Asking the right questions about identity

Asking the right questions about identity

Summary: We started the Internet Identity Workshop this afternoon at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. The first day was intended to be tutorial.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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We started the Internet Identity Workshop this afternoon at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. The first day was intended to be tutorial. We expected 50 people, counted 80 yesterday, and ended up with over 100 who came this afternoon. The additional participation was great and I think the tutorial served the stated purpose of getting everyone up to speed so that they can participate in the open space discussions tomorrow.

You can read my commentary on the afternoon sessions to get the details, but the conversation mostly introduced various concepts from user-centric identity and the systems that support it. One thing I noted between last October's workshop and today is that there is much more meat there. There are real systems, with working implementations supporting the ideas of user-centric identity.

Dick Hardt, of SXIP asked me tonight at dinner what I was after in the next two days. I told him I was after conversation and cooperation--moving the cause of user-centric identity forward. That begs the question: what problem are we solving?

If the problem is "technology that allows users to be in charge of their identity" then we're getting close. The technology is pretty solid. Microsoft has InfoCard, there's SXIP, we've got LID, OpenID, i-names, Yadis, and Higgins. In their own way each of these is an answer to that problem.

If the problem is a system (or set of systems) that seamlessly meet digital identity use-cases, then we've got a way to go. Last Fall's IIW spawned the work that eventually brought LID, OpenID, and i-names together with Yadis, a capability discovery protocol for URL-based identities. But we're a long way from clear answers to use-cases or even clear use-cases.

Some people are confused by the open space, or unconference format. I heard several comments today that the workshop was pretty informal--that's the idea. I also had people asking me for the agenda. Creating the agenda is tomorrow's first order of business. Today gave a few answers and raised lots of questions. Tomorrow will hopefully begin to answer some of those. As for the ultimate question, what problem are we trying to solve?, I'm afraid that a workshop isn't the place where we'll find the answer. I'll be happy if by Wednesday afternoon we simply feel like we're a little closer.

Topic: Open Source

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