Proactive Development of Shared Language by NSTIC Stakeholders

This is the “punchline section” (in my response it is after what is below…the history of collaboration in the identity community):

Proactive Development of Shared Language by NSTIC Stakeholders

In 2004-5 the Identity Gang (user-centric identity community) was 1/10 the size of the current NSTIC stakeholder community.  It took us a year of active grassroots effort to develop enough common language and shared understanding to collaborate. NSTIC doesn’t have 5-10 years to coalesce a community that can collaborate to build the Identity Ecosystem Framework. To succeed, the National Program Office must use processes to bring value and insight while also developing  shared language and understanding amongst stakeholders participating.

Fostering conditions for high-performance collaboration

amongst the community to emerge must be a top priority for the NPO. One way to do this is to use methods that grow shared language and understanding such as Value Network Mapping and Polarity Mapping (more on them in forthcoming posts). The NPO with just a few staff could host many small focused convenings with stakeholders locally around the country and at industry events throughout the fall. With small collaborative meetings, and proactive support of network weaving [defined by Bill Traynor summarized by Eugene on his wiki] across stakeholder groups, I believe the community of NSTIC stakeholders would be in place just like the IIW community was at the first IIW. NSTIC must support self-organizing to create a thriving ecosystem through  shared language, understanding amongst NSTIC stakeholders by January.


Origins of Shared Language for Identity Collaboration

In the Beginning…

We (the Internet Identity Workshop / user-centric identity community) have been successful over the last 6 years in part because the format of many organic opportunities has shared language to emerge leading to greater and greater collaboration. The community began when some of us found each other at Digital Identity World conferences. There were only a few very user-centric focused people and we stood out amongst the enterprise oriented attendees. We liked each other and wanted to collaborate, so we started a mailing list together. Doc Searls asked a few people to be on Steve Gillmor’s Gillmor Gang December 31, 2004 and thus the “Identity Gang” was born.

The Gillmor Gang, Dec 21, 2004.“This week The Gang digs deeper into digital identity with a panel of experts. It begins as a Kumbaya of identity vendors and technologies, but by the second half the gloves come off.”

Everyone in the identity community listened to that particular podcast as it was sent out via e-mail to our mail list. Talking on mailing lists was an easy way of talking about shared topics of interest.

Everyone’s Blogging

We were very lucky in late 2004 that a new medium, blogging, was just breaking through, providing space for us to express our points of view and connect dots between different perspectives and meanings. Doc Seals encouraged many of us to begin blogs on identity, and in 2005 the way you came to have an identity (you felt you belong and other people identified you as belonging) within the community was to create a blog and share your ideas. At that time, were over 50 blogs touching on user-centric identity ideas and concepts. Pat Patterson started an aggregate blog at Planet Identity pulling in rss feeds from all those early community members.  It has grown since then and today the has 172 blog rss feeds aggregated. The day to day conversations linked through blog posts gave us the ability was yet another way we fostered shared language.

Debates raged in these mediums about word meaning as we  sought to understand profound questions. Examples include:

  • Is identity a claims or an attribute?
  • What is Identity anyway?
  • How is a digital identity different then an identity?
  • Are identities really just identifiers?
  • Why is direct identity important?
  • Why is selective disclosure important for privacy?
  • Is the domain name space enough or should there be a namespace for people?

Here is a post by Phil Windley after the meet up at Burton Group Catalyst 2005 discussing the terms that people were debating meaning around.

Thought leaders like Kim Cameron published his Laws of Identity in 2005 on his blog, one a week. Each week, everyone anticipated the next Law’s arrival and then people commented on Kim’s blog, wrote posts on their own blogs and discussed on mailing lists. He really listened and used the feedback from all of us in the final paper that was published. The paper’s opening thanks over 30 people for their thoughts and comments.

A key example is Aldo Casteneda’s Podcast: the Story of Digital Identity had 60 episodes recorded over 2 years. While working on a thesis for his law degree, he decided he would reach out to people blogging about user centric digital identity and related subjects to interview them. These interviews helped people connect to each other across time and space, learning more about them, sharing each person’s world view in a way that was different than reading about it on a blog or in e-mail.

Lexicon Development

Paul Trevithick led another vital community effort. He was frustrated with the experience of people talking past each other as they used different words to mean the same thing and the same words to mean different things. He had spent several years thinking about core identity ideas and concepts with a developed a vocabulary for it.  He knew that if we didn’t sync up on lexicon, we would be totally ineffective at actually communicating with one another and never be able to collaborate to get anything built.

However Paul did something more then just push for finding common definition, before the community began work on what could have been a contentious exercise. He collaborated with the community to define a goal and the methods. The dialogue around the word meaning happened to the 3 months prior IIW#1 in the fall of 2005 and at that event Paul presented the first draft of the Lexicon and asked for more feedback from the 80+ people attending.

The goal of developing a lexicon was scoped narrowly, met real needs and the goal was achieved.  The community who had been intensely debating the nuances of these words and related concepts so that it had a shared place to point to where community members had collaboratively agreed on the meanings for certain key words agreeing to stick to those meaning when writing in the future.  This solved problems everyone was having being understood and understanding and its completion was as cause for celebration. In this small success grew trust in the community and a willingness to take more effort in the future to collaborate in ways that went beyond the explicit creation of shared language.

Identity Community Development

On mailing lists, via blogs and in Aldo’s podcasts, we enjoyed talking with one another about identity, exploring how different ideas could be articulated in software and digital systems. People piped up on the “Identity Gang” list about events they were going to like PC Forum (Esther Dyson’s PC Forum conference) [see Doc’s Photos from that meeting] or Burton Group Catalyst Conference.  More people pipped up, joining events and asking for meetups.  No requests were turned down for meetings. These face to face conversations were layered onto an active community conversations in written form online. We would feel just like Drummond Reed did in the story Eugene Kim told above.

From Meet-ups to the Internet Identity Workshop un-Conference

After a few of these meet-ups, we realized we needed to host our own mutli-day conference. Doc Searls, Phil Windley and I agreed to work together on the first IIW, held October 2005. The first day, presentations of papers was the normative format of presentations. We invited all technologies that were user-centric in orientation to get presented, with eight presentations that day. This was the first time these technologies had all been in one place and everyone shared what their tech did and how it worked. The first IIW event added to yet more shared language development.

I knew of this great method called Open Space Technology which let people self-organize a schedule for a conference in real time. Instead of just talking at each other for one day, why not gather again in the morning and try this format out? It turns out, that first Open Space day fostered the founding of OpenID – through the conversations leading to a shared understanding between two identity system providers (OpenID and LID/Lightweight Identity), followed by three (XRI) after which a forth joined (sxip) the different technology protocols. All four agreed to meet up again after IIW to continue shared work to do endpoint discovery for URL-based identifiers for login authentication. Through conversation at IIW, OpenID collaborators learned about the XRDS format (eXtensible Resource Descriptor Service) within another already existing standard,  XRI, and this new thing for a short time was called YADIS. It was jokingly referred to as “Yet Another Discovery Identity Service.” You can see the old site for it here Shortly after, it was agreed that OpenID was the best name amongst the bunch and so it became OpenIDv2. XRDS as evolved to XRD-Simple and then was finalized as a specification of the XRI technical committee at OASIS. It now is a key part of many other protocols such as OpenID, OAuth, and UMA.

Collaboration Doesn’t “Just Happen”

The point in sharing all these stories about evolving identity systems is to make clear the collaboration present at the first Internet Identity Workshop. It was no accident that the community worked together to develop shared language and grow understanding using in shared spaces (mailing lists podcasts, conference rooms, our own conference), with shared displays (wiki’s, white boards). We are very lucky to have Eugene Kim, a collaboration expert, give us good advice about practices (both online and offline) to use that mapped to proven patterns of collaboration.

His advice steered us away from making organizational choices for the community that would likely disrupt or inhibit collaboration, and towards methods and patterns that enhanced collaboration. I and others proactively wove the community together linking people who shared ideas and interests.

The user-centric identity community’s culture of collaboration online and at events has continued since that first IIW in part because we (myself, Doc and Phil) don’t steer the community. Instead, we make space for it to self organize and get work done with proper support.

What is special about our Events?

Since the first IIW, I have designed and facilitated over 150 participant-driven events for a variety of communities around the world. When I design an event, I ask my clients to articulate the purpose of event. I then ask to co-develop profiles of potential attendees and what the client goals are likely to be. With the data outlined, I choose methods and tools that are likely to meet the needs of the attendees and reach the goals of the organizers. There are many dozen methods to choose from,  some of them more converging then others. For example, The most amount of time I allow a mode where one person talks at people in lecture mode is 1/4 of the total conference time. Although IIW seems like it is the same every time, we always make a point of reviewing where the community is at and tweeking the design to meet the current needs.

IIW has no “steering group”

We have been very lucky to get the best advice regarding good patterns for ongoing community collaboration online, and have my talent for creating and holding space for the community to gather every 6 months at IIW and other satellite events (last fall we had DC and London).  Our culture of collaboration is valued by most as very effective. But there is no “steering group.” We  don’t set an agenda for the conference other then naming the broad theme of user-centric identity. There is no gate keeper. It is a self organizing space within Open Space principles and this has a lot of power to allow progress on the development of open and adoptable standards. The latest work to arise out of IIW is SCIM, Simple Cloud Identity Management.  You can see links on Phil Hunts blog to several posts about the conversations at the last IIW.

This post is from pages 12-16 of Kaliya’s NSTIC Response – please see this page for the overview and links to the rest of the postsHere is a link to the PDF.

This is the section before: Ecosystems Collaborate Using Shared Language

This is the section after: Alignment of Stakeholders around the many NSTIC Goals


Sidebars in the Document:


Identity Gang Lexicon


To create a minimal set of terms that enable discussion of the technical operations, technical architecture, and user experience of user-centric identity systems.


  1. The terms should be as few in number as possible and build on one another.
  2. To be as accessible as possible we may have to avoid using single words whose meanings are either too broad or are overloaded in common usage, and instead use multi-word combinations. For example, we will define “digital identity” to have a single specific meaning and avoid using the single word term “identity.”
  3. If we’re successful one should be able to easily visualize what the digital manifestation of a given term might be.
  4. There are several other existing sources of definitions. Where these can be referenced, they should be.
  5. We will use as a starting point the three terms put forward by Kim Cameron in his Laws of Identity: Digital Identity,Digital Subject, and Claim.
  6. Each term will have a concise and carefully edited description. Comments on these terms should not conflict with the definition, but should provide insights on the definition from multiple perspectives. In the interest of color and nuance these comments will not be held to the same editing standards as the definition.


The Lexicon was developed by the Identity Gang it is a resource for the whole community to have a shared language.The following terms and definitions have been compiled since August 2005. See also Lexicon Goal and Lexicon Style Guide.




Digital Identity

Digital Identity Provider

Digital Subject


Identity Attribute

Identity Context



Relying Party



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