Friday, July 13, 2007

Notes that Clay Shirky probably already wrote better

==Update: Welcome, Winds of Change readers!==
Check comment #1 on this thread,
then pop back up here for the details of my category scheme. Thanks for visiting. Let's be civil, shall we?

In the cheery nonsequitur of an R. Crumb doodle: "Hi.... Let's get going!"

I want to get this out for review by my seven loyal readers even in rough form. I am probably building a square sandstone prototype of a Michelin racing radial that's already out there somewhere. Let me know if that's so.

I've been ruminating about some curious cultural concerns inspired by my stint "tending bar" (unpaid, it's a labor of love) over at Winds of Change.

Proposed: there are four kinds of online entities/personae, viz.:

True Name used; or Nym (pseudonym/cognomen/nom de blog), if any, is [now] well known, or easily discoverable as one-to-one with True Name (barring hoaxes, ID theft).
Single-persona penalties and rewards. Deniability is circumscribed (modulo convincing evidence of impersonation/ID theft, etc.) Easily libeled / harassed / made afraid in some circumstances (e.g. Kathy Sierra kerfuffle, any number of other RL cases). Reputation and future data mining are up in the data cloud "forever" for all.
Seen as a "straight shooter" as long as there are no unpleasant surprises.
Iterated prisoner's dilemma is full strength or close to it.
Open entities might not make their backchannels readily available, but by Six Degrees mythos everybody has to have one, the trick is to know who/howto ask.

BAR STEREOTYPE (BS): The guy who comes into the bar and shows you his wallet full of kid pictures. You have his business card somewhere, so you know where he works.

Nym is a cognomen to a few insiders or none; is in place for reasons sufficient to the entity,
but there are mutltiple open channels of communication, and a stable ID/"Brand". Though True Name isn't common knowledge, some body of work is, and there is a working backchannel.
Deniability is still circumscribed; possibility of multiple, all Upstanding, Nyms for
different facets/roles across Web.
Potential for fewer penalties, fewer rewards.
ID/reputation of an Upstanding entity can still turn out to be built on sand.
Standard "what's he got to hide?" "You think you're cute with that fake name" etc. side-effects
In the long run, usage and pattern analysis will out; the True Name is vulnerable through an extension of the Deja News/Wayback Machine Effects.
Upstanding-ness has degrees, but measure is not objective, it's contingent on
norms that "go without saying" for most people.
relatively rich immersive environments such as Second Life, Worlds of Warcraft
can connect peers to trust/loyalty by activating neuro-anatomical wiring that is
unavailable to pure-text denizens of blogs/Facebook/Livejournal/etc.
Conjecture on prior conjecture:
what a crock!

BS: The guy you've played darts with in the bar for months--
but you only know his nickname. One of you owes the other for drinks.
Neither of you is worried about collecting.
You probably wouldn't loan him your car, but you might let him be the designated driver.

Nym only. "No Fixed Address": True Name / stable ID / link, e.g. working email, Nym-associated blog are all lacking. Without account- or post-by-post validation, any such entity will be be Obscure to all observers and habitu├ęs. With such, they will be less obscure to some.
Some observers don't know or care either way. For privacy's sake, most can't know on WoC; by design, only Marshals can see the IP and (claimed) email address.
ID unity/entity_continuity is inferred through tone, topics, IP addresses, quirks and habits.
Most sock puppets seem to be Obscure, though some qualify as Oblique.
Obscure entities seem to be more impulsive/less concerned with milieu than Open or Upstanding ones, though it is hard to measure that objectively.
Ironically, lack of backchannel/offlist comm makes vocal O-Ps anything BUT obscure in the long run, unless they are exceptionally well-mannered. This leads to a lowering of post quality due to noise and thread derailment or outright hijacking. Not that that is the only contributor to those.

BS (worst case): The guy who comes into the bar and turns his hearing aid off.
When he gets irritated, he wants the world to know about it.
Maybe it's why he's in the bar.

Team pen names, comical parodical posts, other? May be obscure or not; validation of claimed ID under the pen name is generally difficult. High maintenance for readers. Eyes glaze over. Drive-bys are easiest. "Anonymous Coward" on Slashdot is a prime example; the many pen names of Kierkegaard serve as another. Also, of course, Bourbaki in mathematics.

BS: Hard to categorize. Could be a creep, could be a nebbish,
could be just some poor salaryman in for a quick nip after work,
with a joke to tell. Could be a geeeeeenius. So?