The PhoneBoy Blog


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Reducing My Identities

A few days ago, I wrote a piece that was in response to Alec Saunders post on Presence 2.0. The nucleus for this post came from this passage that a few people have quoted since then:

The problem I have isn’t a presence problem, it’s an identity problem. I have too many identities! I know a larger subset of people that have that problem rather than a “presence management” problem. And I think I have a solution: a single identity for all networks.

Since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, the only way I can get a handle on this is to reduce the number of identities I have, or at least reduce the number of identities I use. The question becomes: how do I choose which identities to continue using? It’s pretty simple, really: which identities provide the most value to me? For the sake of argument, I will limit this discussion to personal ones–business ones will need to stay put for the foreseeable future.

I have IM/Voice/Video accounts on:

  • AIM
  • ICQ (really AIM these days)
  • Yahoo
  • MSN (2 accounts)
  • Jabber
  • GTalk
  • Skype
  • Gizmo Project
  • SightSpeed
  • Twitter
  • And probably others

The first fix services I can consolidate via Adium or GAIM, but I’ve ultimately decided that none of those identities provide too much value. There are a few people that communicate via these channels, but generally speaking, they have other ways to reach me. With the exception of Jabber and GTalk, these are all walled gardens that, despite agreements to the contrary, do not interoperate enough. My Jabber and GTalk addresses aren’t well known and aren’t used by enough people. Besides, they can easily change their pointer to my Gizmo Project address.

Skype is starting to have decreasing interest for me. It too is a walled garden, but there is a certain critical mass that is still there. It’s still a widely used VoIP program, so I will need to keep it around for the foreseeable future. I am on the fence as to whether or not I will spend the money for the $14.95 “unlimited US/Canada calls” deal they are selling. Depends on whether or not that includes “forwarded” calls. May get it anyway “just to have it” but I don’t see myself using it all that much.

Gizmo Project is a reasonable voice/IM client. It uses SIP for Voice and Jabber for IM. Not only do they deploy open standards, they also accept communication via anything that communicates to those standards. The IM client could use some work. I could just use Adium for the Jabber portion and use my Nokia N80i for the voice portion. That’s the beautiful thing about using Open Standards–don’t like the client? Change it!

The reason to keep SightSpeed is because their video quality rocks. It provides a value that none of the other tools do. When they beef up their IM support, I might also keep it on more often. Right now, I just use it for pre-arranged video calls and the occasional video blog.Twitter is something that’s relatively new. The value it provides to me is that I can use it from anywhere–web, IM, or SMS. It’s not “presence.” It is a nice way to let people know what I’m doing and check in on and with my peeps. It’s asynchronous, and I believe there is some value in that asynchronicity. I can do Twitter whenever I want. And because of how I have it set up on my Nokia N80i, it’s not intrusive unless someone wants to message me directly. Even then, it takes two clicks on my phone to make it less so.

One other thing that helps tie some of these loose ends together is GrandCentral. That “one number” thing sounds really good right about now. It provides a front-end for many of the phone services I use–even more of them when they support calling SIP URLs. I do wish they had a “local” number to me, but there are ways of working around that as well.

If a new tool comes along that adds tremendous value–more than just another avenue for someone to reach me–and it plays nice with what I have (i.e. uses open standards), I’ll consider adding it to my identity horde. Otherwise, I’m done with it. I got business to do and a life to lead.


C-List #Cybersecurity Celebrity, Podcaster, #noagenda Producer, Frequenter of shiny metal tubes, Expressor of personal opinions, and of course, a coffee achiever.