I've been mulling over this topic, and I've come to a few simple conclusions, and simple is good for the purpose of finding a policy that guides our work in SSB. I wrote already that we're entering a new phase for SSB where we have to let go of the simplicity of "1 feed = 1 person".
Based on Emmi's blog, I like the idea of zooming. Zooming in or zooming out of an identity. If you "zoom in" into a person, you can see the different facets of their personality, and you're often interacting with only a few facets of that personality, not the "full" person/personality.
But zooming out is also possible. A tight-knit group can function "as one". This could be a rock band or a small company or something. But even in those cases, you don't interact directly with the rock band, you interact with members of the band who represent the band. Not too unlike interacting with a person's "facet", representing the person. For instance, when we're talking over SSB, you're not in fact interacting with the Full Experience of meeting the entirety of that person, you're interacting with the software and feeds that represent that person.
Zoom out a bit more, and you can have huge identities, like countries. And countries do interact with each other, but never the entirety of the countries directly. For instance, when "France meets Germany", it's not all the French people talking to all the Germans. It's a president talking to another, or it's an ambassador talking to a representative, etc. Zooming back in, when you interact with me on SSB, you're not talking to me, you're talking to "andrestaltz's ambassador on SSB".
The definition I arrived at is that an identity is a representation of a group of agents that makes sense for interaction at the given zooming level. That's a dense sentence where all words are important.
- It's a representation because all these kinds of identities have a "name" and a "face". E.g. individual persons have names and faces, companies have names and logos, countries have names and flags
- It's a group because there's always a bunch of complexity cobbled together, be that the inner complexity of an individual, the difference in opinions and styles among band members, the complexity of a country or a company
- It's about interaction and the "context of interaction". If you remove interaction entirely, there is no conversation, there is no concept of identities or agents at all
- It's about zooming because interactions happen in a context, and that context is not always "person to person". If you're addressing a rock band, you want to call them by the band name. The zooming level is "small institutions". But when you're yourself inside the band, you're addressing other band members as individuals. The zooming level for that interaction is person-to-person. And if you're addressing a country, you don't talk to all the hundreds/thousands of institutions it contains.
PS: one of the interesting outliers to the "1 feed = 1 person" model is actually @The System who are 3 persons (?) sharing the same feed, and they prefix their messages with "E", "R" or "S" to highlight who is currently talking.