Data Portability Working Group announced last night that it has elected its first group of Steering Group officers. The Working Group strives to help user data become freed for secure re-use across different websites and services. The first chair of the Steering Group will be Daniela Barbosa, who is a Business Development Manager, at Synaptica, a Dow Jones company.The high profile but heretofore loosely organized
Can the Data Portability Working Group overcome some early shakiness caused by the perception that it's all hype and no substance? The group got big press when Microsoft, Google, Facebook and many other companies publicly joined up - but critics allege that press is all that's been accomplished.
The Working Group is really important. The work of the entire group, not just the most visible member and founder Chris Saad, has put the issue of data portability on a much larger public stage than it might have been on otherwise.
DataPortability - Connect, Control, Share, Remix from Smashcut on Vimeo.
That said, it's unclear how much additional work has been getting done there.
The Open Web Foundation launched separately to be a place for developers to crunch code together in the same spirit as the Working Group.
Many have questioned what the big players have done since joining the group. Saad and Barbosa point to data portability initiatives like Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect and MySpace Data Availability as examples - but it's unclear how much that has to do with the Working Group. Barbosa says that members of Microsoft, MySpace and Digg have been particularly engaged in the day to day discussions about the forthcoming Best Practices documents the group is focused on.
Chris Saad has been criticized as a petty dictator who struggles to work with the existing community and who puts the credibility of the issues at risk by building so much hype. Saad says that building buzz is one of the most important things the Working Group can do and that it's complimentary to coders coding.
The election of Barbosa as Steering Group chair could help the group move past some of those criticisms and help public awareness extend to the many other members of the Working Group. An employee of a giant company, Barbosa is unlikely to face the same criticisms of pushing an obscure technology in her own interests as Saad has with APML (Attention Profile Markup Language.) She will likely face some criticism as a "big co" player who could push the data portability agenda away from the interests of users and little companies - but that's mitigated by the fact that she does relatively obscure, geeky work at Dow Jones and is widely liked as a person. (Disclosure, Barbosa's book The Taxonomy Cookbook is advertised here on RWW.)
Photo of Daniela Barbosa by, once again, Brian Solis.
In addition to the election of Barbosa, the whip-smart Elias Bizannes has become Vice-chair, a number of Action Groups have been formed and various people are heading those.
Bizannes is leading the Mission/Vision task force, Saad is heading the Communication task force, Steve Greenberg, the CEO of pre-launched white label social networking service Ciabe is leading the Governance task force regarding how the group will work, tech entrepreneur Brady Brim-DeFores is leading the much-needed Branding/Logo task force and Barbosa is leading the DataPortability Grid Tool Task Force tracking tangible company support.
The prize inside this complicated box may be the promised documents on best practices. While the Open Web Foundation is working on code standards, the Data Portability Working Group could help articulate best business and communications practices for companies wanting to support data portability. There's a lot of interest, but concerns like privacy, monetization and confusion are slowing adoption of data portability measures. The Working Group is well positioned to tackle these issues.
We look forward to seeing those documents. It may take awhile - everyone's got day jobs to do and this is all volunteer work being done for the well being of the web and humanity. We're encouraged by what the group is doing on a daily basis, as well, on the Google discussion group for example.
We wish the group's new officers the best of luck in advancing an agenda that will help empower users and developers to build a better internet for all of us.