Sunday, August 13, 2006

Federation and User Centricity

In User Centric Identity is here to stay I wrote:
Ultimately, I would say that federation can be used in both user centric and non-user centric solutions. Federation is a technology/protocol and user centric is an implementation philosophy.
which Kim Cameron picked up and responded with:
I like a lot of Conor's thinking. I agree that use of a managed card in Cardspace should be considered a form of "federation" between the relying party and the identity provider - federation approved by the user.

But I don't quite buy that "federation is a technology/protocol" wherease "user-centric is an implementation philosophy". I doesn't compute given a great deal of work I've been doing lately.

It's clear to me that good "user-centric" experience isn't just an automatic or natural by-product of some other "technology/protocol". In fact, it requires just as much study, just as much thought, just as much coding, and just as much experimentation as protocols do - probably more.

What I'm try to say here is that it requires technology. In the past we've had a lot of technology that failed miserably at organizing, integrating and rationalizing the user's experience. I've been working on software that I think does a lot better job at this. Why wouldn't Conor call that a technology?

I too like alot of what Kim says and in fact, I think we agree on many, if not most things related to identity technologies (we haven't spoken politics :-).

I do agree that to implement a good user centric solution you need alot of technologies to enable a good user experience. I would just say that the fact that you get user centrism out of the product is because how the technologies were put together rather than the basic technologies themselves as I could probably use many of them in a very non-user-centric model if I chose to.

I also agree that it does take whole lot of time, energy, blood, sweat and tears to get a good system (user centric or otherwise) out the door and I was not trying to imply that it wasn't.

I think the two terms are addressing different issues. User centric systems may use federation and they may not (although I would say that most viable user centric systems will use federation). Federated systems may be user centric and they may not be. It all depends upon the needs for the particular implementation.

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