Open Badges Tech Panel – Backpack Federation

The Open Badges team had its first tech panel way back on September 26th. The tech team met with active Open Badges community members to talk through the heavy tech-bits of Backpack Federation (which I wrote a bit about in “Let’s Make More Backpacks.” The raw notes from the meeting are here and video is here. It’s been a while since the meeting, but I wanted to summarize what we talked about there, and add some thoughts on where we’re headed next with Backpack Federation.

Federation is the Pipes

Backpack Federation in its minimum viable form is about moving badges around between the users backpack of choice. That was our target for the tech-panel demo, and our target for the first release of the feature. The result looks a bit like this,

Federation System Flow diagram by Jess Klein and Brian Brennan

Federation System Flow diagram by Jess Klein and Brian Brennan

It’s a simple goal, we’re confident we can roll it out in a couple of weeks, given it’s prioritization against other projects. However – that’s the Open Badges core team’s goal – the community wants more, and weren’t shy about saying it.

Federation should be about mobility

One of the themes from the discussion was that backpack federation is about more than just moving the badges around, it’s about creating more value in the badge – adding evidence directly to the baked badge, making the badges portable without relying on an issuer’s site, making the badges less about pushing them places, and more about pulling them.

Where do we go from here?

To start with, we’re absolutely going to have more tech-panels. It was a useful conversation and influenced our thinking, which I think you can see in some of the projects that came out of the Mozfest hack-sessions – the full assertion baked in the badge, and the start of the directory service. The former starts to address the issue of true portability of open badges and the latter starts to move us toward a pull-model of badge discovery.

We’re still committed to basic “push your badge to the backpack you want to” functionality as the MVP for Federated Backpacks. It’s a key part of the Badgekit project we launched at Mozfest and opens up the world of customized backpacks in a way that we’re convinced will change learners use of open badges.

Thanks to all that attended the first Open Badges tech-panel! The next one is tentatively scheduled for early November (fill out this Doodle Poll if you’d like to influence the timing). We’ll be talking about the 1.0 changes to the assertion specification and all the possibilities it enables.