Repositories and OpenID
This is a short post... it should be longer, but I don't have time to flesh out my thoughts properly and I wanted to at least get something down on paper (so to speak).
Pete and I recently met up with Traugott from UKOLN for a quick drink. Just catching up really, but in our conversation we got round to talking about name authority in the context of scholarly publishing and institutional repositories. In a rash moment I asked, "Why don't we just use OpenIDs as author identifiers in institutional repositories?".
I'm not sure that Traugott was very impressed... possibly for good reason! He was particularly concerned about legacy issues for example. But it seems to me that the idea shouldn't be dismissed totally out of hand. I've felt for some time now that any centralised approach to name authority is pretty much doomed to failure for all sorts of reasons that I won't go into here. I've had at the back of my mind that one might be able to build a distributed solution using LDAP, i.e. based on the LDAP servers maintained by institutions. But it seems to me that using OpenIDs has some significant advantages:
- Firstly, academics don't consider institutional repositories, or even academic services, to be their sole focus of attention. They are equally interested in all sorts of Web-based services alongside the stuff delivered by their institution and the more formal academic services that they get access to by virtue of being members of an institution. Therefore, as I've argued before, any access and identity management solution needs to work across the whole range of services that academics are interested in if it is to be compelling.
- Secondly, academics have an online life before and after their academic career and they move between institutions during it, so anything that is tied too closely to a particular institution is problematic.
OpenID is nice because it is so distributed, open and flexible. Academics wouldn't be forced to use the identity given them by their current institution, though they might choose to for various reasons. But an external identity offered by a third-party would be able to migrate across institutions seamlessly and so has some significant advantages.
Note that academics would not be forced to use a single OpenID for everything they do if they didn't want to. For example, they might choose, for privacy reasons, to use different OpenIDs for academic and non-academic services. But clearly they would have the option of using a single OpenID if they wanted to, and doing so would carry with it significant advatages in terms of single sign-on. Overall, the flexibility of OpenID, and its decentralised approach, would theoretically leave the end-user far more in control of how their online identity(ies) were used.
OK, so it's still relatively early days in the OpenID story, but let's say that OpenID becomes the normal way in which your average academic identifies him/herself to the range of external Web 2.0 tools they are interested in using (their blog and so on). Wouldn't it make sense for them to also use an OpenID as an author identifier? The same OpenID that they use to log into their institutional repository.
Wouldn't that be cool?