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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Thursday, April 19, 2018

Can YOU choose how your personal data is used?

Privacy, Social Media
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, April 12, 2018
11:47 am

This little exchange highlights the essence of an individual’s right to privacy – Individuals should have control over how their personal data is used. Do you have control?  Should you?

If you can’t see the video, you can access it on YouTube here.


Superbowl Social Media Score: Twitter 26, Facebook 4

Social Media
Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
5:07 pm

A interesting article published Sunday in Marketing Land was entitled, “Game Over: Twitter Mentioned In 50% Of Super Bowl Commercials, Facebook Only 8%, Google+ Shut Out.”  According to the article,

Twitter was mentioned in 26 of 52 national TV commercials — that’s 50 percent of the spots that aired during CBS’ game coverage. Facebook was mentioned in only four of those commercials — about eight percent. Google+, which is reportedly the No. 2 social network in the world, wasn’t mentioned at all.


At first blush, it would seem that Twitter might be gaining on Facebook in popularity.  However, I think another reality is at play here.  Twitter is really a broadcast medium – ideally suited to quick 30 second commercials of the Superbowl variety.  Plus, hashtags are easy for advertisers tto include in a commercial and easy for readers to reference after the fact.

Facebook is more of a relationship medium – better suited to conversations among people and without the relative ease of using hashtags.

But this is interesting just the same.  Marketing experts and wannabees will be debating over this for months.  Will Facebook start supporting hashtags in some interesting way?

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Facebook – My Identity Arbiter?

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, December 13, 2012
8:54 pm


  • a person empowered to decide matters at issue; judge; umpire
  • a person who has the sole or absolute power of judging or determining.

When I read the recent Computerworld article, “Facebook: The new arbiter of enterprise identity” this morning. I didn’t quite know what Arbiter meant, so I looked it up.

Robert Mitchell commenced his article by stating:

Today Facebook knows your identity. Tomorrow Facebook may very well be your identity. Before long, enterprise identity and access management may key off of social media identities rather than remaining an island unto itself. Are you prepared? That’s the message that Gartner analyst Earl Perkins passed on to attendees at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference last month.

I know I’m not ready, and highly doubt my employer is ready to cede “absolute power of judging or determining” to Facebook or any other independent entity.  We have a long way to go before any corporation in its right mind would trust Facebook or any other popular social media site to authoritatively vouch for the identities of their employees.

I agree with Jackson Shaw’s observation in his comment to the article:

… until there is some sort of formalized identity verification done around Facebook it will be difficult for an enterprise to simply accept a Facebook credential. Is that Facebook user really me? Also, what about stronger password policies (length of password, change period, complexity, use of strong two-factor authentication) and better security generally for Facebook? There needs to be more enterprise security built into Facebook before it can ever be used by an enterprise.

So, let’s wait and see.  I think it will be a long time before Facebook or any other identity provider supplants the core identity management infrastructure of major enterprises.  Complement, certainly.  Replace?  It will take a while.



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Facebook vs. Google Advertising – My 2 Cents

Social Media
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
10:47 pm

Facebook vs. GoogleMuch has been said recently (here, here and here, for example) about whether Facebook can overtake Google as the market leader in online adversting. I am certainly not an advertising guru, but from the online consumer cheap seats I occupy, some things seem pretty clear to me.

When I visit Google – I am searching for something. I type in a keyword or two and expect results that are relevant to my search. Both the regular search results and the ads presented to me are often helpful – directly in line with what I am seeking. The direct connection between my current frame of mind and ads presented to me is very obvious.

On the other hand, when I visit Facebook, I am seeking to connect with people I know, hoping to see interesting content they have posted and offering content and commentary of my own. Searching for items I may be willing to buy is usually the farthest thing from my mind. Facebook does a terrible job of assessing my current context and interests before presenting ads to me.

Google ads are like various brands of breakfast cereal that are presented to me when I purposely visit the cereal aisle in a grocery store.  Because I have an  active intent to buy cereal, the Google ads, like cereal choices, are usually very relevant to my search and a natural part of my expected user experience.

Facebook ads, on the other hand, are like the obnoxious array of items stuffed into the long aisle I must endure before reaching a KMart checkout counter. Lots of stuff, mostly terribly irrelevant, screaming “buy me!”

Just like KMart will never get rich from my paltry purchases from their checkout aisles, Facebook will never get rich from me responding to Facebook ads in their current form. Facebook must somehow do a much, much better job of understanding my current frame of mind and presenting relevant ads, or they will wither and die as an advertising medium.

What is more … if Facebook doesn’t fix the irrelevant, obnoxious way they present ads to me, I might just get fed up and quit visiting Facebook, much like I rarely visit KMart any more.

In my humble opinion …

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GM Not Simply Following the Herd

Social Media
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, May 18, 2012
2:15 pm

Herd MentalityEarlier this week, just days before Facebook’s IPO would launch, GM announced that it was pulling its advertising campaigns from Facebook.  I was intrigued to learn today that GM is also dropping its Superbowl ads.  

I’m not an advertising expert by any means, but I applaud GM for not just following the herd. My post yesterday implied that too many of us, particularly in our use of social media, are just like lemmings, mindlessly following each other off the proverbial cliff.  It is refreshing to see a company, particularly one as big and stodgy as GM, defy the herd mentality and chart a separate course.

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Are We Social Lemmings?

Social Media
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, May 17, 2012
1:57 pm

On the eve of Facebook’s big IPO, maybe this Nonsequitur view of things is appropriate …


Fellow Facebook Users: We are the product Zuckerberg sells.

Identity, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, December 2, 2011
5:08 pm

In my recent post, I made this observation:

[Facebook and Google] are essentially advertising channels, whose real customers are not those of us who visit their sites, but the advertisers who pay them money.

That is where Intent comes in.  The most valuable commodity Google and Facebook can sell to their advertising customers is the Intent of the people who visit their sites – the Intent to explore, to examine, and ultimately, to buy. The better either company can be at determining the Intent of their users, the better they are prepared to rake in the bucks from companies who advertise with them.

From that perspective, I have been fascinated by the recent big news that Facebook has settled charges with the FTC over charges the Facebook deceived users about privacy. As reported by the Daily Beast,

… Facebook promises to stop making “deceptive privacy claims” and get users’ permission before changing the way it shares their information. The social-media company must also submit to privacy audits for 20 years. …

Acknowledging this settlement, Mark Zuckerberg posted a lengthy statement on the Facebook blog:

… I’m the first to admit that we’ve made a bunch of mistakes. In particular, I think that a small number of high profile mistakes, like Beacon four years ago and poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago, have often overshadowed much of the good work we’ve done. … But we can also always do better. I’m committed to making Facebook the leader in transparency and control around privacy. …

Not all pundits accepted Zuckerberg’s contrite response.  Dan Lyons of the Daily Beast posted a cynical article entitled, “The Truth About Facebook Privacy—if Zuckerberg Got Real.”

The social network just settled privacy charges with the FTC, and its CEO posted a lengthy non-apology on the company blog. But here’s what Mark Zuckerberg might have said if he dared to be brutally honest. …

Let’s skip to the meat of Dan’s article (his view of what an truly candid Zuckerberg would have said:

 … The truth is, we have no interest in protecting your privacy, and if you still believe that we do, then you are stupider than we thought, and believe me, we already thought you were pretty stupid. Think about it. The only way our business works is if we can track what you do and sell that information to advertisers. Did you honestly not realize that?

You are not our customer. You are the product that we sell. For us to say we’re going to protect you is like the poultry industry promising to create more humane living conditions for chickens. Sure, they say that. But you know they don’t mean it.

Same with us. We will never, ever stop trying to pry data out of you. How could we? We’re a business. We’re doing this to make money. And our investors would like it very much if we can make absolutely as much money as possible. It’s simply not in our nature to stop. You know the fable about the scorpion and the frog? Yeah. It’s like that. …

Pretty harsh? Yep! But there are glimmers of truth in there. Just remember the next time you visit Facebook (which I have already done several times already today), “You are the product that we sell.”

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Intent: Critical to the New Identity world

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, December 1, 2011
7:24 am

Intent: “something  to be done or brought about”

Back in November, 2005, I began blogging about a concept I referred to as “Core Identity“:

A fundamental premise undergirding the Identity Map is that each person is unique. This unique “Core Identity” can be identified or described by attributes categorized into Names, Characteristics, Relationships, Roles, Location, Experience, Knowledge and Reputation. Each attribute adds to the fundamental uniqueness of each individual.

I still believe that fundamental premise is sound, and that the categories of Identity attributes are still relevant.   However, I believe a ninth category should be added: “Intent.”

This concept began to crystallize in my mind as I was listening to a podcast by Robert Scoble, referenced in his blog post, “The game of all games: content and context (why Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Benioff, and Larry Page are carving up the social world).” Thanks to Johannes Ernst for sharing this link on Facebook.

The basic premise of Robert’s post and podcast is that Google and Facebook are fighting to become the premier Identity providers in the world – but not primarily for authentication and authorization services, as we Identity Management professionals commonly think of Identity – but as a means to addictively capture the hearts and minds of the people in the world in order to sell advertising. After all, both companies are essentially advertising channels, whose real customers are not those of us who visit their sites, but the advertisers who pay them money.

That is where Intent comes in.  The most valuable commodity Google and Facebook can sell to their advertising customers is the Intent of the people who visit their sites – the Intent to explore, to examine, and ultimately, to buy.  The better either company can be at determining the Intent of their users, the better they are prepared to rake in the bucks from companies who advertise with them.

Intent, therefore, is a critical component, perhaps the most important component, of Identity, from the perspective of Google and Facebook.

But Intent is rarely overtly declared by a user.  Intent is predicted, based on a relentless, real time examination of all other aspects of a person’s identity – their Names, Characteristics, Relationships, Roles, Location, Experience, Knowledge and Reputation.  All of these are more historical in nature – attributes that may be accumulated and studied in a more historical context.  But Intent is more real time. Intent is what a person wants to do right now or in the near future.  It is more a prediction of things to come than what happened in the past.

So how do companies like Google and Facebook determine Intent?  More and more, it is by capturing and analyzing how individuals interact with the online world.  The “verbs” of online interaction are particularly telling:  search, post, comment, share, like, tag, read, watch, encircle, listen, play, visit.  If Google or Facebook can capture how you do all those things, they can infer your intent and deliver to you the content and advertising that are most aligned with your current intent.  That will enable their advertising revenue to increase (which is their real motive).  That is why both Google and Facebook are aggressively rolling out new features along the lines of those verbs – the more they know about your online actions (evidenced by how you use those verbs), the better able they are to predict your Intent, and consequently enable advertisers to capture your money.

Predicting the future is never easy. But that is exactly what Google and Facebook are trying to do – by predicting our Intent, based on how we interact with them. Facebook and Google covet your eyeballs, your fingertips and your pocketbooks, and intend (pun intended) to capture all of them.

My advice:  Be aware! Keep your eyes wide open, your fingertips constrained, and your wallet firmly in your pocket.


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De-Friending or “Culling the Herd”?

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, August 18, 2011
8:48 pm

Back on the small Idaho dairy farm where I grew up, “Culling the Herd” meant sending cows that didn’t give much milk to the slaughterhouse to make way for more productive bovine.  I hadn’t heard the term referring to getting rid of Facebook friends until I read the “Pearls before Swine” comic strip today.  A bit crass, but sort of descriptive, don’t you think?

After posting this bit of irony, I suppose I’d better not de-friend anyone unless there is a darn good reason, don’t you think?

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What is more valuable – linkages between web pages or between people?

Identity, Social Media
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, June 4, 2011
12:50 pm

I was intrigued by a headline I read this morning, “How Facebook Can Put Google Out of Business,” by Ben Elowitz (@elowitz), co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint.

Elowitz started by stating his admiration for Google:

Google LogoI used to envy Google and the vast digital empire that Schmidt commanded.  Google had one of the most intricate monopolies of all time. It had the most impressive dataset the world had ever seen; the most sophisticated algorithm to make sense of it; an audience of a billion users expressing their interest; and more than a million advertisers bidding furiously to reach those consumers at just the right moment.

What’s more, it had captured the ultimate prize: increasing returns to scale. Only Google could spread such huge R&D costs among an even more humongous query volume, all while offering advertisers the chance to reach most of the population with one buy. Google had earned its success.

However, he as concluded that Facebook offers more inherent value than Google, and can beat Google at its own game:

FacebookWhile Google has amassed an incredible database consisting of the fossilized linkages between most Web pages on the planet, Facebook possesses an asset that’s far more valuable—the realtime linkages between real people and the Web.What does this mean, and what are the implications here?

Well, in a nutshell, Facebook has stored a treasure trove of distinctive data that, if fully utilized, could put Google out of business.

I’m not astute enough to predict whether Facebook or Google will win, but I believe Elowitz has identified an important distinction between the inherent value of linkages:

“linkages between real people and the Web” [and, I might add, linkages between real people] –  primary Facebook value


“linkages between Web pages” – primary Google value

Relationship WebWe call linkages between people “relationships”. In my previous post, each line on my LinkedIn connection map represents a real life relationship. Some of my Linkedin relationships are closer in real life than others, just like some of my Facebook “friendships” are closer than others.  But they are real.  They do exist.

My real-life relationships represented by Facebook or LinkedIn have inherent value to me.  Both Facebook and LinkedIn provide real value to me through the services they provide.

Google has proven that there is great business value in “linkages between web pages”.  I believe companies like Facebook and LinkedIn are beginning to how to business value can be derived from “linkages between people”.  Google is clearly trying to catch up in the relationships business, where Eric Schmidt admits they have failed.

It will be interesting to see how they, and other companies of their ilk, will continue to succeed for fail in business as they leverage (in a positive sense) their understanding of my relationships, hopefully without exploiting (in a negative sense), the private information I entrust to them.

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