Many years ago when I first me the guys doing “user-centric identity” – way back in the day in 2002-2003 – yes there were people talking about thinking about and exploring the implications of interoperable social networks BEFORE Friendster “happened.” I clearly remember a conversation I had with Owen Davis (one of the original founders of Identity Commons v1) about how if there really was to be an identity layer of the web that would work for people – that “the people” would need to be involved in making it happen. They explored really experimental ideas for organizational forms thinking about how to give membership for all those who had identities in the system. They had a recursive membership problem. Needed members didn’t have any couldn’t decide who was members…..sort of crazy making.
Owen always highlighting the importance of the conversations about the social network and identity portability being open so that a wide range of view points and considerations can be a part of making it real.
I remember this often when we put on our gatherings Internet Identity Workshop and the Data Sharing Summit – I worry that we don’t have a broad enough spectrum of humanity in the room to get it right. We just founded Inclusive Initiatives at this last IIW (it got applaud from the whole audience when we announced it) to focus providing opportunities to learn about, engage with and include a wider range of people with needs from and identity layer we haven’t got in the mix yet. We are having our first conference call on Monday or Tuesday.
It is not just about hackers hacking up some code. Code is “Law” and it also in the realms of people and their information about relationship it is the “social fabric”. People are participating in multiple contexts with very different norms. It is important that there is sensitivity to peoples needs that these not all merge together. The post before this one is an essay that I wrote last year for Web 2.0 Expo. It highlights some of the complexities found in the social nature of identity – and personally identifying information.
Bob recently said this in a post about opening the social graph:
My Burton Group colleague Mike Neuenschwander is fond of saying that our generation is using computer geeks – the least social people on the planet – to design social systems. This is the kind of thing he’s talking about.
Opening the social graph will destroy social networks, and turn them into sterile public spaces in which formation of meaningful and intimate relationships is not possible. Opening the social graph is a bad idea. Relationship information is not the property of individuals – it held in joint custody among all parties in a relationship, and it cannot be used or disclosed in violation of the rules under which it was brought into the relationship – or else the relationship will die and the individuals in it will be harmed. If you don’t understand this, or come to understand it, you will never have any real relationships, and neither will the software you write.
I don’t necessarily agree that computer geeks are the “least social folks” (I quite enjoy socializing with you). I do think it is true that computer geek social culture does not reflect the diversity of human culture in this world that this social layer of the internet must be inclusive of if it is to be successful.
Ben Laurie Makes this point in response to Bob’s Post:
when I share social data, I do so under certain conditions, both explicit and implict. What I care about, really, is that those conditions continue to be met. I don’t really mind who does the enforcing, so long as it is enforced. So, it seems to me that its OK to create the social graph, you just have to be exceedingly careful what you do with it.
This presents two, in my view, enormous technical challenges. The first is dealing with a variety of different conditions applying to different parts of the graph. Even representing what those conditions are in any usable way is a huge task but then you also need to figure out how to combine them, both when multiple conditions apply to the same piece of data (for example, because you figured it out twice in different ways) or when the combination of various pieces of data, each with its own conditions, yield something new.
Once you’ve done that you are faced with a much larger problem: working out what the implicit conditions were and enforcing those, too. The huge adverse reaction we saw to Facebook’s Beacon feature shows that such implicit conditions can be unobvious.
I do think it is pain in the butt to ‘re-invite’ my friends – are there ways to ‘re-invite them’ but not via e-mail? – are there ways to leverage the work that Liberty Alliance has done on the People Services Spec. from what I could discern from presentations I have seen it has promise to meet the needs articulated.
One way to deal with the issues I talked about regarding multiple contexts is to actually make the concept of Limited Liability Persona’s.
No doubt people need to be able to look at their whole social graph – who are all the people I am connected to – my address book and get information about them and the contexts I share with them. This does not mean i have one public open social graph.
This is what some of the original graphics of the Social Physics project communicated was their goal.
Looking in the Way Back Machine I found this American Revolution 2 from 2004 …quite inspiring it begins.
Today we are not full citizens of the Web. We have no effective voice in how our digital selves are captured, stored, represented, bought and sold. In short we have no voice in how that most precious and precarious aspects of ourselves, – our multiple digital identities- are governed.
Social Physics – all those concepts and understandings of how identities for people work across multiple contexts is all being woven into the Higgins Project (at Eclipse). Participants in developing this framework (and other working code relevant to the problem) are noticeably absent from the upcoming invitation only gathering on the subject of the Social Graph.
• Higgins enables the use of the card metaphor to support a consistent mechanism for authentication across all devices/platforms
• Higgins enables diffusion of this metaphor by providing toolkits for implementation of IdP’s and RP
• Higgins Solutions (made up of Higgins components) can be used to implement this new highly connected world.
• The Identity Attribute Service Solution makes it easier to build applications that leverage identity information from multiple sources (with the appropriate privacy controls of course.)
• Because Higgins is open source, it makes diffusion easier.
Yeah it has taken a while. It also takes a while to build infrastructure in the real world at has the potential to scale to internet size.
I figured out how to think about what ‘infrastructure is in internet realm’ around the time the i-name registry opened in the summer – it took so long cause it is like building a major bridge. I watch the bridge they are building over the Bay grow – it has guys working on it all the time – I watch it grow bit by bit when I ride the bus. It is SLOW but it happens and when it does you have a great highway to go over the water (rather then alternative forms – a boat, or how about an the current decaying earthquake prone span).
One of the reasons I (and the whole community) have worked so hard to create open accessible events like the Internet Identity Workshop and the Data Sharing Summit it that this layer and the issues are to important not to be dealt with in open fora. Those who want to be there to participate and help out to tackle the tough questions – to be free to put forward their ideas, solutions and working code. You know Open Source like. There is always someone interesting who shows up – you didn’t know who contributes something great.
Identity Commons is open, inclusive, and bottoms-up, and all of us abide by a set of principles to help assure this. We provide a minimal structure for supporting community activities, and we hold space for the entire community to collaborate.
The vision of an Open Social Network – one working on open standards that really empowers people AND balances the tension between individuals and the communities they are in is one I am passionate about. I wouldn’t have spent the last 4 years of my life working on building a community to focus on these issues.
The purpose of Identity Commons is to support, facilitate, and promote the creation of an open identity layer for the Internet — one that maximizes control, convenience, and privacy for the individual while encouraging the development of healthy, interoperable communities.
Please join us in figuring this challenge out. Many of us have put a lot of work into getting to where we are now and there is a long way to go. As Bob said Gerry said after IIW in December “We reached the end of the beginning.” This is evidenced by efforts like Dataportability.org popping up building on the foundations we have laid.
Our next IIW is May 12-14 in Mountain View again. They are a lot of fun please join us. I hope we can have a Data Sharing Summit before that and hopefully some other open outcome focused collaborative events around other aspects needed to make this all more of a reality.
(if you want to comment please just e-mail me – long story my tech has not gotten OpenID working on this WordPress blog yet).