Ph-Off and i-name Promotion

I’m at the Identity Open Space in Santa Clara right now. Lots of good stuff scheduled today, including a session I’m co-leading on Identity Commons, the next generation. Two things worth mentioning now. First, i-names have officially launched. A lot of folks purchased i-names through the Identity Commons fundraiser way back when, and those will finally become useful. If you didn’t have a chance to buy one at the special rate a few years ago, you can buy them at a special rate over the next three days: $5 for the first year of registration. Go to:    (L5U)

and register before 7pm PT, this Thursday, September 14.    (L5W)

Second, Andy Dale has whipped up a cool, anti-phishing Firefox plugin for OpenID users appropriately named, Ph-Off. OpenID and similar technologies rely on the notion of an Identity Broker — a third-party site that handles authentication. Because these Identity Brokers will become increasingly important, we need good ways to be sure that things that look like our i-brokers actually are our i-brokers. When you configure Ph-Off, the toolbar turns green and you get a green thumbs up indicator when you visit your actual i-broker. It’s simple and useful.    (L5X)

WikiMania 2006, Day One

Day one is over. Brain is overloaded. Very tired. Attending conference during day/evening, then working late into night — bad. Law school dorms with no air conditioning in Cambridge in August — also bad.    (KWO)

Still, much to share. And amazingly enough, I will — at least a bit. There’s something about this conference that actually gets me to blog, rather than simply promising I will. Besides, I’m going to set a new record for responsiveness to Tom Maddox, even if it is via blog.    (KWP)

It is incredibly surreal to be back at my alma mater surrounded by post-college friends and colleagues. What makes it even more surreal is that folks from all facets of my professional life seem to be here, not just Wiki folks. I mentioned having my fingers in a lot of pies, right? Well, all those pies are unexpectedly well represented this weekend. It started yesterday when I discovered that Chris Messina and Tara Hunt were on the same flight to Boston, and culminated at dinner with Greg Elin (whom I first met at the FLOSS Usability Sprint, and who invited me to join him for dinner), Daniel Perry (a lawyer who’s been an important contributor to recent Identity Commons discussions), Tom Munnecke (first introduced to me by Jack Park when I was just starting Blue Oxen Associates), and Doc Searls (who needs no introduction). Also at the dinner: Ellen Miller, Micah Sifry, David Isenberg, Britt Blaser, and Yochai Benkler. Quite a contrast from last year, when I was hanging with grassroots Wiki peeps every night. I’m not complaining, though. The conversation was fascinating, even if we didn’t talk much about Wikis.    (KWQ)

Keeping with this theme, I didn’t hear much about Wikis today, other than my interview with Ward Cunningham. I kept my questions pretty basic, as a lot of folks there had never heard him speak, but I managed to slip in a few probing questions for myself. I asked Ward about the evolution of Wiki culture, and I specifically mentioned the culture of anonymity that he strongly encouraged in the early days, but that seems mostly absent in today’s Wikis. Ward seemed resignedly ambivalent. I asked him about what makes a Wiki a Wiki, and he was decidedly agnostic in his response: anything that facilitates a permissive spirit and mode of collaboration. I’m not sure whether he was being political or whether he truly feels this way. My guess is a bit of both, but I’ll press him on this if I get a chance later this weekend.    (KWR)

I showed up late to Larry Lessig‘s keynote, but I was unconcerned, as I had heard him give his Free Culture speech before. It’s excellent, but he recycles it often. Sure enough, he was doing the same speech, and I started tuning out. Fortunately, my brain was paying partial attention, or I would have missed what may end up being the most intriguing development of the conference.    (KWS)

Larry started talking about the interoperability of licenses, and how it was silly that the FDL and Creative Commons BY-SA licenses could not be relicensed interchangeably, even though the two licenses were equivalent in spirit and intent. He then proposed an interoperability clause as well as a neutral organization whose purpose would be to classify equivalent licenses. His talk was followed by a really good panel discussion between him and Eben Moglen. This stuff is really complicated and important, but it looks like Larry and Eben are serious about working together towards a common solution. Apparently, Jimbo Wales deserves a lot of credit for getting these two to cooperate. Did I mention that I love this community?    (KWT)

Quick hits:    (KWU)

  • I shared a flight and T ride here with Chris Messina aned Tara Hunt. (Chris was presenting on Bar Camp.) Chris extolled the virtues of Voodoo Pad, which apparently has autolinking features a la my Markup Free Auto Linking Wiki idea.    (KWV)
  • Was excited to see two of my roommates from last year: Kurt Jansson, a German doctoral student and president of the German chapter of Wikimedia Foundation, and Juan David Ruiz, a Chilean lawyer.    (KWW)
  • Saw Erik Zachte in the morning, who does awesome Wikipedia work. Erik immediately told me about two cool projects I had never heard of: FON and Wikimapia.    (KWX)
  • Caught up with Rory O’Connor after my session with Ward. Rory’s a filmmaker who came to last year’s Wikimania to make a documentary on Wikipedia. What I didn’t know was that he was so inspired by the proceedings, he decided to release all 13 hours of his footage under a Creative Commons license to encourage folks to mix their own documentaries from the event. Check it out, and mix away! There’s some interview footage of me somewhere in there, and I make a cameo in Rory’s 11-minute rough cut, in the background of Jimbo’s interviews yukking it up with John Breslin.    (KWY)
  • Somehow, I got recruited by multiple Wikipedians to help with the lightning talks due to my process expertise. My expert advice: “Move those chairs into a circle, and be firm with the time limit.” Yes folks, this is why I get paid the big bucks.    (KWZ)
  • Briefly got a chance to chat with Tim Starling about the OpenID integration in Mediawiki. Tim explained that they’re going to unify the user databases across all the different Wikimedia properties. This was further validation that Yoke‘s identity proxy approach is useful. Of course, one of these days, I’m going to have to actually write down what that approach is, so that I can convince people of its utility.    (KX0)

Identity Commons Sessions Summary (June 21, 2006)

There were two sessions on Identity Commons on the Open Space day (June 21, 2006) at the Identity Mashup at the MIT Media Lab last week. The first session was an open status meeting for the community at large. We described Identity Commons‘s purpose, told the history of the organization, then explained how the organization could serve the community today and why the existing organizational structure wasn’t adequate. We then announced that the current trustees had authorized a brand transfer, assuming that the new organization adopted purposes and principles consistent with the current purposes and principles.    (KQL)

Both sessions were well-attended, and there were a number of new faces. Interest in participation seemed strong.    (KQM)

In brief:    (KQN)

  • There are a number of grassroots community projects that involve multiple stakeholders and that are happening independently of any centralized direction.    (KQO)
  • These decentralized efforts could all benefit from some shared infrastructure, which could be as simple as a shared, neutral brand (i.e. “Identity Commons“) or as complicated as a set of rules that help ensure fair participation and governance among multiple parties.    (KQP)
  • Our strategy is to build an organization organically that addresses the needs of these different community projects.    (KQQ)

Current projects/interests (and stewards) include:    (KQR)

These projects could benefit from things like:    (KR1)

  • Shared name. The importance of this can’t be understated. It demonstrates solidarity, implicit community cooperation, which is particularly important for this community. There’s also an implicit reputation (hopefully positive) associated with a shared name that encourages participation in the community.    (KR2)
  • Bank account. Several of these projects need a bank account. A great example of this are the various community gatherings, which need the ability to accept registrations and spend money on things like space rental and food.    (KR3)
  • Online community space. Many of these groups are already using mailing lists and Wikis for discussion and group authoring. It would simplify things for new groups if these resources were easily available to those who wanted them. It would also benefit the community at large if some of these groups had their discussions on a shared space as opposed to separate silos.    (KR4)
  • Governance and process. Some fundamental guidelines can help all groups facilitate cooperation and participation from all stakeholders.    (KR5)

Eventually, what we’re currently calling “Identity Commons 2.0” will need:    (KR6)

  • legal entity w/ bylaws and membership criteria    (KR7)
  • financial model    (KR8)
  • intellectual property agreement (potentially using Apache Software Foundation as a model)    (KR9)

Our strategy for addressing these needs is to attack the low-hanging fruit first and to let the projects drive the priorities of the organization. We will start by forming an organizational working group consisting of the stewards of each of the working groups described above as well as anyone else from the community who wants to join. Its first meeting is a teleconference tentatively scheduled for next Thursday, July 6 at 9am PT, pending confirmation from the different stewards. (Details to be announced on the community mailing list.)    (KRA)

Organizational policy should be as lightweight as possible, giving each working group the option of customizing them to fit their needs.    (KRB)

We will use the community mailing list for discussion. We will also setup a Wiki, leveraging the work Jon Ramer did for Identity Mashup. We will look into merging some of the other Wikis, such as Identity Gang, into this new Wiki.    (KRC)

Who will decide what working groups form or what collaborative tools we’ll use? In general, if someone wants to propose something that’s consistent with the purposes and principles, the answer is “yes” — provided someone is going to steward the proposal.    (KRD)

The Story of Glormf: Lessons on Language and Naming

Jack Park recently asked about Link As You Think on the Blue Oxen Collaboration Collaboratory. I’ve written several blog posts on the matter, but there’s not much else out there. This was a great excuse for me to tell a few vignettes about Shared Language and the importance of names.    (KMO)

Glormf    (KMP)

This is Glormf, courtesy of the uber-talented cartoonist, Brian Narelle.    (KMQ)


Fen Labalme coined the term (originally spelled “glormph”) at an Identity Commons retreat in July 2003. We were strategizing about next steps, and we found that we were all struggling to describe what it was that we were all working on. Although we all had different views of the proverbial elephant, we were also convinced that we were talking about the same thing. In an inspired moment of clarity, Fen exclaimed, “It’s Glormf!” Much to our delight, Brian was listening to the conversation and drew Glormf for all of us to see.    (KMS)

Glormf’s birth lifted a huge burden off our shoulders. Even though Glormf was mucky, it was also real. We knew this, because it had a name and even a picture, and we could point to it and talk about it with ease. The name itself had no biases towards any particular view, which enabled all of us to use it comfortably. Each of us still had a hard time describing exactly what Glormf was, but if anyone challenged Glormf’s existence, any one of us could point to Glormf and say, “There it is.”    (KMT)

We had created Shared Language, although we hadn’t rigorously defined or agreed on what the term meant. And that was okay, because the mere existence of Shared Language allowed us to move the conversation forward.    (KMU)

Ingy’s Rule and Community Marks (KMV)

Ingy dot Net‘s first rule of starting a successful Open Source project is to come up with a cool name. I like to say that a startup isn’t real until it has a T-shirt.    (KMW)

Heather Newbold once told a wonderful story about how Matt Gonzalez’s mayoral campaign buttons galvanized the progressive community in San Francisco and almost won him the election. As people started wearing the green campaign buttons, she described the startling revelation that progressives in San Francisco had: There are others out there like me. A lot of them. I was amazed to hear her speak of the impact of this recognition, coming from a city that has traditionally been a hotbed of activism.    (KMX)

There’s a pattern in all of these rules and stories. I struggled to come up with a name for this pattern, and the best I could do for a long time was Stone Soup (courtesy of the participants in my 2004 Chili PLoP workshop). I loved the story associated with this name, the parable of how transformational self-awareness can be. But, it wasn’t quite concrete enough for my taste.    (KMY)

I think Chris Messina‘s term, “Community Mark“, is much better. Chris has actually fleshed out the legal implications of a Community Mark, which I recommend that folks read. Whether or not you agree with him on the details, the essence of Community Marks is indisputable: Effective communities have Community Marks. Community Marks make communities real, just as the term “Glormf” made a concept real. That’s the power of Shared Language.    (KMZ)

Pattern Languages and Wikis    (KN0)

Pattern Languages are all about Shared Language. Much of Christopher Alexander‘s classic, The Timeless Way of Building, is about the importance of names. In his book, Alexander devotes an entire chapter to describing this objective quality that all great buildings have. As you can imagine, his description is not entirely concrete, but he does manage to give it a name: “Quality Without A Name.” Call it a copout if you’d like, but if you use the term (or its acronym, “QWAN”) with anyone in the Pattern Language community, they will know what you’re talking about. Shared Language.    (KN1)

Ward Cunningham was one of the pioneers who brought Alexander’s work to the software engineering community. He created Wikis as a way for people to author and share patterns. Not surprisingly, an important principle underlying Wikis is the importance of names. Regardless of what you think about WikiWords, they have important affordances in this regard. They encourage you to think of word pairs to describe things, which encourages more precise names. They discourage long phrases, which also encourages precision as well as memorability. The more memorable a term, the more likely people will use it.    (KN2)

Ward often tells a story in his Wiki talks about using Class-Responsibility-Collaboration Cards to do software design. One of the things he noticed was that people would put blank cards somewhere on the table and talk about them as if there was something written there. The card and its placement made the concept real, and so the team could effectively discuss it, even though it didn’t have a name or description. (Ward has since formalized leaving CRC cards blank as long as possible as a best practice.) This observation helped him recognize the need and importance of Link As You Think, even if the concept (or Wiki page) did not already exist.    (KNG)

Open Source: Propagating Names    (KN3)

One of Blue Oxen‘s advisors, Christine Peterson, coined the term, “Open Source.” In February 1998, after Netscape had announced its plans to open source its browser, a few folks — Chris, Eric Raymond, Michael Tiemann, Ka-Ping Yee, and others — gathered at the Foresight Institute to strategize. At the meeting, Todd Anderson complained that the term, “Free Software,” was an impediment to wide-scale adoption. After the meeting, Christine called up Todd and suggested the term, “Open Source.” They both loved it. But, they didn’t know how to sell it.    (KN4)

So, they didn’t. At the followup meeting a few days later, Todd casually used the term without explanation. And others in the room naturally picked up on the term, to the point where they were all using it. At that point, they realized they had a good name, and they started evangelizing it to the rest of the community.    (KN5)

Names change the way we think about concepts, and so propagating names widely can shift the way people think about things. This is what happened with “Open Source.” This is what George Lakoff writes about in Moral Politics.    (KN6)

The mark of a good name is that people naturally start using it. A name can come from the top down, but it can’t generally be forced onto people.    (KN7)