My final witness

Everything I do professionally has as its goal the creation of an inclusive identity metasystem for the Internet.

Inclusive means that every vendor, every innovator, every thinker in every generation can be part of it, shaping and using it as they see fit – a real ecology.

Metasystem means that identity claims can be provided by many different types of parties, each meaningful in some context which unites those in an interaction.

Metasystem also means that no one gets to proclaim they have the culminating technology – there is always room to innovate and evolve the underlying pieces as fresh thinkers inevitably transcend what we can do from our vantage point here in 2005.

In other words, I want to build a system flexible enough that it doesn't fall down the first time the world shakes.

It would be silly to hinge anything this important on a personage as imperfect as I am. I would rather hinge things on a set of objective statements, which is what I have done in proposing we converge around the laws of identity.

But in moving forward, I want to reach out – even to fellow techies who think like this:

Microsoft is trying to put on a kinder, gentler shell, but underneath it's still the same old dictatorial slimebags.

This is where it comes down to real people talking about their real lives and inner worries and reflexes and – dare I say it – ideology.

It is so important that people see the Identity Big Bang is not a game of Dungeons and Dragons, but rather a defining moment in laying out a governable infrastructure for our transition into cyberspace. It takes a bit of serious thought.

It's embarrasing for me to point skeptics to this wonderfully kind piece by standards activist Drummond Reed. Let him be my final witness before we return to a discussion of what is objective:

I just want to go on record that Kim is 100% the real thing. I’ve never met anyone like him. The Laws didn’t come from any preconceived agenda or marketing spin, they came straight from the heart of Kim’s lifetime of messaging and metadirectory experience and his passion for creating a true Internet-wide identity infrastructure that will finally usher in what he calls “the big bang” – the explosion of new applications that will be possible with authenticated online trust relationships (also known as the Social Web.)

As he began to talk to the open standard/open source/open trust community about the basic principles and architecture underlying InfoCards – and the fact that it must be an open, platform-independent solution that we all agree to, not unlike TCP/IP itself – he ran into a steady stream of gaping jaws. Could this be this the same Microsoft that had only three years ago proposed Passport and Hailstorm to the world?

Well, it’s not the same Microsoft. It’s the Kim Cameron-inspired Microsoft. Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but to put a twist on my favorite quote from Margaret Mead : “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change Microsoft. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Kim needs our support to pull this off. He’s got mine.

This endorsement says way more about Drummon's vision and immunity to ideology than about me as an individual. He's a clear-eyed guy who wants the same metasystem I do. Like many others, he wants Microsoft to be part of the conversation and do its extensible (pluggable) backplane thing because if we're not there, it's going to take a long time (read long long time) to get Internet identity in place.

As for my relationship with Microsoft, I won't say I never “argue passionately with myself”. But I do my best to represent the Microsoft which turned computers from a bureaucratic contraption to an extension to the human mind and cortex. Not alone! And not perfectly! But in a way that transformed human reality for the better. And I see myself as one of the many who are calling on her to be true to her DNA, and in light of all she has learned as she matured, to apply her shoulder to bringing forth a new era in software, where again it becomes obvious that there is opportunity for everyone.

Passionate Arguments with Yourself

Scoble really broke me up with this one:

Dave Winer breaks away from the EFF over the role that copyrights will play in the future.

I've been having passionate and interesting arguments about the role of copyright in our future systems and communities too. In fact, I've found myself arguing with myself over copyright. (emphasis is mine)

Funny, I was just talking with an old friend who has been looking at the differences between Hegel's and Aristotle's view of dialectics. Aristotle saw dialectic as elucidation of truth through questioning rather than assertion. Hegel saw it as transcendence of the contradiction between what is and what is not. Whatever flavor your prefer, I love how Scoble makes it seem so appropriate and natural. I really like that side of him.

The continuous collision of the cyber and mortar worlds will release vast fields of energy. And I think we'll all be having a lot of passionate arguments with ourselves on our way to understanding what is happening.

Eric Norlin to the rescue

I've tried to keep my day and nighttime existence somewhat separate, but it's hard. After all, the laws of identity are the same at work and at home.

I know a number of you are following the drama that is currently unfolding in light of an early (unprompted) round of stories on ‘InfoCards’ (a code name). If people at a place like Microsoft try to do something “open” and “inclusive”, word gets around. And I've been trying to adopt what is – to my knowledge – a relatively new approach: “Innovation by blogsphere”. So it's not exactly like my ideas are top secret!

But then you end up with an investigative guy from outside the identity realm who puts the pieces together and sees a “kaboom”. Even if the initial story is more or less accurate (if profoundly incomplete), it turns into one of those cases where the other press and analysts haven't been briefed – but are none the less required to write something. So they end up drawing conclusions that in many cases can't be right. And a spiral can ensue.

Somehow we have to turn “the press” on to the things that really matter to us – by “us” I mean those who participate in this concersation – what the masterful Marc Canter of Macromedia fame calls the “emerging mega meta momma backplane”. Is this a case of blogsphere versus mainstream media?

I guess this frames the neat piece by Eric Norlin:

Cnet's got this story about Longhorn today — complete w/ a bit on InfoCards:

The company is also looking to bring back some old ideas. It's working on a technology called “info-cards” in which consumers could securely store information that is to be shared with online commerce sites. Based on the WS-* Web services architecture, info-cards will help customers manage multiple identities, Microsoft said, much as people have multiple cards in their wallet: credit cards, bank cards and membership cards.

In many ways, the idea is a throwback to Microsoft's Passport authentication program, which met with only tepid interest from e-commerce companies and others. The software maker said it is talking with partners but would not say who it might have lined up in support of the info card plan.

Ugh. I don't even work at Microsoft and this frustrates the hell outta me — reporting that can't understand something on its own terms, so it must use *bad* analogies….ie, InfoCards really *isn't* an “old idea” being “brought back.”

For a while i had this bright (or not so bright idea) that i'd go back to the original Hailstorm/Passport Press Release (yes, i have it bookmarked in my IE browser) and rewrite the thing to see if I could make it a more effective message in hindsight. But as I read this piece, I'm realizing that's somewhere beyond the town known as pointless — the preconceived stigma around msft is just too thick.

So – whadya do? Simple – make it personal.

People want to know the people behind things — and (much as its not Kim's schtick) Kim Cameron (who's behind this InfoCards thingy) is a *great* story: likeable, canadian (i think ;-), working on something open in the open, having these cool pc forum conversations, engaging with folks like me, dick hardt (sxip), drummond reed (cordance), mitchell baker (mozilla! hullo!)…..its a great story — *if* its told as Kim's Identity Work…..

now i know that kim doesn't want it to be that way – but this stuff needs a face and a person right now. Its so much harder for a reporter to write a bad story about a good person trying to do good things.

there. that's my no-sleep, early morning, blogging marketing thought for the day: Microsoft should make it personal — and trott kim out to become the face of their InfoCards stuff — and let him just be himself (no PR prepping for this one; kim should just talk and say whatever the hell he wants). Otherwise, we're gonna hear the endless droning on of passport comparisons (which is already sickening and it hasn't even really started) — and this stuff is gonna have the uphill battle from hell.

I'm not trying to be critical of the msft guys (i really like what they're trying to do over there) — but sometimes i wonder if the msft marcom machine doesn't get in the way of their own succeeding…..

(ps: i'm not sure i've ever actually met someone from that machine, btw — outside of the WagEd guys that were assigned to me when I was covering Palladium for DIDW)

Maybe, rather than putting me on tour, Eric, Doc, Craig, Mark, Dick, Drummond, Chris, Dave, Paul, Phil, Mike, Johannes, Radovan, Identity Woman, the Head Lemur, Scoble and all the rest of the Gang will be able to start telling the true story of what we are all attempting to do together.

Anyway, one thing for sure. I remain confident that in the end, the truth will out. And I mean the real truth that we are making as an industry – the Identity Big Bang.

How to make your own drivers license

Gosh, here's more pure Ceppi. It's sobering to see what the industry rhetoric has led to. I'm touched when colleagues from other companies stand up for my contribution. I get optimistic when we tackle these issues together. I also believe that if we are very very patient we will get our ideas across.

Excellent Kim Cameron interview (by David Berlind at PC Forum) available here…the comments on the ZDNet site are a fun read. One is titled “I can manage my own identity, thank you very much.” – this is about as misguided as saying “I can make my own Driver's License, thank you very much.”

Another describes a 1984-like scenario – only with more comprehensive surveillance technology – that Kim's company is supposedly bring into being. The reality is that Kim is one of the most articulate advocates for reforming identity, protecting privacy, and empowering individuals .

The fear, mistrust, and misinformation around identity – especially as it relates to Microsoft – continue to bubble up – meanwhile the identity status quo remains spooky. The sad reality is that many of the identity dynamics that the fear mongers fear are already at work. Your consumer behavior is tracked, your transaction history is aggregated and sold, your core identity assets – the attributes that can be used to breed accounts – are managed by incompetent or unscrupulous IT staff .

The identity status quo will be reformed (and very likely regulated), the reform will involve technology innovation, that innovation will be delivered by software vendors large and small, and the major beneficiaries of the reform will be individuals.

How long all this takes depends in large part on how many ungrounded arguments the fear mongers can come up with to delay much needed reform.

Is it true Chris is doing stand-up now?

You can't get much funnier than this positing by Chris Ceppi at Arbitrage:

Doc Searls, Marc Canter, Drummond Reed, et al. are all a flittter about an Open Identity System or Internet Identity Infrastructure that has been worked out in insider conversations at PC Forum (where the elite meet to be discrete and then tell you about part of it on their blogs.) The universal identity metasytem solution sounds amazing and I can't wait to hear more – which means the hype has worked and this group has me right where they want me.

As we've discussed previously, the identity world already has it's unicycle, it's Cessna, and it's Space Shuttles – I'm just hoping the Universal Identity Infrastructure Metasystem doesn't turn out to be our Segway


Bonus excerpt from the hype hall of fame:

“Developed at a cost of more than $100 million… Doerr predicts…the Segway Co. will be the fastest outfit in history to reach $1 billion in sales.”

Chris drives one of those, right?

Blogging Property Rights and Identity Management

I received an “i-names” email from Aldo Castaneda who is doing his legal thesis on what he calls “Open Legal Writing”. I guess, in effect, he is “blogging his thesis”… If you visit his site, you'll see he is editing it in real time in response to input – same sort of thing I'm trying to do here but in a different realm. (Oh yeah… A further difference is that I don't get another degree at the end of this… although I do get… the Identity Big Bang…)

The subject is the relation between intellectual property rights and identity management system open standards. All in all this looks like it is shaping up to be a discussion which well help us share ideas and thinking across silos. I am really glad to see the governance discussions converging with the technical ones in an intellectually probing manner:

Good legal scholarship should make (1) a claim that is (2) novel, (3) nonobvious, (4) useful, (5) sound, and (6) seen by the reader to be novel, nonobvious, useful and sound.[1]

(1) a claim:

Few if any of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policies of Open Standards[2] organizations are consistent with Open Principles[3]. Therefore contributors and implementers of Identity Management System Open Standards must understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of the current IPR approaches to select the IPR policies best suited to their strategic objectives.[4]

Notes : At present [2005-3-22 at 9:35:55 AM], the Open Standards organizations to be considered include: OASIS ,, The Liberty Alliance, W3C, WS-Federation and The Trusted Computing Group (not necessarily in that order).

(2) that is novel: To date no published work presents a comparative analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of “Open Standards” relative to Identity Management standards contributors and implementers.

(3) Nonobvious: This analysis requires that 1) Open Standards be precisely defined, providing 2) a benchmark against which current Identity Mangement Systems standards can be compared and constrasted.

(4) Useful: This analysis will potentially be useful because it will provide 1) a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of current Identity Management System Open Standards and 2) a practical analytical model for use by Identity Management System Open Standards contributors and implementers.

(5) Sound: To ensure that my analysis is sound I will employ a test suite[1] to check my analysis for consequences I might not otherwise considered. This test suite[1] will based upon a definition of an IPR policy that would conform entirely to Open Principles. I will likely use that definition as a benchmark against which the various current IPR policies will be compared and contrasted.

(6) Seen by the reader to be novel, non0bvious, useful and sound. (Part of the purpose of drafting online is to expose my work scrutiny early and often. Ideally, through this process element #6 will be satisfied)

[1] Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review by Eugene Volokh Professor of Law UCLA School of Law, Second Edition

[2] “Open Standards” is an ambiguous concept, therefore for the purposes of this paper I will need to define “Open Standards” precisely so that I can use that definition as a benchmark against which to compare and contrast current Identity Management IPR policies. (Scott Blackmer commented: “Bruce Perens of the Open Source Initiative offers one thoughtful definition (, amplified recently by Lawrence Rosen (”)

[3] Open Source Licensing, Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law by Lawrence Rosen.

[4] I am indebted to Scott Blackmer for his guidance in arriving at this claim.


Caspar Bowden has advised me that the book Malicious Cryptography: Exposing Cryptovirology is a “hair-raising read”. Here is the description from Amazon:

“The authors of this book explain these issues and how to fight against them.” (Computer Law & Security Report, 1st September 2004)

Product Description:
Hackers have uncovered the dark side of cryptography—that device developed to defeat Trojan horses, viruses, password theft, and other cyber-crime. It’s called cryptovirology, the art of turning the very methods designed to protect your data into a means of subverting it. In this fascinating, disturbing volume, the experts who first identified cryptovirology show you exactly what you’re up against and how to fight back.

They will take you inside the brilliant and devious mind of a hacker—as much an addict as the vacant-eyed denizen of the crackhouse—so you can feel the rush and recognize your opponent’s power. Then, they will arm you for the counterattack.

This book reads like a futuristic fantasy, but be assured, the threat is ominously real. Vigilance is essential, now.

  • Understand the mechanics of computationally secure information stealing
  • Learn how non-zero sum Game Theory is used to develop survivable malware
  • Discover how hackers use public key cryptography to mount extortion attacks
  • Recognize and combat the danger of kleptographic attacks on smart-card devices
  • Build a strong arsenal against a cryptovirology attack

The hacker motivated by pure thrills is perhaps being eclipsed by a new breed of professional, but this doesn't make the concepts explored here less relevant!

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Just another set…

Luke Razzell of weaverluke has posted an entry on digital identity to the Wikipedia. He begins:

Digital identity is the representation of identity in terms of digital information.

A digital identity can be understood as the set of digital information that is attributable to any given entity. This entity may be human (an individual or a community), a physical object, or even digital information itself.

Luke continues on to discuss how identity is the product of relationships, how it is used in authentication, how it relates to ontology – all in all an ambitious and thoughtful piece of work that people should look at.

I have to admit that I like the way he starts out, but prefer to separate the “evaluation of claims” (what Luke calls “attribution” based on “trust”) from the concept of digital identity itself. Otherwise things get way too complex.

I think it gets us much further in a practical sense to stick with the idea that a digital identity is simply a set of claims (assertions that are in doubt) made by one digital subject about another digital subject.

I argue that what an observer “makes” of such a set of claims is just another set of “claims”, this time made by the observer (they may or may not be conveyed further).

I hope all lovers of recursion will catch my drift.

You end up with a simple transform of what you started with – a set of claims made by one digital subject about another. Thus the matters of trust and attribution are at a higher level of abstraction than the mechanism for expressing identity.

This also makes it easier to build a system that works across boundaries but leaves the social issues of trust open to many possibile differentiated implementations.

Engineer-Customer relationships

A while ago I wrote about the ways blogging might transform the relationship between people who design software products and their customers.

I mentioned how for many of us engineers, Doc Searls’ dictum that “markets are conversations” defines a form of marketing that we can actually understand. Wanting to give an example from my own experience, Burks Smith from Sprint popped into my mind. He's one the great customers who helped me imagine. And guess what? Just a few days later he was googling for an article about his son and came across my blog…

I also found the engineer-customer relationship rewarding, and was happy to have the ear of someone who could not only understand our problems, but could affect change. That mail product 15 years ago needed to get the address book right, and this is the foundation in all of today's Identity Management solutions. Thanks for listening.

Again Burks strikes a chord – he knew how to take advantage of the clarity of the unmediated relationship between himself and me as a designer, just as much as I did in the opposite direction. And through our interactions we were able to identify and get at the real underlying problems that hadn't even annunciated themselves in the top-down market yet.

By “top-down market” I mean the market as described by the conventional market machinery. Doc probably has better words for this stuff. But what do I think was happening? The conversation was way ahead of the top-down market.

With respect to the power of the Blog, I wouldn't have known about this posting if I hadn't been searching for an article about my son (III) in Google and accidentally came upon it.

Yes, I suppose that's a problem. But as imperfect as the longtail niche might be, Burks found out what I'm doing without my having to send him an “I'm blogging” spam! It's truly amazing how much more input the blog gives me for my thinking process, input that will continue to affect everything I do in the deepest possible ways. Thanks to everyone who writes to me.