Monday, July 4, 2011

FIQ (Frequently Imagined Questions)

Yeah but can't somebody just say they're somebody else? How would you know?
There are ways of knowing. Some blogs or sites require users to either:

- register with an e-mail address and confirm the registration by
clicking on a link in a confirmation e-mail, or

- use a "universal ID", a Google account, a Facebook account, etc. to
post if they haven't registered on the site.

Neither method is perfect, but at least it discourages virtual drive-by
shootings, because it makes it difficult for abusers to make up
identities on the fly.

Yeah but what about hackers and people who live to get around rules?
Don’t worry about them. Once the tide changes, having a few rather than a multitude will be a blessing.

Yeah but what about those preachers of hate on rightwing radio? They don’t hide — they're proud to set a hateful example.
This isn't about opinions; it’s about opinionating while hiding. And it isn't about radio; only the Web.

Yeah but I'm just a solitary soul. What can I possibly do that will impact anything?
Right off the bat, two things: 1. “Sorry, but I don’t respond to anonymous bloviators. Own up dude, then we’ll talk.” 2. “I'm XX YY, and I approved this message.”

Yeah but won't outlawing anonymity cut way down on the number of people who respond to articles on the Web?
I certainly hope so.

Yeah but what about when anonymity really is important? Like overthrowing a tyrannical regime?
That’s one time it should be allowed. Also: genuine whistleblowers, endangered spouses, political refugees.

Yeah but what about a Quote of the Week?
“The cruel irony in all this is that while hate speech is becoming more and more the norm, normal speech is becoming increasingly vilified.” David Fonda, Quebec

Yeah but what about dogs?


  1. Recently at NetHui, a conference about the internet in NZ, this question came up quite a bit. I actually disagree with your thesis. It was brought up by a couple of organisations working in this area that there are a large number of people in NZ who have a low degree of digital literacy; my own experience with running a participatory website project that asked local community members to ask questions of candidates running for a local community board, was that there were many people who wanted to ask questions that didn't have the digital literacy required to register with the site. Are we, in a period where we are increasingly contemplating what "digital citizenship" might be and entail, going to exlude these people from the conversations because they don't know how to register at a website?

  2. "Brent," you raise some interesting points, but before we talk, you gotta ownupdude. Tell us who you are.

  3. Well I think that this is a rather naive understanding of the ontology of online life. How would one tell you who they were? As the cartoon says, maybe i'm a dog.

    I'm this person:, i'm this person:, and I'm this person: and that's just a few ... take your pick.

  4. Again (and for now, finally), own up yourself. Don't play games, don't make others find you — if you have something to say, which you clearly do, stand behind your words.

    I'm looking forward to that.


  5. I still don't quite get it ... i mean i've offered about as much, if not more information about myself as you have (you have a single name link above this post like me) and actually you have more of a mandate to "own up" than I do being the one to create the blog and champion the cause. I think this points to a real problem with your cause: that there isn't an accurate way to "identify" yourself online. I mean just because I provide a proper name what does that really achieve? It seems a rather weak response to what is a difficult issue, one that i'm not sure a cute domain name is going to solve.

  6. I'm Jules Older, and I approved this message.

  7. Jules: So the dictum in this is to coerce me to type a name before discussion can take place? and this will work on a global platform how? I don't think so - you're onto a significant social and political problem perhaps, but shutting down conversation until someone utters the nom de plume is not the answer. I still approve my message and if you think i'm worth engaging in you will follow my trail to locate more of me.

    Perhaps we need a real return to the days of at least encrypted signatures to ensure some conversations in some contexts; governmental, etc. don't know.

    I'm hoping that soon my message/name will be endorsed personally to you as it was your daughter, who sits two desks down from me at NICAI, who suggested i listen to you online on the radio. The name is just a trace in all debate and only of cursory importance once a solution has been met.