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Suppose you move to a new town. Nobody knows you, and consequently, they take you at face value. You begin with a blank slate, and people's opinions of you are formed by your actions from the time of your arrival.

This is no longer the case in CyberSpace: one quick google and you can establish a person's previous reputation in other communities.

This is a case where using RealNames doesn't provide a level playing field. Someone named JohnSmith will have the RightToBeNew; but SunirShah (who has an almost unique name worldwide) can be instantly backtracked. Some people, like DannyZeng, actively exploit that. RealNames are not fair.

This complements RightToVanish. There, we learnt to build walls to protect us in the future, where here we learn to build walls to protect us from our past. Compare WalledIdentity. Just as pseudonyms allows us to vanish by discarding an identity and never using it again, so they also allow us to appear, as if we had always been like this.

While the two rights are complementary, there is a critical different: the RightToVanish protects us from the future, which is unknown. The RightToBeNew protects us from the past, which is known. For most of us, our past is not a major threat. It may contain embarrassment, mistakes, sadness, but it rarely contains anything that would be a major threat in the community we plan to join. For the minority for whom the past poses a major threat, then this is a serious issue.

Still, many people desire the RightToBeNew, even though they don't really need it. While there is no actual threat, they seek protection from embarrassment, from awkward questions, and from IdentityOppression. What they fail to spot is the negative consequences of that protection.

If you have no history, provide no references, use a name that evades a google search (whether pseudonymous or real), then you could be anybody. You could be a SockPuppet. You could be a reincarnation of the CommunityExile that everyone thought had finally gone away. You could be an infamous list-killer troll, whose only purpose in life is to destroy communities. If you're reading this, chances are you're a better person than these folks: do you really want to be lumped in with them?

In MeatSpace as well, the first question we ask of strangers is often "where do you come from?". And while we may play up some aspects of our pasts, and seek to obscure others, we don't pretend that we were born yesterday, nor that our past is wholly disconnected from our present.


It's valuable for a community to know a person's past, it is indeed unfair that it's easier to google some people than others, the community has to realize people can change (cf. AuthorSwizzling), most communities aren't at that level yet, communities might not reach that level until the the RightToBeNew is removed.

You're forgetting that most people don't want to know about your past as it is "too much information."

re: Googling me. Yet strangely, I am a very different person than two years ago, to the point that many people from even here have privately asked me what the hell I am doing, even instigating a fork. Life continues to beat on. -- SunirShah

re: RealNames are not fair. But it's not just a RealName that counts; it's corroborating information. There are other SunirShah's, and I could claim I am not the SunirShah when entering a new space. Moreover, we have tracked certain troublemakers through the 'Net by their style and IP address, not their RealName. Most of the time, though, when someone shows up at your community doorstep, they will give you a little history of themselves to indicate why they are there, who they are, what angle they are coming from, who they know. I mean, that's part of introductions, and it's a grand violation of the RightToBeNew. People who don't introduce themselves are mildly conspicuous, though we still AssumeGoodFaith. I think the real expectation is the Right to (eventually) ForgiveAndForget what has transpired in the past. -- SunirShah

Regarding that oft-discussed beast, the troll, the RightToBeNew is often in conflict with the strategy of outing them as early as possible. This is especially the case when a member of both community A and B notices a longtime community A troll entering community B.

Depends if they are trolling you in community B. If you out them too early, you will damage your own reputation if they behave civilly, unless they are criminally dangerous people. Trolls are also often constructed by GodKings and the PygmalionEffect. But we can reverse some trolls' attitudes by giving them a more constructive path to work along. -- SunirShah


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