Identify: Sleuthing Social Networks

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identify-andybuddThis is a Firefox plugin for linking related social media sites together. There are two important things to note about this tool: first, it will not find things that aren’t meant to be found and second, it’s only as good as the info it can link to.

For what it does, though, it’s really cool. Think of it as an automated Friendfeed you can use on anyone’s social profile to find them on other social sites like VOIS or Myspace. So if you’re on your follower Fanatic42’s Twitter profile page, you can use this tool to find out what Fanatic42 (obviously a Douglas Adams fan) other social site profiles are.

Those in the development business probably remember Google’s Brad Fitzpatrick building both OpenID and the Google Social Graph API. Identify uses that API to link profiles from various social media through Google’s spider indexes. So as Googlebots troll the Web and find and index pages with the “rel=” tag, the Identify tool can find matches of those to link up in an easy plug-in tool.

Identify was created by Glenn Jones, a British developer, and once installed, can be invoked with the Alt-i combo (or Ctrl-i for Mac users). If you’re running Firefox with the plugin, this will open a browser overlay that shows the person’s whose profile you’re on, any information gleaned from their profile, and links to their profiles on other sites like Delicious, Flickr, Last.fm, and more.

In using the tool, I’ve found that it’s awfully hit-and-miss. Since most bloggers have never used the rel= tag, most blogs aren’t included in the search. Likewise with a lot of other sites as well. Sometimes the tool comes up with the wrong profile from the get-go. I tried it on my Myspace page (until now, I’d forgotten I still had one) and came up with some guy in Japan instead of myself.

It worked great on a friend on mine, though, whose definitely more organized with his social connections than I am. I brought up his profile on Twitter and found him on a dozen other social sites with good matches. So when it’s implemented correctly (i.e. the person is halfway organized with their networking), Identify works great.

This is a fun little plug-in that’s free to use. Best of all, it’s not a privacy infringement by any means since only the data you’ve put up on your social sites publicly can be shown by Identify. I’m currently using it to clean up my social network and get myself a little more organized.

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