Re: [unrev-II] re: Rhetoric, authorship, and anonymity (was unrev..)

From: N. C a r r o l l (
Date: Thu Nov 15 2001 - 21:17:23 PST

  • Next message: Alex Shapiro: "[unrev-II] more on faceted classification"

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: blincoln <>
    To: <>
    Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2001 8:00 PM
    Subject: [unrev-II] re: Rhetoric, authorship, and anonymity (was unrev..)

    > first attempt to post this to the ba-ohs-talk list appears to have
    > failed, this may be slightly out of date since its a day old :)
    > on a tangent for term clarity & trust:

    > [sadly i've lost who said this...]


    > >Which is why aliases are so beneficial to the Web. They permit
    > >freedom of speech, while allowing an anonymous author to develop
    > >validity through a series of writings. Clearly one cannot contribute
    > >to core code anonymously. But for debugging, why not?

    > To point out one confusion that is often made by people
    > who are new to the web

    :-( A double-thrust. How cruel.

     is the difference between true anonymity
    > and pseudonymity. Pseudonymous work can develop trust over
    > time, truly anonymous communication is communication which
    > doesn't have a reproducible / verifiable author .

    I was referring to true anonymity. However, I was working off
    a publishing background, and therefore assuming what would not
    be obvious to all: an experienced editor or writer generally has
    a near-editic memory for phrasing, and will almost instantly know
    if a post is not from the true "Mr. Anon."

    There are occasional geniuses who can mimic another's work so
    well that even experienced editors can't catch it. They are few and
    far between, and normally imitate dead people. After all, if the true
    Mr. Anon is alive, he can write the editor and say: "I never wrote
    that. Take another look at the style, and lack of consistency with
    my previous writings." I've been widely plagiarised, long before
    the Web, and in 100% of the situations the editors of legitimate
    publications have instantly removed the offending work, with
    a note of apology. (Pure Web editors are sometimes less

    True, the editors on [a fictitious
    URL, I hope] won't catch it. But those readers don't get it anyway....

    > To give a more concrete example, I work in an area
    > where the level of social and legal disapproval is so high
    > that the worlds top experts in the field write with pseudonyms
    > to avoid having their grants denied for political reasons.

    I have long suspected you were posting at!

    > What is the appropriate way to handle such situations? In
    > my opinion, the solution is simply to have systems where
    > trust-trees can be built around any given node or user and thus
    > trust for new nyms can be developed over time and through
    > demonstrating their ability/reliability. For an individual who
    > has two nyms, for instance, if the firewall is not complete
    > and there are users/nodes who know and trust nym1 of the
    > individual, they can lend part of their trust to nym2 for the individual
    > without giving any indication that the two nyms refer to a single
    > individual.

    Where there's a subpoena, there's a trail, and perhaps an
    execution. Utter anonymity is a precondition to freedom of
    expression on the web. If there's a way to build nodes while
    maintaining utter anonymity, fine.

    In a similar vein, I find it bizarre when people send me
    confidential information in PGP. Sure, the Man from Mars
    can't crack a 4096 bit key -- online. But if the jackboots
    break down their/my door, then those very keys provide
    irrevocable evidence that they sent the email!


    Nicholas Carroll
    "The hardest single part of building a software system
    is deciding precisely what to build." -- Frederick Brooks

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