No Real Names Please

I have been a 'stealth' member of this and other communities like it for years. Unlike others, I have strong objections to the 'outing' of people who do not wish to have their privacy disturbed. I am not a fan of the RealNamesPlease concept, nor of some of its adherents (sorry). IMNHO, it is a myopic point of view that is implicitly a little naive and (ironically after my accusation of naivete) unmannerly. Lots of people have very legitimate reasons for wishing to participate in public life without sacrificing the privacy of their friends and families. Even if we do not agree that their reasons *are* legitimate, we have an obligation to respect their right to make their own choices. It is not our decision to make.

Inviting them to *not* participate, BTW, does not constitute respect, in my opinion. Somewhere out there in mild-mannered 'WikiWorld' I received that very invitation from someone quite vociferous that my right to comment in public discourse on programming was contingent upon presenting 'bona-fides'. That I have them to present is hardly relevant. Whether or not I have made the same mistake as a programmer for decades hardly provides much of an argument that it is not a mistake. If a cogent argument can be made in favor of dispensing with unconditional jumps in program source, what does it matter where it came from?

Young people, celebrities, people whose opinions must be circumspect due to their livelihoods, people who are stigmatized for one reason or another, people vulnerable to the opinions and prejudices of others (a graduate student about to defend to a very conservative committee?), people with vulnerable charges, etc. All of these and more could have very legitimate reasons for wishing to be discreet. Even by saying to anyone that they MUST reveal their identity unless they have a compelling reason to hide it, places those who wish to be discreet in jeopardy. If all but a few people are known, the remaining people might lose their voice if the community is in general agreement that only the (somehow) illegitimate remain anonymous. I would say that in the absence of a compelling reason to reveal one's identity, it should be kept secret as a means of providing cover for those who must keep their identities a secret.

There are parts of the world where a misplaced word can result in imprisonment or even death. By creating a culture where everyone must reveal their lapels, we expose those with yellow stars to their peril. I oppose that. It is, to put it mildly, bad manners to insist that somebody's mom, dad, sister or brother dies so that they may exercise speech. Besides, execution suppresses free speech rather convincingly and makes the ease of expression on Wikis rather moot.

Beyond practical matters of privacy, the entire rationale behind 'RealNamesPlease' is rather suspect. It is intended (I suppose) to make people more careful what they say and to take responsibility for their speech. Leaving aside the problematic nature of insisting on something that inhibits free discourse at all, It often poisons discourse by inviting so-called 'Fallacies of Diversion' such as Ad Hominem attacks and 'Guilt By Association' and 'Fallacies of Intimidation', such as 'Improper Appeals to Authority'. Sure, if the provenance of the argument is known, it might help in many cases. BobTrower, for instance, is a reasonable (although not entirely authoritative) source of information on BobTrower. On balance, though, I think that a culture of reputation 'pinned' to 'meat-space' identities is counter productive.

I have to add to the above, because this really does eat at me. The *rationale* behind RealNamesPlease can be found on that page, but it is essentially that by making the meatspace resident vulnerable by revealing their identity (and hence their location and the names of their children), you coerce them into adhering to social mores established by the local mob and you pervert discourse. By insisting that ideas be attached to their meatspace progenitors, you give false authority to some arguments and expose others to variants of 'ad hominem' attacks.

Blind adherence to the letter of WikiWay leads to the ills typically associated with blind adherence to any set of rules. Sure, it's nice to know about public figures, be they heroes or villains. Some find fame enjoyable. Others find it horrifying. I am somewhere in the middle, but if I had to choose, I would (and did for many years) choose anonymity.

This is a favorite of mine and many will roll their eyes, it is so cliche. However, it goes straight to the heart of why it is dangerous to the commons to insist that people shed their anonymity.

At the time this statement was forced out of the heretic in question, he was a tired and broken man. One of his greatest accomplishments was denied him and the whole world was the poorer for it. He was *not* the authority either politically or (officially) academically. His was the better idea, but with him as provenance, it was doomed and because the provenance was known, so was he:

"I, Galileo, being in my seventieth year, being a prisoner and on my knees, and before your Eminences, having before my eyes the Holy Gospel, which I touch with my hands, abjure, curse, and detest the error and the heresy of the movement of the earth."

If there is a Galileo among us, we have the technology to allow his ideas to flourish without he be brought to his knees. If there is a Pope Urban among us, let his ideas make their own way, without the Inquisition to give them a false authority they do not earn themselves.

Although (hopefully) most would agree that a modern Galileo ought to have his voice, I submit that all should have their voice. They should not have to prove that they are a Galileo, because in the real world, Galileo was forced to utter those words in the 17th Century and the Church did not officially admit he was right until nearly the 21st Century (1992). By then, he had finished serving his life sentence for the heresy of speaking his truth and was hundreds of years dead.

One should not come to management with a problem unless one has a solution in hand. Here is my solution:

Embrace anonymity as a norm and allow people to create and invest in 'vested identities'. Let us put in mechanisms and safeguards, technical and social, that protect anonymity and the ability to both create and nurture vested identities and to repudiate them when they become compromised.

In our system of justice, the policy is: "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer" (William Blackstone). Yes, there are costs to allowing freedom of expression. However, the cost of censorship is much higher. RealNamesPlease greatly aids censorship by allowing unpopular speakers to be targeted, found and stopped. It is precisely the unpopular speech that needs protection. If you do not support the freedom to speak heresy, then you effectively do not believe in freedom of speech.

I know this will be unpopular, but RealNamesPlease is symptomatic of an arrogant parochialism that assumes that everyone enjoys the luxury of relative security when they express themselves. Not only is this not true of everyone, it arguably is not even true of the majority.

It is, in my opinion, in the spirit of WikiWay to be mannerly. I submit that creating an environment that does not allow people the freedom to speak is not mannerly.

--- Ironically, after all that, I will 'own' what I have said -- BobTrower

[Imported from Meatball (usemod), but I am the author]

The above is eminently reasonable on political fora and the like where certain opinions may indeed expose individuals to risks of various sorts. However, I'm hard pressed to think of a circumstance where expressing opinions on functional programming vs OO, etc., is likely to present any problem. If there is such a risk, consider posting anonymously or use a realistic pseudonym. I think it's quite refreshing that this forum does not suffer from the perception of triviality and juvenile pomposity that inevitably accompanies use of "clever" nicks like SirHacksalot or whatever. -- DaveVoorhis

Re: I'm hard pressed to think of a circumstance where expressing opinions on functional programming vs OO, etc., is likely to present any problem.

With all due respect, the argument from "I can't understand it" is a weak one. I say elsewhere on the net (probably even in this wiki) that there is a camp that feels that "absence of proof is proof of absence". It ain't so. My way, the worst case scenario is that people don't get to snoop into the lives of others or place false hopes on the provenance of arguments and know they are buddies with somebody famous. Your way, the worst case scenario is almost open ended. A whole village could be 'pacified' because someone spoke too frankly.

The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions. People *must* have usable completely anonymous vested identities and they must be able to use them everywhere. You know, I first learned how to program in earnest on an Ohio Scientific OS65U mini computer. Another first for me? I was the first one to distribute and teach IBM's PCLP on one of Canada's largest private networks. I might chat about that somewhere where I would like to be anonymous. Let's see how many people have worked with OS65U and PCLP:

Hmmm. As of right now, that returns a single page. Once this page is indexed on Google, 'presto', we have a Bob to Bob match and he's outed. It appears that only BobTrower is known to have experience with both of those. I admit, it took me a few minutes to boil it down to two simple search terms. However, I will bet that we really do not have to know that much about someone to find them if they exist in the clear somewhere. That would be especially true if there are a bunch of islands like this that hassle them to reveal their identities in meatspace. I think that putting up with a few boneheads who hide behind a secret identity is a small price to pay so that dissidents in China can speak their minds without having their kids run over by a tank. Besides, I was not talking about having an anonymous free for all. I was talking about guarded vested identities. Once a person has built up a reputation (or had their identity key signed at a key signing party and then run through the anonymous key-prep system), they are probably a lot less likely to throw away the reputation they have built/bought/beggedfor by being a bonehead.

This is an example of how bad things can come from good intentions. I don't doubt the sincerity of the people here who want RealNamesPlease, but I also don't doubt that if we do it their way we open a door for Murphy to step in and if you are a programmer then you know that he always comes when invited.

I have shown above that it is easy to find someone who posts anonymously if you have some of their non anonymous posts handy to work with. Here are a couple of quotes:


"The next time you take your freedom of speech for granted just think about the alternative. A young man in Egypt has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for “criticizing the President and Islam".

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” George Washington"

-- BobTrower

Update: Recently, something more convincing has happened.


"Mexico’s Zetas drug cartel killed another blogger, continuing its unrelenting war against persistent citizen journalists fighting the underground organization on social media at any cost."

Think of the example above where I mention OS65U and PCLP. This article (the one you are reading now) is the inflammatory one, say, showing that I am argumentative. The Resume is the one where I *must* reveal my meatspace identity because, duh. Someone looking up my resume and subsequently doing a reality check for those terms could easily find this page and decide not to hire me. Perhaps they have! Not being hired is an adverse effect. Being executed is worse. They both follow from forcing the revelation of a meatspace identity where it is not needed. It will not be clear to everyone, but I hope it is clear to at least some of the smart guys here that if everyone steps back (by revealing their identity) except for the one who must remain anonymous, the bad guys can bring all their resources to bear on the one who has been partially exposed by the others. Every time someone unnecessarily ties themselves to a meatspace identity while in cyberspace, it puts a chink in the armor of those whose identities should be hidden.

So, as I understand it, you would favor a system where privileges are vested into anonymous e-identities. I think I can understand that. I feel some need to weigh anonymity against responsibility and (more importantly) accountability. Your goal is some sort of humanitarian purpose - to protect people that live in societies that (by your morality) live in a society where the punishment for misspeaking is not commensurate with the crime.

Achieving a balance is difficult. We need to allow some behaviors (such as open technical discussion) while discouraging and preventing other behaviors (such as trolling, providing harmful advice, spamming, vandalism, posting child pornography, etc.). In the broader sense, we also wish to support financial transactions (trading money and services or products), host more services than just the words of people (WikiIde, QedWiki), and hold people legally accountable for their behavior and the contracts they enter.

I'm not certain how much of a balance can be achieved while favoring vested e-identities.

Certainly a great deal of security and accountability can be obtained. ObjectCapabilityModel doesn't rely on identity. PasswordCapabilityModel can utilize anonymous PKI certificates and can be specified with various forms of rights amplification (i.e. saying that you can only use capability X if you can prove you have capability Y). Chaumian blinding ( and various forms of exclusive e-rights (including e-money, contracts, etc.) are all very promising. A good site to review these is <>.

With truly anonymous e-identities, the maximum punishment for misbehavior is the loss of that identity and all interests vested into it. This might be leveraged as a good thing; it allows for a gradient of accountability based on the amount necessary for both the social and financial contracts in which an identity partakes. Or, equivalently, one could forbid e-identities that lack sufficient investment from partaking in certain social and financial contracts.

So... I think I've convinced myself to agree with Bob that anonymous-but-secure-and-vested identities would be a fine replacement for real names and identity. It will be a while yet before such identities can be readily utilized across services and systems, though. At the moment, the closest thing we have to 'anonymous-but-secure-and-vested identities' are e-mail addresses, and those fall remarkably short in terms of both security and proof-of-investment.

Wow. It is hard to get me to flat out agree with somebody, but you get it and I agree with what you have added. I am not saying that everybody should goose-step into the anonymity *I* feel is necessary. I am just saying that mechanisms should exist and as long as a vested identity carries some weight that it represents the investment of time and effort of a 'real person' and they are something of a known quantity, then they should participate as freely as anyone else.

There is one thing that I would add. Somewhere I have written up this notion -- some actions that you take that have consequences should require you to purchase indemnity insurance. A part of the design of infrastructure to support such a thing should include methods of assessing risk and determining the costs to indemnify them and the mechanisms to make sure that the identities carry with them their indemnification policy.

-- BobTrower

Before you get too excited about your solution, I think some psychology is in order. Deindividualization is when an individual loses their since of self, or the sense of another as a self. There are many examples where someone essentially becomes the group they are associated with. It explains why many sports fans react to their teams success/failure as if they had succeeded/failed. But more importantly, it also occurs when we are anonymous. When we are acting anonymously we, on some level, don't associate those actions with ourselves. It also applies to how we treat those who are acting anonymously. We, on some level, don't treat the anonymous entity as an actual person. Even worse, this effect applies even when the anonymity is purely symbolic.

In your way, the worst case is AdHominem attacks, 'Guilt By Association', and 'Fallacies of Intimidation'. These are known to increase when people gains anonymity.

-- MartinShobe?

Martin: an 'ad hominem' attack is an 'argument against the man'. If you don't even know it is a man at all, let alone who, it is hard to make a real 'ad hominem' attack. The fallacy is along the lines of your argument must be false because of who you are. We can mount, I suppose, a pseudo ad hominem attack by calling them names, but that is not at all what I had in mind. Similarly, you would have to know who the person was associated with (and hence, in some sense, who they are) in order to make a fallacious 'Guilt by association' argument. Finally, 'Fallacies of Intimidation' *are* possible if the anonymous person invokes the name of an authority. However, I was speaking about the instance where the person themselves is the authority -- with NoRealNamesPlease, you don't know they are the authority and hence are not properly vulnerable to that fallacious argument.

AdHominem attacks are still possible because the identities are vested. Supposedly they would not be creating an entirely new identity for each argument. One could then perform the attack by information revealed in other statements. Again with vested identities, one can establish that they are authorities (in a manner similar to what is done now with real names) so even that attack is still possible. -- Martin Shobe

Martin, my bad. I noticed your latest comment some time ago and thought I had replied. I agree with you and I think you bring up an interesting and important aspect of dealing with the whole problem of privacy Vs authenticity. Mechanism is out of scope, but you are exactly correct in your statement here. I just wanted to acknowledge that. It feels good to agree with someone. --- BobTrower

RealNamesPlease or NoRealNamesPlease are the opposites. ItDepends on your choices. The RealNamesPlease position is merely one in which if you wish to sign or be indentified with your posts, that you use a "Real" name. If SamuelClemens were alive today and wished to post to WardsWiki, he would, or might take a position of using a non-real, but identifying name of "MarkTwain". If on the other hand he wished to identify himself with his post, by his "real" name, he would sign as SamuelClemens. But in either case, we would know the identitly regardless. The position taken on this Wiki and stated in a number of places is that if a decision is made to sign contributions, that a "real" name be used, and not some invented one. A tolerated modification of that policy has been made where the identity can be assigned to a position, or point of view, as in using the name of "BlueHat". This has also been called a "DramaticIdentity". Others have been used for a time, such as AnonymousOnPurpose, but Ward has stated that one may sign or not sign contributions, depending upon a personal choice, rather than a mandatory norm.

PositiveDialogue occurs when in an exchange of differing opinions or positions, either side of the issue comes to acknowledge differences as valid in arriving at a "flow of meaning". This can occur between two or more parties and the positions and "meanings" can be identified by such formatting options as the use of normal and italic fonts to present two sided or two party exchanges without necessity of personally identifying the posts to individuals. In some cases this can work, in others, the issues are not polarized, but rather are found to range over a broad spectrum. In the last couple of years however the shift has been to "no names at all". Interestingly on this page, the posters have decided (in most but not all cases) to use a name. -- DonaldNoyes

I occasionally see a 'sig' that speaks eloquently to the 'ItDepends' above:

"Some say the sun rises in the West. Some say it rises in the East. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle"

I would suggest that readers who would like to form a real opinion on this debate look at all of RealNamesPlease, NoRealNamesPlease and ItDepends and form their own opinion. -- BobTrower

Just a data point: I had a job offer revoked because I posted a comment on a public forum that C# was probably a better choice for large projects than VB. The customer company was having severe problems with the poor Visual Studio performance on large VB projects at the time. At the time, Microsoft Visual Studio support for large projects was MUCH better in C# than in VB. I never revealed or even hinted at which company might be having this problem.

Sometimes I encounter people who seem to think that keeping their problems secret is "way much better" than solving them. -- JeffGrigg (...who hopes that this post won't get me fired! ;-)

I am not 'a point of view' or a 'dramatic identity'. I am a person, who like most, is growing and developing. [Well... that's one point of view.] I have a past, a present and a future. I would like to (generally) *own* both my successes *and* my failures. I would like to be able to speak with authority to my past posts and would like to be able to identify with veracity that the person on the other end of the conversation is still the person that started it and made the other posts with that identity. I would like to send money to unpopular causes with which I agree, but not have my family bear the burden of that unpopularity. I would like that money transfer to form part of the ongoing conversation in cyberspace that is associated with my vested persona. I would like to speak my mind, without fear of reprisal (*ever*) against my children. Times change. What was acceptable speech when I said it may become dangerous speech later.

I would like to have a voice that is unfettered by threats against my person or my community.

I would like to have a voice that does not expose me to subtle discrimination in my workplace, school or local community.

I would like to have a voice that does not suffer from the taint (imagined by others) of my skin color or ethnic background.

I would like to speak with my sharp and incisive no holds barred voice with others who are similarly unconstrained by worries about injuries that might take place to innocents.

Perhaps my young children would be uncomfortable with some of their father's frank opinions. Perhaps I would like to wait until they are older to explain my point of view to them.

Perhaps I hold strong opinions on 'hot-button' issues like abortion, creation science, various types of suffrage, etc. and would like to voice them and have them associated with the body of my other speech, but not with the corporeal bodies of my friends and family.

There is an old joke: Man to very proper woman: Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? Woman: Well... Yes, I suppose. Man: How about a hundred dollars? Woman, scandalized: Why certainly not! What do you take me for? Man: We have already established what you are, we are just haggling over a price.

Above, people are arguing for the notion that a little chilling of the ability to speak freely is OK. It is not OK. First, it is that marginal speech that the whole notion of 'freedom of speech' is designed to protect. Second, it is the thin edge of the wedge. Once you establish that *in principle* it is OK to 'out' people or suppress their ability to speak, then the debate shifts to 'haggling over a price'. Everyone here would like to haggle about the price they are willing for *other people* to pay for the right to attribute their speech without exposing their meatspace identities.

I simply do not accept the notion that free speech should be hindered. Everybody seems to support 'free speech', but only when the speech in question does not bother them. You would think the conclusion would be obvious, but from what I can see, it decidedly is not. Most people do not see any contradiction with the statement "I support free speech, but only if it is speech of which I approve".

Lest I be misconstrued, I am not saying that someone with obnoxious or dangerous points of view be allowed the right to come into your living room and show disturbing images to your children. Nor am I saying that the major networks should be forced to allow air time to any crack-pot during family hour. However, I *am* saying that we should not have laws or rules in place designed to chill speech or effectively allow that speech no reasonable outlet. It is *fine* to have rules that threads remain reasonably on topic. It is *fine* to have a special purpose forum to discuss design patterns and to discourage discussions that do not relate to the subject matter, the wiki or its operation. It is *not* fine to effectively bar people from public participation because they cannot reveal their identity. By making everyone obliged to make their case for privacy, we effectively destroy any real ability for anyone to have privacy, no matter how dire their need.

In this increasingly connected age, where censorship is more onerous than ever, we need to err on the side of caution and do what we can to actively encourage free speech. That includes, in the particular context of RealNamesPlease, this wiki. I might *work* for someone who is a slavish and ardent adherent of the GOF and will hear no criticism of the SimpletonPattern. However, I might have seen so much carnage from this pattern that I feel moved as a matter of conscience to speak out against it. If I *must* use my real name, then I will hesitate to make my best shot at criticizing. If I must use a blind anonymity unlinked to other examples of my presence in Cyberspace, then I may choose not speak because by revealing a number of different articles I have written, I will expose my identity. Here is another unfortunate Google search that relates to me:

Note that: 1) White box voting might very well be discussed as a legitimate technical subject on this wiki because it involves some interesting technical problems.

2) The article in question was written by me, but under the pseudonym 'DeepNorth?'. There goes that identity (relax, it was compromised by me long ago).

Soon, that Google search will end up pointing to this page. If I were to express strong views about the inadequacies of using singletons to implement White Box Voting, my boss might well stumble upon the identity of his employee when he goes to look up what 'White Box Voting' means so he can rebut the odious attack on his beloved Simpleton Pattern.

Again, "absence of proof is not proof of absence". I do not think that it should take this community a visible example of someone being terribly harmed as a direct result of the RealNamesPlease policy on this particular wiki before they take action to prevent the harm in the first place. --- BobTrower

"I" is but one dramatic identity. The issue of where one's "self" stops and the "outside" world starts is a mostly philosophical issue, especially given that our observations over both world and self, and everything we ever derive, are necessarily both part of 'self' and of 'world'. What MartinShobe? raises as a 'problem' isn't necessarily a problem; it's a state of being to be embraced or rejected in accordance with the philosophies and religions of cultures and individuals. We who speak anonymously feel no need to *own* the words we speak - they are free for sharing, intended to become part of the communal melting pot of ideas. After a few years, the words are lost even to the writer, who can return and look upon them with fresh eyes, wonder with some uncertainty "did *I* write that?" in reference to that common dramatic identity we are forced to occasionally bear in modern society, and possibly reaffirm or even argue against statements for which one once upon a time stood in earnest.

Also, absence of evidence IS evidence of absence except when certain conditions are met (e.g. if the evidence should be non-obvious, volatile, or you never bothered looking for it). While the stronger "absence of *proof* is not proof of absence" is true, it is entirely unscientific to assume that a given policy (like RealNamesPlease) is problematic until there is evidence to believe it problematic.

Man. I gotta come up with a special term for this. I am talking about *privacy* here. People with vested identities may also want to make wacky 'drunk posting' as 'Anonymous' as well. Having a private vested persona and using that is not equivalent to being anonymous. In the latter case, you are unknown, in the former, you are known, it is just not linked to your address, your day job or your kids. Given the nature of 'anonymous' posters, it seems odd that you speak for them all ('we who speak' above).

RE: "I" is but one dramatic identity. The issue of where one's "self" stops and the "outside" world starts is a mostly philosophical issue

Sigh. Perhaps true, but at a non-relevant level of abstraction. It is a total red-herring. The conversation is about whether or not the thought police can physically show up at your door and shoot your dog (because somebody bullied you into revealing your meatspace identity), not whether or not you can provide a formal proof that they are there or that they have a separate existence or that it is true/not true that your dog can go to heaven if he sheds this mortal coil and if so, will he and can you prove it. The conversation is at the level of 'Damn, I loved that dog. If only they hadn't been able to find me.'.

Re: Also, absence of evidence IS evidence of absence except when certain conditions are met.

Maybe if I formalized that a little, you could see how you fell off the cart:

[A] IS [B] except when [A] IS NOT [B].

That entire statement is true on its face and rather more profound than some might think. However, the object was to demonstrate that [A] IS [B] and the larger statement, on its face, fails entirely to do its work. Still, even if it had, it was a straw man and did not speak to what I said, but to a caricature.

You failed to formalize the conditions. Properly: [A] IS [B] except when [C], [D], [E] - the latter being conditions named in the '(e.g.' block above. Those conditions were not tautological, and thus the above characterization is your error.

Ok. Let's try again, starting with your assertion above.

[A]==[B] except when [C], [D], [E]

When [C], [D], [E] hold true, [A]!=[B] holds true.
Man, this is getting complicated.

With apologies to multi-valued logics, we are speaking of boolean logic here (I was, anyway -- it's tradition!). Further, I was speaking of *deductive logic*.

Either the proposition holds true or it does not.

An approximate propositional BooleanLogic representation of the above statement would be (C v D v E v (A n B) v (~A n ~B)), or equivalently (~C n ~D n ~E) -> (A = B), or equivalently "(A = B) is known to be true except when C or D or E". The concepts being represented here are better represented in an epistemic second-order logic.

We have little interest in the instance where it *does* hold true, because we have admitted that as a premise. Sometimes it does.

Our only interest is in the case (which you feel to be quite anomalous, I take it) where [List of conditions wherein C, D, E are necessary but no longer sufficient PLUS whatever ineffable entity or list thereof you will ultimately admit will seal the deal] does indeed mean that [A]!=[B] == TRUE.

Let us symbolize the exceedingly rare instance where the above does finally hold true as [Z]. IFF [Z] then [A]!=[B]

Finally, as slippery as it may be, as rare and fine a thing it may be WHEN and ONLY WHEN [Z]==TRUE [A]!=[B]== TRUE and we can FINALLY do the substitution to get ... Ermmm [A]==[B] except when [A]!=[B]

To be fair, I think what you were aiming at was an argument from induction. The assertion being that we have many instances where we have 'no positive' and hence infer (we cannot deduce) that the 'positive' will be (to be fair again) rare enough to be trivial. If that was your intention, you should have stated it more clearly for the simple and prosaic mind of your audience (moi) whose grasp of these matters you freely admit is so weak as to throw you into a depression.

Your notion that *deductive logic* can be applied to any observations is an incorrect one. Evidence of any sort is only useful in induction or abduction. Deductive logic is only useful within a model. And to gently remind you: at the time I stated it, I was barely beginning to imagine your grasp of logic and science was so weak as to depress me.

Not that wikipedia is authoritative, but it saves me the typing and it is good enough. Here is my understanding of inductive logic and it is implicit in the definition why I do not place much faith in it when we are talking about matters such as these. We can't rely upon it: "The premises of an inductive argument indicate some degree of support (inductive probability) for the conclusion but do not entail it; i.e. they do not ensure its truth. ... ultimately, inductive reasoning is not reliable"

Nonetheless, all of science, and all of history, and everything you know of the world, and every example you raise in defense of your ideas, is ultimately inductive, even more weakly, abductive. To argue that your dog was killed because you misspoke, for example, is abductive - an argument towards the most likely explanation.

As awful as it may seem to you, I quibble even with an argument from induction. We shall have to agree to disagree, I am afraid, but all you have is lack of evidence of harm to point to, while I have pointed to what I should think is ample evidence that 'loose lips sink ships'; that harm is indeed possible, if not probable. Speech ought not to be dangerous, I think we both agree. Sadly, it turns out that it can be dangerous and for some it has already been. If you refuse to accept the evidence that some people *are* injured when the provenance of expression is known, we shall have to part company there. I *do* accept the evidence that people are injured. In fact, I believe it to be somewhat routine. It is a hard world out there.

Harm is always possible. The question isn't whether harm is impossible, but rather its statistical probability and the relative effort that should go into protecting against it. A child goes missing every 40 seconds, there is a traffic fatality every 12.5 minutes, a heart-attack every 20-seconds, a heart-attack death every 60 seconds, and yet not one known case of physical persecution in real life because people used real names on WikiWiki. Harm is possible, but that simply isn't a sufficient condition to take action.

You have, I suppose you believe, the equivalent of a table full of revolvers with a very large number of chambers (say, m). You assert that since you have fired m minus n times and you are still in possession of your head, that, using an argument from induction, the guns are all empty. I assert that there is (A) evidence that they are not all empty and (B) the consequences of the next chamber containing a bullet are not something you can safely risk. You, I suppose, are contending that it is a great game and with each soft click you grow ever more certain that as n approaches m, the guns are indeed empty. There is some merit in that argument, but not much. From my point of view,there is none, since I have evidence that if you continue to fire you will eventually encounter the bullet I am quite certain is there. Still, I admit that, from your point of view, having no knowledge that there is a live cartridge in there, it is *possible* for this argument from induction, in theory, to be ultimately correct and indeed, with each 'sample' firing, the certainty of the inductive 'proof' grows stronger. I maintain there is a cartridge in there somewhere. We will neither be able to *prove* our point until you have fired through all the guns and all the chambers *OR* you have encountered a bullet. If you are right, then I shall have to admit that I was mistaken when I thought there was a bullet in there. If you are wrong, you will be missing a head. For me, there is no upside to this game. Whether or not I think your head serves you well, I am loathe to see you lose it on a lark. Furthermore, if mapped upon our current case, the game begins anew. You will be ever more confident with each passing game. I, however, will continue to believe that you just 'dodged the bullet', as it were and that at any moment you may still encounter said bullet to your peril. I shall continue to counsel against it, as would any sane person. It is a very, very bad idea to assume that a gun is not loaded. For instance, if you aim your unloaded gun at a police officer you should be prepared for return fire. They will not place much confidence in the notion that the gun may be unloaded.

I am not content to play this game. I am not keen to see you lose your head.

I am very *much* not content if, as is the case here, you are gleefully pulling the triggers while the guns are pointed at another person's head. In fact, I am acting as proxy for the person whose head is in the line of fire. I am not at all content to conduct your experiment when it is my head that may take a bullet. I have had good use of my noggin, despite your doubts of its utility, and I intend to keep it as long as is practical.

I advise you to never play Russian roulette, BTW, if this is how you think about induction. It is your head, and your call, but I recommend against it.

It is *not*, however, your call to play the game, when the gun is pointed at someone else, certainly not me. I do not agree to this game and I do not think it reasonable that you insist we play. Arguing that it is 'fair' if we take turns pointing the gun at one another is of no comfort to me. I do not wish to play and you have no right to insist that I do.

It is a *bad* game and it is not at all necessary to play it. I am sure we can find amusement that is much less dangerous. In fact, I am even more sure of that than I am sure there is a bullet in one those guns and I am quite certain that there *is* a bullet in there.

As an aside (OMG), I would like to add that in the world of programming (about which someone claims this wiki is a 'serious technical forum' and about which I claim some expertise), this line of reasoning almost invariably brings you to grief. It is certainly a poor way around which to construct your testing. The world is full of programmers shrugging their shoulders and saying that they did not see that bug before. I can't think of an example off of the top of my head, but I am sure there are instances where you have to do multiple test runs and infer stability from that. However, in that case, your 'm' and your 'n' should be as large as practical and the only reliability you can assign to your software will be proportional to m. If possible, you should construct your tests for full coverage.

-- BobTrower -- [Now tired of this game]

Let me ask you: do you go driving, even knowing that fatal traffic accidents are routine, and that you might be the one doing the killing? Do you sit fearfully in the Driver's seat, carefully thinking about everyone else's wellbeing as you drive? Or has the driving-game-of-Russian-roulette become as routine for you as it has for so many others?

Well, let me ask you: do you regularly go driving on dirt roads during rain storms, along the sides of mountains, where a single slip can mean that you will fall off the edge of the mountain and likely die? There are people who have spoken against Mexican drug cartels, who have literally lost their heads because they lost their anonymity. Granted, this is an extreme case, but if you have reason you might be in a similar (albeit not as dire) need to mask your identity or hold your piece, then I would hope that you would sooner mask your identity, rather than remain silent. It should be your decision to travel down that muddy dirt road--it shouldn't be forced on you. We can learn from even the stubborn trollish idiot who refuses to change his ways, if only in the exercise of argument, and the resulting teaching moments for the ignorant who are willing to learn.

(Incidentally, I have driven on a road where someone and his fiance died, because they tried to go down that same road at night, in the fog. It was very beautiful, even at night, but I wouldn't want to drive down that road in fog; I also wouldn't want to be stuck on that particular mountain without being prepared for camping, though!)

It is funny you should mention that. I learned to drive many years ago before the seat-belt laws, but I learned with my girl-friend, whose dad was a police detective and seat-belts were always on. I have never driven without one. I am a careful driver and have never caused an accident. I have a six star rating (the best rating where we live). Still, I have been in about 1 crash every eight years. I have four times had people drive right into the side of me. All four times, I saw it coming, reacted quickly and in each instance I was moving away from them by the time they hit. It was still pretty jarring. I drive very defensively and always did, even *before* I was hit. I did not need the personal confirmation of an accident to make me drive sensibly.

One should not confuse caution with fear or recklessness with bravery.

I have a wife and children that I love. Despite my examples, I don't have a dog, but if I did, I would like him a lot more than I do those damn cats of ours. Where was I? Oh yes -- I *never* drive after I have been drinking. This is not for fear of being stopped, nor of injuring myself. To me, the worst thing that could ever happen is to cripple someone by driving recklessly. I do not sit fearfully in my car. I drive comfortably, with little thought. I have been driving for decades and it is as unconscious and natural as walking. However, I am mindful of the dangers and I have cultivated very good habits. I am always scanning the road, parked cars ahead, monitoring the other vehicles, etc. It is habit and I don't think about it consciously, but I sure wish other drivers were as careful as me. It has served me well.

I don't live in fear of anything, really. I have great concern and caution for the welfare of those in my charge. However, I am unnervingly comfortable most of the time and cool as ice in an emergency.

I have lived long enough to see lots of joy and sorrow. Even now, in my fifties, I have not entirely matured, but I learned to be brave from my late father. I have learned from my children to be mindful of the feelings of others (I'm still learning that, mind you). They also have made me brave. It is my duty as a father to be fearless for my kids and I am.

As I have gotten older, the centuries don't look so long to me anymore and I have learned to learn from my long dead elders. I have learned to take the lessons of history. One lesson: the price of freedom is constant vigilance.

I would like to be more of an activist, but I am constrained by my duties as an adult with a family. Things like this discussion are one of my ways of attempting to step up to the plate. I realize that truly terrible things are happening in other parts of the world and it grieves me. I can't help all of the people dying in Africa, but I can be good to the communities that surround me, do the right thing when I am able, etc. As it happens, a friend of mine and his wife spend a month every year in Africa helping people with Aids. I support and encourage him in this and I do my best to surround myself with that sort of profoundly decent people.

I am not a big believer in charity -- I think that as a society we should make sure that people have food and shelter and medical care, freedom of speech and security of their persons, etc. I don't think a good society forces some of its members to depend upon charity to live. However, as a realist, I *do* actually give a rather extraordinary amount back to the community. Software that I have written has helped to raise about a half-million dollars and counting for our local hospital and my company runs a charity site for them and my company has donated websites for a couple of local clubs. I do what I can.

I am not, despite what it might seem from the above, the activist or community participant that I wish I were. I just traded messages with rms (that fsf guy). He puts me (well, most of us) to shame. It is partly from correspondence with him in recent days that I decided to make this particular issue here a cause. He has his fingers on the pulse, as it were, of the nasty goings on in the world and he has an astounding ability to see into the future. If you root around on his site (, you will see that much of what is important that is happening in the world is not well reported. You will also get a sense of rms' amazing grasp of what is and what is not of importance and of his profound personal commitment to keep the world free and make it a better place. He is the only public person I really trust.

I do not think that it is hyperbole to say that RealNamesPlease is a harmful policy. If you look at history, the world can be astoundingly cruel and arbitrary at times. Danger can spring up suddenly and engulf people who are not wary and even the wary sometimes get snared. You will also see that many, if not most, ordinary people are decent and well meaning. I might be showing my fading idealism here, but I truly believe that most people want to do the right thing.

I have fallen down on the articulation front here. It is clear that I have not quite communicated the sense of *principle* involved. It is not really relevant whether or not somebody is directly and visibly injured due to the policies on this site. It is a more subtle issue of principle and culture that has an actual impact on the communities that surround this one. To the extent that this site trivializes privacy, it lends comfort to those who would use that to the disadvantage of others.

The world has always been a little nasty and brutish. However, technology has the capability of radically amplifying the harm that is done. It also has at least a little power (via the Internet and expressions such as this) to work against that and if we work together, maybe even to defeat it.

I find it troubling that we have a culture here (and I have been around here a long time, so I take some responsibility for it) that is so inward looking and so unconcerned about the welfare of those around us. Sure, this is a technical discussion site, I get it. But what good is it to build beautiful software if it goes into a world made ugly by our negligence?

If all of Cyberspace stands firmly against tyranny, it cannot prosper. To the extent that any of us lets down our guard, we give aid to the forces of evil. Are there, in fact, forces of evil? Yes, there are. I fear that with the DMCA, DRM, the WIPO, criminalization of civil offenses, the suspension of the most basic of common law rights such as habeas corpus, the gutting of the United States Constitution, national sovereignty being displaced by shadowy supra-national organizations, state sanctioned torture, illegal monitoring of the civilian population and ever greater encroachments on human rights, that the forces of evil are in their ascendancy right now.

Never mind that someone might be suffering from paranoia that the particular monitoring that is happening that day is happening to them. It is happening to somebody, of that you can be sure. Think of it as 'window dressing', if you wish; a statement. Let's make a statement and say, even though some of us may dissent and say that it is not *needed*, that we aggressively support and defend the right of all people to speak freely, here and elsewhere. Let's say that those who would suppress the right of people to give expression to their ideas, associate with their peers and participate in the commons will find no comfort here.

Everyone that feels they are *not* in any danger for making themselves known and speaking their minds should count themselves lucky. It is probably the exception rather than the rule these days. I encourage those people to celebrate their right to speak, so dearly paid for by generations past, while they still have the right. And a good thing to do with that voice, while it is still yours to use, is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and say with a single loud and clear voice that we will not tolerate encroachments on liberty here in our part of the world.


The presence of [C], [D], [E] means that [A]!=[B]

That means that [C], [D], [E] === [A]!=[B]

Substituting, we get:

[A]==[B] except when [A]!=[B].

You are correct that it is tautological. You are also correct in your (I presume) assumption that tautologies, by their nature are true. You are also correct that (certainly in this case) a tautology is 'empty' since it is true under any interpretation. Ironically, you have essentially proposed the exact construction of a formal tautology described by Wittgenstein. You can read a nice exposition about the notion of 'Tautology' on WikiPedia here:

Well, I deal with the whole thing in ever more detail above. Your bald, unsupported assertion that A = !A does not make it so. I assert that, on the face of it:

[A = !A] == FALSE by definition.

You wish, it seems, at every turn, to deny the truth of a proposition by shifting to a new one. Whereas my text is shot through with references and links and quotes, yours is shot through with bald assertions unsupported by (what I would call) valid arguments or even arguments at all. You win. I give up!

I do not believe I have stated anything equivalent to 'A = !A', though I suppose you offer the example rhetorically. Your references and arguments and examples and objections are internally inconsistent - e.g. you cannot argue against induction on one hand but use examples towards a conclusion on the other without having contradicted your policy. I'll try not to argue logic with you too much until you demonstrate a better grasp of it.

Here is what Wittgenstein himself said about that when he (presumably) coined the term:

" 4.461 Propositions show what they say; tautologies and contradictions show that they say nothing. A tautology has no truth-conditions, since it is unconditionally true: and a contradiction is true on no condition. Tautologies and contradictions lack sense. ... (For example, I know nothing about the weather when I know that it is either raining or not raining.)


4.462 Tautologies and contradictions are not pictures of reality. They do not represent any possible situations. For the former admit all possible situations, and latter none. In a tautology the conditions of agreement with the world--the representational relations--cancel one another, so that it does not stand in any representational relation to reality." -- LudwigWittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Free to a good family ... you can download Wittgenmeister's opus here:

Amusingly, Wittgenstein had this to say as well: "...what is the use of studying philosophy if ... it does not improve your thinking about the important everyday questions of life."

One of the things that drives me nuts about this wiki is that programmers *should* be rather more conversant with logic than the average bear and nearly all the logical arguments presented under color of 'logic' are horribly flawed in the most basic of ways.

I have made a statement. You have contradicted it and have attempted to do so under color of (I presume) formal logic. For your argument to hold, you must attack the actual argument. In fact, you concede that argument itself, (see above) and then proceed to construct a 'straw man' caricature which you even then fail to successfully refute. Seriously. I made an assertion with which you could not possibly have disagreed and then you countered with a 'straw man' with which you felt you could successfully take issue and you apparently still think so. I should have thought that somebody on a programming forum (presumably some kind of a programmer) would have taken one look at your statement in words, where you assert "absence of evidence IS evidence of absence except when certain conditions are met..." and immediately realized without any analysis that it fails utterly. All three of the below are true and only one has to be satisfied to render your entire argument (as argument qua argument) a failure:

(A) It does not speak to the actual question at hand (B) It is trivially true and meaningless as a construct (C) The thing you are actually attempting to assert ("absence of evidence IS evidence of absense" (sic)) is wrong on its face.

-- Bob Trower

Your comprehension of logic, more accurately your lack thereof, is depressing. (C) Absence of evidence is evidence of absence is true when the evidence should be available and obvious. (B) It is not a meaningless construct; indeed, the ability for a theorem to predict something observable (i.e. predict evidence that should be obvious), and confirmation of said predictions, is the entire basis by which science progresses to include new theorems. (A) It does speak to the issue at hand. You have raised "absence of proof is not proof of absence" several times in your rants as though to point out we haven't proven people aren't being persecuted for writing on WikiWiki and therefore we should assume they might be; but the fact is that such persecution isn't something we'd expect to pass unmentioned, thus in this case the absence of evidence is evidence that such persecution is not occurring.

Also, that spelling error 'absense' is your own.

I understand what you are saying. Your premises are, in my opinion, simply false. Despite what you may have heard, your line of reasoning is pretty shaky, even if you admit (which I do not) that your premises are sound.

I strongly believe that you have not entirely followed the argument that you are quoting, even though you quote it accurately enough. It does not apply here. Rather, it does not hold because your premises are false. In my opinion, your notion of what constitutes inductive validity is flawed.

I would like to note that we are rather talking at cross purposes here. You are working at the wrong level of abstraction. This, as mentioned before is not a philosophical dispute about the provability of the *existence* of my dog, it is an attempt to prevent his demise by shutting down the possibility that we may be discovered and he may be punished for something I said. There is ample evidence that what I worry about is at least possible. There is no evidence that there is anything beyond a trivial price to pay to ensure his survival and that the price *can* be less than me losing my right to express myself. At the end of the day, I love my dog and I want to be sure, however sadly misguided you may feel I am, that he remains by my side.

In fairness, were one to use induction and do 100 trillion trials of something you could be quite sure you would find within a hundred and you never find it, then you are on solid ground. That would still *only* be true if you could somehow be fairly certain that you had done a trillion times the necessary trials and even then you only have a high probability and not a certainty. Still, you would have a good argument and I would believe you. However, I am not really logically bound to do so. It just looks like a good bet.

If everyone in the world held a fair coin and started calling and flipping, a few people would be dead certain at flip 20 that the coin they held had heads both sides and a few would be certain their coin had tails both sides. Ten flips later, it is probable that at least one would be completely certain, having not seen the other side in 30 tosses, because "what are the odds?" Well, the odds are (roughly) 2^33:2^30 = 8:1 FOR. The odds for one individual are roughly one in a billion, so it would look pretty convincing to them. They would still be wrong, though and the odds of the other side of the coin coming up on the next toss would still be 50:50.

I was, for a time, very interested in the philosophy of science, so I know that it is not all cut and dried the way one might learn in School.


"During the twentieth century, thinkers such as Karl Popper and David Miller have disputed the existence, necessity and validity of any inductive reasoning, including probabilistic (Bayesian) reasoning [3]. Some say scientists still rely on induction[citation needed] but Popper and Miller dispute this: Scientists cannot rely on induction simply because it does not exist."

I do not quite 'grok' your constant return to 'science'. Are you a working scientist? Scientists in the field (ones I know anyway), are not nearly so prone as you seem to be to frame things as a science experiment. I get about a quarter of my income from grant funded research. Like programming and perhaps even more so, science (in my circles) is not nearly as tidy as the post-hoc analysis would lead you to believe. Great science is like great literature, great music, great art or any other pursuit of beauty. It is true that one forms a hypothesis and then tests. I do that all the time. Most of the tests are either (it seems trivially) positive or disappointingly negative. That heavy lifting, however admirable, is not what it is all about. As with an artist, the talent of a great scientist is in his eyes, not his hands. It is the seeing, the vision, the ideas that drive great science. I was going to list a bunch, but there are just too many great ones, I refuse to leave any out by making a choice.

Great scientists really use their noggins.

In the case of NoRealNamesPlease under discussion, people who get disappeared for speaking out do not 'phone home' to discuss it. The media is not too keen to report on the unpleasant realities of life.

You would think that if the financial industry were going to get a $700,000,000,000.00 handout from the U.S. government there would have been a little discussion about that during the primaries. Same thing with the annihilation of the auto industry. Do you honestly believe that nobody knew that was happening?

Here's a cheery link to the unfortunate 16 year old Canukistan boy who was tortured at Guantanamo. You would sure think that if something *that* bad was going on, you would have heard about it. Well, we just didn't.

By your line of reasoning, we should wait until we have irrefutable evidence of somebody specifically on here who 'got disappeared' because their identity was discovered on this site. Before we inconvenience ourselves with people whose expressions annoy us.

From what I can tell, we have plenty of evidence that if something like that happens, we will be the last ones to hear about it. We also have plenty of evidence that it is a possibility because bad stuff like that has already happened.

To return to the main point, there is no reasonable justification for RealNamesPlease. It is a foolhardy risk. That you fail to perceive a danger there and feel safe is no evidence at all that it is not there. This is not, much as you would like it to be, a candidate for your (still tenuous) notion of inductive evidence that it is not there.

Even if we live in some imagined 'Care Bear' world where nobody will ever be mean to someone on, there is no reason to close the door to people who (understandably) feel otherwise. I don't agree with you, but even if I did, it is not our call.

Safety of one's person and freedom of speech are important rights that should be held dear and not placed in jeopardy on a whim. RealNamesPlease is, I think, motivated by a good intentions, but it is still wrong. It is still rather mean-spirited, in my opinion, to remove from people, a priori, their right to choose for themselves to speak from a position that makes them feel free to speak.

Re: it is entirely unscientific to assume that a given policy (like RealNamesPlease) is problematic until there is evidence to believe it problematic.

Boy. I know more than a little about science. I don't think we have to mount a major research project to establish that people can be persecuted for their speech. If the ability to speak freely were not an issue, it would not be popping up in constitutions and human rights documents all the time. I am not going to pollute the wiki with (more) evidence that people have been persecuted for their speech. It abounds on the Internet, in libraries, in the news and most people who speak freely have likely experienced it first hand.

All safety precautions are based on statistics or paranoia. Only one of those two is scientific.

Uh... this is not predominately scientific inquiry here, nor should it be.

So we should just take Bob's word for it?

It is not really relevant, so people may feel free to refactor and remove this. However, I feel based on the above, that someone might think it is: I was trained as a scientist and worked as one in an honest to goodness research laboratory and am more than a little familiar with both the scientific method and the philosophy of science. Statistics is not 'scientific' as such and there is a famous book called 'how to lie with statistics' that speaks to the frailty of statistics in the hands of non-experts (and I would argue experts as well). As it so happens, I do most of the stats on projects I work on and statistics are an integral part of my ongoing grant-funded research project at my little company. Statistics might enlighten this debate and they may not. However, they are hardly essential to it.

With respect to "statistics or paranoia" -- this is a FalseDichotomy. I have no statistics at all on the effects of falling into hot lava. They may be available, but I don't have them and I don't need them to safely say that it is a good idea to take precautions not to fall into hot lava if it happens to be nearby. If I were on the edge of a live volcano and told to fasten a safety harness, I would not consider the person telling me that to be suffering from paranoia. -- BobTrower

Your idea that falling into hot lava is dangerous is based on statistics and actual observations. You don't need to know the statistics for the basis to be there. The idea that lava is a serious danger presenting itself to users of WikiWiki is not based on statistics, and one would be paranoid to think that WikiWiki needs a new class of firewalls to protect users from lava pouring from their monitors. I feel about the same of your claims that my comments on WikiWiki are going to come back and result in my dog being shot, my children being persecuted, and my village burned to the ground.

I have demonstrated right here on this page evidence that being identifiable on this wiki can make you identifiable elsewhere, even when you used a pseudonym.

There is already plenty of evidence that it is *way* problematic to insist on RealNamesPlease. I have already said above that I don't think we need to wait until there is clear evidence that somebody specific has been harmed *enough*, due specifically to something they wrote here, before we allow people to make their own judgment about whether or not they should identify themselves here.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, SPAM was not really a problem. People used to leave open relays as a courtesy to others. Some people, even after SPAM became a problem, insisted on leaving their systems up as open relays. I don't think people make a conscious decision to set up a WAN-facing open relay anymore, but there was a long period where it was plain it was a bad idea, but people debated it long after it was placing a terrible burden on us all. Open relays, though a charming and selfless idea are a danger to the public good.

Similarly, though it is a seductive notion that people be encouraged to sign their work, it is a bad idea. It really is not a question of *if* it will hurt someone. It is only a question of when and whether or not it comes to our attention. That is, it may already have happened and be happening while we debate this point.

This is silliness. If you're worried about being persecuted for your speech, either don't speak, don't sign your name, or use a realistic pseudonym unique to this forum. Nobody will know, or care, whether your realistic pseudonym is "real" or not.

As for the "seductive" notion that people be encouraged to sign their work, it is perfectly appropriate to a serious technical forum (which this is), as no OnTopic posting here should be so controversial as to risk dog shootings. It is no different from signing your name to a technical book, magazine or journal article, newspaper editorial, or any other traditional-media published work authored by you. Of course, some people are concerned (whether justified or not) about their privacy in such contexts. They use pseudonyms. You can too.

None of "Don't speak", "Don't sign" or use a non-vested "realistic pseudonym" are solutions to the problems mentioned with respect to RealNamesPlease. They don't work. In fact, none of them even address the issue that created this page.

Re: appropriate to a serious technical forum ... no OnTopic posting here should be so controversial as to risk dog shootings.

This just should not be an issue that you worry about self-censoring if you live in a place where the wrong words can cause you harm. One should not have to delicately steer oneself through 'onTopic' rocks to avoid danger. Who decides what is appropriately 'onTopic' and who ensures that all 'onTopic' threads have no political fallout? Nobody should have to worry if there is any reason to worry at all. Just because you lack the ability to imagine what you consider from your position of (imagined) safety to be innocuous expression does not make it so. Here is what at least some people feel is happening right now a couple of hundred miles from U.S. soil:

"The government also counts on self-censorship. In Cuba, you can get a 20-year prison sentence for writing a few 'counter-revolutionary' articles for foreign websites, and a five-year one just for connecting with the Internet in an illegal manner. Few people dare to defy the state censorship and take such a risk."

You might argue that such activity would never happen on this wiki. There are two problems with that: (1) as already explained (and demonstrated above) it is easy to connect an utterance on one site with the identity of someone on another site. If they exist in the clear at either site (RealNamesPlease asks them to exist in the clear here), then they can be identified at the other. A casual conversation about the SimpletonPattern here (where you follow RealNamesPlease and announce to the world who you are) and a sidelong shot, en passant, at Fidel elsewhere (where your guard was down because you thought you were anonymous) and, it's off to prison for you. (2) Since the suppression of speech by jailing people is already out to lunch, what makes you so sure that impassioned arguments in favor of the SimpletonPattern will not be considered an offense by future regimes? Heck, given the arbitrary nature of it all, what makes you so sure the subject of the utterance is even relevant? Speaking at all may be a crime.

Re: They use pseudonyms. You can too.

Well, I expect I *should* be able to. However, there is a considerable pressure to *not* use vested pseudonyms on this wiki and that is what this whole (now very long) page is about. Yes, I *should* be able to. RealNamesPlease tries to coerce a social norm here that you *not* use a vested identity other than your MeatSpace one. If what you say is true, then both this NoRealNamesPlease and RealNamesPlease would not be on this wiki. There is one problem, though, with just saying "oh, all right then, you and a few others with things to hide can use your silly pseudonyms". If the *ONLY* people who are anonymous are dissidents in danger then you have just provided the forces of evil with an excellent way to round them all up. Just separate the real ones from the fake ones, round up the fakes and drag them off to jail. If everybody who is *not* in danger uses their real names, then you can concentrate all the powers of the state attempting to crack the real identities of the fakes and make them pay for their heretical speech. When all but one step back, the one left in front becomes an unwilling volunteer.

Re: It is no different from signing your name to a technical book, magazine or journal article, newspaper editorial, or any other traditional-media published work authored by you.

I agree with you there. However, the conclusion you draw that it somehow bolsters the argument in favor of RealNamesPlease is demonstrably false. The expressions 'pen name' and 'nom de plume' predate this discussion, this wiki and the net itself. They are to be found in most traditional written media at least. Pseudonyms are common enough that they have three names or more. The whole purpose is to obscure the identity of the author. Sometimes it is playful. Lirpa Loof publishes every April 1st in our local newspaper. That is, of course, not her real name. However, one of the reasons for a pen name is "to protect the author from retribution for his or her writings".

This *would* be a silly discussion if freedom of speech were not such a fragile thing and the penalties so arbitrary, strange and capricious. As it happens (unrelated to this discussion, pure co-incidence) I am reading a book called "Shakedown!" by Ezra Levant. In it, he exposes the shameful 'Human Rights' commissions in Canada that drag people (him, in one case) in front of Kangaroo courts for things they *say*. They take the full power of the state and use it to crush free speech by bankrupting anyone whose speech offends certain people. That means, for instance, if I had a particularly low opinion of a group one is not allowed to criticize and took it to my 'anonymous' Blog on Advogato, I could actually lose my house. If that can happen to a University educated, white, middle aged, middle class Canadian born male citizen living in a small town in Canada, with a wife who is a respected doctor and 'poster child' kids, a spotless record, his own small business and good standing in the community, well then I would say that it is not too far-fetched that it might be possible that it could happen to others. In Canada, the wrong words can ruin you financially. In other parts of the world, consequences could be considerably more severe.

"There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust." -- Demosthenes

 -- BobTrower

I can appreciate your points, but I assumed we were talking about this Wiki rather than in general. If so, keep in mind that the code base is frozen and unlikely to change before the heat-death of the universe, thus precluding any technical means of maintaining a private but uniquely-recognisable identity. As such, you have only a few options: Obviously, there are a handful of exceptions. Top is known as Top, Ph1lp is known as Ph1lp, and I'm sure there are others that I've forgotten. Note that RealNamesPlease is a request, rather than an enforced policy. It's one that exists with good reason, and one whose origins clearly lie in the inevitable perception of juvenility from the outside (and actual juvenility on the inside) that results when people use NickNames. I often suspect Top would be treated with more respect, or at least more polite tolerance, if he signed with his RealName (or at least something that looks like one) rather than "Top" or "-t".
Re:code base is frozen

Unless I missed a meeting, this should have no effect on what I am proposing, which is simply that, should I choose, I can use 'MrPeepers109" [I hereby repudiate that, BTW, just in case it shows up somewhere, it ain't me] as a vested identity for a signature that I also use in other places to create a real persona and then get here through anonymous proxies. I can't see how this requires a code change at your end. However, since you bring it up, it does appear to have a few things that might be improved. It fails (for me at least), rather more than I would expect.

With respect to the re-iteration of material from the page this is designed to argue against, I assure you I can read as well as write. I have been a member of this community for many years. I am acquainted with your customs, even if I don't find them all palatable.

All of what you suggest are, not solutions to the problems that NoRealNamesPlease attempts to address.

Re: "It's discouraged, but we won't know the difference."

Why should people who have reasons to maintain an anonymous vested identity, be relegated to tolerated partial participants in this environment? It is unseemly to question their motivation. There are, broadly, as described here, many good reasons one would wish to be discrete. I would not pester someone for the precise reason they choose to exercise the right to their privacy precisely because the question itself is an affront to that privacy. Arguably, the majority of potential participants in such a forum would wish, for whatever reason, to keep their privacy. I feel no need to pry. Why do you?

Re: "It's one that exists with good reason, and one whose origins clearly lie in the inevitable perception of juvenility ... that results when people use NickNames?."

I emphatically disagree that fundamental human rights and genuine matters of safety and liberty, especially of people's children (yeah -- it's a harsh world:, should be trumped by your discomfort with expression you do not like. We shall simply have to agree to disagree on this. I am quite aware, more than you might think, how tedious it is to deal with SPAM and juvenile behavior. I could hardly dignify the notion that everyone should shed their privacy and expose their children to harm so that I am not inconvenienced by SPAM.

Re: "I often suspect Top would be treated with more respect ... if he signed with his RealName ..."

Well, you speak eloquently to my point here. Yes, this environment is highly coercive when it comes to attempting to pry into people's privacy and at least some here are not at all mindful of the consequences that might bring or the ongoing effect it has of inhibiting speech. Indeed, those who choose to exercise the right to privacy *are* indeed treated poorly for making that choice. Unlike you, I place the blame on the policy and the hostile culture rather than the perfectly reasonable choice of a person to maintain their privacy.

Again, I think we will just have to agree to disagree here. Clearly, RealNamesPlease is discriminatory, improperly invasive, breeds a culture of disrespect for (one presumes them to be, in polite society) innocents, skews, perverts and poisons debate here and sets a poor example for people outside of this community.

Yes, we are programmers. I am, anyway. However, we are also human beings, as are our brethren. I am proud of my craft. It took tens of thousands of hours to master. However, I consider myself to be a responsible member of the body politic, father, husband, son, brother and friend first. They come ahead of my role as a programmer. My responsibility, and I suggest yours too, lies first with being a good member of the community outside this environment before considering what it means to be a 'good' member inside this environment. If it conflicts with the public good and a significant number of members and potential members of this community, then I think the rule should change.

Article 12 of the UN declaration of Human rights reads as follows:

"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

RealNamesPlease conflicts directly with that article. It is instructive to read the entire thing ( The policy you attempt to defend here is arguably in conflict at some level with more articles than it is not. Certainly it either conflicts directly with or invites conflict with Articles 1(equal dignity and rights),2(without distinction of any kind),3(security of person),7(all are equal),12(privacy),18(freedom of thought, conscience),19(freedom of expression),27(participate in cultural life). It really is quite a dreadful policy or 'guideline'.

It is troubling that people I would expect to apply the spirit of 'wiki' everywhere, can't seem to find it in their hearts to apply not only it, but basic human rights within the wiki itself. Sure, this is a somewhat private club and the proprietors have some right to decide who they invite in. However, given its tenure and highly public nature, it is at least a little unsavory that it attempts to exact the waiver of fundamental rights as the price of entry.

-- BobTrower

First, please note that the page is RealNamesPlease, not RealNamesRequired. The distinction is significant.

Second, re "... what I am proposing, which is simply that, should I choose, I can use 'MrPeepers109' ..." It is precisely that sort of NickName which is deprecated, and primarily why "RealNamesPlease" was created. Use of such NickNames gives this forum the juvenile taint of 'blogs and Web forums populated with fanboys, "haterz" and ranters, rather than what it is -- a serious Web-based technical publication akin to academic journals and books. Just as with academic journals and published books, you may use a realistic pseudonym, though RealNames are encouraged there too. However, some choose to use pseudonyms, and for all intents and purposes they serve as a RealName.

Finally, Top has not been forced to compromise his privacy by any regular contributor here (I can't speak for FlyingVisitors, however), though his real RealName is easily found. My point is that if he called himself JohnThompson (not his real name) or whatever, it's more likely he'd be psychologically perceived as a real human being and less as a "text creature" -- a perception that NickNames encourage.
How could this possibly be true? A free country setting up kangaroo courts? Impossible! (That is until I typed the following and checked out some of the links produced by it): Among the links produced is one quite extensive treatment of the issues of courts and human rights, prepared by the Government of Canada.

Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. In fact, the above is worse than you might think because the commissions go to 'intent' and hence, as they analyze your intent, you are being vetted for a 'thoughtcrime'. One wonders how bad a government has to get before the people revolt.

To be fair to my fellow Canukistans, this all came from good intentions. It just went off the rails as government enterprises are wont to do.

If you have suffered reading through this whole thing, I apologize for the length and the argumentative tone. I make plenty of mistakes myself, (probably more than average on a first cut), so if I imply that I disrespect the minds of those with whom I disagree, it is just a stylistic thing and you should not take it personally. I am thinking in particular about the discussion of logic above, which is admittedly a little raw. It sounds condescending, but that is more a failure of my mode of expression than a reflection of my actual feeling. There are plenty of mentions of Wittgenstein on this wiki already (I am not responsible for them all), so I think it is fair game to bring him up and the version of Tractatus mentioned above is a more amusing read (for the nerdly) than you might think. It is worth a look.

Breakdowns of logic abound on the Internet. If it is a logical fallacy, you can find it being staunchly defended somewhere and the adherents appear impenetrable to any form of dissuasion. Here is a place that attempts to catalog the many ways arguments can fall apart:

I would like to point out one in particular, lest people feel I am too smug in my apprehension that an argument being a logical failure necessarily refutes the proposition it attempts to prove:

Clearly, if you say all butterflies have wings therefore ripe bananas are yellow, your argument is a failed one (non-sequitor?). However, ripe bananas are, by and large, still yellow, no matter the logical proof is incorrect.

This place is no worse than others. However, I do not think it unfair that I hold (presumptive) professional programmers to a higher standard with respect to logic and argument. It is, I believe, something of a job requirement to be able to handle at least elementary logic.

I also do not think it unfair to hold wikizens to at least a standard of civility commensurate with basic human rights. Heck, I think they can do even better, if they try. -- BobTrower

Ideally, yes. Unfortunately, we're human, and therefore we suck.

Well, this just got away on me. I officially give people the 'go ahead' to RefactorMercilessly if I don't get back to do it myself. I am not sure what one does with the joyful polemics/flamewars here. It seems a shame to throw them away, but the page is now dysfunctional with all that junk in there. It violates HCI principles, if nothing else. If it were me, I would:

If someone were ambitious, they could refactor the discussions of various things onto separate pages.

The 'absence of evidence is evidence of absence' debate (stripped of polemic if possible) is a good one. If it exists elsewhere, whatever substance there is should be moved there. If it does not, I think it is deserving of a page. It *is*, in fact, somewhat controversial and will likely be revisited in other discussions.

The discussion of tautology is a good one, but I am not entirely certain it is needed and it is easy enough to recapture.

The discussion that lead to a discussion of tautology is pointless, IMO. It just takes up too much room and has more heat than light.

I think the Russian roulette analogy is 'cute'. I'm not sure where it might belong -- perhaps on a page discussing induction, which, according to Messrs. Popper and Miller at least is not without controversy.

We will have to completely redo the dog analogy. Though I find it humorous, it is too obtuse. It is better to simply point out the evidence that people *do* come to harm for their speech and leave the poor dog out of it. Were it to go on much longer, he might discover that he is fictional and that might cause him distress to the point where we had to put him down ourselves. Yep, I said it. Shoot the dog and have done with it. It is a harsh reality, but he has served his purpose.

There is, I think, some merit, long term, in looking at the empirical evidence for *actual* injury here or elsewhere. What do the logs actually say about the geographic origin of visitors?

Clearly, some of the evidence is out of scope for this wiki, IMO. However, it should reside somewhere so that we can point to it.

The rhetoric, much as I love it, will have to go. Not sure what happens to that. Maybe it can be plunked onto BobTrower as a personal take on the importance of activism or whatever whilst I mull it over.

I would like to somehow compact the arguments presented *for* RealNamesPlease along with the rebuttals. I think that proponents speak eloquently to the features of RealNamesPlease that I consider to be MisFeatures and the fact that they say it themselves lends it more force. It is currently sort of sprinkled about.

I think the demonstration as to how easily even a crude Google search can be used to 'out' someone is valuable and needed to support some of the arguments here. However, it is long enough that it likely hinders reading comprehension if plunked into the body of the page. It should go on a separate page and probably within the Wiki to keep it together. However, what 'category' do we have for that and what would be an appropriate naming convention? I have no idea. Suggestions welcome.

The RealNamesPlease page could use a 'brush up', IMO. Perhaps that could be done at the same time so that points match up and readers can more easily compare the points of view.

Here is a radical notion: I just plain flat out think that RealNamesPlease is an idea that is wrong. Were it up to me, the policy would be deprecated entirely in favor of 'VestedNamesPlease?' (which I think is preferable to anonymous, unsigned or the ill-fated DramaticWhatever?). My real concern is that it be possible to create real proxies that allow the meatspace resident to both assert their existence properly (to the point that money could be managed) without ever compromising their meatspace identity (even under attack). However, if the community is dead set against people being allowed to post properly under a meaningful (vested elsewhere) pseudonymous handle, then maybe this entire argument should be moved back to the place from whence it came and this page should be 'stubbed' with a pointer to the NoRealNamesPlease dissent on another site and a brief affirmation that it is simply policy that RealNamesPlease stands, arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

Examples of human rights abuses abound and it would be good to get a separate page for that so that the particular point can be made as a 'standalone' and beefed up to really make its point.

Despite my learned colleague's protestations, I think that references to logical argumentation, particularly *deductive* arguments and accompanying fallacies should have a home somewhere here. Even if people simply can't understand fallacy of false choice/dichotomy/dilemma, ad hominem, compound, appeals, straw man, burden of proof, Post hoc ergo propter hoc, bandwagon, begging, etc, it should be made available and there should be some sort of reference back to that when people are trying to make a point. Also, of course, a couple of samples of basic forms like syllogisms and a discussion of the *proper* limits of various forms. I think that if people see examples in action they would stop making me crazy.

-- BobTrower


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