Designing Faceted ID System

From IIW

Issue/Topic: Designing a Faceted Identity System

Monday - Session 1 - C

Conference: IIW10 May 17-19, 2009 this is the complete Complete Set of Notes

Convener: Xianhang Zhang

Notes-taker(s): Xianhang Zhang

A. Tags for the session - technology discussed/ideas considered: Faceted Identities, Alter-egos, Design

B. Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

  • If we're going to define the basic standards of identities, we need to first make sure that we are approaching them from a sound theoretical basis. This means understanding what theorists from other fields (sociologists, psychologists & anthropologists) have to say about identity.
  • Every mainstream identity system works on the basis of each person getting a single login through which they present a single presentation of self
  • The work of social theorists have already proven we contain multiple presentations of self and that the ones which are manifest depend on audience & context
  • One potential solution for modeling this is this is to provide people with "faceted identities"
  • Each "facet" of an identity represents a different "voice" through which the author talks to a different audience and context.
  • In the context of blogging, this would mean that one person should run multiple blogs, each with it's own theme & content
  • However, each person should only have one blog management console through which all the different facets are managed. This allows a person to publish the same piece of content to multiple facets.
  • The author's job is to control the voice and it's the audience's job to determine which facets they are interested in following. This is contrasted with the "groups" model of access control in which the author determines how to segment their personality and *also* determines who is able to access each group.
  • Brian Holdsworth of Microsoft has data to show that people have around 7 facets. This is in concurrence with Xianhang Zhang's experience of around half a dozen.
  • Randy Farmer talked about his experiences designing multiple identities at Yahoo 360. His findings were that each Yahoo property tried to use multiple identities in a different and often mutually incompatible manner and that the complexity was too much for the average user to handle.
  • Facets are explicitly not a privacy mechanism. They don't prevent people from accessing certain content. However, they do provide the context to allow people to interpret the content they are reading. That being said, privacy can be overlaid on top of facets in potentially interesting ways. eg: facets that are invite only, facets that are hidden, facets that require a shared knowledge question to access etc.
  • Facets need to be carefully distinguished from tags since the two are often confused. Although both can use the same technical backend infrastructure to implement, tags are about content and facets are about voices. We talk about a wide range of content under a single voice but we only contain a few, discrete voices. Trying to use facets as content tags quickly leads to them becoming unusable.

Find out more on Xianhang Zhang's Blog Post