When I speak to people about identity, many of the responses go very quickly into detail about federated models and use of microformats and OpenID and and and. This is great, because we clearly have a community talking about standards and fashioning them via usage — trying them out — rather than abusage — pontificating in front of slideware.
As I said, this is great. So what’s the problem? The problem is that it’s a small community. We aren’t going to solve this issue unless we have a somewhat larger number of people truly engaged. One way of engaging people is to keep raising awareness of what identity is about.
Yesterday I promised to review what I thought and felt about identity, and to kick that off, here’s an extract from a year-old post:
The identity debate seems to encompass many disparate things, either directly or indirectly, so Iâ€™m going to just list them to begin with:
- Ecce Homo: A means of identifying who I am, with some other relatively static data, eminently suitable for â€œmicroformatâ€ treatment, and probably needing to be combined with some other way of confirming who I am, â€œtwo-factor authenticationâ€. Like having a card and a PIN or signature. This is as permanent as can be, a metaphorical passport or fingerprint or iris pattern or whatever. This probably includes all the numerical tags I collect like frequent flyer and affinity memberships. It can include my credit cards and accounts. It is the same regardless of the specific relational or transactional conversation I happen to be in. My gut feel is that each person should have only one of these, and that it should be â€œsmall but perfectly formedâ€. And that it has to exist and be verifiable in a dotorg state.
- Letters of Intent: A means of letting people know about my intentions, what Iâ€™m interested in or looking for. I make known my preferences and interests. Some of them are temporary, some of them are permanent. I choose who I want to tell. As in Doc looking for rental cars. As in my signalling to individuals in my social network that I will be within n miles of where they are at a given time. My information. Signalled to whom I want to. When and where I want to. Giving the listener an opportunity to converse with me and relate to me. Even things like last.fm are variants of this.
- Tell them Phil sent ya: A way of associating other peopleâ€™s perceptions of me with me, both qualitative as well as quantitative. This is trust that I can acquire but not control. Ratings I have, whether credit or eBay or college scores or whatever. Variable over time. Not suppressible by me. But challengeable by me, so that dispute or contention can be flagged. I may have many such ratings, used for different purposes, but inspectable at the behest of the requestor. And changed as a result of the conversation.
- Trust me, Iâ€™m a doctor: A way of telling other people my own perception of me. Kitemarking my sites and blogs and articles and photos and quotes and whatever. Here what I am doing is endorsing stuff in the public domain about me, indicating (a) this came from me or (b) even though it does not come from me, I nevertheless approve it, I endorse it. This is like a great seal, a way of stamping that something is Orl Korrect. Or that Kilroy was Here.
- My name is Bond, James Bond: A licence to do something. Granted by someone else. Usually not transferable. Usually not permanent either.
- Come up and see my etchings: My choosing to expose things I have done, expired and executed letters of intent. Pictures of my activity with others. Kiss-and-tell. My information. My choice as to whom I share it with. And I can make this choice single-use or temporary or permanent. Probably even includes financial transactions and medical history.
Above and beyond this, I think identity is as much about what I stand for, the community I belong to, the community that will have me as a member. Identity itself is essentially social rather than individual. I will spend the next couple of days going through my own thoughts and notes on the subject, and then summarise them for readers. All this is distinct and separate from design and implementation issues, which will follow later.