nature are usually not inclusive or creative places. A lot is required of you to gain access to the suburbs and then the gates close behind you. Associations tell you what you can do with your place and what designs are acceptable to them.Creative communities are more about what you’re doing and your ideas, what you share. But you don’t have to fork over a lot about your identity to gain access to a creative community, if you have to reveal your identity at all. So there is less need for “privacy” on these platforms and they seem a lot more active. In my opinion, this is much better for the future of the Internet than the suburban mentality.This was just my own unique way of agreeing with Fred. The French was just me taking a break from writing English for once.

        1. William Mougayar

          Ah. Thanks for elaborating. But suburbs in NA don’t have those issues you mentioned. Maybe it’s a French or European characteristic?

          1. Otto

            It depends on where you live in NA. I grew up in Southern California and the type of suburb I mentioned is all over the place now. It has little culture, unless you count real life twitbot-style behavior as culture. People there would cope with it by pointing to their economy, but now that’s a mess like much of the country. It’s not just the gated communities. It’s the mentality of the suburbs in general that shouldn’t be mainstreamed into the Internet.

  43. jason wright

    Plato’s Cave – 2,400 years ago.

  44. markslater

    i don’t agree at all. data aggregation models need to die. control must head to the edge – personal identity management must flourish. then again i am all about managing my vendor relationships and not having my data sold so that the highest bidder can compete for my attention. live in public all you like – i do here – but ensuring the user controls this is key.

    1. fredwilson

      i would love to see personal identity management to emerge. but we will still need large public platforms for distribution of it

      1. markslater

        singly.comsimply awsome.this is where its all going. you should check them out.

  45. William Mougayar

    We can call these lightweight identities, but they are heavyweights on allowing one to express themselves. The more lightweight, the more expression. That’s the future.

  46. Charlie

    Two thoughts about this:- Any name you use in any public setting should be considered a public identity- If any two of your public identities can be easily correlated, you should assume that they will be correlated. Once correlated, they can be considered one identity.It is often the case that sharing a single identity you use (for example, your given first and last name) provides enough information to discover and crawl a large cluster of online identities on various services or domain names.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, @fredwilson is my public identity

  47. Karan

    Seems to me that the “light” profiles are even more revealing since most people respond in reaction to quick messages, which I believe reveals more about who they really are!. Furthermore becuase of the sheer number of tweets and responses the real intent of someone’s communication becomes more apperant! For example on twitter I get people who share one point of view on one topic and a different point of view on a similar topic a while later!!! … revealing!

  48. André DeMarre

    We need to decouple our identities from the services we use. It’s a better design, and by doing so we acquire the lightest weight identity possible; one with no public or private profile data at all.Such a design also serves to align popular thinking with the reality of owning public profiles, insofar as it makes more clear that you hold the same identity across different services. “You mean I’m the same person on Twitter as I am on my blog and all those Disqus communities I’ve shared with?!”Of course, Fred, this doesn’t affect your points about public profile data. It simply suggests a change in nomenclature where services like Twitter are not identities but public broadcasts associated with our identities. In some contexts that’s not a significant difference.Steps in this direction, like OpenID and WebFinger, have barriers in their way because the big service providers are disinclined to embrace them. I don’t expect this to change until a disruptive technology comes along which forces the big players to adapt.I’m working on it, and I know many others are also.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree completely andre.great comment!

  49. John Revay

    Fred – you did not look comfortable sitting at the panel, Roger looked like he wanted to control/hog the mic.I enjoyed the lively exchange talking about the Kindle Fire

    1. fredwilson

      i hate panels. i wasn’t comfortable and never am on panels

  50. howardlindzon

    Twitter is your soul…no one is perfect but you can’t hide your soul.  If you are angry you can fake it for a few days on twitter but thats about it.  If you are silly same thing…

  51. howardlindzon

    I have used light and heavy as an explanation for a long time.For example, in finance, covestor (i am an investor) is heavy and stocktwits is light.  I guess I never understoof Facebook because to me its just fake.  Its not heavy and its not light.  It’s just the second coming of Experian.  That’s likely evil!Facebook’s next big move is on Washington.

    1. fredwilson

      you are right abut covestor and stocktwits

  52. Jruffolo

    Fred, very interesting insight. I would add though that i am ok to disclose my information on my public identify and i dont mind if someone monitizes my info. However, on my private identity, it is mine, i dont want it shared, and i dont want anyone monitizing my data even if they paid me for it. If i provide my private data for a specific purpose, i only want it used for that purpose.

    1. William Mougayar

      John- What are some examples of private identity systems that are using or monetizing data without our consent- I’m thinking like Experian or Equifax perhaps? Good to hear that you don’t mind having your public identities disclosed, because we’ll be doing that soon with Engagio.

  53. Sell Used Cell Phones

    You got to keep an eye for people who deserves your trust.

  54. jason wright

    Is anyone using Path?

  55. Rileyhar

    Fred,I found the panel discussion to be informative, enlightening and enjoyable. What don’t you like about panel discussions?

  56. Marc Brodeur

    I’m working on crafting my “public identity”, and I found this post to be very meta. Obviously it is about public identities, but I look at the post itself as a great example of the kind of content that works great: personal, well reasoned opinions about an interesting topic, supported by an anecdote.Thank you!

  57. brett1211

    First, love the topic.  I pretty much spend all day thinking about this w/ respect to geo-services in general, and sonar specifically.  If Path is what Facebook would look like were it built from the ground up for mobile, I envision Sonar being the same for twitter.  Second, @christine:disqus herron has an interesting framework re: identity vs. persona…Finally,  it is my opinion that the goal in life is to reduce the distance between1) who you think you are2) who you want to beAny distance between the two creates friction and drag, which consume energy.  People that minimize that distance (and there for dissonance) have more energy to devote to their pursuits. This is why successful people are often the most polarizing.  While their peers are trying to figure out how to conceal their inherent contradictions/not offend anyone, they have already said their piece and moved on.How you are perceived by others is a function of the distance between the two, for each party.  When thought and action are one and the same, there is no room for interpretation.Happy Holidays everyone!Brett

  58. 't Is Tim

    Hi Fred, Inspired by people and their online identities for a long time, my recent encounter with Kaliya Hamlin and even your article (…, I’m currently working on TheWriteID. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your online profiles and identities in sync? Wouldn’t you like to add exceptions per network or service you want? For the first time you can really trust a service that gives you the overview of all the networks and services you use in an orderly fashion and puts you in control of managing them. That’s what TheWriteID will do for you.TheWriteID enables you to sync all of your profile data from one place.I have a vision (and a partial working prototype) that aggregates all your identities (profile data) in one place so…- You get an overview of all the networks and services you have signed up to,- What profile information you are sharing there,- You can manage it, we stimulate pseudonimity and anonymity,- And we aim to push it towards every networks and service that you want. Our approach is unique and revolutionary. People’s data will be encrypted by an unique key they will create and own themselves so the data can be broken up in bits and pieces and saved in a distributed way (into the cloud). TheWriteID will not know what the exact data is. Imagine people using it, imagine people suddenly can really manage their identities. Three small examples:- Relocation: You just change the entry of the particular data field and it gets pushed to all the networks or services you have signed up to. Your data will never be outdated again.- Single sign on and sign up: A browser plugin which allows you what profile data you want to share when signing up or signing in. For every network and service you decide what information they should get, allowing these to make the most relevant offers to you.- Avatars: You got new glasses or a haircut, your picture will be online everywhere instantly, but if you want to make an exception, you can. The real beauty of TheWriteID is that it gives people control over their online identities. We have just launched an awareness campaign that explains our vision (where people subscribe to it by signing a petition) and a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.I am reaching out to you because I want to change the world. I want to change the behavior of people, and therefor I need people, like you, to help me spread the word. Let me know what you think and if you like it, sign our petition ;)I hope you enjoyed X-mas and wish you all the best for 2012!Cheers,Tim

    1. fredwilson

      hi timwe have been watching others try this approach and to date nothing has taken off. we believe that the average user doesn’t care enough about this to make this a mass market offering. it seems like the successful approach would come at this problem from some other place

  59. awaldstein

    So the difference between your public identify and your public profile is..?For myself, they are the same. They are what I chose to put there and what I do by accident and just live with.In public, they are the same. In private, the separation becomes real.



  61. Otto

    Ils sont anarchistes.

  62. LE

    Doesn’t take much to desensitize people though.  A single event. I mean cocaine use didn’t stop Obama from getting elected:

  63. panterosa,

    So identity is static content, and behavior is dynamic …content in motion.

  64. Anne Libby

    Combining today’s discussion with last week’s conversation about books, I’m feeling compelled to re-read *The Great Gatsby.* (And *The Rules of Civility,* a new novel by Amor Towles, also covers some of the ground about the constructed nature of identity…)

  65. awaldstein

    Thanks Anne. I’ll check out the Towles book.I don’t know whether rereading The Great Gatsby is in my near future.