Figuring out who to pay attention to and who to work with is a big challenge in a community like Mozilla. Using the Whistler Science Fair as example, Les Orchard points out the underlying issue — we don’t have a quick way to parse through all the awesome to find out who’s good at what / who’s contributed what / who is doing things relevant to me. This is a common problem in online life overall. We don’t have an easy, portable and reliable way to represent our skills, achievements and social capital.
Over the last two months, I’ve been talking to people about this same challenge in another context — learning and education. Historically, we’ve used degrees and certificates to show what we know. This breaks down online — partly because we have no good way to show these credentials and partly because so much of our learning is now informal that degrees aren’t really relevant. People like P2PU, Remix Learning and others have come same conclusion Les has — we could use online badges to represent these things. Sites like Stack Overflow already use badges like this. We’re going to do the same for the Mozilla / P2PU School of Webcraft.
Which brings me to the experiment I want to do: a digital ‘backpack’ that lets you store and display badges you pick up from many different sites across the web.
Badges can provide a good way for potential friends, collaborators, co-workers and employers to size you up. However, that’s only true if they can associate all your badges with you. You don’t want to send them traipsing around the web to look at sites like P2PU, iRemix and Badger to see your badges. Instead, you want to all the badges from these different places reliably associated with your online identity.
With this in mind, I’ve been talking to Mike Hanson and others about an experiment that displays badges from multiple places as a part of the identity you build up through Firefox. Someone wanting to check you out would see something like this:
At an implementation level, this would work by storing your badges (or references to your badges) in both a personal data vault like Weave and some sort of claims system. It could work something like this:
The main ‘layers’ of this system are the 1. the badge issuer, 2. you and your online identity and 3. badge display and badge viewers. Specific to my proposed experiment are:
- P2PU, Badger and iRemix -> these are places where you *get* a badge for some skill or activity. They act as ‘badge servers’ and would expose all the badges they have awarded to you in a structured and standardized way.
- A personal data vault (e.g. Weave) and a claims system (Mike Hanson is working on a general system like this) -> from a user perspective, these items combine into a ‘personal badge manager’ that you access via identity tools in your browser or on a web site.
- Your identity profile (webfinger?) plus social media sites like LinkedIn -> these display all of your badges and associate them with the rest of your identity.
At a practical level, we need a system like for P2PU School of Webcraft and the kind of badge platform Les is proposing for Mozilla. Connecting badges a version of your online identity the you control also presents a huge opportunity in informal digital learning — everyone working in that space needs something like this as well.
With this in mind, my proposal is to roll out an proof of concept for the idea described above using badges from Mozilla, P2PU and various orgs in the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Network. I’m going to work with Mike, Les, Philipp, Robert and others on this in the next few months, with the hope of showing the prototype at the Drumbeat Learning, Freedom and the Web Festival in Barcelona this November. If you’ve got ideas or want to help out, please post comments below.