Why anonymity and pseudonymity were necessary to create the world’s largest encyclopedia.
Silvester in Berlin wäre doch auch einmal was nettes. Und noch viel netter wäre es, wenn ich zu der Gelegenheit ein paar Nerds etwas erzählen kann. Danach sind die Nerds dann schlauer. Und sofern sie mir etwas zurückerzählen, oder gar widersprechen, bin ich auch schlauer. So weit die Theorie. Praktisch findet das nur statt, wenn ich dem 28C3-Programmkommittee nicht viel zu soft und sozial und untechnisch bin mit meinem Themenvorschlag für den 28C3-Kongress:
Anonymity, pseudonymity, and identity have become topics again. Supporters of a real name policy often stress increased reliability and quality of discussions when real names are used. The Wikipedia experience shows the opposite.
Wikipedia is one of the older social networks, and one which is especially adept at producing content, the society at large deems respectable. Anonymity and pseudonymity are fundamentals of Wikipedia: it is possible to edit without logging in. To log in, no proof of identity is required. The creation of multiple accounts by one person is accepted. One Wikipedia user can acquire all content related rights without once being asked, who she or he or it is in “real life”. Still, Wikipedia works only through strong identities.
A Wikipedia user should have full control about its identity. I will talk about the rules that govern Anonymity and pseudonymity in Wikipedia, and how they work in reality. I will demonstrate that despite these rules, most editors know each other as personalities, and often as persons as well. But still: the rules regarding Anonymity and pseudonymity and their underlying philosophy are central for a working Wikipedia.
Wikipedia as you know probably has several rules regarding anonymity. Rules about account creation which are neutral to identity, rules about user rights, which are neutral to identity, and rules about anonymity that try give control to a user about its own identity. Social norms in the community encourage to caring about ones action in Wikipedia, not ones real world identity, supporting Anonymity and pseudonymity use.
This has some real world reasons: not many people want to admit an intimate knowledge of stigmatizing maladies. People regard religion and politics as private, and still can contribute in these areas. Nobody will talk bad about one’s employer or too good about its competitor. And especially when talking about highly skilled professionals it is not always good advice to talk bad policies your employer advocates. For internal use Anonymity and pseudonymity shows several advantages: it avoids some forms of hierarchy; it keeps focus on the content; it positively disincentives fortune seekers and self-promoters.
But still: to obtain real anonymity in Wikipedia a user has to take care. And even when using an account with a random chosen name: several non-trivial edits in Wikipedia already reveal a lot about who a person is, what he knows, what he cares about, where he lives etc. So the best way to stay truly anonymous: use one-way-accounts, one account per edit, and edits not related to each other. But still: Wikimedia will log your IP-address. Some people at Wikimedia are able to see it, and under certain circumstances will give it to law enforcement.
And: Most people know each other, regardless of real name. Often people know each other quite good without knowing real names. When somebody cares about a real name, normally something has gone wrong. Serious incidents of harassment and personal attacks happen only between people who do know each other. An obsession to know “the real name” of a perceived opponent is often an early step in escalating a war between two people. Real names only matter when a discussion gets ugly, and they are mainly used to hurt and stalk people. Real names don’t matter for collaborative work. Real names do matter for conflicts, Anonymity and pseudonymity matter for content creation.
Without Anonymity and pseudonymity Wikipedia would not exist. In case you ever want a crowd to produce content, encourage anonymity and pseudonymity.
Und zum Schluß ein großes Danke an Nicole Ebber: ohne den Hinweis zur rechten Zeit hätte ich vermutlich die Deadline verpasst.