In the Old Testament, somewhere in Judges, there’s a story of how, after a battle, the Gileadite warriors needed to distinguish their own side and their enemies, the Ephraimites. They did not all know each other, but they asked anyone who tried to cross a river to pronounce the word “shibboleth”. Those who pronounced it wrong (as “Sibboleth”) were, as usually happens in Old Testament stories, killed.
Internet2 is sponsoring the Shibboleth project, http://shibboleth.internet2.edu/, which has a lot of interest from libraries as a way of handling the problem of identifying who’s a member of a group in a decentralized fashion. It’s designed to let me go to another university and assert that certain things are true, such as: (1) I am Rick Keir, and (2) I am a staff member at UW. The other school can validate these assertions because UW cooperates with the request, but the other school can’t arbitrarily ask “is Bill Humphries a staff member at UW”, because you didn’t request any service from them. Most of my personal information stays safely within UW; only the assertions I make about myself leave.
I could see a future in which Shibboleth servers were more widespread, and people would join Shib-circles just as they can be friends in the LiveJournal sense. Then I could go to, say, [someone's] journal, assert that “I am a Friend-of-Bill” and be let in, because [she] has decided to share part or all of her journal with the Friends of Bill.
Shibboleth is Open Sourced, so the Weblog community could start working with it.
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