Where does Philosophy end and Problem Solving begin?

This is my response to a current blogosphere conversation on user centricity in the Enterprise, started by Patrick and carried on by myself, Nishant, Johannes, and Matt

I have a lot of passion about the tools I choose to work with. I believe in working on and with tools that further us as a democratic society. I believe in using tools constructed such that the easiest way to implement are ways that by default tend towards preservation of user privacy, minimization of data retention, and smallest attack surface.

I also, however, believe that the tool has to fit the task at hand. Part of choosing a tool in an Enterprise is deciding whether the tool is capable of adherence to internal policies – this may include privacy controls, platform support, cost, improvement in end-user productivity, regulatory compliance, and so on.

If you take all of the tools out there that have had the ‘user-centric’ tag associated with them, and try to shoehorn any one of them into an Enterprise based on the moniker alone, I will laugh at you, as one IT professional to another. Really, I will. The idea that ‘user-centric’ has to mean anything at all in an Enterprise context, just makes no sense. My advice to Enterprise decision-makers is simple: take the tools and find out if there is a story that those tools can tell that brings value to the organization. If the story is there, adopt the tool. If the story isn’t there, walk away. Whether or not the marketing term applies is, to me, utterly inconsequential.

I can tell you a story for OpenID in the Enterprise. I can tell you a story for the Identity Metasystem in the Enterprise. I can tell you a story about Liberty in the Enterprise. If any of the stories match your goals for your business, fantastic. If they don’t – no problem. There are a large number of stories, but there are infinitely more business scenarios to match them to.

If you try to tell me that using a tool such as the Identity Metasystem to accomplish something other than a user-centric philosophy is wrong, I will also laugh at you. If these tools were built properly, the philosophy should be inherent, not resultant – in other words, you should get user centricity as part and parcel, the kernel of the technology that makes it user-centric shouldn’t be subtractable — but user centricity doesn’t have to be the actual problem that is solved along the way.

I would like to see Enterprises adopt technologies such as the Identity Metasystem for no other reason than because it helps their business to succeed. The fact that as a welcome corollary we lay the plumbing for users to also have greater control in other aspects of their internet life, and for future developers and/or administrators to perhaps begin to be able to architect their applications around a claims-based security architecture, thereby perhaps one day furthering the beliefs I spoke about at the beginning of this entry — well that’s just gravy. I feel it is possible that we can get to a place where such a thing just might work, which gives me faith that maybe we can begin an organic upwards security spiral, with identity at the center and acting as a foundation and inspiration for other areas of this industry.

One Response to “Where does Philosophy end and Problem Solving begin?”

  1. [...] was surprised during the recent blogosphere conversation on user-centric identity in the Enterprise, that no one referenced Sxip’s contemporaneous intelligently-written 2-page piece on how the use [...]