Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Stick to what you know... Updated 3:15 PM

Kim Cameron mentioned Shelley Powers in his blog today. Coming on the heels of mentions by both Jamie Lewis and Johannes Ernst, it seemed that I might be missing something by not reading Ms. Powers.

I wasn't.

She starts a discussion of federated identity by saying "Well, frankly, Liberty Alliance isn't for the likes of you and me..." Then proceeds to savage the usage scenario laid out in an early version of the ID-FF specification by wondering why "Joe User" needs to frequently be asked "You may federate your Airlines, Inc. identity with any other identities you may have with members of our affinity group. Do you consent to such introductions?" when with a single button press he could book a hotel and car along with his plane ticket at Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz right now.

She fails to mention that this would only occur once, and only to people who have existing accounts - not some newbie trying to buy his first plane ticket! The difference is that none of these travel sites would have the personalization information that might be in Joe User's existing accounts with American Airlines, Hertz and Marriott! Federation allows these vendor accounts to be associated with Joe User quickly and efficiently. The Liberty Alliance is about much more than Single Signon, I know that - as do Cameron and Lewis, but evidently Powers couldn't take the time to learn that much. She may know ASP and Unix (she's written books on both) but she shows a clear misunderstanding of identity issues.

Further proof that she not only doesn't understand identity, but also has trouble realizing the needs of the average user. She complains about existing IdM schemes as: "They weren't for the likes of me, people who come in all muddy from a hike, and who sit down at their computer to read an article at the Washington Post, but don't want to have to register for yet another online newspaper." But fully expects Joe Sixpack to spend hours installing LID with vCard and FOAF files, cgi scripts and perl! Even LID's creator doesn't expect Joe Sixpack to do that!

When you want to read about Identity, stick to people who "do" identity.

UPDATE:

Powers and I now agree that we both were a little cranky in our respctive posts. And we both think UDDI sucks big time. It's a start, and she does actually have a few decent ideas (he says grudgingly). I'll keep reading her.

Comments:
Actually I've been aware of identity issues since Passport was beta, and Liberty almost as soon as it was out the door. The effort has never hidden the fact that their target customer is the companies themselves, not individuals.

They focus on technologies that won't work for smaller application users. As one person noted in comments, they focus on J2EE and .NET as implementations. And frankly some of their documents represent the worst of "inspiration by committee".

Now, they do have some good people, and some good ideas, and some of its even open sourceable. These need to break out of the Alliance and go their own way, because the Alliance will never be anything more than massively complex tools for corporations and other big organizations.

Now because I was critical of your favorite Big R & D identity project, I must not know anything. I'm glad for you to have an all knowing and all seeing eye. But I hope you'll excuse me if I continue writing now and again on this topic? You know, some people get weird that way -- when an obvious authority such as yourself says they don't know anything, and we still continue writing about it, and playing with the tech, and having opinions.

Darn us.

Oh by the way, did you happen to read any of the material in the essay where I said what LID needed to be usable for the average person? No, I didn't think so.

Oh, and as a correction, I won't say that Liberty Alliance isn't for the likes of you and me, because its obviously for the likes of you. So, how do you use any of the material and/or technology coming out of this? Where can I see it? Is there something on your site that implements something out of the Alliance? After all the group has been working for what is it? Wow, almost four years now.
 
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