When we first started meeting (the early "seedling" meetings of community) at other people’s conferences, there were Microsoft people, Liberty Alliance/SAML people, Shibboleth implementers, user-centric folks (OpenID, LID, sxip, i-names/xri), big idea folks (Doc Searls), etc. We met for a couple of hours at a time and knew there was common ground, but knew we needed more time to really understand each other: to have more of a shared language and develop enough strength in the relationships in the community to work together. We figured we needed to have more time to meet together, so we convened the Internet Identity Workshop. That first event was amazing and quite formative - kicking off the conversation that would lead to OpenIDv2 via Yadis. Kim Cameron presented his 7 laws of identity that have become foundational to community thinking and introduced the idea of information cards and selectors; much work is now happening around this.
Soon afterward Brett McDowell the ED at Liberty Alliance approached me and Phil about having an Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) next to (the days following and in the same location) an upcoming Liberty Alliance meeting. We thought this was a great idea to create more space for people to meet about user-centric identity technologies and issues. When Microsoft got wind of this, boy did I get an earful - they felt that the neutrality of IIW would be totally compromised if it came to be that closely associated with Liberty Alliance (remember Liberty Alliance was originally formed by Sun and others in response to Microsoft Passport).
IIW had provided a forum for anyone working on user-centric identity technologies to come together without anyone making an “agenda” for the meeting or creating a “technology road map.” Literally anyone who came could put a subject on the agenda on the day of the event. All parties did want to increase dialogue and cross-pollination among the groups, and we found a way through by jointly (IIW and Liberty Alliance) producing what we named the Identity Open Space (we also said we would be open to co-producing with others who asked - we did two with Digital Identity World). It was in Vancouver Canada and Kim Cameron along with several Microsoft folks along with many in the user-centric community attended and because it was the two days after a Liberty Alliance meeting many Liberty people were also there, and it was a good event that moved the industry forward.
Right in the middle of getting this worked out - I on a personal level had a very intense experience being caught in the middle - a giant trade association on one side and Microsoft on the other. We (me, Phil, Doc, Kim, Brett) managed to navigate this as a community and do the right thing and we became stronger as a community for having done so.
We continued to have IIW's every 6 months and in 2006 it was clear we were going beyond just IIW and needed a community home/container to connect community efforts and provide common services (blogs, wikis, bank account for doing common work like holding events). We held a series of conversations and decided to create a community organization, drawing on an existing one, Identity Commons - the community liked the purpose and principles approach for bringing people together. As a codition of brand transfer to a our nonprofit organization we worked on our version of purpose and principles. There were some delays in actually getting the organization legally formed and the brand transfered, but in 2007 we were an official organization: a network of organizations, initiatives, and projects all working on different aspects of a people-centric identity layer of the web. There are several places you can read about community history and background around Identity Commons. I wrote “What the heck is Identity Commons?”.
Next fall we are hosting our 9th event. Many things have move forward significantly in the community - OpenIDv2, OAuth, Venn of Identity paper, OSIS Interop, Concordia use-cases, Information Card evolution including Augmented Browsing with Action Cards, Portable Contacts, Open Social, OpenID/OAuth hybrid, Activity Streams, Distributed Social Networking, Discovery particularly XRD. So what has made IIW work so well in fostering the kind of collaboration and innovation that has emerged from it?
- We have kept the space free: no one has the ability to buy time at the conference.
- All ideas are welcome: there is no committee controlling the agenda, so politics about what is "on the agenda" or "not" just doesn't happen.
- It is a working workshop to solve real problems, move technical projects forward and discuss interoperability among them.
- We put attention towards creating the space for relationships between people to form naturally over time and thus enabled trust to grow.