I’ve been learning about, thinking about, and talking about identity and reputation for some time now and only recently hit upon a comfortable metaphor whose analogy seems to extend far enough in all the needed directions. And it’s geeky, so you know I’m pleased.

Consider yourself a planet at the center of your own universe. It is, after all, all about you. You’re located at some unique, identifiable place such that anyone given that location will find you and know it’s you (e.g. OpenID). Arrayed about you are many other celestial bodies, some of which are in tight or loose orbit of you (family, friends, colleagues, etc.), many of which have occasionally tangential orbits (acquaintances); mapping your galaxy is the job of the social graph.

There are also stars of various (possibly variable) brightness, as well as comets which look a lot like a variable star but occasionally pass very close, increasing their brilliance. Not to mention novas, supernovas, black holes, etc. Yeah, I like this metaphor.

But let’s ignore the galaxy for a moment and focus on the planet-that-is-you (I said it’s all about you, right?). We can never see all of you at once; at best, we get half. You’ve got terrain — places you’re higher, deeper, broader, narrower than others. You’ve got mysteries, regions no one’s ever seen or documented*. Weather frequently distorts or obscures visibility. There’s some periodic cycle you observe.

Okay enough metaphorical fun. What can we infer from this model and knowledge of our own globe? Here’s a couple; I’m sure that more will emerge.

1. No perspective is ever complete ; it’s only by observing over time we can begin to get a complete picture. Even then, there’s no map which documents the terrain completely and accurately. That’s usually due to cartographic (e.g. Mercator vs. Polar projection) or political biases (e.g. Greenland is icy, Iceland is green)

2. Certain perspectives are valuable in certain contexts and valueless in others. The WOUB Weather Man is very interested in one particular perspective; his interest wanes inversely to how congruent any other view is.

I’m going to have fun with this metaphor. I hope you’ll enjoy the ride.

* Rule 1: Don’t Visualize. Rule 2: No, Really, DON’T VISUALIZE. If you break the rules, you suffer the consequences.

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08 October 2007