I don’t really do Facebook, but back when it first emerged I wrote a few apps and kicked the tires a bit. One application that I admired, but which is sadly now dormant, was “Awareness Ribbons”. It let you plop a block into your profile with ribbons for all your assorted causes. They had hundreds of different ribbons. I find this kind of public revealing of affiliations fascinating. In particular I found the idea of a middleman being involved interesting.
Anybody can assert that they are concerned about Feral Cats or what ever your ribbon might signal. The cost of membership is zero, so the quality of the signal is hard to assert. Around town I see a lot of people sporting the ring they bought late in their senior year at Harvard or MIT. I sometimes thought it would be fun if I could pick up a few such rings in pawn shops.
In some imaginary future we will have digital documents that we can present to assert membership in various clubs. These will be signed by the club, making them a bit harder to forge. Standards for that are, of course, a substitute for a middleman. Or maybe we will just get a middleman instead; a commercial notary public.
So it was with interest that I notice something that Tumbler is doing something along these lines. Tumbler users can make a donation to one of a few charities, and in return they get a ribbon added to their avatar. It appears you could just upload an avatar to which you have added your own ribbon, but that’s easy to fix.
Clearly the old Facebook app could be reborn with this added feature. You only get to display the ribbon of your cause after you donate something thru the application. The middleman could then work with the clubs to set the terms for that. In fact any of these social sites that aid the public revealing of self could include features along these lines.