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[foocamp2006] Thinglinks

Early this morning — so early, that you had to ask people if they were on their way up or down the path to Lethe — I had a chance to catch up with Ulla-Maaria Mutanen, who blogs about design tech, and is the founder of (I’ve written about Thinglink before.) It’s a fascinating idea.

Web pages have unique URLS, but how can people who make physical unique stuff refer to their things uniquely? Go to Thinglink (it’s open source) and get a 6-character random code, which is expressed as THING:123ABC. Simple idea. Some big consequences could accrue.

For example, Ulla says that in April, the University of Art and Design in Helsinki issued a Thinglink ID for each item in its exhibit of work by graduating masters students. This starts a history of the object so its appearances on the Web can be tracked. And it means that conversations about those objects can occur anywhere on the Web, not just on the exhibit’s site. The ability to distribute conversation, confident that they can be pulled together on demand, changes the power balance. All hail unique ID’s! (<hobbyhorse>For things! Things, dammit! Selves are not things. Selves become things by being uniquely and transparently identified.Selves are diminished — nay, betrayed — by becoming things. </hobbyhorse>)

And who does all this aggregating? Does become the center of the world of things, a despotic tyrrant authorizing and tracking all its subjects? Nah. You obviously haven’t met Ulla :) ThingLink maintains a database of information supplied by the person who creates the ID, but the aggregation is done by search engines. Of course, that means you have to stick the Thinglink ID into your post about the lovely, handmade Ukranian sweater you just saw, or into the description of the photo of the sweater you lust for. But, if you do that, your post (or page or photo or video or hit Indie MP3 “I Want to Love You as Much as My Ukranian Sweater”) now becomes part of the worldwide swirl of creativity inspired by the thing. IDs aggregate value because they aggregate meaning.

The standard Thinglink ID consists of three letters followed by three numbers, enabling 17M numbers. But it is extensible, including 3-letter “partner code” prefixes.It’s short so it’s human readable, and (to my mind) more important, human type-able. If it catches on,Thinglink is going to need a bigger space in which to play. [Tags: ]

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