Next week, I’m attending a kickoff “DesignShop” called Rebooting the Web of Trust.  It is an event that is pulling together many of the world’s leading experts on privacy, identity and security — and aims to begin building the foundation of a new system for managing identity and coordination on the internet.

I wrote up the following short poem as one of my white papers.
The Naming of Things

Here we come all together
for two days in November.
Decades of experience, with us we bring
to help the world start to name every thing

But the naming of things is no easy task
“what makes it so hard?” they rightfully ask.
The part that makes it such a quandary
is that no “thing” has a clear boundary

Each is blending with the world around it
and thus our efforts are confounded.
Just when you think you’ve spotted a clean break,
a quick zoom-in reveals a busy give and take.

Worse still, a zoom-out makes it quite clear
that the situation is worse than we did fear.
For each of these things, in tandem with others
birth new boundaries, blurry like those of their mothers.

There is an orderliness, at each of these layers
regardless of the huge number of individual players
“we’ll need a name for that too!” someone exclaims.
And they’re right, they’re right, but we’ll run out of names!

For each interaction forms a new coherence
and with each of them new patterns make an appearance.
“We’ll need a rule! Yes! A rule for giving out a name!”
“Things of no use — deserve no attention, no fame!”

But how should we decide where to draw the lines?
“Don’t!” shouts one of us. Include each one… multiple times!”
“But won’t that end up blurry?” others start to hem and haw,
but soon reckon that blurry is exactly what they saw.

“And when we describe one, how will others know
which one we mean, which parts not to show?”
“Context!” one says. And a mumbling ensues.
“But that shifts with perspective” some of them muse.

And if we each see the world from our own position,
with our personal history and our particular vision,
will there ever be a way for us to all agree
that this name belongs to that, and that name belongs to me?

Perhaps not. For names are useful things,
but only for nudging, not knowing, it seems.
For one connects to another and another to three
meanings are associational, not definitional, you see.

And after we write, and talk our way through
we’ll put some things out and say “that’ll do.”
For at some point, even the best must say:
“Not perfect, but close enough for today.”


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