The purpose of Identity Commons is:
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.
This one sentence jams a lot into it – we tried to do that so the purpose didn’t go on and on – but was clear, broad and inclusive of the range of issues that need to be addressed and balanced. Jamming so much into that one sentence also creates a challenge – it has to be ‘parsed’ quite a bit to get what it all means. I worked with Chris Allen recently to separate out the values within the purpose and our community. This is our initial draft that is still evolving (wordsimthing suggestions are welcome).
We believe in the dignity of human individual in the context of the digital world.
In order to make this true we strive for a balance of factors and valuesas digital systems and tools evolve:
- Individual control, convenience & privacy
- Sharing of information when participating in community
- Support for commercial and non-commercial exchange
- Interoperability and openness between systems
We work to bring these values into practice by fostering a collaborative a community of individuals, organizations and companies share these values and are working together towards practical technical implementations.
We share a pragmatic idealism.
We work to practice what we preach and have openness and transparency in what we do.
We do know there are a lot of technical social and legal issues that arise and Identity Commons is a space that make it possible to in a non-directive non-hierachical way address them in a collaborative way.
We also have some shared principles mostly concerning how we organize ourselves and work together. Each has a sentence to articulate it further.
What the heck is an “open identity layer” – well we don’t exactly know but we do have a community that has come together some shared understanding and continue to ‘struggle’ with what it means and how it should work. Identity Commons provides a ‘common’ space to work on this shared goal by facilitating dialogue and collaboration.
Kim Cameron introduced the terminology “identity meta-system” and articulated what that might mean. The Laws of Identity were put forward by him along with some additional ideas by other community members.
There is no “decider” or group of deciders or “oversight committee” as part of Identity Commons ‘directing’ the development of the “open identity layer”.
We are a community collaborating together and working to exchange information about our independent but related efforts working towards the vision. The way we do this is via the working group agreement.
- Asking each working group to articulate its purpose, principles and practices by filling out a charter – this helps us be clear about how different groups work and what they do/are planning on doing
- Stewards review proposed working group charters – ask questions, consider were there are synergies, and see if they are aligned with the purpose and principles
- A vote of the stewards council is held
- Working Groups agree to report quarterly on their activities to remain active as groups of the organization – this also is our core ‘inter group communication mechanism – so that you don’t have to be on 20+ mailing lists to know what is going on in the community.
More about Stewards:
Each working group has one steward and an alternate for the stewards council.
The stewards are responsible for the things IC holds in common – the brand and its integrity and common assets (like the wiki and bank account). It does not ‘direct things’.
Stewards have (an optional) monthly phone calls and discuss and make decisions on a mailing list (that anyone can join).
More about Working Groups:
There are working groups within Identity Commons that support the community collaborating – the stewards council does not ‘run’ these groups but they serve the community and our efforts together- The Internet Identity Workshop, IC Collaborative Tools, Idnetity Futures, Id Media Review, Identity Gang, Marketing and Evangelism.
Working Groups come in several forms:
They can be an group of people with a passion to address something they feel needs to be addressed to get to the big vision. They want some wiki space and a mailing list to talk about the issues. Examples include Enterprise Positioning, Inclusive Initiatives, Identity Rights Agreements.
They can be an existing project that are part of a larger organization, Higgins is an example of this – they are a project of the Eclipse Foundation.
They can be something that grew out of conversations in the Identity Commons community and found a home within another organization like Project VRM (charter) has as part of the Berkman Center and will likely become its own ‘organization’ independent of Berkman by the end of the year.
They can be completely independent nonprofit organizations with their own boards, governance, bank account etc. examples include XDI.org and OpenID.
Some just get technical stuff done as part of IC like OSIS (doing its 3rd Interop at RSA in a month), and Identity Schemas.
Benefits to being explicitly a part of the IC Community.
clarity about each groups purpose, principles, and practices – so that collaboration is easier.
sharing of information via the collaborative tools and lists, along with the required quarterly reporting,
We “don’t know” what an identity layer looks like but we do know it needs to have certain properties to make it work for people the extensible nature of IC gives people the freedom to start a new group that addresses an aspect of the vision. This is the page on the IC wiki that explains our organizational structure.
We are a community.
We are a community more then “an organization” and joining does not mean subsuming a group identity under IC but rather stating a commitment to a shared vision, common values and commitment to collaboration.
A touch of formalism can help create great clarity of group pratices (governenace), leadership, intention, and focus. Not needed for small groups of 12 people doing one thing- helpful when you scale to the 1000’s of people working on the big vision. IC through its groups structure has 1000’s of people participating helping to innovate the technology and think about the social and legal implications.
We are not about “a solution” or “a blue print” there will be multiple operators and multiple standards – yes like the web there may one day be ‘standard’ that emerges just like TCP/IP did and HTML/HTTPS – however it is way to early to promote or be behind “one” thing, it is not to early to start collaborating and building shared meaning and understanding and interoperability between emerging efforts.
Identity problems in the digital realm are as much about technical issues as they are about the social implications and legal issues. Identity Commons explicitly makes space for the social and legal issues to be deal with in relationship to the technologies as it evolves.
In closing there is a background (shorter) and a history (longer) written about the community as it evolved.