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January 21, 2009

OpenIDs, researchers and delegation

Cameron Neylon has an interesting post, A specialist OpenID service to provide unique researcher IDs, which discusses the possibilities of using OpenIDs as identifiers for researchers as part of the scholarly communication process. As Cameron says:

Good citation practice lies at the core of good science. The value of research data is not so much in the data itself but its context, its connection with other data and ideas. How then is it that we have no way of citing a person? We need a single, unique way, of identifying researchers. This will help traditional publishers and the existing ecosystem of services by making it possible to uniquely identify authors and referees. It will make it easier for researchers to be clear about who they are and what they have done. And finally it is a critical step in making it possible to automatically track all the contributions that people make.

I touched on some of these issues a while back in Repositories and OpenID though, as Cameron notes, the real (and very significant) hurdle to be overcome here is convincing people to think about solving a problem they don't even know they have using a solution that they probably don't find very intuitive!

There's a good deal of discussion about the post in Cameron's FriendFeed. (It's slightly annoying that the discussion is somewhat divorced from the original blog post but I guess that is one of the, err..., features of using FriendFeed?)

One aspect of the OpenID specification that seems to be missing in people's examples (given as part of the discussion) is that of delegation.  If you sign up for, and publicise, an OpenID directly based on one of the major OpenID providers (http://claimid.com/ or http://myopenid.com/ for example) then you are at the mercy of those services for the persistence of your OpenID.  If they go under, so does your personal identifier.  This probably doesn't matter too much in the context of signing in to multiple blogging services but it certainly does in the context of scholarly communication.

Instead, use OpenID's delegation feature to use a domain under your direct control (or under the control of an organisation you trust) as the basis of your OpenID to better guarantee its persistence into the future.  For example, I have OpenIDs from both the providers above but I use and publicise http://andypowe11.net/ as my OpenID, delegating the technical bits to http://claimid.com/andypowell for the time being whilst retaining the ability to delegate somewhere else in the future if I so choose or if the need arises.

For a description of how to delegate your OpenID see this post (from December 2006) by Simon Willison.

Actually, the fact that I'm citing something from late 2006 might be seen as a useful reminder of how slowly OpenID is gaining any significant traction?


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"Actually, the fact that I'm citing something from late 2006 might be seen as a useful reminder of how slowly OpenID is gaining any significant traction?"

OpenID slow to gain traction!?!?! You must live in a different world to me. Compare it to some alternatives: http://www.google.com/trends?q=Openid,+Shibboleth,+SAML,+"Liberty+Alliance"&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0

Lol, OK point taken. That said, I think one could reasonably argue about whether your Google trend graph is saying more about OpenID-related 'noise' rather than 'traction'?

However, I have argued in other recent posts that OpenID is more 'mainstream' than Shibboleth (and hence deserves more attention by the education community) and your graph endorses that - thanks.

On the other hand, and despite the fact that I have just used my OpenID for real two days in a row (the first time that has happened AFAIR) 'traction' might be better measured in terms of the number of high-profile (i.e. commonly used) relying parties perhaps?

Final thought... anyone like to hazard a guess as to where this trend graph is headed?


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