I looked down at TweetDeck and gasped out loud. Others in the SugarCON session I was in last Wednesday looked over at me to see what had happened. I leaned over to Doc Searls sitting next to me and whispered, “Somebody already guessed the five Principles of Personal!”


I wasn’t until the session was over that I could give Doc the rest of the context. Two weeks ago we started a series of weekly blog posts about the five Principles of Personal. We explained they were all single-word names that start with the letter P. The first to guess all five would win an iPad 2 and a special role in the Connect.Me launch.

But we’d only blogged the first two (promise and permission), and suddenly a Twitter user named @PhilSole had gone and guessed all five.

Which was especially impressive because the last one we were going to blog about — proof — is far from obvious. We didn’t expect anyone to get even close until after the third post.

Which of course made me intensely curious to find out more about Phil. I clicked over to look at @PhilSole‘s Twitter profile:


Okay, it made sense that he would be involved in Internet identity — he was following a number of leaders in the space. But as long as I’ve been working in the field, I’ve never met him.

I did a quick Google search but didn’t fine anything. I tried Facebook and LinkedIn but couldn’t find links there either. Since I knew he followed @respectconnect, I tried direct messaging him there, but a day went by without a response. So we finally did a public tweet to ask him to contact us.

When he finally got in touch via email, we told him he’d won and asked how he did it. That’s we realized he’d unraveled our Dan Brown-inspired secret code. In his reply he explained:

Wow! Awesome.  I’m so stoked to have won.  Thank you.

How did I do it??  I have been thinking about this stuff for a while.  I finished a Master of Design in December last year where I was thinking about person-centred design of internet systems.  That got me onto Higgins, Cardspace, VRM etc.  So I guess I’ve come across all the important concepts through reading your stuff.

You gave away too many clues!  I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw how the competition was starting to unfold!  Actually I guess twitter kind of gave away the clues too.  After you gave the first two principles – Promise and Permission – I noticed you were using those words in your blog posts, so I went back to your first competition blog entry:

  • First, we’ll tell you up front that all five Principles of Personal have names that are a single English language word that start with the letter P.
  • Second, we promise to announce each principle via one blog post each week here in the Connect.Me blog, starting next Monday, March 28.
  • The first registered Connect.Me beta participant who tweets the names of all five Principles of Personal to @respectconnect will win: a) an iPad 2, and b) with his/her permission, a special role in the Connect.Me launch.
  • IMPORTANT: to win, your tweet MUST be in the following format: @respectconnect your-beta-invite-code The Principles of Personal are [your five words go here].


@respectconnect http://cxt.me/n62QnQ The Principles of Personal are Peter, Piper, Pickle, Pepper, and Port

Your Connect.Me beta invite code is important: for your protection and ours, it’s what proves you are signed up for the Connect.Me beta. If you don’t have one yet, sign up here, it’s free, and we won’t use your data for anything except to notify you about the beta program itself.

One final rule to keep the playing field level and avoid spamming your Twitter friends: entries are limited to one guess per day. (For you gamers out there, all the proof we need is to check whether the winning entrant submitted a guess within the previous 24 hours. If so, it will be disqualified. So, play hard, but play fair.)

I thought you might have done this on purpose, no?  Also, I was able to see everyone else’s guesses on twitter and you were responding with how many they got correct, which meant I could rule out some words or see that one of two words had to be in there.  And for Portability, when I saw someone else guess it I thought it was a lock-in just because it’s such an important point.

The last factor is that I have too much time on my hands because I haven’t found a job yet! 😉

Well, Phil, that’s one helluva way to impress an prospective employer. (Yes, though Phil lives in New Zealand and Connect.Me is based in San Francisco, we have already started a dialog with him about working remotely.)

Phil’s right, we did plant all the clues in the original blog post, including the only one he didn’t spot (although we couldn’t work in the word “portability” without it being a dead giveaway, we put the word “Port” at the end of the example tweet).

But Phil’s the only Robert Langdon who spotted it. So a hearty congratulations to Phil on his new iPad 2. We’re very much hoping it does work out for him to join the Connect.Me team. We also promised him a special role in the Connect.Me launch — more about that soon.

In the meantime, stay tuned for our final three blog posts about the Principles of Personal. The contest suspense may be over but the bigger clues about where Connect.Me is going are still to come.