Futureshopping the Metasystem

Yes, I do think that this technology will have a SKU Paul. It will have a million of them. I believe one day you will buy a cell-phone at Future Shop and the first thing that you will do when you turn that new phone on will be to import all your contacts — and all your information cards. Same idea when you buy your Tivo/PVR – the first thing you’ll do is specify what information cards are authorized to view content. Same idea with your wireless router. Same idea for your set-top box, and for your video game console. That is my personal vision for information cards. They will be commodotized, integrated, a taken-for-granted part of our daily lives. They will be futureshopped — or they will be forgotten.

But that wasn’t really your point, was it Paul?

Your actual point corresponds with one of my major takeaways from this month’s IIW conference: we have critical problems with our ontology (or lack thereof)- and for several reasons. There appear to be serious misunderstandings about which terms Microsoft has trademarked and which ones they haven’t. There are also some very literal minded folks who just can’t handle the use of a semantically loaded but generic term as a proper noun. And then there are the people like me; I’ve been using the term ‘Identity Metasystem’ as a synonym to the stack of protocols described by the Identity Selector Interoperability Profile (ISIP) v1.0 — while at the same time using it to describe all information card systems. I realize now that I need separate names to describe the visual metaphor, the technical paradigm, and the specific protocol stack for which I write software.

Seems to me that if our community can’t describe what information cards are or what they do, in simple terms that nobody argues about, we certainly aren’t going to get anywhere close to daily use by millions of people. This is a starting-gate hurdle. So where is the sweet spot of terminology that will let us move forward?

I’d say I don’t care what the names are as long as they are consistent, but of course I do care. Quite a lot really. Here are the things that I perceive to be useful during this debate:

1) There are two and only two terms that I am positive cannot be used generically: they are “CardSpace” and “digitalMe”. To my knowledge, these terms are trademarked, copyrighted, and backed by bloodthirsty lawyers. Calling the whole system ‘the CardSpace system’ is a no-go. Period. I can’t see why anybody would want that in any case – and yet I’ve heard it proposed.

2) Shortening the “Identity Selector Interoperability Profile 1.0” to ISIP 1.0 is very very useful. It is probably the least contentious way to describe today’s prevalent information card system. Calling it MS ISIP 1.0 seems to me to just be adding more letters to an already clear acronym but hey – fill your boots. Calling it MS ISIP ™ is just silly, imo.

3) Using the terms p-cards and m-cards to describe the two types of ISIP cards currently out there makes no sense to me, since in my vocabulary, personal and managed mean very simple things: personal means you make the card yourself, and managed means somebody else makes the card for you. As such, I believe there will be personal and managed s-cards, personal and managed r-cards, and so-on.

4) I’m tired of the metasystem debate. I find it divisive and pointless. To me, it’s like not being able to accept the term “the Internet” because you are morally and ethically opposed to the fishing metaphor. I’m happy to let the term die, in the idealistic hope that we never ever have to play semantic table-tennis with the word meta again.

Instead, how about I tell you all a new story, containing some different words that might make everybody happy?

Once upon a time, there was a metaphor called information cards. In the same way that web pages are manipulated with a browser, information cards are manipulated with a selector. Information cards can be cards you create yourself – those cards are called personal cards. Information cards can also be cards that somebody else creates for you – such cards are called managed cards.

Every information card is part of a “cardsystem” – the set of protocols that enable cardsystem-specific components to communicate with each other. The first cardsystem implemented was created by Microsoft and uses the ISIP specification. Other cardsystems include r-cards, where the set of protocols include RSS, and s-cards, where the set of protocols uses SAML but not ISIP. Currently the cardsystems supported by the CardSpace and digitalMe identity selectors are limited to ISIP v1.0, but in the future we expect other cardsystems to mature and become supported among information card components.

Does this work?

7 thoughts on “Futureshopping the Metasystem

  1. Well, unlike Mike, I could agree with you more, but nevertheless, in answer to your question at the end, ‘Yes’. :-)


  2. I suppose Mr. “Fun with Metaphors” should chime in here, But he can’t think of anything to say that would add any value.

  3. Ah… “fill your boots”… I haven’t heard that phrase in years :-)

    OK – back to the point in hand… I think your story is a big step along the long road to sanity in the cardsystem space.

  4. > Does this work?
    All but the 3rd sentence of the 2nd paragraph (too many abbreviations and acronyms). So I don’t know if that means I could or could not agree with you more.

    That notwithstanding, I think you are entirely correct is wanting to improve the clarity of the message. Like so many of these issues: It is not a technology problem, it is a marketing problem.

    The main difficulty being that we are not yet (legally) allowed to shoot marketing people. Well, not to kill anyway- maiming is often tolerated.

  5. my only comment is using the acronym SIP, i think it is very overloaded, and we would do better having a different identity

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