Bill MacKenty


Is anonymity bad?

Posted in Blogging Personal on 14 - February 2014 at 12:49 PM (8 years ago). 16 views.

Interesting article written by Chris Poole about the merits of anonymity online. I remember when anonymity was the de-facto identity on the internet, and I've watched it change slowly with facebook. As a teacher, I've watched students exhibit truly exemplary behavior online, and I've also seen horrible behavior. Like in real life, just amplified. I believe anonymity is the great "freeing mechanism" of the internet, one of the truly great things about "online". Gender, age, culture, and socioeconomic status all fall-away as barriers to participation in a free exchange of ideas. At it's heart, I think that is what the internet is; a venacular of idea. In an anonymous forum, the strength of an idea alone carries weight. Of course expressing the idea is important, but without the garbage that traditionally encumbers us. So I see evidence how being anonymous online can be hurtful. I also see how it be very helpful. A few quick examples: 1. Stack exchange. Basically anonymous. The best ideas and responses to questions are voted to the top of the list. 2. Slashdot. Basically anonymous. Comments are moderated, but in a weird way. 3. Google Moderator. Not very anonymous, but has the same basic idea of voting for an idea. 4. Reddit. Anonymous. The thing about Reddit is the question being asked. So on the front page, the basic question is "what will create the most clicks?". But on subreddits, like /r/linux, answers to questions are voted on, with the best rising to the top. There are obvious flaws with anon-think (see the Wisdom of Crowds). But that we should shun anonymity, or treat it pejoratively strikes me as myopic.