Using Signatures

Signatures On the other hand, signatures: Rather than signing "your" statement, some people make semi-anonymous comments, but allow their UserName to show up in RecentChanges. Sometimes people use SignedDocumentMode (they add their name ExactlyOnce to a Contributors: and/or a Interested: section on the page, rather than signing their name to each and every paragraph they wrote). This is good because ... On the other hand, this ...

Not trying to pursue the debate over to sign or not to sign, but rather as an aside... I've been watching RecentChanges for a year or two as a full-scale junkie. Historically, then: Kent often doesn't sign his posts. Ward rarely signs his. I'd advise a wiki-ist to periodically peruse the WikiIceberg, seek out the dumb comments, and make sure they aren't just something that was unhearable at the time. -- MichaelHill (signed in deference)
I've been watching somewhat with dismay, as the signatures have decreased, with the increase of flippant (I-wouldn't-want-to-sign-that) short retorts where earlier there were discussions. I think not signing gives one a greater freedom to be quick and irresponsible in the posting. I don't sign when I want my identity to get lost in the noise. I sign when I'm willing to stick by my posting. -- AlistairCockburn

Curious. I sign when I'm participating in a discussion in ThreadMode; I don't sign when I'm writing something longer and more substantial, because I think it's best for such things to belong to the whole Wiki community. However, I always sign if I'm saying something controversial that "the whole Wiki community" mightn't want. At least 80% of what I write here is unsigned. -- GarethClaumann?

Do I want to go back and erase my sigs? (This is kind of a RedHerring, as I haven't written anything deep enough to get your shoes wet.) I want any input of mine that survives a week to be <ahem> "Public Domain" in the true sense. I hate the aspect of Berne that says that anything published using any medium is copyright until the author releases it. Or did I get that wrong? I have never found a full text of Berne available anywhere. So, do I blow my sigs away, or what? -- MartyClaumann? (scratching head)

Maybe I'm over-sensitive from too much SlashDot, but anonymous contributions often seem antagonistic. e.g. two recent comments on some more-or-less empty pages were "does it really bother you so much" and "so what's your point" - the pages were probably redundant, but the comments certainly were. A name makes such a comment seem far more friendly. I can't explain why.

The purpose of a signature on a work of art is to identify the artist with the work. Since any page can be edited, changed, modified, partially erased, reworded, there is no ownership and identity which can be guaranteed. Even if a work is signed, there is no way you can be sure that the signer is the same as the signature indicates, and that contents have not been altered since the signature. Perhaps the only exception is in quotes which come from another source, such as an article, book, web site or historical document. The pages and the content belong to no-one and everyone, and unless some convention which is followed is established to attach meaning to a signature on work produced, the signature can only serve as a convenience. One should when contributing to this wiki, consider that the work posted bears a signature, if only the computer from which it was posted. The concern for a SlashDot effect apply most generally to OffTopic or highly controversial topics, which are not in the majority of content. You can tell something of the author by the content and tone of the post, many times the quality and nature of the post is such that you may say, I wish that I had said that! Pages which generate this kind of response are the pages that endure and mature. -- MarkRogers

(moved from PreferAnonymousContributions)

On UserName

I'm interested in why Keith would PreferAnonymousContributions. I kind of liked seeing the names in RecentChanges -- when they were showing up. -- PhilGoodwin

Phil, I'm convinced. Anonymizer has convinced me. Signatures are mostly good. KB

Phil, I'm not sure I can explain this, but I'll try.

Personally, I go through phases: sometimes I sign every contribution/edit I make, sometimes I sign none, and vary inbetween times, depending on mood, the subject, the tone of the page and so on. Having the contributor's domain (usually) visible on RecentChanges slightly interfered with that mechanism because the RecentChangesJunkie(s) learned to recognise their peers by domain name, even their location, home/work whatever. Having the UserName displayed on RecentChanges completely breaks it: Wiki now signs everything for me.

I feel that this interferes with the (generally desired) collaborative nature of Wiki.

Do UserName, and set your name to "AnonymousDonor." If several people do this, then you will really be anonymous.

Hmmmm, what was it about technology creating problems that only (more)technology can solve? This solution forces the issue the other way, since I might then want to sign contributions seeming to have come from AnonymousDonor.

There must be something here that I'm missing: what in fact is the benefit of having any kind of ID present on RecentChanges?

PhilGoodwin: Well, I think that you're a smart guy. I don't have enough time to read everything on Wiki but I certainly would like to see anything that you've written because I know that I like your work. If I can see your name in RecentChanges that makes things easier for me. Your individual contributions can still be anonymous for purposes of copyright, readability and posterity. The signature that RecentChanges imposes on your work lasts only until someone else makes a contribution to the same page or the page name scrolls off the top. I think that it might also help people to be more careful about what they say here if they have to lay their credibility on the line every time they say something.

That's a very nice thing to say Phil, thanks. I hadn't considered this filtering angle too deeply. I'll have to think about this some more. --KB

I, JeffGrigg, sign my work in RecentChanges, though I'm often not signing my contributions in the text. Reason: I'm taking responsibility for what I do, without taking "ownership" in a way that prevents others from changing my contributions.

That is, if you don't like a change I've made, you know who to yell at. And, since the change itself is unsigned, you should also feel free to correct it.

This seems to combine the best of joint ownership: You know I did it, but you're free to change it. -- JeffGrigg

I'm taking responsibility for what I do, without taking "ownership" in a way that prevents others from changing my contributions.

That's a very good distinction to draw Jeff. And a much more sophisticated interpretation of RecentChanges than I had in mind when I made my comments on UserName.--KB

(moved text from ToSignOrNotToSign)

In our VisualFoxPro wiki at, we've started the convention of appending our names to a list of contributors at the bottom of the page. This seems to mostly satisfy all concerns. [Once upon a time] I did this to this page. Just as an experiment. Of course, it's still appropriate to sign as you see fit...
Sometimes commentary is added to a wiki page that is not signed. On other pages, every commentary is signed. Occasionally one sees a request (or an implicit criticism), that wiki authors sign their contributions. How do we feel about all this?

A note: under no circumstances is this conversation intended to produce a set of rules for signing or not signing. I am simply curious about how people feel about the matter.

See also ThreadModeConsideredHarmful and InPraiseOfThreadMode. The first paragraph of GoodStyle suggests the founders take on this issue.
I sign contributions that I have made that...

I purposefully do not sign most of my contributions, primarily to avoid the fourth bullet being assumed. A fundamental wiki value to me is that our wiki text be open to editing by others. -- MichaelHill
I've signed more things here than any other person. That makes me feel bad, for some reason. So I'm saying less ... and signing less of what I say. Maybe this, too, is the wrong thing.
MichaelHill's (personal) rules for signing sound pretty reasonable. I'd add one more:

This rule may in one sense be redundant -- contributions to ThreadMode discussions probably fall under the "... tend to contain personal context" rule more often than not. Still, I think it's worth enunciating. Even if you fall in the ThreadModeConsideredHarmful camp (I personally do not), there's rarely anything gained by not signing a contribution to a page that's already gone ThreadMode (and there are a lot of them around).
Once in thread mode, unsigned comments can be confusing, as it's not immediately clear where one voice ends and the next begins. When I add a comment to the end and sign it, I don't really want it to look like I wrote all the comments. I'm not sure that alternating italics with plain text is sufficient, as people may use italics within a single person's posting too, rendering it ambiguous. So "AnonymousDonor" may mean "who said this?" or it might just mean "I wrote the comments after this, but not this one." I'm open to suggestions!
(Although part of the wiki experience is to write without assuming a unique voice. Such words are a gift that might grow beyond that possible any other way.)
Since I don't know very many of the people on Wiki personally, I am all for signing contributions. This way you get a feel for the people behind the text.

Actually, I am new to this, and on several more anonymous (unsigned) pages I like the feeling of getting to know the *text* itself rather then the people. No offense, obviously...
I think that the top most section of the page should not be signed. It should be an assertion of what the main theme of the page is and therefore does not belong to any one person. Comments beyound that are appended beneath it in thread mode and are signed because they are personal opinions.

If you have a page you wish to create and have some personal perspective to contribute as well. Create the top most portion as an assertion without personal perspective, draw a line and then add your personal point of view with signature all at the same time.

For example if I wanted to say I don't like white cats I could create a IhateWhiteCats? page and put "I hate them" on it. But instead, I would rather create a WhiteCats? page, put at the top "White cats are cats with solid white fur." then draw a line and then put "I hate them. -- SpotTheDog?"

Flippant or humorous one liners need not be signed.
Contributors: JeffGrigg, RonJeffries, ThomasMaeder, CurtisBartley, MichaelHill, StevenBlack, DonWells

Moved from AddingNewPages:

I like the feeling of community property that you get when pages aren't signed. That means that anybody can edit them. Even if an author says you can edit a page, if it has someone's name on it, I feel a little inhibited editing it. -- RalphJohnson

Hmm. I see your point; however, I also like knowing whose strong opinion a page represents. If a page is unsigned, you can't track down its originator for further discussion. (Candidly, I am inhibited from signing by the fear that people will realize whose damnfool idea got added to an otherwise impeccable page.) -- BetsyHanesPerry

I think this page is a very good example of how we can mix unsigned and signed Wiki entries. Unsigned entries invite community corrections and revision right inside of the original text.

If you want the community to comment on and discuss your entry (without inviting modifications to the original text), you sign it. With the exception of formatting and grammar edits, most people seem to leave signed entries unchanged.

-- ToddCoram

I sign partly because I feel I have a responsibility to keep what I have written from detracting from the discussion. So I sign things so I can go back later and see if they furthered the action or inhibited it. It they inhibited it, I take them out or reduce them. see FixYourWiki -- JonGrover
Every letter is its own signature. Every word is its own book. So today I am 'Tylor' and the next person may post as me tomorrow and also be 'Tylor'. Such greediness as insisting upon naming an author is tantamount to chopping down this tree and binding the stump with rings of CopyrightAndIrony?.
[moved from SignContributionsIfYouWant]

The ideas you enter here should be thought of as a gift to the community. Gifts in the physical world are sometimes improved by signatures. A photograph, a book, an original work of art, all of these take on more meaning when signed. The gift is expected to stay whole and perhaps even be revered. Some postings here are like that. But there are a lot of postings here that are more like a box of lego bricks - meant to be mixed in with the rest. You could sign each lego brick to make sure that its source were forever recognized. Or you could just let them go. A helping hand with a tough job is a gift too. But extracting too much recognition for the help detracts from the gift. The same happens here. I offer this simple test: do you have to refer to yourself to make your story whole? If so, a signature is probably appropriate. If not, try writing without including yourself. You might be surprised how that makes you feel. -- WardCunningham


See also WithoutSignature, UsingSignatures

See also: InPraiseOfThreadMode, ThreadModeConsideredHarmful, ThreadModeCorrected, TypesOfSignature, ToSignOrNotToSign, WithoutSignature

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