Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm at the second (and final) breakout session, The Digital Identity of UNIVERSITY.

This one will be focusing on norms that have developed in online communities. It's lead by a Facebook guy (because the software originated at Harvard, of course), although not the Facebook guy who called me and my entire generation "morons." Which is too bad. Also leading this are John Clippinger from the Berkman Center and Anthony Ciolli from

We're starting with the Facebook presentation, which is very tradeshowish and oversimplistic so far..

While we're getting told stuff we already know, I should mention that the box lunch was a roast beef rollup, with chips and fruit. Plus Diet Coke, which is what matters.

Nothing interesting in the Facebook presentation, but this video was pretty cute.

Ciolli is noting the more significant issues, that applications to grad schools and to jobs are affected by internet identify (facebook and myspace profiles, etc). The questions raised are A) should colleges warn and train users in the nature (and worries associated with) maintaining a digital identity? and B) should colleges and grad schools take digital identity into account when considering applicants?

Back to Facebook, the question now is the nature of authentication. The big problem (as always) is the end-user, but Facebook has done a great job of essentially letting the universities be the authentication systems for them, requiring, say, an email address to get to the Emory facebook communities. Its a brilliant (and underappreciated) aspect of Facebook's structure.

Discussion now on how blogger and authenticated identities work. Talk of political dissenters in other countries who couldn't authenticate (for fear of reprisals), but essentially authenticate with the quality of their information.

Facebook -no age based search, but under-18s are kept away from rest of communities.

Gah! Facebook guy (whose name is actually Chris Kelly) just mentioned for the third time that "Facebook is the 6th-most trafficked website in the United States." Take a drink!

More talks about the need for end users to leverage the privacy policies (and how too few of them do, leaving their profiles viewable to parents, employers, etc). Students need to remember that, for example, their RA is a student too, and that making a photo that could be incriminating "friends only" is a smart idea.

Worth noting: Facebook won't provide info to schools without a subpoena.

The flip side of digital identity -- that schools themselves have digital identity. Harvard LAw School admissions is a perfect example, with their own admissions blog. Other schools let students blog (under the official university aegis), have the usual RSS feeds and other stuff.

Nice jab by Kelly -- the only reason Facebook exists is that Harvard didn't do a good enough job of establishing a digital identity in a timely and effective manner.

Extrapolating, of course, the idea is that universities in general have been too slow to really adopt new ideas. And many of these services simply can't be offered through the university, because they transcend it, or because of privacy requirements (FERPA, etc).

(Aside: -- startup social calendering app for universities, still with a Harvard focus).

Facebook is now positioning itself as a "platform," essentially looking at it like iGoogle, etc.

Rep from Social Science Research Network is talking on distrubution of full-text downloads (millions per year). Downloads currently serve as the initial vetting process, which in turn leads to the refereeing process (without substituting for it). Has been enhanced by blogger links. Notes the need for both recommender and referee systems.

SSRN getting used as an early indicator of how tech-savvy a professor is. Also notes that some schools are pointing to SSRN instead of posting papers locally.

can get immediate count on downloads, but citations take more time.

People are finally talking about the two big and conflicting identity issues: The need to merge and manage identities, and the need to keep identities separate, and to hide aspects of one's digital identity from others.

(Aside -- Internationally, locking down the internet poses a serious human rights concern. One otherwise very nice guy, however, has spent the last fifteen minutes noting this, which wouldn't be a bad thing if it weren't completely tangental to the rest of the discussion)

Saving and posting this now, as we're about halfway through the session. More to come.

Someone has finally noted that authentication is not the same as violating privacy.

Flipside: It's possible to provide "security" and violate privacy (using ssl certs).

Back to digital uni identities -- Opencourseware gives back to the greater community while still helping university.

Second largest facebook group at Brown is Brown Class of 2011 (next year's freshmen).

"Digital Native" is constantly evolving; each year is more "native," and when enough natives are in academia, culture will shift.

I just noted that it's not the responsibility of the university to disclose that they'll search facebook/google for somebody; it's the responsibly of the university (and the high schools) to teach what a digital identity represents, and prepare students for the fact that they'll be searched on google.

Good point by the person across the aisle -- high schools need to move away from policing social sites and towards partnering with colleges on how social sites can become a part of the pedagogy.

Oops -- we ended up running past our time (we were all too engaged -- what a tragedy!). Off to the summation session.

(Edited to fix Anthony Ciollli's name)


Adam - A quick correction. That was Anthony Ciolli of AutoAdmit, not Jaret Cohen. (Though Cohen was listed on the program.)

On another note, here at BC the top two Facebook groups are both groups of incoming freshmen.
Ken, thanks for the correction -- that's what I get for relying on the program instead of paying better attention!
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