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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Thursday, April 25, 2024

Have a Token: ID Hats and Personae

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, April 2, 2009
7:17 pm

While pondering the ProtectServe/Relationship Manager proposition, use cases and protocol flows set forth by Eve Maler, in the context of a discussion of open architectures for citizen/government interaction I had earlier in the day, I came up with the bizarre notion that perhaps the best analogy for an Identity persona claimed by an individual is not an ID card, but an ID HAT.

We often talk about wearing different hats in life … some of mine are listed in my Twitter bio: "Husband, father, grandfather, social networking afficionado and Identity Management professional."  In one short phrase, five hats I commonly and proudly wear are identified.  Of course, I can choose to don other hats or expose other personae in my relationships with people or systems, either in person or in cyberspace.

In the case of online relationships, the trick is to provide the service I choose to relate with – the "consumer" in the ProtectServe model – with precisely the subset of my "user" data, that represents the hat I choose to wear in that relationship (my selected persona).  In the ProtectServe model, I depend on the Authorization Manager (aka CopMonkey) to provide the consumer with a token representing my chosen hat.

Now here’s where the hat concept becomes more useful … in addition to being a useful metaphor for my chosen persona, HAT is also an acronym for "Have a Token," which is  precisely the action I authorize the relationship manager to complete on my behalf.  Through this trusted third party, I have offered a token (Have a Token) to the consumer representing the HAT I choose to wear in our relationship.

Whether or not ID HAT analogy has legs will be for others to decide.  But for me, it was an analogy that helped me understand a somewhat complex concept.

By the way, (many) hats off to Eve and the other brilliant thinkers who came up with the ProtectServe concept!

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6 Responses to “Have a Token: ID Hats and Personae”

    Mark, thanks for the kind words and support, and for the clever analogy! People do talk about saying things "With my XYZ hat on" all the time, and your back-formation of an acronym makes it even better.

    It’s especially apropos given that we have a "cat" (consumer access token) appearing in the ProtectServe flow! As the song goes:

    "Cat, hat. In French, chat, chapeau. In Spanish, he’s a gato with a sombrero…"

    Comment by Eve M. on April 3, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Cat in the Hat … all sorts of interesting images swirl around in my mind. 🙂

    I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of the ProtectServe model.


    Comment by Mark Dixon on April 3, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Heh, now I’m thinking we need to map Thing #1 and Thing #2 onto something! And what would the moss-covered, three-handled family gredunza be?…

    Comment by Eve Maler on April 3, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Good analogy Mark, but I’m afraid that those of us who understand the phrase "to wear different hats" are getting grayer, plumper and more forgetful every day! People just don’t wear a good homburg, Stetson or Panama any more….


    Comment by Dave on April 3, 2009 at 8:58 am


    Maybe you could put some Identity verse together in Dr. Seuss style and sing it for us as the next Identity conference!

    Comment by Mark Dixon on April 3, 2009 at 9:24 am


    Sadly, you’re right. Some of the old-school analogies may not resonate with the younger set.

    Now, I’m just trying to picture you in a Stetson and cowboy boots. 🙂

    Comment by Mark Dixon on April 3, 2009 at 9:26 am

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