Multiple Personalities

Multiple Personalities --- ?RonGoldman 30 Nov 2001

. . . you wish to build a program that reflects the richness of our lives so it will act appropriately in different contexts---TheContextOfOurLives.

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We present different sides of ourself to different people. Our identity is plural, not singular.

For example, people customarily have several email accounts: one email address for work, another for a personal account, one given out to online merchants, another to a special interest group. Most email programs ignore this fact and make it difficult to switch from one address to another.

Each identity may also involve preferences on how various programs should be configured. This is particularly true when multiple individuals use the same computer. Each person will have their own preferences.


In any program that involves our online identity include the capability for easily switching between various identities.

Multiple Personalities --- RichardGabriel 11 Feb 2002

. . . In TheContextOfOurLives people shift identities. Building a textual electronic communications system, don't be fooled by identity . . .

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When it comes to electronic communications, many people have multiple identities. A employer may give you one electronic identification while you might have several of your own. I, for example, am,,, and From my computer I am able to connect to all these places and read email. I want, however, to use one program to do that, and without having to go through a lot of steps to switch personalities.

When a person acts in a role, we call that a "personality," because we are not pretending to be someone different, we are someone different because we are acting in a different context. How I act, what I do, and what I say at work is different from those same actions when I'm at a poetry workshop.

The engineering details of email and messaging can get in the way. Some places use IMAP, others POP. According to Christopher Alexander, engineering should never dictate social spaces: "a first principle of construction: on no account allow the engineering to dictate the building's form." Although multiple steps might be needed to effect the change from one personality to another, I want to do only one.

On the other hand, some personalities may not be able to be "invoked" in all circumstances. When I am at Sun, I cannot fully be or, because I cannot access my email from within Sun's firewall. And in some cases, may not be allowed to know what knows, or at least it cannot appear that way. However, in some cases a person in a single location can receive messages from many if not all personalities. For example, while at home I can easily receive email sent to, and I can easily receive email as

However, to be able to turn from receiving messages from one of these to receiving from the other requires me to switch my TCP/IP settings, invoke a VPN client, log in manually, and switch my mailer settings. VPN is secure connection, so no one allows the process to be entirely automatic. However, allowing a personal item to stand in for the person is as secure as one can ever get, so it should be allowed.

Regardless of which personality I am, I am always myself, and sometimes messages received or sent as one personality are relevant to another. I should be able to observe merged or separate message tracks.

Some systems have "location managers" that solve some issues attendant to this problem, such as changing network connection settings when you move with your laptop, which might be part of a personality switch-for example, when I go to my Sun office, I need to switch not only who I am but how I'm connected.

Identifying personalities and connections seems to be difficult for software. In Eudora, I can't completely switch to being a totally distinct personality, but somehow I must always remain a variant of myself. For example, while at Sun, I could become were I able to receive email through POP and send it through IMAP, but Eudora doesn't contemplate this. With the Apple location manager it is never clear how I change or make location definitions.


Arrange for the textual electronic communications system to quickly switch from one personality to another, and for messages for each personality to be viewed either separately or merged. If messages from one personality should never be mixed up with messages from another personality, make the software able to respect that requirement.

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To fully realize this pattern requires MailMerge and UniversalAccess. Moreover, there needs to be security allowances and connections into the operating systems' inner workings, at least as far as connections to the network are concerned.


Last edited December 24, 2002
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