Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On Sockpuppets

Anonymity is Important. So is Accountability.

Group News Blog allows people to post anonymously.

Not in any particular order, and not all our reasons either:

  • People should be able to say stuff, especially political stuff, without everyone knowing it was them.
  • Sometimes careers and relationships, current or future ride on maintaining privacy.
  • Experimenting with an idea you might not want to commit your public reputation to.
  • Ease of posting. We want as few barriers to participating as possible.
  • Humor, not everyone shares your sense of.
  • To keep a secret, criminal or civil.
  • To protect your age.
  • To protect your gender.
  • Due to your health or well-being.
  • "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
You're a talented group. No doubt you'll come up with plenty of reasons why anonymity is so darn important. Put them in comments.

Here's the thing...

Accountability builds trust.

Trust is an assessment we make that so and so is sincere and competent for taking care of some area in a particular domain of concerns. People, families, work-groups, companies and communities build trustworthy identities over time. When identities change, trust changes also. If identities are found to be being deliberately altered, trust is quickly lost.

One of the interesting features of the software we use to monitor GNB, is we know much more about y'all than you might think. Some of it we only know in aggregate. Some we know very specifically. Some we know when we start looking.

For example, I know that in the last little while, there's been a person taking multiple identities, what is called a sockpuppet, just bouncing around from thread to thread.

This person hasn't really caused any problem, so I haven't bothered to ban him. I say him, because 95% of the time, it is a him. I could mention his ISP, what town the ISP is located in, the name, address, phone number and contact name of the administrative contact to his ISP -- but all that would be impolite.

Besides, here at GNB, we protect the privacy of our readers. Seriously, we do.

But we discourage -- strongly -- sockpuppeting.

Pick a name please, and stick to it.

This place is home for many of us, and a comfy place to drop by for many more. We are who we are in part, because we trust each other.

We're more than willing to trust you. But you need to trust us as well. Pick a name. It doesn't even have to be one of the one's you've used already. Just pick one and stick with it please.