Is joining things up for us or for them?

When you aggregate your online identities you actually loose control of your data – you loose the social mechanisms we create to keep our ‘real life’ social networks apart. In many ‘vanilla’ examples that ‘loss of control’ is actually a good thing – it might be unlocking a corporate contact network so that everyone in the organization can benefit. But when that aggregation crosses the boundaries between personal and business, or even ‘public’ and ‘private’ we have a problem.

Ben Metcalfe is talking about social networking identities, but the same issues clearly come up in places closer to home.  We  know that joining things up makes sense from out point of view.  We have a string intuition that joining up ought to make sense from the point of view the customers whose things we aspire to join up.  But we don’t have much data to support the view that joining up is everywhere and always something which actually creates value for customers.

It may be that the less things have in common before they are joined up (itself a matter of perception), the less the joining up will be seen by customers as having intrinsic value.  Metcalfe suggests the next move:

I wonder whether we should first be investigating whether the wider public actually want to link everything up together before we go cutting this new path into bold new territory? Despite the fact that it maybe the *logical* thing to do, I’m not sure they do.