Today we ran the conference using something called "structured open space." Kaliya Hamlin was anxious that we use it as a way of creating discussion. I'll admit that I was somewhat skeptical, but it turned out very well. Here's how it worked:
- As people came in at 8:30 we put them at tables with 8-10 people and told them to introduce themselves. About every 20 minutes we made them switch tables and reintroduce themselves to the new crowd. All along the way they were supposed to tell people what questions they most wanted answered in the workshop today.
- At 9:30 we called everyone together in front of a big matrix we had posted on the wall. The rows were for different spaces at the Hillside Club and the columns were times in 30 minute blocks. Everyone had a chance to write a topic on a piece of paper and post it on the matrix. Posting a topic meant you agreed to host or moderate it.
- We broke up and let people chose which topics they went to and what the discussion was.
There were some very good discussions, people explaining things to each other, groups whiteboarding concepts, discussions of follow-on cooperation, and even people making commitments to write code. This is exactly what we had hoped would happen.
In hindsight, we probably should have had 45 minute blocks. Thirty minutes wasn't quite enough time. We would have also been better off with a few whiteboards and big pads of paper on easels. Still, none of that was anything that was a show-stopper.
At 3:00pm, we called everyone together in a big circle and did a mini-debrief. Here's some of the comments (relatively unedited and without attribution) that I copied down as people spoke:
- Encouraged by feedback on YADIS
- Lots of passion came out in the last couple of days
- Very creative ideas here. Some so far beyond the edge that it's absolutely whacky.
- What books should we read?
- Social affordances for women are very different from those for men. Take that into account as you build systems.
- A lot of people didn't trust presenters on details of their implementation. Do we not know and trust each other or do we not know enough about the various solutions.
- The understanding in the security community is that almost all designs are bad and when they're put out there they will be attacked. Design criticism is given with that in mind.
- We all need to work on making our own stuff more understandable.
- There have been real leaps forward in understanding how these things can work together.
- Two really cool things happened this afternoon: we got a good grip on things that could happen with Identity Commons and a list and wiki surrounding identity rights agreements.
We're planning to do another one of these in about 6 months. It won't be exactly the same format, but the goal will be the same: encourage cooperation and cross pollinate the Internet identity space. Watch this space for more details as they become available.