Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anonymity - what's it good for?

So, yeah, technical difficulties there, whining is boring, let's move on.

To what shall we move on?

Anonymity. Why does anybody want it?

Privacy, sure, I get that. I value privacy. But I always use my name rather than a handle on the internet. It's not a big deal once folks get used to the way my name is spelled and stop thinking I'm a troll evading censors by leaving the S off. No one's every stalked me - why should they? Nobody's ever targeted us specially for cybercrime. If you don't go splashing the days you'll be on vacation and the location of your spare key all over your Facebook page, it's a lot easier and more profitable to target you as a user of your financial website services than as an individual. I am on a newsgroup in which, reportedly, long ago some troll came along, used the newsgroup as a launch pad for collecting up as many photos of members as he could get, photoshopped them into goat porn, and spammed the members with them, but that's a one-off and I don't take a lot of pictures, or post most of even those, so I'm thinking that's a low-risk proposition.

(I'd apologize at this point to anybody who came on this blog by googling "goat porn," because you'll be bored to death here; but on the other hand, you should've known the job was dangerous when you took it. I hope you've learned your lesson.)

What has happened, because of using my real name online, everywhere I go online, is that I've sold a few books - not many, but some - to people who otherwise wouldn't have heard of me; I've met a reasonable number of people who have read my books, or whose children have, and were moved to tell me so; and I've generated a slightly wider pool of acquaintance who, because they know my real name and my books, feel they know me better than other people they've met online, and therefore are more willing to share certain things with me. It's possible that they also feel (probably unconsciously) that because I use my real name I'm more "real" than someone they talk to just as much with a name like Cyberwookie17, or maybe that I'm more honest.

It's an interesting question whether people are more honest when they speak from behind a mask. I believe conventional wisdom is that they are; but my experience is that no, they're just meaner and less inhibited about saying things they wouldn't like to take responsibility for. As a tactless person who is too honest for her own good, I can tell you for sure that these are not the same things at all. I don't care to write anything down that I'm not willing to see in print with my name associated with it, with the result that I don't generally say things I later have cause to be ashamed of. I can easily believe that someone who thinks his name will never be associated with it will allow himself to say and do what he'd be ashamed to say and do otherwise.

This is not a criticism. I know plenty of folks online whose names I don't know; or who, even if I do know their real names, I think of by their handle by default. (Hi, Kinglet!) Sometimes a handle is just a fun nickname. Sometimes it expresses who you are better than your real name - Cyberwookie17 reveals more than JaneSmith702019 does. I've got no quarrel with that.

There's also the matter of one's online persona. I can think of lots of people in various online fora whose persona is too flamboyant and one-dimensional to be anything but a persona. You step onto this newsgroup and take a vacation from being yourself - which is all very well and no doubt feels liberating. Heaven knows I do that all the time, in games. But can a persona have an honest conversation about anything?

Once you achieve a certain level of notoriety, a public persona may become a necessity to protect the private person. It's a level of notoriety I'll never achieve, and most likely neither will most people on the internet. And anyway a lot of them seem to be determined to throw away their privacy.

So I don't get it, and I sign my name where ever I go. The most secretive I ever get is PeniG, when there's some reason why my full name isn't usable. And there's places where I have to sign in as Damon, because he set up the account and it turns out there's only one name allowed. But those aren't places I hang out, anyway. In the places I hang out, the benefits of transparency are small, but real. I recommend it.

And speaking of recommendations, collect your mom and take her to see the movie Brave. They really should've gone all out and made it a Mother's Day movie in publicity, as it's all about that moment in adolescence when you hate your mother and she's despairing of ever getting through to you and helping you over the hump into adulthood.

In other stuff I've been doing instead of working, John Scalzi's Redshirts is the best Star Trek novel you'll ever read, in much the same way that Galaxyquest is the best Star Trek movie you'll ever see. Because, face it, Star Trek works much better as a cultural meme than it does as an actual show.

Past time to take another stab at the query so I can get back to the devil program.

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