To have authority, you need persistent identity

How do we know an article comes from a peer-reviewed scientific study?  Well, the database told us it was, or we were at the journal’s website.  Your aunt’s e-mail starting “Researchers at Oxford University have discovered…” doesn’t cut it.

How do we know this post was written by the same person as the previous post?  Well, there’s an author note, and it’s protected by a password, so unless buttbreath forgets to lock his computr and his super smart litle sis who’s asdagkREAL FUNNY DENISE!

Anyways, we need a persistent (and secure enough) identity — like a URL or email or what have you — to attach credentials to in order to establish authority.

Persistent identity is needed for a lot more than authority; it’s one of the bases of professional communication  Let’s look at the consequences of varying levels of identity:

Anonymity: It’s almost a truism: Being anonymous mostly frees you to be an a-hole, to vote for Justin Bieber to go to North Korea and vote for a soda flavor called “Hitler was right”.  In fact, with complete anonymity, all you can do to communicate with someone is to shout on an open forum they’ve shown evidence of being on.  You can’t even have good odds that the person replying to you is the same one to whom you shouted.

ID without verification: If anonymity allows you to be an a-hole, unverified IDs allow you to be five a-holes.  On the bright side, you now have something to block.  And it’s great for casual conversation.

Verified IDs: Getting warmer!  It’s relevant, but it’s almost side-stepping things.  A “verified” ID means that it is connected to a piece of information somewhere that is… verified.  On one end, we have ISBNs and DOIs, which are verified by fiat (“we gave the actual object the ID, therefore it’s the ID for this object”).  Thank goodness for metadata!  Elsewhere on the scale, we have SSNs, which the U.S. Government has told us, again and again, not to use as a universal identifier, because it opens doors too wide without additional proof of identity.  And then we have things like OpenID from the reading article.  Did you notice that none of the two OpenID company links work?  Or that his “delegated” ID refers to a site that hasn’t seen action in three years?

So once we have a verified ID, we’d like to be able to use it for a long time.  In the next post: The challenge of persistence.

To have authority, you need persistent identity

2 thoughts on “To have authority, you need persistent identity

  1. Hi Denise!!!
    Interesting that persistent identities is a “traditional” problem for librarians in that even before the Web, we needed to do authority work to preserve identity through all kinds of author name changes (pseudonyms), spelling difference (Khaddafy), etc. It’s all about controlling for variation in “natural” language!


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