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January 15, 2009

Digital Identity Workshop

As you may know, the three projects that we funded last year are all investigating different aspects of digital identity. The projects came together last week to organise a Digital Identity Workshop at the British Library.  This seemed to me to be a great success and you can read other people's reactions to it here, here, here and here.

The day used a Pattern Language methodology, led primarily by Steven Warburton and Yishay Mor, which I found particularly interesting.

The methodology focuses on abstracting 'patterns' (as that term is used in architectural design) from similar pairs of case studies (or stories).  Prior to the day we had been asked to submit our case studies (in a lightly structured form) to the Pattern Language Network Wiki.  On the day itself, we were split into small groups and one of us was asked to recount our case study to the others.  Then a second member of the group was asked to recount a similar or related case study of their own.  The intention was to identity 'assets' (things about which there was agreement) and 'hazzards' (things about which there wasn't agreement) from the two case studies, ultimately leading to one or more 'patterns' (a recurring solution) being identified.

It was a lot to fit into a single day and my suspicion is that most people left the event feeling quite drained.  I certainly did.  But it was refreshing to be involved in something so active and participatory for a change - not just listening to presentations by other people.

We could have done with more time at the end to discuss our findings but my suspicion is that if we'd tried to do so, some of the groups probably wouldn't have got as far as they did with their patterns.

The resulting patterns and other outputs from the day are beginning to appear in the Wiki.

In my group, we started with my own Identity Aggregation case study, then talked about Harry Halpin's desire to aggregate address book and related 'contact' and 'presence' information, resulting in a simple pattern that we called 'Permissioned aggregation of personal information'.

Ian Truelove makes the point in his blog post that the process being used here was more important than the resulting outputs and in a sense I agree.  But I also hope that as this work moves forward, and a second meeting is already in the pipeline, there will be useful resources that result from this work.

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