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Part of the ImportanceOfIdentityInOnlineCommunities discussion.

MeatBall doesn't validate real names anyway; how is ChrisTrachta? to be distinguished from ErikDeBill?

Moreover, just as insistence on passwords might give a false sense of assurance by implying but not providing good security, insistence on real names implies but does not provide assurance that individuals are actually using real names, or that they are trustworthy. (cf. AvoidIllusion)

Mapping of name to identity occurs, but it occurs over a period of time in the context of community rather than an instantaneous act of technology. See CommunitySolution and LawrenceLessig.

This has consequences: On a wiki, a signature does not guarantee authorship. No authentication is possible. Over time, however, regular authors get to know each other, so trust develops nonetheless. Non-trivial fraud will be detected by the community sooner or later.

See also: SemanticsOfIdentity, VulnerabilityToCommunity, EnforceResponsibility, PenName, BasisForPseudonymity, FocusOnIdentity, TombStoning

Case of the Identity Troll

"Now prove that you are all the people that you say you are, and the claims might be interesting." -- Mysidia

"Prove it to who? There's no one here who isn't me!" -- mrgoat [1]

On KuroShin, a separate subculture has formed around their DiaryCollective?, where certain members have come to know each other more intimately than those that just are just active in the main story sections. Like any clique, they come complete with inside jokes that they seek to lay upon the public-at-large to differentiate themselves.

Consider the story [A Discovery of Earth Shattering Proportions] by [mrgoat], entered into the Meta section as Humor, a definite act of hubris. It begins

As many of you may have guessed, I, mrgoat, have been keeping multiple accounts. It is finally time that I come clean, and offer up, in the interest of full disclosure, the [complete list].

The rest is unimportant. While it might seem obvious to anyone who pays attention to the KuroShin diaries that this is just an elaborate joke, to some people it [wasn't]. For instance, someone [asked] RustyFoster, proprietor of KuroShin, to check the IPs to verify the story. Another person was [insulted] by the stunt.

Uncertainty breeds paranoia. Not long after, this story arrived in queue:

There is a really lame message by someone claiming to have fake names that has been voted on over 400 times, but hasnt gone below -20 yet. To contrast, I post a message which is at least sort of interesting, and it tanks so fast its scary. What up wit dat? [2]

To which Betcour incorrectly responds,

The guy who's posting its list of aliases, is also using its aliases to mod himself up... (how the hell could 100 people have moded it +1 FP without this ?) [3]

Naturally, it was the diary clique that voted it up because they thought it was funny.

This case only shows how vulnerable PenNames are to subversion and confusion. While entertaining partially for this reason, care must be taken to avoid subverting OpenProcess by damaging the AuditTrail. We could also AvoidIllusions that logins are unique and authenticatable, as well as create CommunityExpectations against such acts. Note that in this case, mrgoat's peers encouraged this behaviour by voting the story up amongst other things.

On the other hand, they have a point. If you take things too seriously, they're no longer fun. The other illusion to avoid is that the PenName""s are to be taken seriously.

[ed: Both stories were dumped from the queue.]

Contrast TombStoning which is more serious.




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