This week is a bittersweet one for me. On October 1, I will be changing my status from one of the longest-standing employees of ORCID to being an independent consultant. I am excited to start this new stage in my career, and happy that in this new role I will be continuing to support ORCID in identity management and other projects. I definitely will miss the depth of my current day-to-day involvement, but I’m excited to see how the organization evolves as I step away.
Naturally, I’ve found myself being a bit nostalgic. I remember the website from when I joined in June 2012, before we had our current branding, and were still working with the pilot version of our registry. My first task as Technical Director was to manage the development of the first production version of the Registry. Laure and I set an aggressive four-month (!) timeline to launch the Registry. We cajoled a set of partners whose integrations would launch along with the registry, and we all worked together to build our early membership and technology offering.
The pre-launch ORCID site, September 2012
Launch day was timed to coincide with our 16 October, 2012 Board meeting, in Berlin, Germany. The launch was successful – people found the ORCID site and very enthusiastically started to register – but it also highlighted how sometimes infrastructure is not quite ready for community demand. We selected Rackspace as the “safe choice” to host our website and the Registry database. What we hadn’t realized is that we’d be using their brand new server bank, which hadn’t yet been proven out. On launch day Rackspace had capped our server memory at 1 GB with no ability to scale. As a result, the ORCID site was not available to everyone who wanted to access it. Working across timezones (Berlin to Texas), and on a massive sleep debt, finally at 4PM in Texas (10PM for me in Berlin!) I was able to negotiate a doubling of memory, but it still wasn’t enough! Thankfully the excitement about our launch outweighed the disappointment of spotty access.
Rackspace on launch day – capped at 1MB of memory! October 16, 2012
After the launch, our two-person ORCID team started to grow. I found this picture from March 2013 of our full-team meeting in our “office”. Everyone still works from their own space today, and many early employees are still with ORCID five years later.
The ORCID team, March 2013
By early 2013, the Registry started coming into its own, though it looked a bit different from the way it does today. We had plans to include many items in ORCID records. However, to meet our aggressive schedule, we launched with only the ability to add works. We did a lot of work to identify a community-condoned source of organization identifiers and, by the end of 2013, the Registry also supported user-assertions of employment and education affiliations.
The ORCID Record at launch (screenshot from July 2013)
The new ORCID Record interface. December, 2014
By this time, with over one million iD-holders, and over 150 member organizations, we started to seriously think about ways that we could scale the organization to meet our upcoming demands. In 2015, the generosity of the Leona M and Harry B Helmsley Charitable Trust enabled us to double our staffing, significantly increasing our outreach capacity. As we grew, I also transitioned into a new role, with responsibility to think more deeply about how we should prepare for ORCID’s future. I spearheaded the development of the ORCID Trust program, built our relationships with the Federated Identity Management (FIM) and the OpenPharma communities, and explored possible futures with our Board and community through strategic visioning exercises, which laid the foundation for our 2018 Strategic Plan.
ORCID, you have come such a long way from humble beginnings, and I am so proud to have contributed to your success. I am thrilled that I will have the opportunity to continue my service to you and continue to work with your fantastic community as I take this next step of my journey. And to all of my ORCID teammates, thank you for the memories and the laughs, for welcoming me into your homes in our video calls, introducing me to your families, and being such an important part of the last six years. I look forward to all of our future conversations as our paths continue to cross.
The ORCID Team at annual full-team meeting, August 2017