For some time now, we’ve all been leaving digital mouse droppings all over the place as we wander around the web. And people have gotten good at analysing what the droppings mean. What you “touched”. When. For how long.
Sometimes this information is actually made available to others, particularly to people who created the digital social object that you touched.
Most of the time the information presented, usually metadata, is anonymised. So I can see how many views a flickr photograph has had, but I can’t tell who did the viewing. This is common practice for many photo sites. Visitor numbers are regularly collected and published in relatively small grain; for example, you can check the number of views, and for that matter the number of watchers, by page in Wikipedia. All very useful and all very anonymous.
But sometimes it is not. Especially when you get the chance to vote or show liking or dislike. So I get told how many people liked a particular post I wrote, when the post is fed via friendfeed and transforms into a facebook note. And I can even find out who did the liking.
When I move to somewhere like LinkedIn, I can see how many times my profile appeared in a search; I can see how many people looked at me; I get to know something about the lookers; sometimes I can even see the name, rank and serial number of the looker.
We now share many things via tools like twitter; what we see, what we read, what we listen to, where we eat, who we spend time with, our likes and dislikes. And for the most part this is useful.
As lifestreaming and the provision of such ambient information evolves further, we will evolve tools that can be used to adjust the information where there is palpable error. Like when I forget to sign out of last.fm and my daughter decides to use my Mac; suddenly I get transformed into someone that listens to High School Musical betwixt and between the Allman Brothers and John Mayall. Or when you use my Amazon account to buy a Christmas present for a sainted dowager aunt.
The ability to correct palpable errors is important; and, because it is understandable, people will come up with the right tools.
Me, I am intrigued by something else. The need to declare intent. In chess, a player declares ” j’adoube ” or “I adjust” in order to signal that he is just adjusting the position of a piece, not moving it.
When a colleague tends to fill in expenses once every three months, and suddenly starts filling them in every week, there is a very good chance that he’s planning to jump ship. Reduction in expense-filling delay is usually a good leading indicator for the arabesque out of an institution.
A more common leading indicator is the polishing up of your CV. So now let’s get on to LinkedIn. Today, if I go and edit my profile, just for the heck of it, the act of CV sprucing-up will be interpreted as a leaving signal.
Even if the intent were to be different.
Which made me think. Maybe we need to have a j’adoube for our digital footprints, a way of signalling innocent intent.