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OddMuse has two features that automate what you can figure out from the usual RecentChanges anyway (with some extra effort): You can show recent changes by a particular user, or from a particular host. WikiPedia has the same thing: their "user contributions" link.

RecentChanges is an AuditTrail; the WritersLog goes one step beyond: It munges the log and prepares a report. Such additional power comes at a price, however: lesser privacy, facilitating stalking. See WhatIsaStalker. In a wiki with a full VersionHistory, it makes that history more accessible, limiting ForgiveAndForgetInSoftware.

Technical implementation is discussed on the WritersLog page. This page talks about the social side-effects the technology may have.


The information is available anyway. Therefore, you cannot avoid it. People with more resources available to them will always be able to stalk other people. Making this explicit by offering a WritersLog just levels the playing field. This sort of argument was raised in the book TransparentSociety.

Hiding the information to discourage stalkers is a form of SecurityByObscurity.

Consider an access log to show who has used the WritersLog for a particular user. Would this increase or reduce paranoia?

Just because it's possible, doesn't mean you have to make it easier. Some people can break into your car and steal your car stereo. Does that mean that everyone should just leave their cars unlocked and make car stereos easily removable? The same argument goes towards gun ownership. If criminals can have guns, so should everyone. However, that only decreases the net safety of the entire population.

It's important to remember that security is an economic force. You want to increase the costs of doing something prohibited; you cannot always make it impossible. The more expensive it is, the less likely someone will do it. Similarly, the harder it is, the less likely someone will do it.

The trade off is, of course, one of AvoidIllusion. So you have to judge how likely it was someone had jimmied together their own "WritersLog" beforehand and see if it's worth it to, essentially, stop lying that such behaviour is done. -- SunirShah

It turns out that on the EmacsWiki, some people have quickly adopted a writer's log for their own contributions. Some people had already been keeping a manual list of pages they contributed to on their homepage. It seems to be an ego-thing: Look! This is what I contributed! This way, contributing as an AnonymousDonor still confers bragability -- the ability to show how important you are to the community. -- AlexSchroeder [and his log]

So, some people like being trackable, some people don't. Should it be configurable? -- MartinHarper

Perhaps just track those who are using a UserName?

Oddmuse allows two kinds of tracking: UserName (you can elect to be anonymous) and Host/IP (your serial identity will be trackable). Thus perhaps the only group of people we have to worry about are the ones that have a UserName for RecentChanges, yet prefer ForgiveAndForget. The UseMod/OddMuse log file does not expire by default, therefore eventhough your particular contribution will eventually be lost in a KeptPages scheme, the log of your contribution will remain. This would allow a kind of TrafficAnalysis. My conclusion from this discussion is that a WritersLog is not an invasion of privacy:

  1. You can remain anonymous by not using a UserName.
  2. Having a trackable serial identity is not a big privacy problem.
  3. The log only logs the fact that you contributed, it does not log your contribution. ForgiveAndForget via KeptPages still works in its main aspect.

I'm coming to the conclusion that ClayShirky is correct - you can't seperate technology from the social effects of that technology. I'm considering a big reorg - rework much of the text here into WritersLog, and move WhatIsaStalker here (because it's easier to link to). Feedback? --MartinHarper


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