Personal XML: Automatic updating of your personal information from one common location.

posted 1999-Dec-13
— updated 2000-Mar-25
I've recently developed three different sites which store information about the user in them. Your name. Your sex. Your birthdate. Your email address. Your physical address. etc. (Before you panic, all these sites are given this information by the user voluntarily.)

I myself have a subset of this information stored as part of my user registration in maybe 10 or 20 different sites. I pray that I will never have to change my email address, but I certainly am going to have to change my physical address sometime. Wouldn't it be nice if you kept one copy of all your personal information on your computer, in one spot, and changing it there would change it everywhere?

What I'm envisioning (and what I want to research to see if anyone has made any headway into this already) is a system (probably using XML) where you get all your information set up, and when a site wants some of it you say which pieces it's allowed to know about you, whether or not its allowed to receive updates to that information automatically, etc. Then, when you change some of that information, an agent on your computer goes to those sites which you've said are allowed to have updates to that information, and without your intervention (or perhaps with a simple "yes, I approve this action, go to it") gets that information updated and kept current.

The implementation is really separate from the concept itself, and I suspect that technologies will far evolve before this becomes mainstream. But I truly believe that there will come a day where you own one repository for all your information, and changes to it propogate throughout the network.

Dain Kistner
05:53PM ET
Alright...very interesting concept, but WTF is XML?
Also, I would think that from a security standpoint, you would probably want to lock that database up pretty bloody tight...SmartCard oslt sounds like the best that I'm aware of being currently available - perhaps even coupling the card with thumbscan technology (can they make a scanner that would fit into a credit-card sized device?

Final thought: I think some version of this already exists in the password vault arena...but I don't know much about it...
Gavin Kistner
04:12PM ET
XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. More information at I do need to look into SmartCard more, it sounds cool.
Gavin Kistner
02:11PM ET
Also, the concept here does not really encompass the security model--the details of that implementation, of how it will be made so that you really know what information gets sent to whom upon updating, are outside the scope of the idea.

Crackers gaining access to information on your system, or intercepting the information of a secure transmission, is always a possibility and needs to be dealt with separately from the information being protected.

Dain Kistner
12:54PM ET
Hmm...looks like a good bit of this concept is being implemented at

Just thought you might find it interesting...
Owen Ambur
07:36AM ET
Your page also appeared on the first page of hits at Google. It comes closer to addressing the concept I have in mind.

If you have comments, please send them to me at my personal (provided with this submission) or professional address (available at ).


[Fwd: Personal XML]
Fri, 02 Mar 2001 20:38:10 -0500
Owen Ambur

Peter, your message came up second:

Patrice, Peter's message references yours:



Personal XML
Fri, 02 Mar 2001 20:34:15 -0500
Owen Ambur

Toni, I just woke up early on a Saturday morning with a fantastic idea
-- PersonalXML. As always, good ideas have many fathers and mothers. A
search of Google via the words "personal XML" turned up your site as the
first hit: However, on a quick
glance I don't see anything there that appears to relate directly to my
idea, which is to enable each and every individual to define their own
version of XML -- preferably by subscribing to elements, DTDs, and
schemas identified and developed in concert with others.

Looking at the problem from the other end (i.e., informal, ad hoc
groups, associations, and "firms" as opposed to the individual's
perspective), the effect would be to define what "voluntary consensus"
and "open source" really mean -- in terms of subscriptions controlled
fully on the Web by *individual* persons.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. By
definition "voluntary consensus" cannot be forced. Perhaps it is time
to quit fooling ourselves and use technology effectively to specify and
implement that fact on the Web. If and when we do, I suspect that those
who have only been paying lip service to the concept, while trying to
parlay it into proprietary advantage, may be surprised (pleasantly or

I'd suggest that we start by enabling individuals to specify their own
personal attributes. (See:


Owen Ambur, Co-Chair
XML Working Group (which I'd like to rename -- for "We the
People ... in order to form a more perfect union ...)

BTW, before I truncated your URL and discovered that it relates to
Carolina, I was hoping that it related to "character" (i.e., character
Web) -- which is another powerful concept ... one that is pretty
directly related to the notion of PersonalXML.

Carol, this also relates directly to the potential for FIRM to foster a
social movement build sound records management principles into our
culture, starting with personal portfolios in elementary schools.
03:44PM ET
This sounds similar to Planet All's solution for maintaining a personal address book. Their concept was that individuals register and maintain their own contact info, important dates (birthday/anniversarry), and mini-bio. Individuals link to their friends setting permissions for sharing information for each person. My problem was getting others to join - then Planet All died. It would be interesting to see this implemented for personal addressbooks & website registrations in 1 solution. I fear that it wont happen as their are so many proprietory formats for such information & so many people overly sensitive to personal privacy.
04:16PM ET
I think personal informagion will be stored on a local machine and not on a single server somewehre out there. This will be shared like P2P so all. So will my adresslist stay on my computer and also my friends. A Agent will come to my personalserver and ask vor informations and I will say wath the agent is allowed to know. And for all this agent who come ask my server is my personal agent allowed to give informations. You see a multi agent system with distributet information. Securety could be like PGP. And sure all wil be based on XML. my 2 cents ;)
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