The Roach Motel Busters

Mr. Twiggs came by to talk to me about a way to put a sort of “here’s all the links to my online self” service together. The idea is that someone such as himself (and definitly such as myself) have all sorts of different content strewn through out the web — flickr, del.icio.us, Amazon reviews, eBay reputations, static web pages, podcasts, Netflix rentals and reviews, etc. — and we want some page to point to that lists all of that stuff, that answers the question, “can I see all of Glenn Twigg’s online life?”

That is, you want a site map, but not just restricted to one site, a site-map that spans the entire web.

I don’t really know of successful system that does this yet…otherwise I’d probably be using it.

The Roach Motel

The metaphor of The Roach Motel (started by Steve Gillmor, I believe) is that all these online services tend to lock your data up in them. For example, you can’t extract and use the reputation data about you from eBay; you can only use that data in the context of eBay. Like roaches to a roach motel, once your data gets into eBay, it can’t ever leave. (Check out this edition of The Gillmor Gang from last year for an exquisite grilling of eBay’s Jeff McManus on this point.)

So, in my mind, what Mr. Twiggs is looking for is a roach motel buster: something that will layer on-top of all the websites and roach motels out there and aggregate the data into a centralized place, or, at least, view.

Roach Motel Busters

While there’s no ultimate Roach Motel Buster, there are what we’d in the enterprise software world call “best of breed” roach motel busters. For the benefit of Mr. Twiggs, here’s the ones I can think of:

  • Google Sitemaps – providing a way of helping crawlers understand the important links in your site. Also see this article.
  • FOAF – capturing your social networks. Among some blog software, livejournal widely uses FOAF.
  • attention.xml – multi-year winner of the Will It Ever Cross the Chasm Award in Excellence…. glibness aside, it unlocks the clamp-down on keeping up with your friend’s (and own) interests. (I favor a less formal approach.)
  • Erik Benson’s Megablog – Erik’s put together some scripts (I’m guessing) to centralize much of his online activity into one blog, erikbenson.com. Essentially, it pulls content from a bunch of sites (check out the “Getting Stuff From” sidebar) he puts content into, and “cross posts” that content to the megablog. It’s pretty damn cool, and I’m sure it gets info-wonks like myself all hot and heavy.

So, we can only hope that Mr. Twiggs will figure it all out for us and provide this service and/or format. It doesn’t exist yet, but it’d be a lot cooler if it did.

Update: check out Glenn’s post. Damn, I’m eloquent!

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