My Wish for 2010: A Personal Dashboard for the Social Web

31 Comments

Give, give, give — that’s all I (and other social web users) do. We share a lot of information about ourselves these days, and we get a lot out of that experience (monetarily speaking, the companies that provide the social web environment get even more). But I hardly know what happens to my status updates, comments and photos. Where do they go, how do they get spread, and who has access to them?

I think it’s about time for a personal dashboard to track and view what happens to what we share online. This would have two primary uses: 1) Privacy: I’d have a better idea of what’s publicly known about myself, and 2) Analytics: Like any content publisher, I’d be interested in checking my stats and trends.

Current Examples

There are already some services that give me glimpses into where my data goes and who sees it:

  • You can get analytics of who your Twitter followers are and how they respond to your content through services like this one from Ad.ly and PeopleBrowsr.
  • Facebook has a somewhat buried privacy feature called “How others see you” that allows you to look at your profile through the eyes (and privacy settings) of any other user.
  • LinkedIn has a “Viewers of this profile also viewed…” feature that can get a little creepy, but shows potential overlaps with people who may be in your line of business.
  • Bit.ly provides analytics for the shortened URLs it creates, so if you share a Bit.ly link you can find out when, where and how people found it.

Privacy

Web users are becoming more aware of privacy issues, though random conspiracy theories may actually be better circulated than legitimate changes, like Facebook’s recent privacy settings change that made much of its users’ content public by default. Still, when we live so much of our lives online it’s hard to know what’s private and whether services are treating our information with the proper respect.

In an emotional and compelling guest post on TechCrunch over the weekend, Angstro founder Rohit Khare complains that social networks and application developers over-complicate and under-deliver on privacy. His conclusion: “Enforce your ToS [terms of service] and obey others’ ToS — or else stop setting unrealistic expectations and just let users have their data back!”

Just knowing where your information goes would help us out of this mess. Eventually, some kind of centralized and independent identity dashboard where you could actually manage, control and delete that information could be the next step.

Analytics

In some ways, this idea would be an evolution of the ego search. Today we look at how many web pages display our name, and how high we rank on Google. Tomorrow, we could look back at everything we’ve emitted to the web, and where it’s traveled. It would be even neater if this hypothetical dashboard functioned like the Internet Archive, so we could get a time capsule about what was known about us online at any one time.

I ran some of these ideas by open web advocate Chris Messina, who compared them to a “digital food chain” in the manner of the whimsical and informative annual reports put together by Daytum founder Nicholas Feltron. Messina commented via email,

How you get to that place, though, well, that’d require a lot more transparency into where data goes, where it comes from, and having some kind of omniscient player standing in the ether and able to track all this stuff. Without owning the stack yourself, I’m not sure the privacy gods would allow such a system to exist.

Messina suggested that if this were to work, users could eventually even sell insights about their personal data to advertisers. But that’s a whole new level, where people’s motivations for sharing would become knotty and gamed.

The one big downside of a service like this would be if it got too good — by enabling you to reverse-stalk the people who are stalking you online. If there’s a single person on a certain city block who accesses my Twitter feed through TweetDeck three times per day, that’s probably worth being left out in the 1s and 0s in the ether. After all, one of the core ideas of the Internet is to allow some semblance of anonymity, right? You don’t want to infringe on people’s ability to consume information.

Photo by Flickr user, Cameron Cassan aka Shot_by_Cam.

31 Comments

sharel

Great post, i read this post a few weeks ago, and read again after searching for such dashboard.

Was this service found?

Mike Poulton

The challenge will be who you will trust and how they will ensure the integrity of your information. FB is a juggernaut today but look what happens to some of the largest sites, they become the evil empire-eventually. We have been working on creating a trusted platform and Om’s VC firm -TrueVentures just passed as they dont think we can solve the problem. Its too big they say. Imagine if Google had given up on their algorithms for search. Stay tuned….

Ari Oberman

Our site, Tallyzoo went live yesterday. Our goal is to be the easiest way to track, visualize, and share data. At present we don’t aggregate information from other sites, but for personal stats and trends, you may want to check it out. (www.tallyzoo.com)

Thank you for the interesting article and great comments.

Rigo Wenning

Hi Liz,

Rohit’s article on TechCrunch brought me here. We are working on a dashboard: http://www.primelife.eu/ Many things in privacy are very complex. It is hard to mask this complexity to the user and still keep him honestly informed. This is the very reason, why it is still on the research agenda. I will definitely point my fellow researchers in the project to this contribution.

Justin, Neighborlogs

The Web needs a public analytics layer. Think of the basic collection of Google Analytics ‘just happening’ when people use the web and extend that to some kind of measurement connected to my personal identifier. Who can access what will be a big, sticky battle but a worthwhile one in a better environment than we’re building now.

Freddy Mini

You can even push your wish 3 levels further Liz.

  1. Make your Personal Dashboard Universal with everything that matter to you and Flexible to read it your way.

A Personal Dashboard has to be open to add all components and the way to read it must be yours as well. Widgets or reader views, magazine-like layouts, multiple views in widgets are critical to your comfort. A Personal Dashboard can not be a one size fits all. Otherwise it’s not personal.

  1. Build and manage as many Dashboards as you want.

After all, you may want to monitor more than just you: like the product you work for, your company, your VIPs…
Personal Dashboards can not be limited to a single one otherwise it will end up cluttered with too many tabs and one single theme for all of them. Make one Dashboard for everything that matters to you.

  1. Add the Enterprise dimension.

Software vendors offers Dashboards to monitor their own services. UGC and Social media, as you write, define the need for an overall, uber-dashboard. A Dashboard of Dashboards. After all, your Personal Dashboards should not be limited to your personal life, but include your professional life as well. If you watch your company’s brand, having an eye on corporate sales might make sense.

When adding those 3 dimensions to your wish, you have what Netvibes is about: The Personal Dashboard Publishing platform.

Your points are well taken and we’ll make sure we contribute in delivering your wish to a great 2010.

Very best,

Freddy Mini
Netvibes, CEO

Liz Gannes

@Freddy – Those are great features and I appreciate that companies like yours focus personal and corporate branding efforts when they’re trying to make a business on this stuff. But the tools I want would be just for me as a person.

Freddy Mini

Of course Liz. You can limit Netvibes to a private social monitoring. And, we may have some additional cool stuff coming up on this for you… :)

S Wahini

What aout Jolicloud Netbook?
It’s desktop resembles that of a dashboard for social sites…

jimjerky

Tracked is pretty cool. They still have a long way to go but their product is heading in the right direction.

Marko Saric

Sign me up as well! It is so easy to get all the different stats and analytics for a blog post but I would love to have a concise tool that can do the same for my tweets or other social media mentions. Hopefully it will happen in the new year.

rkhare

One specific wish to refine your (wonderful) list of privacy dashboard features: I’d like more reliable ways to log out.

In all of the excitement around OpenID logins and OAuth delegation, the open secret is that it’s hard to consistently log users out and revoke permissions.

With http://knx.to/ we can dump our cookies to sign you out from our app, but that can leave you logged in to our partners, making it difficult to switch users. Or, to permanently disconnect our address book, users have to visit deeply buried pages on each partner site to ”revoke” permissions granted to our apps.

Facebook, as ever, has thought through a fairly robust way to log out with Facebook Connect — but it requires reloading the entire Web page, so it can’t co-exist with other social network APIs! We’re left hoping nobody follows their precedent… :(

PS. Thanks for the kind words, Liz. I thought I did a pretty good job hiding my feelings under a blanket of deathless prose, but you caught me out! :)

gregchiaramonti

Very interesting ideas! It would be cool if the dashboard allowed one to update their various media in the same interface, dragging and dropping from a wordpress blog into a facebook comment. Maybe be able to configure the dashboard so that you could have fields for updating different media, plus some analytics blocks – just the fields, analytics and features you use most often. You could link everything and watch in realtime as your new status update filters into your various media and track it’s progress to other sites. Somehow I picture this all looking like a bunch of 2D blocks for the fields floating around a 3D mind-map sort of diagram showing the connections to other sites/media.

You might enjoy this comic look at 2010 and social media:
http://stupidfuture.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/2010-the-year-we-add-more-contacts/

Twalky

Our team have integrated different social networks/applications to form an aggregated network/application (ie. the “personal dashboard”) as a key feature of our Twalky platform. For the most part of 2010, we will develop this personal dashboard to include the mainstream social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc.

Sign in to http://twalky.com for more clues on what social apps/networks will hatch out of stealth soon. As a teaser, download TwalkyEvents from the iphone App Store and you would see how LeWeb2009 network in http://www.twalky.com is integrated into the TwalkyEvents network (and its iphone app) through “connections”.

Joel Cheuoua

Very interesting.

I’ve spend the entire year developing a website/tool with exactly the same thoughts in mind. I struggled with the analytics part of it though … having analytics to analyze relationships might not always be the most “friendly” thing to do …

Although it’s still in alpha and obviously work in progress, you might want to check it out : http://www.symbyoz.com.
Cheers.

fjpoblam

As for learning what “they” know about you, much of it is already out and about… I hear you looking for a central place to look at it. Good luck!

As for a central place or even disparate places to provide full control: I’m a cynic, and certainly not holding my breath.

Garin Kilpatrick

Analytics: As the way we find each other evolves vis a vis the real time web the way we analyze search must also evolve. Expect Google to make improvements here, but for now I am content with link tracking via bit.ly.

Privacy: There will be less of this. In 2010 expect “openness” to take the web by storm.

Google has already heard your wish for a Dashboard, learn what they know about you at: google.com/dashboard

All the best in 2010!

Garin

Michael Kozakewich

I’ve been thinking about this very concept. A social media dashboard would help organize all those emails, feeds, replies, friends, and tweets we get on a daily basis.

I had never thought about Privacy settings, though. I wonder if sites like Facebook have APIs you can use to control your privacy? (Probably not.)

Rob Goldman

Threadsy has some features in this area, and we will be adding more in 2010.

In addition to integrating all of your social media in one place, we also pull together all of the publicly available information on each of the people with whom you communicate. If you were to send me an email, for example I could see any tweets, profile pages, photos or music that was associated with your email address.

We are still in beta, but if you or your readers are interested, here is an invite link.

http://bit.ly/4HsGgv

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