Personas

What is a Persona?

A Persona in Merlin is an electronic representation of a real-world identity, one that can be genuine (you) or assumed (an alias). Personas are used to track the people, communications and everything else associated with an identity. Each Persona in Merlin has its own encryption keys, its own Syndex, and all of its own items (contacts, emails, etc.).

This could be done by using separate copies of Merlin or any other contact or communications manager, but there would be no way to create Persona Alerts or detect Persona Violations, unless you actually logged into all instances of every program and checked manually. Merlin puts it all in one place while simultaneously ensuring that each Persona is unique and separate. Moreover, because of the way Merlin is designed, it is impossible to tell if multiple Personas even exist, creating what's called 'plausible deniability'.

Why have different Personas?

The most common reason to have different Personas is to separate your personal and professional lives in such a way that they cannot intersect unless you specifically want them to. 

Each Persona has its own list of contacts, email accounts, encryption keys and so forth.  And each one has its own Kahuna™ ID.  The cool thing is, you can sign into more than one Persona in Merlin at the same time, and easily switch back and forth, and yet all the electronic activity in your personal life will remain in the Persona you use personally, and all the activity in your professional life will be completely isolated in the other Persona. 

How many Personas can I have?

In Merlin Earth™ and Merlin Ice™ you can have only one Persona.  In Merlin Wind™ you can have up to six entirely separate Personas.

Can I have more than one Persona open at the same time?

Yes. When you open more than one Persona Merlin will show a Persona Toolbar for each one, and highlight the tab header of each item you open (an email or a document, for example) using the color of that Persona. It is possible to open all six personas simultaneously, but that can get very confusing and we don't recommend it. Opening two, or at most three, at a time is what most people do.

Can I move things between Personas?

No. You cannot drag and drop or transfer anything between Personas. However, if you intentionally want to place the same information in two different Personas, you can copy and paste it into a new item in another Persona, just as if you had created it from scratch. When you do that, Merlin will show you a Persona Alert, letting you know there is some possibility of a real-world overlap between the Personas. You can dismiss such warnings on a case-by-case basis.

What is a Persona Violation?

A Persona Violation occurs when information that one would never expect to be related to more than one identity has somehow 'leaked' across the boundary to another identity.  

To better understand this, first you have to be aware that Merlin stores each piece of information in tiny, encrypted chunks. For example, when you create a contact, the person's name, phone numbers and email addresses are individually encrypted before they are associated with that person. 

As that encryption occurs, Merlin also creates what's called a personified '512-bit salted hash' of it. Each hash item is unique, and because of the mathematical nature of hash functions, it is impossible to derive the original content from the hashed version of it. These hash items are all stored in a common area within the encrypted Merlin container, accessible to all Personas. 

When a new piece of information is entered, it too is hashed, and then the catalog of existing hashes is searched. If there is no match, the item has never been entered into Merlin before. If there is a match, then the item already exists in Merlin. If it's in the same Persona, there is no violation (a shared home phone number of a married couple filed as separate contacts, for example). But if it's in a different Persona, then it represents a connection between information that in the real world should not be related, and Merlin will give you a Persona Violation alert.

How does Merlin alert me to events in Personas I'm not logged into?

The answer is deceptively simple. In versions of Merlin that support multiple Personas (currently only Merlin Wind™), there is a Persona event alert icon on the status bar (at the bottom of your screen). Using a mechanism similar to the means by which Persona Violations are detected, hashes of event alerts are also maintained in a common area of the encrypted Merlin container. When the time stamped on an alert hash approaches, the alert icon pulses. This tells you only that something that may require your attention is happening in some other Persona, but nothing about what it is until you log into it.

The deception comes into it because even if you have created no other Personas, the icon will occasionally flash anyway (you can deactivate it if you want). It is therefore impossible for an observer to tell if the icon is pulsing randomly and there is only one Persona, or pulsing as a consequence of actual events in other actual Personas. And how do you know? Simple. You and only you know if you have other Personas. If you don't, the pulsing event alert is meaningless. If you do, it means something.

I imported a file into the wrong Persona. How can I fix it?

Simple. First, export the file from the Persona where it does not belong, and then import it to the Persona where you want it. You can leave the original copy of the file in the original Persona, or delete it.

Can I drag and drop items between Personas?

No. Personas are completely separate identities.

Do my Personas share contacts or events?

No, they are completely separate.

Can different Personas have the same name?

Yes, but you probably don't want to do that. Personas are differentiated by color (blue, green, etc.). Although there is no technical reason that you could not give two different Personas the same name, it would definitely get extremely confusing. However, because Personas are completely separate, there is no way for Merlin to know you've used the same name in more than one. It's just not a good idea.