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.:

Open
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.

Upstanding
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.
Notion:
Upstanding-ness has degrees, but measure is not objective, it's contingent on
norms that "go without saying" for most people.
Conjecture:
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.

Obscure-Persistent
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.

Oblique/Cryptic
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?

6 Comments:

Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

In a recent case on Winds of Change someone going by the handle "Capotal C" was given the choice of ceasing to be purely Obscure-Persistent and becoming weakly Upstanding.

Capotal C declined. The denouement is here: http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/009699.php#c100163

For reference, two of the active "bartenders" (Marshals) are Open; I am Upstanding by my categorization. Doesn't mean I'm some paragon, I mean it in the strict sense of "you know where to find me, whatever my True Name is." It would be problematical indeed for a Marshal not to qualify as Upstanding or Open.

I do not name Capotal C here to criticize, but to inquire: what makes someone with strong opinions and a desire to persist in a namespace as a persona refuse to ever use backchannels, thereby making a move in the Upstanding (though still private) direction, even when repeatedly asked? Particularly someone with as high a self-estimation as Capotal C had? What did Capotal C have to lose? Why couldn't Capotal C bother?

Put another way: What is wrong with being Upstanding?

Merton, in On the Shoulders of Giants does one of several star-turn digressions wherein the public and private feuds and discussions of Hooke and Newton are detailed. {Links to follow}

Newton pointed out in a personal letter to Hooke that public communications are much more likely to spiral out into flame wars (I'm translating). Even that observation didn't stop him from not bothering to correspond, but instead getting out his cudgel for the public feuding. Nobody's perfect.

I'll have more to say about that in a post I'll be titling "Kindle Cole". Watch for it.

13 July, 2007 21:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes making your comment as "anonymous coward" is just the easiest thing to do. There are those, like me, who will do that and still sign their posts. I want you to know who I am, I just can't be bothered with the logins.

When you feel you are being treated far less than fairly and you are likely to be banned whatever you do (unless you quit first), it's natural not to provide extra hooks on you. You just don't want to give these jerks anything because they've misused what you have given them so far, and you don't want to give them any more. I've been in that situation.

David Blue

22 July, 2007 02:32  
Blogger Robohobo said...

And some like I, cannot risk our personal lives for something as .... I am searching for the word here...... mundane(?).... inconsequential.... as comments on blogs. I work in an industry where being a maverick is tolerated but limits other opportunites and/or paths you may wish to taqke within the career path. It is too bad that it is that way but that is the way that it is.

BTW, Nortius, you are a mensch.

10 December, 2007 19:26  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

'hobo: Thanks for the kind word.

10 December, 2007 20:09  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

Penny Arcade, it turns out, has already weighed in on this some time ago. Note: NSFW (language).

"When we submitted John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, we were not aware that it already had proponents in centers of higher learning. Except, when they talk about it, they call it The Impact of Anonymity on Disinhibitive Behavior Through Computer-Mediated Communication. Same thing, though."

http://www.penny-arcade.com/2004/03/26
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19
http://www.msu.edu/user/trescami/thesis.htm

10 December, 2007 20:19  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

The thing is, from my perspective, nowadays it's so easy to make a disposable email account with, say, gmail. Not being willing to go to that trouble seems to carry a kind of "you can't make me!" nonverbal utterance. Which is true as far as it goes -- nobody can make you do that -- but it does mean that communications get strangely shaped and can go haywire because sotto voce is not available.

I really need to write that "Kindle Cole" piece.

22 September, 2008 19:07  

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