marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (sheep)

So [personal profile] sophie's written a post that delves deep into the how-tos and implied benefits of remaining at least "pseudo-anonymous" in light of gotchas! like this (which not-so-incidentally, spawned this not-so-little gotcha!) that crop up every now and then in new installments of our favorite show, Teh Internet: SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS.

Speaking only for myself - because I have a deep-seated need to get this issue out of the way - and not to get all punny, but "pseudo-anonymous", to purists like me, is a misnomer at best - just plain wrong at worst. Here, have a definition.

pseu·do
   
1. not actually but having the appearance of; pretended; false or spurious; sham.
2. almost, approaching, or trying to be.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm not pretending to be real.

To cover def. #2, is what I post almost real? Approaching real? Trying for real? These questions could make me laugh until I cry because it seems like an awful lot of trouble to be false on purpose just so people won't guess I'm being real. I mean, wtf - that's almost mind-bending.

To be more precise, I would call what I do here acting in a way that's semi-anonymous. I think most people who've gone down the "obvious or perhaps not so obvious" fake name route do it pretty much the same way I do.

While I often want to share more - both for the sake of clarity and to prevent being, as I sometimes am, completely misunderstood - by no means do I currently feel I ought to share less. I don't go to bed at night and lie awake and doubt I should share what I have.

After six years online, I'm pretty much post-agony about what I've shared. I figure plenty of people not only attach real names (often first and last, even middle) to everything they have online and then connect those to Facebooks, Twitters and other online spaces (FourSquare comes to mind), they also prominently display street addresses, employer names/locations and personal phone numbers.

Many of these people are much more controversial/just plain well-known than I am, yet every morning when I get up, as far as I can tell, there they are, still alive and in one undisturbed, blissfully intact piece. Which leads me to believe it's not the end of the world, obviously, to put everything out there.

Now I speak from a place of relative sanity, safety and protection because I've tried to plan my online spaces to my benefit from day one. I never did want people to look upon my real name in any online space where I'm just being me and say unto themselves, "Ah yes, I remember her quite clearly from [high school] [grade school] [the parking lot behind the 7-Eleven the day I tried to knock her teeth out 25 years ago] [my last or current job], etc.

I have no interest in connecting with any of these people. If I did I would just do so. I have no interest in them finding or connecting with me. So for that reason I chose to go with what Sophie calls "pseudo-anonymous" and what I call "semi-anonymous" posting from the start.

The advice Sophie has on how to go about such things is correct: even your pseudo- or semi-anonymous name can run your butt into real life problems if you post from it at any point, in posts locked or unlocked, that your real name is, say, John Smith and/or that your home address is 123 Any St in Ohio and/or your phone # is bla-blah-blah and/or that you work for ThisEmployer at ThatLocation, or so on.

Similarly, if your DW is named pseudo-anonymous.dreamwidth.org but on your profile you give out the email address johnsmith@thisemailprovider.com, then seriously, you might as well just get a rename token and change your journal's name to johnsmith.

If you want to remain semi-anonymous, then yes, put your real and not-real names into separate baskets, and make sure those baskets don't even touch. If you don't care so much if your real and semi-anonymous worlds collide, then no one else should, either. Keep an eye on things to make sure it's not causing issues you might not otherwise be aware of, but do what feels best - and safest - for you.

If you're asking if I've been lax about keeping real and semi-anonymous names in separate baskets, the answer is yes. I once used my first personal, non-AOL email address on Anti-AOL's profile page - "personal" as in my best friend and boyfriend both emailed me on it, and one of those people had no idea about my "AOL can blow me" blog for a good five years, until it finally hit me he's going to Google my email address someday so I'm just gonna kind of casually mention that I own this stupid thing now and get it over with.

I've performed other acts of stupidity, the worst being giving my name to a well-known blogger who turned on me shortly thereafter and probably turned half of a certain city in CA on me as well (and yes, this isn't the first time I've mentioned that, but it's probably the first time I'm not going to delete the mere mention of it).

He'd given me his real name - and yes, it was really his real name - I know that because I Googled it and what I found matched unique things he said on his blog under his semi-anon handle quite well. So did the pictures (which proves Sophie's point: it's better to keep your semi-anon space[s] devoid of personal info unless you don't care what people can figure out by looking in Google). We were both kind of hot-headed to begin with and I knew that even going into it, which made the whole thing kind of dumb. I was perfectly naive on how that would turn out.

I've given my real name to other online souls, too. The guy who ran AOL Sucks - the blog? He had my real name (we exchanged emails on and off one summer - but he was pretty cool, overall). The owners of a few older tech blogs have my name - but I got along with them rather well. So did a few former LJ buddies. I don't regret those exchanges for the most part. I simply chose them more carefully in light of my first gaffe.

What my time online has taught me is to be careful - just not too careful. I guard who I am to avoid interference, but I also share as much as I can without knowingly risking unwanted drama from known or unbeknownst weirdos. But I wouldn't want to become too careful since it would probably suck all the joy out of being here.

So I say take any advice you want on being semi- or pseudo-anonymous, but when you start taking so much of it that being online stops feeling good, maybe it's just time to call it quits.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

By way of a comment I found on [personal profile] sophie's post about the anon issue, here's Chris Poole, aka moot of 4chan.org, on Mark Zuckerberg's insistence that real names be used on Facebook (it's a TOS violation to use a "fake name"):

“Mark Zuckerberg has kind of equated anonymity with a lack of authenticity, almost a cowardice,” said Poole. “I would say that’s totally wrong. I think anonymity is authenticity. It allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, unfiltered, raw way. I think that’s something that’s extremely valuable. In the case of content creation, it just allows you to play in ways that you may not have otherwise. We believe in content over creator.”

"We believe in content over creator." Didn't everyone, until Facebook changed all that? A few short years ago we thought "content was king". Remember that cacophonous phase of our online evolution? The Rule was you couldn't succeed without good, weighty, meaty, funny, interesting, thought-provoking content.

In other words: "If you have nothing to say, get out of the way."

Now the same people who crowed that content was king tell us our content isn't even fledgling-prince worthy without a real name on it - and not just any real name, but the right one.

Do you have the right real name? Probably not. Only certain people deserve to be heard or taken seriously, and we'll know'em when we see'em, thank you very much. Now get out of the way.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

I couldn't find a good way to add this to my last post without distracting from it, but while I'm at it, I resent how "anon" has come to mean "troll" ever since TechCrunch switched to Facebook comments, supposedly to eliminate "trolls". It's come to mean that so completely that even I slipped a few times and used the terms interchangeably (and no, I'm not going to edit those flubs out because they prove my point - how easy it is to confuse the two based on one high-handed conclusion - that anyone not using Facebook to comment is a troll, or might be one).

It's beyond insulting - it's ridiculous to associate one with the other, then cast them all out in one big "cleansing".

Which was exactly what happened when "anon trolls" became the primary reason for banning everyone who would normally use a made-up (or "unofficial") name to comment on TC. It's hard to believe that because of maybe (I'm guessing, the number could be higher or lower) "a few" trolls on some posts, thousands of people were barred from commenting on a website with anything but a Facebook identity ever again. Has anyone thought about this?

It's like one guy breaks into your store so you ban the entire public: from now on, only uniformed police officers flashing government IDs get in, or else no one at all.

It's like using a fire hose to put out a fucking match.

It's like throwing the baby out with the bath water and the bathtub and the person who made it.

LiveJournal has something like 6 million accounts which aren't owned by 6 million "trolls", but by 6 million people who, for the most part, use anon handles and remain unknown to all but their closest friends. Is there something wrong with that?

If there's something "wrong" with leaving a simple comment with anything but a real name so everyone can know who you are, attempt to find you in their "social graph", and judge your rank in society, then there must be something "wrong" with being anonymous, period.

So shut down those LiveJournals - unless they connect to a real (verifiable) Facebook account right there on their Profile! Do the same for all the Dreamwidths, Tumblrs, and Wordpresses and every other dump where those skeevy "trolls" hang out! Out them all! We want transparency - now!

I don't support that idea, but then again, I'm not trying to play Zuckerburg's "out everybody to build the social graph I'm going to advertise against" game. Some people get so greedy they can't leave well enough alone, and some people are so powerful that they can simultaneously ruin it for everyone else in the process - and then there are sites like TechCrunch, who will sell your identity to exactly those sort of people for a song.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

I could go on about why Scoble is clearly wrong, but the (mostly anon - ha ha, I love it) commenters have attempted to set him straight better than I can, without me having to turn this into a 2,000 word tome on the benefits of anonymous commenting for society and the individual. So here, have a screen cap.

in which I take a turn at it

I will say this: there never would have been an Anti-AOL or this journal without some anonymity.

Being connected to the rants on the former might have cost me my job, and this blog would be impossible to post without fearing reprisals, various and sundry, for daring to talk about my ex, my current boss, my work conditions, my neighbor, how Progress Energy almost killed my family through sheer negligence [context], or whatever.

It seems obvious, but it still needs to be said: When people you live with, work with, or merely "know" can figure out, just by your name and some idea of your location, who or what you're talking about - in a serious, no-holds-barred fashion, no less - they can get angry.

I don't see the point in making such trouble just to write - or in having to edit out those stories to make sure no one's feelings get hurt - or in taking the whole thing "private" so that only select non-involved people get to hear what I have to say.

Too much trouble to not enough benefit. I'd have to start keeping paper journals again and the hell with everything else - literally.

One more thing: most friends I make online are anonymous commenters to my journals whom I hit it off with, at which point more pertinent details are often exchanged and friendships often begin. Far from not appreciating anon journals and comments, I honestly enjoy them. This doesn't mean I dislike named journals or commenters, only that anon is no better or worse to my mind than the named variety.

Those who want anonymity to disappear seem to want the truth to disappear, or else they're just not thinking this through, because a lot of us simply can't or won't tell it without a way to protect ourselves - and others - from the very issues that may arise because of it.

I don't get why anyone would want to live in a world like that.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

...ever since Arrington decided to employ FBI Connect to ensure the illusion that he's getting non-anonymity and the real scoop on everyone. It reminds me of China, where you can't sign in to certain online forums or even some games without a government issued ID number. Which is no doubt tied to your name, street address, IP address, and every other detail of your life that the Chinese government can possibly squeeze out of you, no holds barred.

The difference between China and people like Arrington (I understand a few other big-name websites have made the switch to FBI Connect, so this criticism is hardly directed at him alone) is that while China enforces privacy circumvention as a matter of law, Facebook, an entity funded by the CIA to spy on American's personal lives, is a strictly voluntary endeavor for those who "join", at least as of this writing, so what's going on is arm-twisting to ensure a voluntary matter - using Facebook- becomes "the norm", and also to ensure that everyone on the Internet loses their privacy as a matter of rite in the process - which, if it continues long enough across enough big-name websites, will also ensure we turn out just like the Chinese, with no right to nor expectation of online privacy - no internet "handles" - no mystery to who we actually are - at all.

Of course I'm using the word "voluntary" here loosely, since there's such overwhelming pressure to "be on Facebook" these days - as much pressure as there was to "be on AOL" back in the 90s-early 2000's - that most people feel they have little choice but to be on it, fearing they'll be labeled "uncool", "anti-social" or "not where the money is" if they choose to avoid it for any reason at all. I cannot personally fathom the entire US Internet as something where you must provide your name and/or number to use almost any of it, but the Chinese endure this humiliation each day, and moves like Arrington's seem to just play into any such Armageddon of personal choice out there on the US horizon.

Lieberman won't need to flip his kill switch as often if website owners/founders convince people to accept that identity is necessary to sign in and/or participate. Calacanis has always been in favor of it - and Arrington, with this move, has openly backed him up. Which was why I found this post not just a bit trifling and ugly, but downright hypocritical - they're two of a kind and clearly deserve each other. I hope they continue their antics until the end of days...I can't imagine a better (nor more hilarious) outcome for either of them, nor for the public in general - can't say for any of you, but as for me, their stupid cat-fighting aside, I'm gonna tell you...I'm not laughing - at all.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

You. Can't. Be. SERIOUS.

I do not use Facebook, and even if I did (I actually do, but not under my name, not under this name, and not under any name I'd want to "associate" with myself, online or off) millions of people don't - or, else like me, even if they do, they don't want to connect any said FB account to blog comments they leave wherever. I mean, really. All it is is a fucking IP trap so if Mike runs into "problems" with "trolls" or "people he doesn't like" (and I'm not sure which list is longer, but he keeps both, I'm sure), he can contact FB for sign-up details, name and address, and whatever else is "of interest". It gives him yet another layer of knowledge that he doesn't need in order to accept comments on his overblown little blog.

So let's say I was willing to break FB TOS to create an account, "Marah Marie Somebody" just to comment on fucking TechCrunch, a blog that puts me to sleep 90% of the time. First of all, I'm breaking FB TOS to do so, second of all Mike has deleted my comments (and as far as I can tell me, banned me) in the past, so maybe next time he'll just contact FB to "get my details" to "pursue the matter", or....yeah, maybe I sound like I'm being paranoid, but wait - the source of my angst carries his own paranoia way too far or I wouldn't be speculating upon it, would I?

Not to mention FB comments don't display any comment count on the front page, which is crippling the site's functionality, they display in something like a 2-point (micro-fucking-scopic) gray font, they're ugly, and they have the stamp of Big Brother Mark Zuckerberg all over them, which I find puzzling - does he really need the male nanny with teh big IP-collecting website that stomps yours into the ground overseeing the whole show? Was this AOL's idea?

And to speak to another depressing topic, I can't believe how many people comment with real names, who tie FB Connect to every good or sorry comment they ever made, who let The State in this growing yet still informal (uncodified, I guess?) network of online IP collectors have so much on them. It takes a trust in people, in systems, in luck, in pure serendipity, I guess, that I don't have. Which makes me fear for all of you.

Arrington and his new comment system? It's a farce, but a privacy-invading one - for anyone who plays by the rules. I think I'll avoid it, but others will do as I suggested - create "extra" FB accounts the way nearly all of us have "extra" Yahoo, AOL, and Hotmail accounts, and the hell with the new, supposedly foolproof IP system. Thanks to overreaching acts like this one, the very things people like Arrington are trying to get at - our personal details, "just in case" - are going to become more inaccurate and impossible to quantify or act upon than ever before. And when that happens, GOOD.