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The alternative offered for those who do not wish to UseRealNames. Posting anonymously is discouraged, for a variety of reasons. But the primary one is that MeatballWiki is a community of people who are willing to stand up and commit to working together. Using your real name is a basic and simple way of declaring that commitment.

The dictum to either UseRealNames or otherwise just PostAnonymously fails the AvoidIllusion design criterion, since it isn't perfect anonymity. IP numbers or client hostnames are published for all contributors on the RecentChanges and revision history pages. It is, instead, yet another form of pseudonymity (See AnonymityVsPseudonymity, UseRealNamesDiscussion, LoginsAreEvil, AnonymousDonor).

Those with dynamically-assigned IPs, especially from big ISPs, might have a good measure of PracticalObscurity based on the improbability of someone leveraging one of these IP numbers into additional identity information.

Not everyone who wishes for some measure of PracticalObscurity, however, uses such an IP--in fact, the population of those with some interest and experience in BarnRaising may very well be self-selected to use systems with statically-assigned IP numbers.

References & Resources

It is also a mistake to believe anything you write on the Internet can ever be anonymous. This myth has repeatedly been defeated. The venerable anon.penet.fi fell to the Church of Scientology, for instance. While it's not enough to just claim that anonymity is impossible, for certainly we could make it easier, it's also wrong to give this power only to the site proprietors to abuse. In that case, by not publishing the IP, we create the illusion that you are anonymous. It wasn't clear that anon.penet.fi wasn't abusing its privilege, you just took their word for it. So, in the PostWELL world, users should accept this, at least until you can construct a better network (see FreeNet). Even HAM radios are traceable.

That myth is a strawman. A desire for PracticalObscurity is not necessarily a search for absolutes or guarantees. It involves a cost-benefit analysis comparing non-optimal choices, along the lines of "how much do I benefit from having my email address accessible" vs "how much does it cost me to have that availability result in my receiving spam"?

But the main point is to note that saying "post anonymously" is baldly inaccurate. Call it what it is, if you care about accuracy.

Acknowledging that IP-based pseudonymity is pseudonymity undermines the arguments against other forms of pseudonymity. So, we can understand why one would persist in using the inaccurate term if one decries pseudonymity. Could the persistence in the "post anonymously" usage derive from some cognitive dissonance on this count?

No, because one doesn't "choose" one's IPs as a testament to their identity. Nyms are clothes. Names are tartans. Pseudonyms are costumes. IPs are uniforms.

There are different kinds of uniforms, and absent compulsory service, uniforms still reveal individual choice and achievement.

I chose my ISP very carefully. I chose it because it gave me a static IP at no additional charge or hassle, and that it bridges the DSL connection, to boot. Given that its a small ISP, in a wiki context, my IP effectively affords me SerialIdentity.

In fact, this element of SerialIdentity is exactly the aspect of IP-based pseudonymity that makes publishing IPs useful to EnforceResponsibility.

The original UseRealNames notice stated, if I recall, that your IP or domain appears in RecentChanges if you post without a UserName, but that was stricken for simplicity.

Antagonism in response to recurrent dissention notwithstanding

Understood. It definitely would be more valuable to realize this discussion won't be resolved any time soon, so we should take it more slowly. -- SunirShah

Arguing a case for status quo favors delay, of course. I'll entertain backing off, again, but want to show some solidarity for others in UseRealNamesCases.

By the way, this reminds me: I would like to change the script to publish the last octet of the IP address. Currently it reads something like 127.0.0.xxx. This is bogus on two levels. First, Cliff and I have access to the full IPs. Second, those of us with hostnames, have them published fully resolved, creating an imbalance. Those opposed? -- SunirShah

Yeah, that is bogus. Looks like those whose IPs don't resolve through reverse-lookups get more practical obscurity than those whose IPs can be. It would be a good change. You could also display the IPs of readers too: see ReadAnonymously.

Why should anyone care to respect the desire of others to contribute anonymously? If a system allow anonymous contributions - ok, then anyone may use that feature. If the contributions are valuable - fine. I tolerate anonymous members and contributions in "my" wikis, but I surely do not "respect the desire", because I think this desire is silly. GoByCar. -- HelmutLeitner

I just turned off the ".xxx" masking for IP addresses--I agree that it is silly to do it for the relatively few IP-only addresses. (This change will only affect new edits.) The original purpose of the mask was to protect contributors against DenialOfService attacks. (It is relatively hard to attack a whole class-C.) For the next code release I plan to make masking a site option, and mask the most-local part of the domain name or IP if it is enabled. --CliffordAdams

One interesting thought to add to the discussion of posting the domain/IP addresses of authors. How do you know SunirShah wrote all those entries during his trip through Europe and the United States? He certainly doesn't read everything on the site anymore. Consider even when he was in Durham, he wrote from different IPs within minutes of each other. [Southpoint mall has multiple free Internet drops.] How do you really know? Certainly you can correlate against his itinerary, but not always. The answer of course is that Sunir's identity is more than just his IP or domain, isn't it? Meatball's motto is People, people, computers, and people. His persona is more identifying than his network address. And that's another reason he might think that pseudonyms are bogus. -- SunirShah

heh. I was in Madison this weekend, and had just a short time there with friends, so didn't bother to pop over to, say, a public library to pay a visit here. As it is, Bayle can't tell me from another one of dissenting participants to the UseRealNamesCases page. By the way, I know someone who once lived over on Vick Park B. Its killing me that I can't remember the name of the indy bookstore that used to sit there at the intersection of Monroe and Rutgers (feel free to move this to an appropriate diary entry or whatever--this was prompted by the mention of Sunir's traveling

The bookstore was called the Village Green. I think it's a video store or something now, maybe CliffordAdams can confirm.

Do you really think I wrote PublicScript? I don't even think I wrote it, and I wrote it.

One thing that I also wanted to do was allow people to list both the UserName and the IP/domains on RecentChanges. This would benefit people without accessibility features built into their browsers, say if they're using a pile of junk like NetScape. This would be a UserPreference?, naturally, and certainly only really understood by more "expert" users who would, naturally, be really the only people who would care about such a thing. -- SunirShah

I don't think mental footprints are as distinguishable as you think; if someone faked someone else, we might notice an inconsistency, but then assume they were just in a different mood that day. Why do I believe the stuff signed SunirShah? I expect that is enough stuff was signed as you that you didn't write, you'd protest and we'd know something was up. Maybe after that we'd start questioning other things, and even emailing authors for confirmation every now and then. Thankfully, this isn't needed yet.

But I think most of the "business" of the wiki can be conducted anonymously. So even if we had to mistrust names, we could carry on discussion. I guess it wouldn't be the same kind of community anymore, though. And for making contentious decisions we'd probably end up email-verifying a bunch of things.

And no, I don't think a mailing list would be more efficient in that case.

-- BayleShanks

(Not specific to meatball) When people PostAnonymously to a wiki, the wiki software has three options on what information about them it will display:

  1. no information (merely AnonymousDonor or similar)
  2. partial IP (123.456.789.xxx)
  3. full IP (123.456.789.123)
  4. hostname (fred.router42.isp54.co.uk)

It may display different information to different people:

  1. The GodKing
  2. Trusted users
  3. Logged in users
  4. Users not logged in

Similarly, for logged on users, the wiki software can choose to display:

  1. just the UserName
  2. username + partial IP (123.456.789.xxx)
  3. username + full IP (123.456.789.123)
  4. username + hostname (fred.router42.isp54.co.uk)


Discussion to change the wording on UseRealNames

posting without signing can be good... it's oddly refreshing to be reading a section on MB and think 'hey, this is good', and then realise it's something you wrote yourself months ago.

CategoryIdentity CategoryRealNames


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