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> Pseudonymous writing and ethics, they're not chalk and cheese
privatemusings
post Sun 8th March 2009, 11:41pm
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A post from Doc G in another thread has prompted this thread - but it's also stuff that I've been chewing over for a while, particularly following the launch of the excellent akahele.com (well done, and great stuff to all involved) - Doc said "Hiding behind a pseudonym, whilst commenting on real identifiable people, is cowardly and deplorable." - a view echoed on akahele - "When people hide behind anonymous identifiers or phony pseudonyms, trust breaks down."

I just wanted to mention (as an pseudonymous person!) that I kinda hope that pseudonymous writing and good ethics / value / humour / quality aren't fundamentally in tension, rather that they will just tend to lead to the whole slew of problems well documented already.

In particular, I thought I'd mention the example of 'Private Eye' - a british institution and fantastic magazine which doesn't generally do 'bylines' (with notable exceptions) - contributors make up silly names and write their stuff... sound familiar?

The fundamental difference of course is that Private Eye is 'published' - and as such is regularly in and out of the courts, with varying degrees of success. The important point is that they manage very successfully to continue to publish, and even though they fairly regularly make mistakes / cross lines and have to pay damages, they're more often 'right' in some sense or other.....

So if one allows that pseudonymous contribution can be valuable - where does 'responsibility' come in? - On the part of the publisher, I guess - and it's the absence of such which I reckon is of higher importance than the identity of author thing.

The more you think about it, the odder it seems that publication wouldn't be a stated goal of a foundation seeking to share the sum of human knowledge. If the tool requires 'self-publication' (which is how I'd describe wikipedia?) - then that's where identification is required - fundamentally because the buck stopping somewhere is a good thing, and should be supported - I don't think many would disagree?

This post has been edited by privatemusings: Sun 8th March 2009, 11:42pm
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Jon Awbrey
post Sun 8th March 2009, 11:54pm
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QUOTE(privatemusings @ Sun 8th March 2009, 7:41pm) *

The more you think about it, the odder it seems that publication wouldn't be a stated goal of a foundation seeking to share the sum of human knowledge.



Logic Lesson

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Guido den Broeder
post Mon 9th March 2009, 1:01pm
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I'd say that when your edits affect living people, one should be obliged to disclose one's affiliations, whether using a pseudonym or not. If you edit with your real name, but nobody knows who you are and where you're coming from, that still doesn't help.

That should go for BLP articles, but also e.g. medical and political articles.

There is an employee of the NHS editing the CFS article, pushing a single view, while there's a courtcase running over the national guideline. The resulting WP text may influence the outcome of the case.

This guy has not declared this affiliation. If he had, he would surely receive a topic ban or worse (then again maybe not, since Jimbo supports the NHS).
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 9th March 2009, 1:28pm
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QUOTE(Guido den Broeder @ Mon 9th March 2009, 9:01am) *

I'd say that when your edits affect living people, one should be obliged to disclose one's affiliations, whether using a pseudonym or not. If you edit with your real name, but nobody knows who you are and where you're coming from, that still doesn't help.

That should go for BLP articles, but also e.g. medical and political articles.

There is an employee of the NHS editing the CFS article, pushing a single view, while there's a courtcase running over the national guideline. The resulting WP text may influence the outcome of the case.

This guy has not declared this affiliation. If he had, he would surely receive a topic ban or worse (then again maybe not, since Jimbo supports the NHS).


So people should be allowed to use Pseuds and Anons only in cases where the statements in question have no conceivable impact on living persons.

Good, now we're getting somewhere.

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Moulton
post Mon 9th March 2009, 1:51pm
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Yes, I feel it is OK for Nicolas Bourbaki to edit articles on obscure mathematical topics.

It's probably also OK for Proabivouac to out anyone writing under the name of Nicolas Bourbaki and to roundly excoriate them for being in drag whilst deceiving the public with Lie Algebras and Lie Groups.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 9th March 2009, 1:55pm
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QUOTE(Moulton @ Mon 9th March 2009, 9:51am) *

Yes, I feel it is OK for Nicolas Bourbaki to edit articles on obscure mathematical topics.

It's probably also OK for Proabivouac to out anyone writing under the name of Nicolas Bourbaki and to roundly excoriate them for being in drag whilst deceiving the public with Lie Algebras and Lie Groups.


Real Mathematicians Don't Eat Bourbaquiche.

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dtobias
post Mon 9th March 2009, 5:44pm
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QUOTE(privatemusings @ Sun 8th March 2009, 6:41pm) *

stuff that I've been chewing over for a while,


Do the ethics lose their flavor on the bedpost overnight? tongue.gif

QUOTE(privatemusings @ Sun 8th March 2009, 6:41pm) *

particularly following the launch of the excellent akahele.com (well done, and great stuff to all involved)


That's akahele.org, dummy! angry.gif


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Moulton
post Mon 9th March 2009, 6:32pm
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NPR Morning Edition: Health & Science

Golden Rule Develops Early But Doesn't Come Easily

By Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, NPR Radio Lab

A 2-year-old, it turns out, knows the difference between right and wrong. According to psychologist Judi Smetana, the sense of morality begins to develop early in humans. And by the time children are 3 to 4 years old, they recognize certain behaviors — such as hitting — as wrong, even when no one is watching, says Smetana, a professor at the University of Rochester.

Children are also capable of distinguishing between social rules and moral rules.

Smetana knows from her work with preschoolers that even though young kids can tell what's wrong — like hitting or taking another's toys — they still hit each other and take toys. This is due, in part at least, to what some researchers call the "happy victimizer effect." In other words, it feels good to get your way. Yet thanks to empathy, kids realize that the reverse is also true: When someone bullies you, it doesn't feel so good. This push and pull helps forge a child's moral universe.

"The task of a young child's development," Smetana explains, is to coordinate the perspectives of the victim and the transgressor, and weight it to the way the victim feels.

The golden rule, it seems, still very much applies.

Listen to the 7-minute audio segment at the link.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 9th March 2009, 6:36pm
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QUOTE(Moulton @ Mon 9th March 2009, 2:32pm) *

NPR Morning Edition: Health & Science

Golden Rule Develops Early But Doesn't Come Easily

By Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, NPR Radio Lab

A 2-year-old, it turns out, knows the difference between right and wrong. According to psychologist Judi Smetana, the sense of morality begins to develop early in humans. And by the time children are 3 to 4 years old, they recognize certain behaviors — such as hitting — as wrong, even when no one is watching, says Smetana, a professor at the University of Rochester.

Children are also capable of distinguishing between social rules and moral rules.

Smetana knows from her work with preschoolers that even though young kids can tell what's wrong — like hitting or taking another's toys — they still hit each other and take toys. This is due, in part at least, to what some researchers call the "happy victimizer effect." In other words, it feels good to get your way. Yet thanks to empathy, kids realize that the reverse is also true: When someone bullies you, it doesn't feel so good. This push and pull helps forge a child's moral universe.

"The task of a young child's development," Smetana explains, is to coordinate the perspectives of the victim and the transgressor, and weight it to the way the victim feels.

The golden rule, it seems, still very much applies.

Listen to the 7-minute audio segment at the link.


How Wikly They Forget …

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Bottled_Spider
post Mon 9th March 2009, 9:47pm
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QUOTE(dtobias @ Mon 9th March 2009, 5:44pm) *
QUOTE(privatemusings @ Sun 8th March 2009, 6:41pm) *
particularly following the launch of the excellent akahele.com (well done, and great stuff to all involved)

That's akahele.org, dummy! angry.gif

No way. It's .com. Definitely.
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Doc glasgow
post Tue 10th March 2009, 12:24am
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I think I said all I need to on this issue when I wrote this
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Hell Freezes Over
post Tue 10th March 2009, 12:36am
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QUOTE(Doc glasgow @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:24am) *

I think I said all I need to on this issue when I wrote this


You wrote earlier that attacking living people while hiding between a pseudonym is deplorable. Do you include your own posts on IRC? I've seen you post some pretty strong criticism of others, while not using your real name yourself.

QUOTE(privatemusings @ Sun 8th March 2009, 11:41pm) *

A post from Doc G in another thread has prompted this thread - but it's also stuff that I've been chewing over for a while, particularly following the launch of the excellent akahele.com (well done, and great stuff to all involved) - Doc said "Hiding behind a pseudonym, whilst commenting on real identifiable people, is cowardly and deplorable." - a view echoed on akahele - "When people hide behind anonymous identifiers or phony pseudonyms, trust breaks down."

[snip]

In particular, I thought I'd mention the example of 'Private Eye' - a british institution and fantastic magazine which doesn't generally do 'bylines' (with notable exceptions) - contributors make up silly names and write their stuff... sound familiar?

The fundamental difference of course is that Private Eye is 'published' - and as such is regularly in and out of the courts, with varying degrees of success. The important point is that they manage very successfully to continue to publish, and even though they fairly regularly make mistakes / cross lines and have to pay damages, they're more often 'right' in some sense or other.....


Private Eye may not publish bylines, but the identities of the writers is widely known, and certainly known to the publisher, so it's a very different situation. They've managed to keep on publishing because they regularly ask for donations from readers to help with their lawsuits.

I'm not convinced that requiring real names would change much about Wikipedia. We've seen bad editing from people using their real names, good editing from anons, and vice versa.
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Doc glasgow
post Tue 10th March 2009, 12:47am
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QUOTE(Hell Freezes Over @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:36am) *

QUOTE(Doc glasgow @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:24am) *

I think I said all I need to on this issue when I wrote this


You wrote earlier that attacking living people while hiding between a pseudonym is deplorable. Do you include your own posts on IRC? I've seen you post some pretty strong criticism of others, while not using your real name yourself.


No doubt I've typed things in IRC I ought to regret. However, typing comments in a chatroom (mainly about other pseudonymous people - like yourself) is hardly comparable to adding information to the world's most read website, which is then published as "encyclopedic".

You are really trying to compare name-calling in the playground with running a documentary on the BBC. I can go to the pub and pass comments about some Footballer's private life, it may not be "nice" and they may even be untrue, but it is quite a different matter if I print then as facts in a newspaper.
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Hell Freezes Over
post Tue 10th March 2009, 1:14am
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QUOTE(Doc glasgow @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:47am) *

No doubt I've typed things in IRC I ought to regret. However, typing comments in a chatroom (mainly about other pseudonymous people - like yourself) is hardly comparable to adding information to the world's most read website, which is then published as "encyclopedic".

You are really trying to compare name-calling in the playground with running a documentary on the BBC. I can go to the pub and pass comments about some Footballer's private life, it may not be "nice" and they may even be untrue, but it is quite a different matter if I print then as facts in a newspaper.


I agree that it's different in terms of outcome for the subject, but not so different in terms of the motivation of the poster.

If it's the outcome for the subject we care about, as we ought to, it really doesn't matter whether the poster is anonymous or named. It's the content that matters. How often have you checked the byline on a newspaper, especially on a gossipy piece, to discover the author? Probably rarely, if ever.

This post has been edited by Hell Freezes Over: Tue 10th March 2009, 1:15am
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Kato
post Tue 10th March 2009, 1:35am
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QUOTE(Hell Freezes Over @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:36am) *

I'm not convinced that requiring real names would change much about Wikipedia. We've seen bad editing from people using their real names, good editing from anons, and vice versa.

Real names isn't the be all and end all of the problems. But requiring real names would have a radical impact on Wikipedia. Simple as that. If you don't think so, you are living in a dream world.

QUOTE(Hell Freezes Over @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:36am) *

Private Eye may not publish bylines, but the identities of the writers is widely known, and certainly known to the publisher, so it's a very different situation. They've managed to keep on publishing because they regularly ask for donations from readers to help with their lawsuits.

That's simply not true. The identities of many of the writers on Private Eye aren't widely known. They're known to Hislop, that's true. But the Eye would struggle for inside stories if the anons were known to the wider public.

QUOTE(Hell Freezes Over @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:36am) *

You wrote earlier that attacking living people while hiding between a pseudonym is deplorable. Do you include your own posts on IRC? I've seen you post some pretty strong criticism of others, while not using your real name yourself.

Equating online chats where people say nasty things to an Encyclopedia article that many rely on for their information is ridiculous.

QUOTE(Hell Freezes Over @ Tue 10th March 2009, 1:14am) *

How often have you checked the byline on a newspaper, especially on a gossipy piece, to discover the author? Probably rarely, if ever.

Most of the time, actually.
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Luís Henrique
post Tue 10th March 2009, 1:40am
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 9th March 2009, 10:55am) *

Real Mathematicians Don't Eat Bourbaquiche.


No, they eat Bourbaquiue.

I know. But it was in self-defence, you started it.

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EricBarbour
post Tue 10th March 2009, 1:43am
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QUOTE(Kato @ Mon 9th March 2009, 6:35pm) *

QUOTE(Hell Freezes Over @ Tue 10th March 2009, 12:36am) *
You wrote earlier that attacking living people while hiding between a pseudonym is deplorable. Do you include your own posts on IRC? I've seen you post some pretty strong criticism of others, while not using your real name yourself.
Equating online chats where people say nasty things to an Encyclopedia article that many rely on for their information is ridiculous.

Private Eye is a satirical magazine. Wikipedia is pretending to be a "reference work".
Show me a dictionary or encyclopedia, IN PRINT, that is full of writings by anonymous people.....
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Hell Freezes Over
post Tue 10th March 2009, 2:22am
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QUOTE(Kato @ Tue 10th March 2009, 1:35am) *

That's simply not true. The identities of many of the writers on Private Eye aren't widely known. They're known to Hislop, that's true. But the Eye would struggle for inside stories if the anons were known to the wider public.


They're often known to other journalists. Even where they're not, they're known to the publisher, so it's a very different situation from Wikipedia. That was my only point.

QUOTE
Equating online chats where people say nasty things to an Encyclopedia article that many rely on for their information is ridiculous.


I disagree. Some of the IRC smears were published by Brandt, for example, or on here, which means they became available on Google.

I think if someone is going to take a very hard line on anonymous posting about living persons, as Doc Glasgow did -- calling it cowardly and deplorable -- he has to apply it to all on- and offline publication of attacks on people. The size of the audience is only one issue, and it's not the determining moral or legal one.

This post has been edited by Hell Freezes Over: Tue 10th March 2009, 9:01am
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Jon Awbrey
post Tue 10th March 2009, 3:25am
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In the Real World, a pseudonym is just a token that transfers responsibility to someone else, someone who is willing to accept the responsibility for what is written.

In Wikipedia, no one is willing to accept the buck. Wikipediots keep trying to pass the buck to some Invisible Hand. That is their religion. It is not a sane religion.

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privatemusings
post Tue 10th March 2009, 4:27am
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Tue 10th March 2009, 3:25am) *

In the Real World, a pseudonym is just a token that transfers responsibility to someone else, someone who is willing to accept the responsibility for what is written.


Pretty much my point. If folk wish to support responsible writing, it's obviously important to figure out who is going to be responsible. I think more wiki editors should be more concerned that no-one actually is - it's simply not good enough to claim this IP or that funny name is the only can carrier.

ps. as far as Private Eye is concerned, I reckon both Kato and Hell are sort of right - my understanding has always been that most contributors to Private Eye are sort of generally known or knowable - but they've always had a few mail ins that are actually pretty closely guarded. The whistle-blowing and 'insider' stuff they carry is really separate to the satire (though irreverent) - and for me at least the raison d'etre / best bit about the magazine (though sure, the jokes are pretty good too)

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