Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ron Wyden threatens to filibuster the PROTECT-IP act

Wired posts an article stating that Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon threatens to filibuster the Protect-IP act in the Senate after his hold on the bill expires

Two words for that: FUCK YEAH!

Drugs and the different treatment of the Pharmaceutical Industry vs Illicit Substances

I wrote this for my livejournal and am x-posting here.
I want to make a disclaimer that I am quite aware that my knowledge of some of these issues is sorely lacking and so if you find fault with it, I appreciate being corrected. Not in a sloppy, argumentative way, but a factual concrete description of the differences or whatever explanation you have or can find. ON WITH THE SHOW!

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Congress passed a law in 1986 called The Federal Analog Act. In the face of widening creation of "designer drugs" based upon a base molecule, its purpose was to judge drugs not on their unique chemical structure, but upon similarities to other previously scheduled drugs... I'm not sure how it all works, exactly, because some things that I would think would have been banned in the act such as Alphamethyltryptamine (AMT) is similar in structure Dimethyltryptamine, even though their effects are much more divergent. AMT acts much closer to somewhere between LSD and MDMA in its effects, while DMT is a much shorter trip and more intense experience. For a long time this drug wasn't considered scheduled, until 2003 during Operation Tryp when the DEA closed down a large number of online distributors of heretofore quasi-legal substances. The DEA then made an emergency scheduling.of AMT along with a number of other substances to classify them as Schedule I substances. Why they did this instead of relying on the analog act, I'm not sure.

Here's some hallucinogens on wiki that they say are "designer drugs" (and I assume - fall under the analog act). (note, however, that AMT is listed, so... again - not sure why they needed an emergency scheduling).

OK, so why do I post all this?

Because you should observe the methods of the State when it comes to illicit vs licit drugs and how the two approaches are wildly divergent in philosophy.

When it comes to legal drugs (the kind made by pharmaceutical companies) we have a pattern of established patent holders coming up with what could be considered "novel" forms of the drug. There are two ways that drug companies try to retain the rights to their products past the normal expiration of their patents.

The first is not related to this essay, but bears mention: Attempting to get a new usage for the already existing chemical. We could look at an SSRI that initially became approved for depression. Later, more studies can show it has an efficacy in the reduction of PTSD symptoms. So the company then attempts to extend its hold on the chemical in the "new" usage of the substance - so even if the patent for depression usage is now expired, the company's right to the drug is continued for the PTSD cause, and no other company can make a generic. This is one way the game is played, but again - not essential to the point of this.

HERE is the other way the game is played, and more essential: An analog of a drug is made so that it has a slightly different profile. Sometimes these new analogs are actual analogs such that they are a minor modification of a previously existing drug, and they try to get it considered a whole new drug under the drug enforcement regimes. If they succeed, even though it's an analog, it will be marketed as a new drug. Sometimes, these drugs are the same exact chemical with different delivery systems, and as such aren't technically even novel chemicals (and hence not an "analogue"). In my personal case, there was the Venlafaxine - which brand name is Effexor. It eventually became generic, but in the meantime, Effexor XR came to the market - it was merely an extended version of Venlafaxine, using time release capsules. Same drug, but yet because it's delivered to your system differently, considered a different drug, and thus the patent for THAT specific delivery system now exists.

Now if this were the illegal market, these would be considered analogs, and the state would attempt to consider the new form an already existing substance.

That said - I am not saying that we should completely do away with the new forms - if you can make a drug that makes it less likely that a patient has to remember to pop 3 a day - the pill-taking regime is easier to control and patients have better compliance. But if this is the case, why not just go to an extended release form ASAP? Because they need to milk the profits first, I imagine. Anyways - I guess my initial point was how funny it is that when it comes to analogs, how we treat legal substances vs illegal substances is very divergent.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SOPA

Some of you may have heard about SOPA. It's a nasty little piece of legislation going through congress right now. It's the "Stopping Online Piracy Act" -- I wrote to my Rep. a while back - she's fairly progressive, so I have a little hope for her to do the right thing.

Sadly, Russ Feingold was booted out by a Right-Wing Catholic Priest Pedophile Defender, Ron Johnson, so I couldn't write a personal letter that I knew would have an effect. I'm not sure if PROTECT-IP (the Senate version) has been voted on already or not - but I figured that using the following form would at least add my name to those who oppose this bill, hopefully he receives it to show I oppose the idea behind it.

So here's the link to help you write to oppose this draconian legislation that removes due process of law and allows people a vector of attack against legal sites...

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Apologies and First World Problem/Anti-Google Rant

I know I said I was going to post more, and well... I haven't. Oh well.

That said I did want to rant in a more open forum about Google Reader.

Because seriously? Fuck that shit. I loved it - I didn't ever use the "social" features and I know that's what has got a lot of people annoyed. I am upset about them taking away social if only because it's emblematic of Google making every other fucking product subservient to the almighty PLUS.

When I first heard that G+ was going to allow 'nyms at some point, I pondered returning, but the way it's infecting every other product (and products that functioned just fine before without trying to ape G+'s functionality and appearance) makes me want to use it even less.

So, here's why I'm pissed. Again - I never used the social features so their removal doesn't bother me personally, but it obviously is affecting many other users who I've seen quite upset about the removal. For me, the issues are related to control of the layout and what I'm finding now is how it handles marking items as read.

1) I used to be able to collapse (resize? I know it was one of the two) the sidebar that contained the folders/subfolders of all the feeds I read. This came in quite handy when I would come across things like boingboing's posting of Tom the Dancing Bug which took up a large part of the screen, and on my smaller monitor at work, the lack of ability to collapse the sidebar means I have to jump out of the reader. They have a "pre-collapsed" reader, but that's a drop down menu. That is even more annoying than not having a collapsible bar, even though in theory it provides the same functionality. The reason for that is that while a collapsed bar can be easily opened permanently to navigate the feeds, a drop-menu forces you to select the item you want and then it automatically recollapses, despite your desire to have the full list of subs open until you choose to recollapse. It takes choice away from the user. It's also fugly as sin.

2) The latest thing I'm now noticing is greader no longer shows all-read subscriptions as having a "front" page saying "all items are read - click here to read previously read items". Instead it indicates as usual the number of unread items next to the subscription name "boingboing (3)" for example. And when it works, reduces the indicator by one until there are no more unread feeds.

But you wouldn't know that while browsing, because instead of showing you a list of unread feeds, it forces you to view ALL feeds, read and unread, and there is no setting to show only "unread" feeds. This is completely absurd and contrary to the way the way feed reading works.

Again, it forces the user to take their eye away from the content and look over to verify that all items have been read. There are plenty of blogs that reblog items. So now, if I see an item that looks familiar I have to ask" is this a reblog from another blog (and thus with different editorial content) or is this the EXACT SAME POST I SAW LAST NIGHT? Well, now I have to go look at the count to verify whether I've gone through all unread content.

Why the fuck does Google hate users? They were never perfect with UI issues, but it mostly worked, things were mostly clean, I enjoyed it. It forced services like Hotmail and Yahoo to clean up their visual clutter. But now they are trying to re-engineer previous products and shoe-horn it into a completely different product while retaining the strengths of the original services.

So I'm looking for alternatives. There's a new project called "HiveMined" which supposedly is going to bring back a close clone of the original greader. That may or may not be what I'm looking for. I'm a bit worried that they're trying to clone it and not just do a good feed reader on its own merits.

I've used bloglines in the past and while I don't want to go back there necessarily (I believe they insert ads into the feeds since they've been bought out), I don't see many other proper feed readers. There's some apps for iphone and shit, and things that have fancy skins for feeds, but I just want a basic feedreader.

I'm thinking a self-hosted one would be good but the only thing I've seen is "Fever" (I think that's its name) and it sucks because it wants to be smarter than me. I don't want a machine to fully take over - I don't mind a reader letting me have options to see similar blogs, but I don't want the damn computer thinking it knows what I want to read. You let ME filter that shit out you fucks.

So I'm stuck.

Fuck you Google, and fuck Vic Gundotra, and fuck Bradley Horowitz, and Fuck your shitty vision for the future of Google cuz it is utter shit, and I refuse to go back to G+ even if you DO allow nyms because I see where you're going and it's looking more and more like "Do Evil" -- sure right now it isn't fully evil or as evil as FB, but you're going to turn that way if you get enough power, so I refuse to join on the bandwagon.

Piss off. 2011 is the year Google lost me as an enthusiastic supporter.

Friday, November 04, 2011

One post on FB

From someone observing some of the Black Bloc antics and what they believe to have been 2 Agents Provocateurs.

Read it here...

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Preliminary "Occupy" Post and future plans for this blog

Hello, fine reader (I would add an "s" at the end of that, but I do not believe I have more than one reader (Hello Xeno ;)), also wherein the post where I use too many quotation marks...

That said, I would like to say that I have thoughts bubbling in my head regarding the Occupy Movement. It's complex (as is the "movement") and I'm not quite sure what angle I'm taking. I guess I would posit a brief overview of some of the ideas I'd like to tackle on the future posts regarding the current situation.
1) Black Bloc "Anarchists" and Agents Provacateurs - the history of the Black Panther, current FBI tactics and historical anarchism - the trend toward a potentially actually revolutionary force vs "mere" insurrection.

2) Building up a national consensus from the various localities
- Perhaps, even, separating divisions of local issues vs national issues. Forming an alternative, and making proposals to evolve both the movement, society and economics. That is to say: Making a "MOVEMENT" that is not merely marches, but an actual threat to the system. That is: a national conference (and perhaps even INTERNATIONALE ;P) of the local groups - finding a way to vote, send delegates, etc... (mostly my thoughts are based upon anarchist federalism)

3) Building up alliances between heretofore non-convergent ideologies that nevertheless have some relation to each other, but have so focused on antipathies that they have refused to work on their unities. This, I believe, may be the key to a successful "revolution". Essentially, I want to post about the cross-currents between: hippies, anarchists, libertarians, anti-statists, anti-capitalists, free-market capitalists, moderates, liberals and conservatives. Find what unifying message can appeal to all and work from that.

There are many many other things, and I could just babble on all day. But these are some topics.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Documentary by Jamie Johnson - Grandson of the founder of Johnson & Johnson company.
About the 1%, and he interviews the uber-wealthy and tries to bring up the issues of inequality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy [your city]

National Convention and process of proposals and unity amongst the movement:

So I was listening to WORT on my way to work this morning.  WORT for those who don't know is our local community supported radio station - on the air since the 70s.  A great resource for the community and especially for the "left" (in all its forms).  They have voices you don't hear on the mainstream media (and that includes Air America being mainstream). 

Anyways - they were talking to the Occupy Madison folks.  They talked about their list of demands, and it got me thinking.

One of the complaints people have is "what are they wanting?"  But I got to think like... OK, if this is going to be a movement, it needs to work together.  It needs to focus on the ground up methodology.  The root needs to be the local communities.  And it needs to then send delegates to a national convention.  Proposals should be forwarded. and voted and then brought back for confirmation by the local assemblies.  This really needs to happen, I think, in order for it to really have a chance of working.  They need something other than "People's Assemblies" even though that's what I think they are.  Because that sounds a bit... Commie.  But yeah, working groups to debate/propose bills, present a unified front from the various regions.

Now, one thing that I think needs to be done is to make the movement as large as possible.

That means, as much as I hate libertarians, that they, being the original Tea Party who DID oppose bailouts (unlike the fakey astroturf republicans who claim to oppose it after their guy made it happen and the black guy took office and then magically opposed it).  The libertarians who understand the great societal costs of the drug war and wars of aggression.

There needs to be a way to focus on the economic/corporatism issue.  None of the other crazy hippie shit that comes up (for example, one thing I saw (though I think it was a proposal now that I look back on it -- not the actual "statement of the 99%" committee or whatever the fuck they are) -- they talked about animal rights (animal exploitation by corporations).  Look. I'm all for animal rights, and I think animal welfare is an important thing even though I don't do my part, I do think as a society we should do more.  But FFS that's not related to the Wall St. Issue directly.

So I propose something like any proposed statement/proposal should have an attached statement about how it relates to the corporate issues at hand.

We also need to find a way to get small business owners to recognize that it's not them that we're against.  Some will join us if they hear us speaking rationally - others are just straight up indoctrinated republicans.

Ending corporate welfare is one thing the Libertarian ilk talk about that we all agree on.  So let's start with that point.  We can bring up taxation in that context.

Anyways.  I think it's something that can and should be done if this is to take off.  I still have my doubts, I'm still skeptical (my hopes have surely been crushed many times before).

Monday, October 03, 2011

Left the G+

I know I have one reader here, and they're on G+...  So as an FYI, I did end up leaving G+...

It was this post on Wired that did it for me.

This quote is obviously him choosing one set of people over another:

"There are great debates going on about this—I saw one comment yesterday that claimed that pseudonyms protect the experience of women in the system. I felt compelled to respond, because I’ve gotten feedback from women who say that the accountability of real names makes them feel much more comfortable in Google+."
I know many OTHER women who say they feel less safe.  So your anecdote and my anecdote clashes.  Great, now what?  You are obviously choosing the anecdote that coincides with your belief structure (and of course, the one you think helps you make more money), I choose the one that coincides with mine (the right to privacy). Who are these women?  I don't know really...  I know that some of the people I've worked with on the issue are not only women who have dealt with abuse issues, but also transgendered individuals, people who work and deal with the affects of discrimination every day.

But that... That's not why I left, that was already the standard spiel for a long time.

No, it's the following quote:

But Google+ is Google itself. We’re extending it across all that we do—search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube—so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are.
So, as a matter of fact, I feel that I have to morally leave all google services.  They say right now that they believe in pseudonymous and anonymous accounts for various things, but if their goal is to really integrate G+, how long before profiles become truly mandatory?  So I'm going to go back to bloglines for my feed aggregation, and probably will end up using a different blog service for blogging (I mean, aside from my livejournal account).  And I guess I'll try to find another email provider.

It's a real damn shame, but I can't in good conscious continue to support a company that I see is both growing into something quite different than what I initially loved about it, and a company that refuses to respect and listen to its userbase as it is.

Someone said in another thread I was reading today that if you're getting something for "free" online, it means that thing is not the product, YOU are the product.  And I already knew this, but it's becoming more clear that Google is no longer that tech-geek haven of freethinking/freewheeling individuals and becoming evermore a betentacled leviathan reaching out across the online sphere.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Google+ and Nymwars: Part 2 (Love it or leave it)

A common retort against those who are pro-nym in this debate is "if you don't like it, then you can go elsewhere."  The claim is that Google, as a private entity, has the right to dictate the terms of their service.  There is no law that tells them they must have pseudonyms.  And you, as a free agent of choice in the great market place of capitalism and online services, have a choice to go elsewhere.  The belief is that if enough consumers jump ship it will send a signal and either Google will change their policy or another alternative will start up to provide such a service.

Here are a few reasons, in my opinion, that such thinking is flawed and why it's not quite as simple as they wish to make it sound.

1)  Network Value Derived From Size

Social networks obtain their value (both for the provider and for the user) via the size of the network.  From the point of view of the provider, of course, the size relates to number of eyeballs, brains and ultimately dollars that can be targeted.  The user, on the other hand, has a vested interest, in meeting new people, or connecting with old friends.  As for meeting new people, the more people on a service (the early adopters) that are around, the  better chance one has for finding like-minded individuals.  When it comes to "old friends" many of these are not the early adopter/techy/net crowd...  As such, they will wait before taking the plunge.  They need to see that the service is worthwhile, and that enough of their friends will be on it before making a huge jump to another ship.

If there is a groundswell of support and a large number of people flock to the service, then more people will continue to do so.  Once this happens, you get a snowball effect.  It becomes a question of crossing that threshold.  If you look at Google's previous attempts, it's obvious they never were able to cross that threshold.  Google+ was the first Google social network attempt that seemed to have potential.

Google is a large company and has many resources to throw at the problem and fail at it.  Many alternatives do not have that opportunity.  Certainly they do not have a lot of resources so if they do it, they have less of a chance to make a mistake and they have to have to make sure that they get it right on the first go around, because failure in such a market means that you might not have the capital to invest in either an improvement/change in the system nor to start from scratch on something completely different.

So, there are some alternatives around, thankfully.  Places like Livejournal, Dreamwidth (and all the other Livejournal based sites), and the up-and-coming Diaspora offer alternatives that seem to support the idea of openness and pseudonymity that G+ and FB lack.  I hope that these services can still exist and remain competitive.

So why am I upset about this?  Why not just use those services?  Well, I do, in fact, have accounts at various social networks (and when it comes to social networks, Livejournal (aka: LJ) is pretty much the granddaddy of all the currently existing ones, having been in existence since 1999)...  But the well has dried up there as the mainstream took notice of Facebook.  Combine the large mainstream attraction to Facebook and add in the poor decision making by the leadership at Six Apart (the company that bought LJ in the mid-late 00's) you saw an exodus of people leaving for either other LJ style sites (and in fact, I believe dreamwidth was started as an alternative for some of these 'refugees') or jumping ship onto the network with the broader userbase (i.e. Facebook and Twitter).

No, the question isn't whether I can use those services, of course I can, but where does the value come from?  It comes from size.  As I see my friends slowly leaving LJ, and only but a few of the more dedicated and hardcore fans continue to use the service, it feels silly to use it as much.  It's a reverse sort of situation.  Instead of a critical threshold for gaining users, there comes a point where a service loses the numbers and a rapid outflux occurs.  But this is not about Livejournal or any other service, this is about the Nymwars.

So.  My point is that if there are not a lot of alternatives, and certainly not the alternatives that have the eyeballs, it's harder to "leave it".

2) Dominance and Setting the Standards

But this leads us to the second issue, and one of the concerns I've seen mentioned in many of the pro-nym posters, and that is this: Google+ is attempting to be the dominant player in the space (well, at least, I'd gather that's what they're attempting to do).  Facebook, right now, is apparently the dominant player.  Both of these services have a "real name" policy.

Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, has come out and said that they see Google+ not as a social network platform, but as "an identity service".  So this is their main thrust, to lead the market in a sort of platform of identity.  If they do lead and succeed, then others will follow ("If you build it, they will come.")  Once the standard is set, the ability to "leave it" is going to be more difficult because other social networks will attempt to emulate Google+ (in the same way that Google+ is attempting to emulate Facebook).

This, of course, doesn't mean that all services everywhere will force you to use your real name, but it does mean that future services will see this as a signal that this is the route to go.  Once a real names policy is normalized, it gets harder to get back to a pro-pseudonym mindset amongst the populace.  In a sense, what Google+ is doing is attempting to create a paradigm shift in online identity.  If they succeed, people will willingly accept these rules as they creep ever outward into other services that don't end up needing them...

When this happens, there will be even fewer alternatives that support a pseudonym policy, and the alternatives will remain on the periphery of social interaction.


3) Market Dominance and Censorship

Let me put it in the terms of censorship and private entities like Wal-Mart refusing to sell albums that carry a "Parental Advisory" sticker.  Because the market is dominated by Wal-Mart, you end up with a de facto form of censorship.  Producers of music, in order to sell albums to the largest numbers of consumers, then have to self-censor in order to get into the stores that sell albums.  This is the potential that is concerning us.

I hadn't even quite grokked what Google meant by Identity Service until recently when a friend shared a post with me.  What they are implying in this concept is a cross-platform service to tie into all different areas.  This exists now with the technology of OpenID.  OpenID is a great service that allows you to have an account at participating services (I should note here that by "participating", I merely mean "implementing the OpenID technology" -- there is no single actual service proper named "OpenID" which gets to the heart of the matter as you will see.  OpenID is a DECENTRALIZED identity system.  Google seems to want to supplant the OpenID concept with a supposed "open" platform, based upon their system, which is the Google Identity Platform known as Google+.  At least, that's my understanding of what they mean by "identity platform".  No longer would there be an open platform linking comments/accounts to a pseudonymous identity (which, IMO, is "real enough") they are pushing for a link to the Google Service which would require a Real Name.

If this takes off (and they win this war - I don't mean the war between the users and Google, but the war between the two dominant players - Facebook and Google), they will have effective control of identity over online interaction.  I don't mean to make this sound completely as ominous as it might come across.  I'm not the excitable Alex Jones type of character (though I might have my moments ;P)  There is room for competition, and my main hope then is that someone else can "route around" this sort of dominance.

But the point stands that once a general monopoly over a system is established it becomes that much harder to break it, and not only break it, but to find alternatives that work (especially since the concept is to find a platform that works across various sites -- witness the ubiquitous Facebook "Like" button) -- it's not just escaping from Google+ the "social network" service provided by Google, it's about escaping from Google+ the "identity service" which goes far beyond the social network service.  You can bet your sweet bippy that if Google gets its way there IS no "leave it" because it will have its tentacles in every social network and service you find across the net.  It just wants to build up its network big enough so that there is no alternative.  Once that happens, you cannot just leave it.

And those people on the other side of the aisle who argue that we should just leave implies that the future internet will always remain the same as it is now in terms of identity and persistence of identity and alternative services -- but if the internet and the technological revolution has taught us anything is that nothing stands still, and the game keeps changing.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Google+ and Nymwars - Part 1: The debate and kinds of identities

Introduction:
 
I'm not going to go into the background of Google+ and the mighty Nymwars of 2011, as it's readily found online.  Instead I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter.  I've posted them off and on in various entries and comments on Google+ but never in a fully fleshed out blog comment (hey look, Google+ is getting me to use Blogger again!)

I'm not claiming to tread any new territory (except for one potential "solution" that I think works as some interesting form of a compromise (which I haven't heard floated yet)... it's not entirely satisfactory to me, but it might be something to think about - though that solution won't come until the end of this series). So if you've heard most of the other arguments you'll probably read them here, but I do hope I provide some sort of insight into this thing from my own perspective that may be fresh.

I plan to discuss here what I perceive to be the arguments against pseudonyms, my arguments for pseudonyms, as well as potential solutions that might be agreeable to all parties involved (ok, maybe not all). 

If it's not clear from previous paragraph, I am stating my bias up front so you know where I stand:  I am in support of pseudonymity.

For convention here, I'm going to call people who support a "real name" policy "Realites" and people who support pseudonymity "Nymmers".  Pseudonyms will be shorted to "nyms". I may also refer to pseudonymity as "nymity"


Claims for a Need for Identified/Real Name:

One of the primary rationales that Google has stated is that using an Identified Account makes it easier for people who know you in real life to find you on Google+.

See this post on the Google Public Policy Blog for their definitions of the 3 main types of accounts.  See also this posting for a fuller explanation on Google Profiles' use of Identified accounts (and thus Google+, which is linked to the Google Profiles system).

A secondary claim has been made (though I can't find an explicit reference that it was made by Google itself) that using a pseudonymous system encourages (or at least allows for) harassing behavior.  This seems to be the most common theme among the Realites in comment threads.

Claims for a Need for Pseudonymity:
An interesting overlap occurs when you look at the secondary claim above with the claim I now present on the other end of the debate: A pseudonymous system protects against harassing behavior.  Further elucidation of this and the above issues will happen below.

Clarifications by Google:

As the great clusterfuck that is the rollout of Google+ continued to progress, conflicting information came from inside Google.  The most authoritative claims from inside seemed to indicate that the names they are requiring are not a person's legal binding "birth" name, but a "common name" that is well known online.  So we have individuals who are using nyms that they've used across many services for many years who, in theory, are allowed to use these names on Google+.  This explanation seemed to calm down the initial outrage.

The Banhammer Keeps on a Droppin':

But the bannings did not stop.  People continued to get banned for using nyms.  In fact, there are individuals who have used their legal names who have been banned.  One of the most recent examples is Blake Ross, a developer most well-known for being a cofounder of the Mozilla Project.  There are, IIRC, 8 other Blake Ross's whose accounts were never banned, but for some reason this particular account was banned.  The explanation is faulty behavior from a "ban-bot".  Blake is concerned that he might be targeted because he works for Facebook.  I find that claim to stretch the bounds of credulity.  But the fact remains, that despite Google's claims for tolerating pseudonyms that have a known internet presence/identity behind them, bans continue to happen.

Confusion of Anonymity with Pseudonymity:

I have already professed my ideological support of pseudonymity and am going to profess, here, my support of anonymity, and mostly due to the same reasons:  They are powerful tools to allow the voiceless and powerless to speak up against oppression.

That said, they are also tools that allow stupidity to run amok, as evidenced by the anonymous/pseudonymous commenters on various online fora such as news-site comment sections or youtube comments.  It's a topic that XKCD frequently visits, for an example comic, see here or here.

People tend to see these comments (which are either generally annoying, stupid and at times threatening) and think that the problem lies in the given anonymity of the commenters.  There is a theory called G.I.F.T. which is short for the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory which was expounded by the guys from Penny Arcade in this comic.

On the surface, this is a true enough statement.  And I don't doubt that anonymity (and some forms of pseudonymity) can contribute to an environment full of the lowest-common denominator at best, and downright abusive at worst.  I think even the most staunch advocates of pseudonymity will grant that this is the case.

But pseudonymity in itself is not the same thing as anonymity.  When I said "some forms of pseudonymity" above, what I meant is that there are at least two kinds of pseudonymity.  I'm not certain what to call them so I'll refer to them as "Temporary Pseudonymity" and "Persistent Pseudonymity". 

Pure temporary pseudonymity is the kind you will find on sites like news-sites.  You might be able to comment with a "name" but that name is tied to nothing other than your post, there is no permanent account, no way to reach back to an original author if an email isn't provided.  That's the most temporary kind.  It's pretty much identical to an anonymous comment, because there's not an easy way for the readers of a site to trace it back to anything else. (We'll deal with IP addresses in a bit). 

Youtube comments, on the other hand have a minor form of persistent nymity.  Users have an account that is tied across the system.  There is some form of identity that now exists across the spectrum of interaction.  This interaction is limited to youtube itself...  The identity of the individual on youtube isn't necessarily tied to any other site.  It may in fact be tied to a seemingly throwaway account at an email provider like hotmail or something.

Cross-site persistent nymity is a stronger form of identification.  It is this sort of pseudonymity that Google+ seems to be desiring for pseudonymous accounts.  Google (at the very least makes the following claim (how truthful it is, I cannot say, I can only repeat what various higher-up authorities in Google are claiming)): they want to have a way for me to say that "Yes, this isn't my real name, but across the online world or at least in specific communities online, I am known as this specific nym."

That's all the mental energy I've got today for this topic...

Part 2 coming later... (man, these kinds of posts take a lot of time to write!)


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Quick overview links:

Guardian Article
BetaBeat Linkage/overview
Jon at Liminal has a multi-part article
TheModerateVoice article by Kathy Gill