Guardians of the Galaxy


When I first heard our 70+ year old neighbor remark that GOTG was the most entertaining movie she’d she’s seen in years, I knew I had to go. And within the first two minutes I realized why.

This is not another Star Wars. Or Star Trek. It takes cheekiness to a new level. But it’s a great level.

This new franchise is going to live long and prosper.

Posted in Movies | Leave a comment

Acupuncture for Oso

oso-supportIt’s all but impossible to relate to the scope of the destruction from the mudslide last week outside Oso, only an hour to the north of our house in Seattle. But Bill Wulsin (whose sister Virginia Lee sent me a guest post about Ukraine two weeks ago) just emailed me that he’s been part of the Acupuncture for Oso team that has come together to help the town and the emergency rescue personnel.

It’s just one way to help, but that’s how we get through these things. Please find yours.

Posted in Community Service, General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


ImageMy wife was reluctant to see Her because she thought it might simply be a quirky story that had garnered favor with the Hollywood in-crowd.

I convinced her to go only after Spike Jonze won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

I was right. In my personal opinion, Spike definitely deserved it because Her is a sci-fi epic poem—a true love story crafted directly from a writer’s hands and heart. You can almost see Spike having a dialog in his writing head with…Her.

And Joaquin Phoenix lives the role so completely you can’t get between him and…Her.

See it with an open mind and an open heart.

Posted in General, Movies | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Understanding Ukraine

[At a friend’s 60th birthday party last weekend, I met his sister Virginia Lee who had been in the Peace Corps in Ukraine 5 years ago. I asked her about the unfolding situation there, and her answer so enlightened me that I suggested she write it down. She asked me to post it because she didn’t have a blog. I was happy to because this is the kind of first-person truth about cultures around the globe that we should be helping each other discover. =Drummond]

Understanding Ukraine

ukrainePeople have been fighting over Ukraine for centuries. As a prime piece of real estate, it is strategically located between the Carpathian Mountains (and Europe) to the west, with the Black Sea (and access to the Mediterranean) to the south—and Russia on its northern & eastern borders. Not to mention that Ukraine has some of the most fertile soil in the world where sunflowers grow six feet high and heirloom tomatoes are the size of grapefruits.

Literally, “Ukraine” means “borderland,” which has been the perennially shifting border between east and west, Russia and Europe, however you want to draw the line. The Dnipro (or Dnieper) River flows right down the middle of Ukraine—through the heart of Kyiv actually—essentially separating east and west. To the credit of most Ukrainians, they embrace both cultures and both languages, as if their mother is European and their father is Russian. How can you choose between two parents? In any given Ukrainian city, you will find a Catholic church on one side of the street and an Orthodox church on the other side, with a Jewish synagogue either boarded up or hidden somewhere down the block.

So this tug of war between east and west is nothing new. What is new is that the Ukrainians finally have a chance to run their own country without the Lithuanians, Mongolians, Ottoman Turks, Poles or Russians telling them what to do, as has been the case for the past 1000 years. And this is the essence of the recent revolution in Maidan in Kyiv. In Ukrainian, it’s called “Maidan Nezolejnosti” and in English it’s “Independence Square,” which is where everyday Ukrainians have risked their lives to stand for freedom—the kind that we Americans take for granted.

I have learned most of this from my Ukrainian friends who I met during my recent Peace Corps service in Ukraine from 2007-09. I am in touch with them regularly, and what frustrates them most about the current situation is how their fight for freedom and independence has been co-opted by the media. To them, the real story is getting rid of Yanukovich, a Mafioso president steeped in corruption who bankrupted their country and ruined their economy. And then the focus shifted to the issue of Russians & Crimeans—a showdown between east and west and a rerun of the same old story, whose most recent version in history was the Cold War.

You can’t really blame Putin for seizing this golden opportunity to gain world attention, prove himself as a strong leader to his Russian following—and grab a prime piece of real estate in the process. Having visited Crimea several times during my Peace Corps service, I came away with the distinct impression that Crimea is both beautiful and dangerous, like a Russian hooker, who will not hesitate to betray (and exploit) you if you are not Russian. Regrettably, Ukraine has had to let Crimea go back to her lover.

I pray that the rest of the world will be there to help Ukraine heal her broken heart and rebuild her life. And not relive the horrors of Stalin and the Soviet era as well as the WW2 occupation of Hitler—and all the geo-political struggles that have been played out on the battleground of her sacred territory—all in the name of defining that elusive boundary between east and west. Perhaps it is Ukraine’s fate to be that borderland, so please let’s allow her the peace she deserves.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

The Seattle Seahawks Leave No Doubt

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks

After two weeks of reading about the NFL’s #1 all-time offense playing the #1 defense, my favorite stat from the Super Bowl was:

Denver 8 – Seattle Defense 8

It simply leaves no doubt.

Posted in General | 1 Comment

On Time

on-timeAlthough I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I am a fan of continuous improvement or Kaizen (taught to me by Vince Caluori, who spent 30+ years practicing it at Boeing). So I look at the holidays as a chance to make those small adjustments than can make a big difference.

This year mine is simple: be on time. For as many calls and meetings and deadlines as possible.

Why has this been hard for me? Because I like to give each person and each matter the attention and focus it really deserves. It’s the only way I’ve found to ensure quality.

So what do you do when the quantity of calls and meetings and deadlines rises past the drowning point?

My answer in the past has been to simply keep pushing things back—getting progressively later for every commitment of the day, and staying up far too late at night.

In 2014 that’s not going to work. We’re launching Respect Network this year, and as CEO it’s ultimately my responsibility to coordinate what must be done for it to be successful.

And to do that I must stay healthy and fresh and focused.

And to do that, I’m going to have to stay on time. I will have to leave some calls and meetings before discussions and decisions are complete—confident that the right people will do the right thing to complete them.

So if you are on a call or in a meeting with me this year, I will do my best to let you know up front when my next commitment is, and I will remind you again at least 5 minutes before we reach it. So please don’t be offended when I drop off the call or leave the meeting in order to be on time for the next one.

Make it your job to make sure you get from me what you need in the time allotted. And I’ll do my best to make sure I get it to you in within that time.

Posted in General | Leave a comment


Gravity_PosterIt’s hard for a major Hollywood film with big stars and flashy trailers not to over-telegraph the story and under-perform the hype.

Gravity does not fit that mold.

In fact, it does not fit any mold. It is breathtakingly original on multiple dimensions—the setting, the scope of the story, the stunning visuals, in fact the very way in which it is filmed (it is going to clean up on the technical awards at the Academy this year, case closed right now). And even what it wrings out of actors we think we know well.

See it. The night sky will never look the same to you again.


Posted in Movies | 1 Comment

Another Post about Vacation Mind (and Email Sabbaticals)

at-the-beachEvery year I come back from vacation wanting to doing another post to remind myself just how essential they are. Not just to one’s mental health and well being. But to one’s productivity, however you measure it.

In short, vacations are good for work. Period.

But here’s another lesson I learned this year: as I’ve long suspected, you can do as this BBC article suggests and simply ignore all the emails you get while on holiday. Call it an email sabbatical.

It really is that simple. Email is asynchronous communication. Life moves on while you are on vacation. So move with it.

Just ignore any email sent during your vacation, and re-engage with your email stream when you return exactly like you re-engage in your email stream every morning.

If that sounds preposterous, just try it once. That’s exactly what I did this year, and I didn’t miss a beat. Not a single one.

All I missed was the stress of feeling like I had to catch up with a week’s worth of email.

And it wouldn’t matter if it was two weeks. Or three. Or a month. Or two months.

I’m never going to stress about vacation email again. The important messages will find me. And in the meantime, the peace of mind is worth more to me—and my company—than all the email in the world.

Posted in Creativity, Email, vacations | Tagged | Leave a comment

What Was Google Thinking??? (A Rant about the Gmail Editing Toolbar)

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for 6+ months now. Since it’s a sunny Sunday morning in Seattle before I leave on a week’s vacation, I’m finally letting loose.

Here’s the bee in my summer bonnet (which has stung me enough times to write this post about it). For better or worse, I’ve been using Gmail as my primary email client for several years now (after being convinced by Adam Engst at TidBITs) and I’m about 90% happy with it. It has it’s share of quirks and bugs, but it also has awesome features like labels (not folders) and conversations (automatic thread tracking) that revolutionized how I manage email. And last fall they changed the main editing window to a new format that fixed several things  that made me even happier with it.

Except for one. One design decision that has me scratching my head so hard each time I have to use it I’ve just about dug a rut above my right ear.

It takes just a few pictures to explain. First, here’s a shot of the toolbar that now appears at the bottom left corner of a GMail email editing window.


One thing I immediately liked about this change was the big blue Send button which is always in the same place  (a big improvement over the previous interface where you often had to scroll to find it and could easily mistake it for another button).

And with just three other buttons, it does look wonderfully clean and “streamlined”, which is what I understand Google is trying to achieve across all it’s products.

But that’s where the rub meets the road. Because guess what those three buttons do?

The A Button

The first button is the “shortcut” for bringing up the text formatting toolbar. In other words, when you click it, you get this:


Great. Good job, Google. Now you just added an extra click  EVERY TIME I WANT TO ADD  TEXT FORMATTING TO AN EMAIL MESSAGE. Except if I want use a shortcut key. But—quick—who can remember the GMail shortcut keys for…

  • A bulleted list?
  • A numbered list?
  • An indent?

What’s worse, there ARE no shortcut keys for changing text color or background color—something I frequently do in email to highlight important text.

Which means I end out clicking this button almost every email I write. The only justification I have been able dream up for this bizarre design decision is that Google wanted the editing toolbar to look the same on all devices, and the text formatting toolbar was too big to fit all on one line on a smartphone.

But why penalize everyone who uses Gmail 90% of the time on a giant monitor like I do? With all the other Javascript wizardry in Gmail, why not just detect the window size and auto-expand the toolbar whenever there’s enough room?

Okay, so that’s bad enough. But it gets worse.

The Paperclip Icon

The second button is, together with the Send button, the other thing Google got right here. It’s the attachment icon. One click to add an attachment to your email. Works the same way all the time. Thank you.

Only ironic as hell because now Gmail supports drag-n-drop attachments. Just pick a file in the Finder, drag it anywhere over the body of the message, and let go. So I can barely remember the last time I used this button.

The Plus Button

Now we finally reach the main subject of this rant. The third button, the plus button, is…what?


Usually the + button means you are going to add something. What would you add to an email message? An attachment? But wait, isn’t that what the paperclip icon right next to it is for??

So try clicking the button and—whoa, this is really interesting—YOU CAN’T CLICK THE BUTTON! Because as soon as you hover over it, you get this:


The + button disappears and expands out into…FIVE MORE BUTTONS.

Seriously, Google: five more buttons? You want to force us to do a hover—not even a click—for FIVE MORE BUTTONS??

That might be fine if these were the “five buttons you’re never gonna use for the rest of your life”. In fact, four of these buttons just might meet that test:

  1. The Google Drive button is handy but you can also just cut-and-paste any Google Drive URL and Gmail already recognizes it as a Google Drive document.
  2. Same with Photos—much easier to just drag-n-drop it into the message.
  3. Emoticons DESERVE to be hidden away.
  4. The Calendar Invitation button lets you issue a calendar invite directly from your Gmail. Seems like a good idea, right? But: a) it only works with GCal; b) there’s already a way to issue an invite directly in GCal; and c) you always have to check your GCal calendar first anyway. So why would anyone do it here?

But—and this is a huge BUT— ONE of those five buttons absolutely DOES NOT meet that test.

The &^%$#@! Missing Link Icon

That’s right. The link icon.


The button you need every single time you want to turn email text into a link. Unless you remember the shortcut (quick—know that it is, right? Command+K for Mac users).

But keyboard shortcuts are not always a “shortcut”. To wit, my normal pattern is to go back and add links to an email message AFTER I’ve written it. When I’m doing my editing pass. WITH MY MOUSE. When my hands are NOT ON THE KEYBOARD. So it would be soooo easy to just CLICK AN ICON.

An icon that the Google designers, in all their infinite wisdom at a company that MAKES BILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR OFF OF WEB LINKS, decided to hide behind another icon THAT YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY CLICK but instead have to HOVER JUST RIGHT so you can SEE THE REAL ICON THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE &^#%$# TOOLBAR IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!

Okay. There. Rant done. I feel better already. In fact, so good that I think I’ll go take a week’s vacation.

And my dream is that when I get back, in the infinite magic of cloud computing, some Google designer would have realized (or seen 100,000 tweets suggesting that they realize) how simple it would be to put the link icon permanently on the toolbar right next to (or even in place of) the almost-never-used Attachment icon.

And the next time I open up GMail—voila—there it would be, fixed.

(I can dream, can’t I?)

Posted in Customer Service, General, Usability | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Way, Way Back

The_Way,_Way_Back_PosterTime’s so tight these days (putting my boys through college and working on Respect Network) that I only have time to blog about the really special movies.

The Way, Way Back is one of them. My wife and I saw it last night in a nearly empty theatre after only one friend had mentioned it to us, so I was a little skeptical going in. But we chose it because:

  • I love Steve Carell, especially in sharp character roles like the one he played in Crazy Stupid Love.
  • Ditto for Toni Collette, if not more so—Little Miss Sunshine is still my all-time favorite comedy.
  • It was the only movie playing at our favorite local theatre that wasn’t all comic book heros and explosions.

What I didn’t realized is that it was written and directed by two of the three writers who earned an Academy Award for their adaptation of The Descendants. Or that they act in the film too (you’ll never guess who they are).

While it covers familiar coming-of-age territory, scene after scene had a sharpness and surety of tone that quickly won me over. And rather than land you in a closing shower of syrup, it twists into one of the most satisfying endings I’ve seen in years—one that drew an unexpected tear and made me want to give it a standing ovation even in a nearly empty theatre.

And one more thing: they nailed the soundtrack. I’m not big on buying music but I just bought the album. I hope it keeps the film with me for a way, way long time.

Posted in Movies | Tagged , | Leave a comment

T.Rob and I Have Another Vulcan Mind Meld and This Time I Didn’t Even Know It

mind-meldSo if you like that wild Vulcan mind-meld stuff (that Zachary Quinto now does as well as Leonard Nimoy did—both are stellar in the latest Star Trek), you’ll love this. Yesterday on my new Respect Network blog I did a post called Internet of Things, Meet the Internet of People. It was inspired by a Techcrunch story about how fast the IoT is heating up. My counterpoint was that if you think the IoT is cool, wait until it connects with the IoP.

The thrust of my enthusiasm for this topic was all the energy around personal clouds at the Internet Identity Workshop three weeks ago in Mountain View. It was like a tsunami rolling through the conference: the collective realization that individuals having their own personal, portable, lifetime “piece of the cloud” under their exclusive control is going to be as revolutionary as the personal computer.

One of the most articulate voices in the conversation was T.Rob, who brings his hard-fought wisdom about security, networking, pub/sub messaging (MQTT), and other highly relevant topics squarely to the intersection of IoT and IoP. In fact my last blog post, titled T.Rob Wyatt Explains the Respect Trust Framework (And May Not Even Know It), is about how perfectly one of his blog posts described the purpose of the Respect Trust Framework, the legal basis for the Respect Network as a personal cloud network.

In any case, in the IIW sessions I attended with T.Rob it was patently obvious why he recently made the jump from his longtime position on IBM’s messaging security team to his own full-time consulting  business called IoPT Consulting. But there was so much going on at IIW that I never got the chance to ask him: What does IoPT stand for, anyway?

So imagine my surprise when, after my blot post about why the IoT needs the IoP, T.Rob writes:

Nice post, Drummond! Did we do the Vulcan mind meld at IIW and I didn’t realize it? The “IoPT” in IoPT Consulting stands for “Internet of People & Things.”


Doh! A second Vulcan mind meld and this time I was the one who didn’t even realize it.

Congrats on a cool name, T.Rob, and I look forward more than ever to working with you to help bring the IoP and IoT together in a giant win/win for humanity.

Posted in Blogging, Internet of People, Internet of Things, Personal Cloud, Respect Network, Respect Trust Framework | Tagged , | Leave a comment

T.Rob Wyatt Explains the Respect Trust Framework (and May Not Even Know It)

How to explain how we got here?

  1. I wrote a blog post called Please Send Wicked Simple Email inspired by the jaw-dropping great messages T.Rob Wyatt was sending to the VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) and personal cloud mailing lists. I lobbied for T.Rob’s thoughts to be going onto his excellent blog for easier & longer term sharing.
  2. Today T.Rob does just that and puts up a killer blog post about why we need VRM from a privacy and personal data rights standpoint that argues the case as strongly as anything since John Kelly’s killer talk on personal clouds at Gartner Symposium or Doc Searls book The Intention Economy.
  3. I read T.Rob’s post and realize he’s nailed it so well that he explains exactly why we needed to define the Respect Trust Framework before we could build the Respect Network.

Here is the paragraph where T.Rob nails it:

VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management, is a new approach to conducting business in which the missing physical constraints [for protecting privacy and personal data] have been replaced by technological and policy constraints that restore the balance of power between individuals and their vendors, and perhaps to some extent also their governments.

Now read this purpose statement from the first line of the Respect Trust Framework:

The purpose of the Respect Trust Framework is to define a simple set of principles and rules to which all Members of a digital trust network agree so that they may share identity and personal data with greater confidence that it will be protected and only used as authorized.

Separated at birth…and I don’t know if T.Rob has even seen the Respect Trust Framework.

genieGiven the depth of his knowledge and research, I wouldn’t be surprised—I just haven’t heard him mention it yet. But no matter—he came to exactly the same conclusion as those of us founding the Respect Network: the privacy-invading technology genie is out of the bottle and there’s no stuffing him/her back in. So the alternative is to “restore the balance of power” a different way, with an opt-in network where everyone agrees to play by a new set of rules.

I can hardly wait to get the network fully operational—all I can say is that the 24 Respect Network Founding Partners are working like mad to get there. If you want an in-depth progress report, come see us at the next Internet Identity Workshop coming up in Mountain View May 7-9.

Posted in Blogging, Digital rights, Events, Identity Rights Agreements, Respect Network, Respect Trust Framework, VRM | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Please Send Wicked Simple Email

no-emailMy day job right now involves developing newer, smarter forms of Internet messaging. But until that’s available (stay tuned), we’re still stuck with email. After 20 years of averaging a third of every working day doing email, I realized I could save hundreds of hours a year—and collectively we could save hundreds of millions of hours a year—by just writing wicked simple email. Here’s how:

#1: Treat the Subject Line as a Tweet

Despite all it’s faults, Twitter has taught the importance of brevity. In particular, the 140 character limit has forced us to figure out how to filter messages in that short space. Apply these learnings to email!

  1. If you want a particular person to read/respond to a particular email, put his/her name directly in the subject line—just like a Twitter @reply.
  2. If you want to signal that an email is about a particular topic, put a #hashtag in the subject line (especially helpful for mailing lists).
  3. If you want to signal that an email is time-sensitive, put the date/time requirement in the subject line.

#2: No Sigs

Over the last year, I began dropping my sig on more and more of my emails, and I noticed others doing it too. I suspect it’s spreading from Facebook messaging, where no one uses a sig. In any case, here’s why it’s a good idea:

  1. Unless you have your sig auto-attached to every message (a stupendously bad idea—please stop immediately), it saves at least a few keystrokes every email even if all you’re adding is your first name or initials.
  2. For 99% of the messages you send, it’s extraneous anyway. Pure dead weight. Your recipients know who you are or can easily find out.
  3. Eliminating sigs makes messages less formal, more conversational, and more immediate—all encouraging them to stay short and lightweight.
  4. In many cases it’s not even needed to signal the end of your message. If yours is the first message in a thead, just stop when you are done. If you are replying inline (below), just add your replies and delete the rest of the message.
  5. Most importantly, it interrupts the flow of inline replies. Read on….

#3: Reply Inline Whenever Possible

Modern email clients default to putting each reply in a thread above the previous one. Thus started the biggest time-suck in email history. Why?

  1. The context is already there in the previous message. You don’t need to repeat one word.
  2. Replies can extremely short and precise. Just add your reply at the exact point needed. Don’t wait until the end of a paragraph—or even the end of a sentence. Just pick the precise spot where you need to respond, click Enter, and type.
  3. The thread remains clear—right down to the “voice” of each sender, which can be much more important than you think.
  4. Deep threads are discouraged! Read on….

#4: Hold Deeply Threaded Conversations Elsewhere

We’ve all learned it by now: email sucks for deeply threaded conversations. It always will. So:

  1. Avoid going more than three levels deep—four at the most. Beyond that, start a new thread (following rule #1 above).
  2. Even that only works if responses stay short – preferably a few sentences.
  3. For anything else, use a real threaded conversation forum—a blog, wiki, Basecamp, social network discussion group, etc.

#5: One Screen Max

20 years has taught me one simple lesson: if it’s longer than one screen, don’t send it as an email. In fact if it takes more than a paragraph or two it probably shouldn’t be an email. Why?

  1. If it’s got that much thought in it, it should be reusable—and linkable. Email is where thoughts go to die.
  2. Longer writing should use real writing tools—headings, bulleted lists, images.
  3. People don’t like to read long emails. They want to process their email quickly to determine how to prioritize the rest of their time.

So if what you want to communicate is more than one screen, do this: type it up as blog entry, Google doc, social network group post, Basecamp post, or anywhere your recipients can read, refer, and respond to it (i.e., have that threaded conversation). Then send a short email with a link and an executive summary explaining why recipients should read it. The summary is really important—many folks get far too many links to read, so give them a few bullet points about why to read yours. And, of course, make the subject line of that email the tweet you would (or will) send to share it on Twitter.


  1. This blog post started as an email I wanted to send to members of a mailing list I’m on that’s experienced a recent sharp increase in volume. Then I applied rule #5 and here it is.
  2. The one place where it is natural to use a sig is on an introduction email, just like you would a written letter. So use it there and leave it out everywhere else.
  3. When joining a new thread, I may still add my first name as a sig at the end of my reply just for context. But in future replies it’s usually not needed.
  4. I left out one other golden rule of email—never send an emotional email—because that’s a different subject altogether. But it’s still a rule I recommend very strongly.
  5. My good friend Victor Grey adds one more tip: always assume that the recipients of your email will forward it on to anyone else that you mentioned.
  6. Another good friend Steve Greenberg suggests another guideline: Ask only one question per email.
Posted in Email, Messaging | 10 Comments

The Second Personal Cloud Meetup


[UPDATE: See the detailed writeup on this meetup (including highlights from all 7 talks) posted to the Respect Network website.]

The first Personal Cloud Meetup in San Francisco last month was so successful that the second one is upon us already. Hosted by Orange Silicon Valley, it’s next Tuesday night from 6-9PM at their offices at 60 Spear Street between Mission and Market in downtown SF.

There’s already a full lineup of speakers, including Kaliya “Identitywoman” Hamlin, Executive Director of the Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium; Miten Sampat of Neustar; T.Rob Wyatt of IBM; and Joe Johnston of Respect Network.

Respect Network CEO Gary Rowe and I will both be there, and with crowds converging for RSA next week as well, it should be a ripe opportunity for personal cloud connections.

Signup on Eventbrite.

Posted in Events, Personal Cloud, Personal Data Ecosystem | Leave a comment

The Real Killer App for Personal Clouds

safe-w-gold-barsI’ve been working for several years now on building infrastructure for personal clouds (that’s the entire goal of the Respect Network based on the Respect Trust Framework). I’ve helped design, discuss, and debate dozens of powerful new apps for personal clouds (see several that were shown at the SWIFT Digital Asset Grid session in Osaka last October). During that time I can’t count how often I’ve been asked: what will be the killer app for personal clouds?

But just in the last few weeks—since the first Personal Cloud Meetup in San Francisco last month—the answer has started screaming at me: the killer app IS the personal cloud!

What does this mean? Read this (about having all my digital gear stolen). And then this (about having Facebook access turned off). And then this (Phil Windley’s latest blog post about the Tesla car spying fiasco). And then answer me: do you have a place to safely store all of your personal and household digital assets (files, photos, receipts, contacts, calendars, financial records, medical records, product usage data, etc.) where you know:

  1. They will always be safe, even if your house burns down or you lose all your devices?
  2. You, your spouse, or your family’s access to them cannot be turned off by a third-party service provider because of its own terms-of-service provisions?
  3. If you permission apps or services to store data there, you alone will control the rights to access and share that data (like you do on your own computer)?
  4. You can share any of your digital assets with any party you want on your own terms?
  5. All of your personal digital assets are all fully portable, and ideally mirrored across multiple independent service providers?

If your answer is yes, please tell me more. If your answer is no, now you know why the personal cloud—a truly PERSONAL cloud that can deliver all of the above— is the killer app.

Posted in Data Portability, Digital rights, Personal Cloud, Privacy, Respect Network, Respect Trust Framework | 2 Comments

Book as API: A Perfect Job for XDI

alistair-croll-book-as-api-headshotsWhen we first started working on XDI at OASIS in 2004, the goal was a standard format and protocol for data sharing. We were thinking mostly about the data that was already in databases and other conventional data sources. But now that “everything is turning into data”, the problem space to which XDI applies keeps growing wider.

My latest favorite example is the Book as API post from Alistair Croll’s Solve for Interesting blog. It’s about a talk he and Hugh McGuire gave at O’Reilly’s Tools Of Change conference about the future of the book. It describes how havng an API can unlock the value of the intellectual energy in every book the same way a user interface unlocks the power of a software program.

Read it and you will never look at a book the same way again.

In my case, reading this post through my XDI lens, I saw something even deeper: the future format of books. It starts with the point Hugh makes on slide 97 of his and Alistair’s 100 slide presentation:

Books are made of stuff that can be named.

Hugh then goes on to say in slide 98:

If you name your stuff in HTML (while indexing!), then we can (easily) build new uses/interfaces for our books…

Of course he’s right. The “indexing” Hugh refers to is semantic HTML as explained earlier in his presentation (slides 59-73). But if you “name your stuff” in XDI, then it’s not just semantically understandable, the book and all its contents are globally addressable and composable and semantically reusable (subject to the relevant XDI link contracts) anywhere else it can provide value.

Alistair ends his post:

The killer feature of the book [of the future] is it’s API.

I would go a step further: the killer feature of the book of the future is that it’s an XDI graph.

Posted in Digital rights, XDI | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Trillions – The Video


(Update 2013-02-12: I’m halfway through the book now and it’s only getting better.)

Setting a new precedent here – blogging about a book even before I’ve finished reading the first chapter. But I’m reading Trillions at the recommendation of several close friends in the industry (Phil WindleyPeter Vander Auwera) who believe it’s highly relevant to where we are going with personal clouds and XDI. And just the introduction makes so much sense that I know I’m going to savor every chapter.

If you want to see why, just watch this brilliant 3-minute video from MAYA, the company behind the book.

Posted in Dataweb, Genius, Personal Cloud, XDI | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Anil John’s Crystal Clear Thinking about Identities, Attributes, Tokens, and Credentials

After a decade in digital identity, one of my overwhelming takeaways is that the subjects at the very heart of the field — identities, attributes, tokens, credentials — are an order of magnitude (at least) more complex than they appear to the layman.

The closest analogy is the atom — what seems so simple at a conceptual level turns out to have oceans of complexity swirling beneath it when you ask the devil for the details.

So in this field I especially prize clear thinking and modeling (I would go so far as saying that XDI would be impossible without it.)

For a shining example, look no further than Anil John’s new blog entry, A Model for Separating Token and Attribute Manager Functions. I especially like how the model reveals key differences between four different real world identity systems, including the currently popular social login model.

[Update: for the ideas leading to his model, Anil credits Andrew Hughes, Ken Dagg, David Wasley and Colin Soutar from the Kantara Identity Assurance Working Group.]

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KRL and XDI: Digital Chocolate and Peanut Butter

reesesI’ve been working with Phil Windley on key issues in digital identity and trust networks for a long time now, and particularly closely in the past year since Kynetx became one of the first Founding Partners of the Respect Network.

But rarely have I seen technologies that work so well together as KRL and XDI. Besides their uncanny synergy in personal cloud architecture, recently Phil has done two blog posts about PDOs (“persistent data objects”):

As I read each of these points, every place I see the term “PDO” I read “XDI graph”. XDI is a way to have universal interoperability and portability of PDOs. (This doesn’t mean that every PDO must use XDI, just that XDI is a way to have widely interoperable PDOs.)

That immediately explains the synergy between XDI and KRL: as a rules language and CloudOS, KRL provides a way to write programs to work with PDOs anywhere in the cloud, and XDI is a way to address, serialize, and exchange those PDOs.

If you start from a conventional object-oriented perspective (hmmm, I remember back when object orientation was the radical new perspective 😉 ), here’s another way to think about it: if XDI provides interoperable data abstraction, KRL provides interoperable method abstraction.

In other words, KRL provides a rules-based mechanism that enables a developer to apply a method (“action”) to any PDO that satisfies the necessary conditions (“event”) to fire that method.

No wonder KRL and XDI are digital chocolate and peanut butter.

Posted in KRL, Personal Cloud, Respect Network, Rules, XDI | 4 Comments

The Difference Between a Personal Cloud and a Personal Data Vault

In August I did a short post sharing an insight about what cleanly distinguishes a personal cloud from what the VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) community has long called a personal data store or PDS. A few years ago it appeared the popular name for a PDS might end out being a personal data locker. However recent press coverage, including a New York Times article this weekend, has used a different term: personal data vault.

So I’m updating the diagram I posted in August just to make sure it’s still clear: a personal cloud is to a personal data vault what a personal computer is to a file system.


In other words, while logical aggregation and secure sharing of your personal data is important — just as file management is important to a personal computer operating system — it is vastly more useful if you can run trusted applications to create, manage, and use that data. That’s what a personal cloud does. It’s an operating system for a virtual computer in the cloud, and the apps it runs communicate cloud-to-cloud to do tasks that are not feasible with either personal computers or smart phones — most importantly, to manage communications via personal channels (a whole ‘nother topic — read the paper for the full scoop).

To repeat one other key point from the earlier post, the other concern I have about either the term “personal data vault” or “personal data store” is that it gives the perception that all the personal data you may aggregate and store lives in one location. That’s neither practical nor desirable. What you really want is a single point of control — a secure dashboard — for your personal data no matter where it may be stored, either on your local devices or on the Web (your bank, your doctor, your insurance company, your car dealer, your school). Yes, in some cases you will want your personal cloud to store a backup of data that lives elsewhere, but that doesn’t need to apply to all data you touch.

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