I know you were kidding Paul, but…

Paul Madsen responded to this reference to the Liberty Alliance sarcastically, but I think that Liberty as an organization should take such a remark far more seriously — because I know exactly where this blogger is coming from:

The Liberty Alliance has churned out a number of PDFs but that seems to be the extent so far of their effort.

Paul, the reason people think Liberty is nothing more than a bunch of PDFs is because that’s all they see when they research it online. Last January, I too tried to figure out what ID-WSF was and how it could be used. I’m sorry this sounds so harsh, but frankly, the Liberty website sucks at communicating the spirit and the purpose of ID-WSF.

There are several problems. First, as a geek-investigating-liberty, I don’t want to read the specs first. I want to know what the specs are FOR. I want to know what business & technical problems can be solved with them. Imagine trying to figure out what LDAP does and why I might want to deploy a directory server — and being directed to a page like this:

LDAP specs

Nobody would evangelize LDAP this way, and I can’t figure out why anybody would want to evangelize ID-WSF like that either. And yet, when I tried to research ID-WSF, that was exactly what I found. Hey look, same thing the other blogger found, gee funny it’s just a whole bunch of document links! Was there a gentler introduction? Not that I could find. Oh, and don’t even try to search on “ID-WSF” within projectliberty.org, the top hits on the site are mail thread references.

Second, the front page of the site (which is very pretty) is 100% about the organization and 0% percent about the specifications, even though their stated objective is the creation of said specifications. The words ID-WSF and ID-FF do not appear once on the page, let along People Service or other components. Doesn’t that seem odd???

Third, to address Conor‘s point – I may or may not represent anyone other than little ol’ me, but personally, I couldn’t care less about “real” deployments. I just want to know that it is deployable, maybe whether there are toolkits, access to community forums, sample code. Perhaps other people really do care about real deployments in the first 20 minutes of investigation, but I believe that in fact, what they look for is evidence of a vibrant community. There are NO indications that anything other than the specs in their starkest incarnation are available for people outside Liberty. I’m not saying those things aren’t there. I’m saying that newcomers can’t possibly know one way or the other from the web material.

So. My hypothesis is that if you want to see adoption of Liberty by schmucks off the street like me (and perhaps even a few less guys deciding to brew their own SSO solution, we can always hope), you need to treat these specs like a solution. I should be able to easily discover what context in which the solution is valuable, in what high-level ways I can implement the solution, and who will commiserate with me if I have troubles. If all of that meets my approval, I might then want to take a look at the specs. After that, I may even become interested in joining the Liberty Alliance.

Having met many Liberty people at IOS in July, I know they are passionate people doing great work. I just don’t think that passion is being communicated to those not intimately involved. If the goal is to make the WORLD aware of ID-WSF, and not just insiders, fix the first 20 minutes of user investigation into the framework, and I predict that great things will happen. In my opinion, this is worth just as much time and effort as any of your standards efforts.

Update:  Turns out Liberty is way ahead of me, and they are working on a redesign of the website.  Thanks for responding with such class (:   Paul, I’m holding you to that Leafs game, I’ve never been to Kanata!

One thought on “I know you were kidding Paul, but…

  1. Thanks for making my point abundantly clear. When I wrote that blog entry I had no idea that people would actually read it and take it to heart, especially the folks at Liberty.

    I dream of the day when a developer, not a systems architect, can point their manager towards an open-source, tried-and-true SSO product and tell them they can have it installed within a week.

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