Tag: Open Badges (page 3 of 10)

3 reasons open source needs Open Badges [opensource.com]


A few months ago, my friend and former colleague Laura Hilliger encouraged me to write something for opensource.com. She’d had a few posts published about the benefits of working openly.

Today, Bryan Mathers and I have had published an article that goes into why Open Badges are such a good fit for open communities.

The web is the perfect medium for a new credentialing system. Just like the web, Open Badges are democratic, open, and distributed. The OBI is itself open source, as are many badge issuing solutions found on GitHub and other code repositories. Open Badges help move forward the open web.

Read the post in full: 3 reasons open source needs Open Badges

I’m closing comments here to encourage you to add your thoughts on the original post.

The New Nepotism

Nepotism in action

Nepotism in action

Nepotism is a word which is ordinarily used pejoratively. That is to say, nobody wants to be accused of it.

nepotism, n. unfair preferment of or favouritism shown to friends, protégés, or others within a person’s sphere of influence.

The old version of nepotism was guilty of saying, “You’re my friend from the tennis club so I’m going to give you this unrelated opportunity”.

People were given jobs independent of aptitude or talent. It was all about connections and relationships within a very small network. It’s the reason sinecures were so common until the mid-20th century.

Nowadays we like to think we live in a meritocracy. Despite the modern origin of the word being satirical, we equate being meritocractic with ‘fairness’. We’re probably correct in that assumption.

However, the hiring practices this has led to are sub-optimal. I’m not sure there’s a single person who would design the system we’ve got if they were doing so from scratch.

Yes, it’s illegal in many jurisdictions to even ask on an application form about someone’s age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. This is a step forward for equality. Great! The really sad thing is that it often leads to bland mass of undifferentiated application instead of truly embracing diversity.

As a result, for better or worse, people have found ways to bypass stifiling recruitment practices. The New Nepotism says, “You’re my friend / former colleague from a previous project/organisation. We successfully created something awesome together, so I’m going to give you this related opportunity.”

I’m guilty of having received opportunities through New Nepotism. I’m also guilty of giving them. My point with this post is to say that we’ve got a twin-track system where one track is the direct result of the other. We look for colour and diversity through relationships that we’ve already established because CVs and application forms are so limp and lifeless.

Perhaps we could move beyond New Nepotism through a system like Open Badges? No two human beings are truly alike, so why should their credentials? As soon as we have a system that truly captures the value of people’s experiences, then we can hire based on talent and experience rather than who you’ve already happened to work with and know.

Image CC BY-NC Andy B

Why the future remains bright for Open Badges

Some context

I first stumbled across Open Badges in mid-2011. I immediately thought the idea had revolutionary potential, and began evangelising it to anyone who would listen. Happily, this led to me being asked to fly to San Francisco to judge the DML Competition that initially seed-funded the ecosystem. There, I met Erin Knight in person, and subsequently accepted a position on the badges team at Mozilla.

It’s hard enough building a start-up. So you can imagine what happens behind the scenes when you’re trying to build a brand new global ecosystem. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. From what I understand, things got even tougher after I moved teams at Mozilla to focus on web literacy work in late 2013. My former colleagues formed the Badge Alliance, initially funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

While I was aware of some of what went down at the end of 2014, it’s only been later in small group conversations that I’ve been able to fill in the gaps. All was not what it seemed in badge land. Politics and personalities threatened to shipwreck the nascent badges community. It was a delicate balance: people deserved to know some of what was going on, but negative press could have unduly ‘scared the horses’.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to be the one to write the post that Kerri Lemoie published this week to coincide with this weekend’s Mozilla Festival:

Mozilla is Doing a Hack Job on Open Badges

In the couple of days since Kerri’s post I’ve seen some chatter on social networks. Some people seem to be worried about the long-term viability of Open Badges. Not me. For two reasons.

1. Open Badges is a open source project

The first is that Open Badges is, as the name suggests, an open source project. The great thing about this development model and approach is that, ultimately, it belongs to everyone and no-one. There are occasions when a person, group, or company might assume leadership. However,  but that can (and does) change over time. If there’s ever a time when a significant enough group within an open source project disagree with the direction it’s heading, they can fork the project.

2. The Hype Cycle predicts what’s happening

The second reason comes courtesy of Gartner Hype Cycle. It’s a way of understanding the “maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies”:

Gartner Hype Cycle

According to Gartner’s 2015 education report (paywalled, but there’s a summary here), Open Badges is right at the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. As tends to happen as technologies mature, Open Badges is likely to slide into the Trough of Disillusionment in 2016. This is to be expected. In fact, according to Gartner, it’s necessary in order to reach the Plateau of Productivity.

Now look again at the hype cycle diagram. At the start of the Slope of Enlightenment it reads ‘Second-generation products, some services’. Over the last few months there’s been some discussion about pairing Open Badges with the blockchain technology underpinning Bitcoin. Back in March I wrote a post to that effect, there have been some noises in the Google Group, and (excitingly) and MIT have just launched a similar-sounding project.


So I’d say the future remains bright for Open Badges. It has experienced the growing pains as any truly innovative technology will suffer. 2016 might be rough for the community.

However, we should bear in mind that the hype cycle can describe a full 10 years from conception to mainstream. If that’s true of Open Badges then we can expect full adoption to happen around 2021. So, between then and now, there’s a bunch of us who need to roll up our sleeves, and do the work.

This stuff is too important to be a mere ‘bridging technology’. For some of us it could be some of the most significant work we do in our careers. Open Badges is what we make it. Let’s get on with building the future!

Double rainbow photograph CC BY-SA Eric Rolph. Added badge image presumed fair use from badgerank.org.

Open Badges location extension

I’m delighted that, thanks to some help from Kerri Lemoie, the Open Badges extension for geolocation that I proposed is now available for use. It was simple enough to do the initial coding following the following the example using JSON-LD but Kerri (and Nate Otto)

Details of how Open Badges extensions work can be found in this post I wrote for DMLcentral. It explains how version 1.1 of the specification allows for great things through extensions.

At the time of writing, the following extensions are now available:

  • Apply Link — provides a URL allowing potential badge earners to apply for an opportunity specified by a badge issuer.
  • Endorsement — allows a third party to publicly acknowledge the value of a badge designed, assessed, and issued by a particular issuer.
  • Location — allows for the addition of the geographic coordinates associated with a badge.
  • Accessibility — allows for the addition of content for people with disabilities.
  • Original Creator — provides a way to track the origin of a badge when one organisation creates it for another.

I’m really pleased with all of this and delighted that the Open Badges ecosystem has a bright future!

Image CC BY-ND Bryan Mathers

If you’re interested in designing badge systems and think I might be able to help, please do get in touch via my consultancy, Dynamic Skillset. I have reduced rates for third sector organisations such as charities, non-profits and educational institutions.

Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape [DMLcentral]

Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape [DMLcentral]

My latest post for DMLcentral is up. Entitled Taking Another Look at the Digital Credentials Landscape, I attempt to clear up some confusion in the Open Badges landscape about various terms.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the early days of talking about Open Badges, I feel that we conflated several important points: the ability to issue micro credentials, bypassing traditional gatekeepers to learning, and the Open Badges standard itself. What I’ve tried to do in this post is, to some degree, begin to tease these apart. The important innovation is the interoperability and standards-based approach.

I’ve closed comments here to encourage you to leave them on the original post.

Click here to read in full on DMLcentral


Towards a visual hierarchy of Open Badges

This week I’ve been working with a client on the first stages of a visual hierarchy for Open Badges. This is more complex than it sounds and there are a couple of things that you should have a look at before reading further. The first is Carla Casilli‘s post A foundational badge system design, and the second is the Badge Studio* created by Andrew Hayward during his time at Mozilla.

Badge Studio

* This is an Open Source project and can be found on GitHub here.

What I like about the Badge Studio approach is that it:

  • is easy to use
  • has a visual hierarchy baked-in
  • makes it very difficult not to follow a style guide
  • removes the bottleneck of visual badge design


As with everything, the simpler and more intuitive something looks, the more work has gone into it in the first place. Here’s some variables we identified for badges across the group of companies of which my client is part:

  1. Organisation
  2. Badge name
  3. Badge yype
  4. Icon/glyph
  5. Level
  6. Logos/brand
  7. Pips (as on military insignias)
  8. Expiry
  9. Meta status (i.e. whether it’s part of, or is a meta-level badge of badges)


I’m sure there are others to consider, too. From there we looked at the most obvious differentiators, deciding upon shape and colour. Happily, there’s already a defined colour palette in place for each organisation that’s part of the group. They’ve also just launched a new group identity that includes five different shapes! Perfect.


We agreed in the preliminary meeting that we’d try and reduce the amount of text on the badge itself. This was for two reasons: (i) users should only ever be a click away from the metadata contained in the badge, and (ii) text is likely to be difficult to read if the badge is displayed at a small pixel size.


Theoretically, every badge issued could be both a ‘meta-level’ badge made up of smaller badges and itself part of a larger ‘even-more-meta-level’ badge. It’s potentially turtles all the way down. To prevent this potential/perceived complexity, I’ve proposed we limit the number of layers to three. This chimes well with Carla’s work mentioned above. In practice, this leads to very simple and straightforward badge pathways – which, if you want, get way more complex.


Creating an ecosystem of value is an extremely difficult thing to do. Essentially, you have to have to create enough productive ambiguity for it to be flexible and adapt to different contexts, while simultaneously giving people enough structure to get started. The way I’m proposing we approach that in this example is to:

  • Nail down badge colour (organisation) and badge shape (type)
  • Place a limit on the number of badges that can count towards a meta-level badge (perhaps six, using Trivial Pursuit as a metaphor?)
  • Keep iterating on the taxonomy we’ve started.
  • Look into what makes a good icon for an iOS/Android app (they rarely include text)
  • Consider where/how to show both my client’s brand and the brand of any organisation they partner with.
  • Create/keep a list of badge display requirements that are separate to the badge itself (e.g. how ‘expired’ badges look within a profile)
  • Look into forking Badge Studio to create a version for my client’s group of companies.

If you’ve got examples of a good hierarchy of visual design for Open Badges, I’d love to see it! 🙂

PS You’ve completed my 2015 reader survey, right?

How to help us build #OB101

A couple of weeks ago I shared details of an upcoming short course entitled Open Badges 101 that Bryan Mathers and I have started to build.

(no video above? click here!)

After testing various approaches including GitHub issues and etherpads, we’ve settled on using hypothes.is, a new ‘annotation layer for the web’ to get community input.

We’d love your comments, feedback, help, and suggestions – so have a look at the video, or dive straight in by clicking the buttons at the top-right of badges.thinkoutloudclub.com!

PS You’ve completed my 2015 reader survey, right?

Identifying, scaffolding, and credentialing skills in an ever-changing digital environment [#celt15]

The recording of my keynote at last month’s #celt15 conference in Galway is now available. I had a great time over there talking about digital literacies, Open Badges, learning pathways, and more!

If you don’t see embedded media above and below, you’ll need to click through on these links:

Note: the place the organisers originally posted it requires Flash so I’ve re-uploaded it to YouTube. If you’d like to comment on this, please do so over at their original post!

Introducing the Open Badges 101 course! [pre-alpha]

Open Badges 101

Good things happen when we work open.

That’s why, when City & Guilds asked Bryan Mathers and I to put together some resources for staff and customers about Open Badges, we decided to create an open course rather than a series of documents. We’re doing it under the auspices of the Think Out Loud Club with everything CC-licensed. The code, originally created by P2PU, is available on GitHub.

While we could sit down and provide all of the content that we think would be appropriate for this course, we’re inviting the community to get involved with this project. All contributions will be, of course, celebrated and credited.

Click here to access the Open Badges 101 course

If you’d like to help out, there’s a call to action on each page that links to further information. You’ll need a (free) GitHub account to comment on the individual issues, but it’s all very straightforward.

While you can just sign up on the site to be updated as the work progresses, I’d encourage you to help us in creating a resource that will be useful to everyone in the Open Badges community!

Claim your Kanban 101 badge!

Kanban 101 badgeYesterday, in HOWTO: Trello Kanban I showed how to use Trello for a Kanban-style workflow. It’s already proved to be one of the most popular posts I’ve written this year, and was picked up by the Trello team!

To me, the logical next step is to issue an Open Badge for getting started with a Trello-based Kanban system. That’s why I’ve created the Kanban 101 badge.

It’s deliberately low-bar. All you have to do is:

  • Set up a Trello account
  • Create a new board with (at least) three lists: To do, Doing, and Done
  • Add cards for new actions
  • Share a screenshot or link to their board being used in practice

If you get stuck, you can always watch the screencast I recorded yesterday!

Not received an Open Badge before? There’s more about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) here. Once you’ve earned the Kanban 101 badge you’ll be given the option to ‘push’ it to the Mozilla backpack:

Kanban badge acceptance

I’m using p2pu.org to issue badges as they’ve got a really nice traffic light-based flow for reviewing evidence.

Claim your Kanban 101 badge now!

(note that this is in no way affiliated with Trello, I’m just a fan!)