The Google Health Announcement has a few yellow (just before red) flags for me. is using language that sounds open, but it isn’t. This is the most recent example of this sort of language manipulation and it needs to be clarified.

From the announcement about Google Health:

Under a heading named ‘Portability’,

“Our Internet presence ultimately means that through Google Health, you will be able to have access and control over your health data from anywhere. Through the Cleveland Clinic pilot, we have already found great use-cases in which, for example, people spend 6 months of the year in Ohio, and 6 months of the year in Florida or Arizona, and will now be able to move their health data between their various health providers seamlessly and with total control. Previously, this would have required carrying paper records back and forth.”

It seems to me that Marissa is using the word ‘Portability’ to invoke the concept of Data Portability.

Data Portability is not about access to your data from any Internet connected device. Rather, Data Portability is about using established best practices so that users can bring their data with them and, more importantly, share or export that data back out.

Her post does not explicitly deal with the question of best-practice data interchange between various health record systems – only that their platform strategy will allow you to connect to (some?) services and tools. Will these connections be proprietary and lock us into a Google Health enabled record keeping system? Or will they be based on common Data Portability best practices?

The Audacity of Hope

February 23, 2008

In the past few months I have been reminded by many that hoping for a thing does not make it true. Watching the US Presidential Election I have heard the same theme emerge as Hilliary Clinton attempts to question Barack Obama’s ability to convert lofty and eloquent speeches into real change. I even posted a Seesmic video about it recently.

The question I have, though, is if hope does not make something happen, then what does?

Doesn’t all action involve hope? Is not hope a key ingredient for change?

Before one can achieve a thing, they must first imagine it. Before they act on their imagining they must first dare to hope that they could actually have some impact on the outcome.

Even decisions made based on fear involve a hope to avoid that which we fear.

Hope is a powerful driving force. It enables us to act. Without hope, we are often paralyzed.

Most people I talk to who ‘wish’ they could do something better, or more ambitious, have a common refrain. They dare not hope that their more lofty goals are attainable. They therefore do not act.

Imagine if you could gather a large enough group of people to hope for the same outcome. If you had the right mix of participants and the right critical mass, is there anything that hope, followed by action, can not achieve?

Criticizing hope is actually a thinly veiled claim of naivety or unjustified idealism. If one’s hopes are too big, too ambitious or too lofty, then surely they must be too naive to understand the complexity of the issue and the magnitude of the challenge ahead.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe those who start with hope and push for change have not yet been sufficiently jaded by a broken system or violent resistance to their ideas.

Maybe, though, if those idealistic and naive people (if in fact they are those things) can somehow encourage others to hope, and then still others; maybe, just maybe, hope will turn into action, and action will turn into real change.

To paraphrase the West Wing… “Do you think a small group of dedicated people can change the world” “Of course, it’s the only thing that ever has”.

Hope is not empty. It can never be false. Hope, well expressed and shared, is the beginning of something new.

Dare to hope. Then act.

I just got this email from Antihill Magazine:

Dear Young Entrepreneur,

A friend, colleague or fan of your work recently nominated you for Anthill Magazine’s 30under30 Awards, a national awards program designed to recognise and encourage young Australian entrepreneurs.

Details of your nomination are below, including th name of the generous person who nominated you for this awards program.


If you’d like to nominate me you can do so on the Antihill website!

In the last couple of weeks there have been a number of very positive steps forward for Data Portability in general and the DataPortability Project specifically.

These include wins by the OpenID Foundation, the IC report, the DataPortability Report and others.

A couple of trends, though, are causing me a little concern and may require a slight course correction before they spin out of control and fragment, rather than standardize, the ecosystem.

1. Tightly coupled OpenID Implementations

On Plaxo right now there is a ‘Sign in with YahooID’ button. This is effectively an OpenID login mechanism, except to remove the user experience complexity of OpenID, Plaxo has worked with Yahoo to make it easier by creating a direct relationship.

This seems antithetical to the promise of OpenID and could ultimately create another mess of tightly coupled vendor relationships that defeat the purpose of a single sign-on identity that any provider can provide and consume.

A more long term solution must be to improve the generic OpenID user experience or devise an education campaign to help users learn the new login process.

2. Google’s Social Graph API

While revealing an enormous usefulness in the existing XFN and FOAF data out on the web, Google’s Social Graph API also reveals a weakness in current XFN and FOAF implementations. Many users are not aware when XFN data is included around URLs they enter, much less when the URLs are marked as rel=me.

For example when Twitter asked me for my homepage, I didn’t understand that I was asserting a semantic link from Twitter to my blog that Google would later document and carve into stone as part of its implicit global social network in the sky.

As it stands, there is a real concern for user backlash as these APIs start being implemented and users find themselves presented with eerily accurate information about themselves magically appearing on websites without their ‘consent’.

Some sort of best practice text and/or iconography is required around fields that will be marked up with XFN – particularly if rel=me will be used to that users can make informed decisions about the type of data they provide and how it might be used. Perhaps even an opt out checkbox is appropriate.

This is probably a job for the Microformat community to dig into and solve. They should probably solve it quickly though.

3. OpenSocial++

As OpenSocial implementations role out, it’s becoming clear that there is no such thing as a pure OpenSocial container. Each container includes proprietary APIs and extensions that widget developers may choose to use.

Presumably these exist to differentiate each network and encourage developers to write enhanced apps for the environment.

The problem, though, is that developers need to write defensively for each custom API leading us to a place similar to browser compatibility hell. App developers will need to write and test their apps across every Container and will either have to hard code support for special APIs or keep their apps generic and ordinary.

Is this sustainable? Is there a better way?

If OpenSocial is going to be the Write Once, Deploy Many model for widgets, then the OpenSocial team at Google need to find a way to address this concern quickly.