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pseudonyms & list health

P.M. remarked in exasperation a little while ago that
he thought that some of the best minds had been lost in list
attrition due to high traffic, naming some people who had
seemingly dropped from the list (Bill Stewart? Phil Karn?)

but what if these people had just stopped subscribing under
their clear name? and started using a pseudonym?

this brings to light the idea that credibility is hard won,
and that it is hard to get, and that people need all the
credibility that they can achieve. it seems that virtually
all accomplishments are credibility-enhancing, and people
only "notch down" their reputation estimations in extreme

hence, what I am suggesting is that one
of the "stable attractors"  that TM is always talking about
may be a reality in which people pool most of their accomplishments
under a single nym. furthermore, they will wish to avoid conflict
with other nyms in respect to attribution. 
isn't this, functionally, the equivalent of the supposed
anti-cypherpunk "true names"?

now, I'm not suggesting that "if you want to do something in
secret, you must have something to hide". (although that seems
almost like a tautology to me). but what I am suggesting, is
that if you want to get credit, it may pay to pool all your
accomplishments under one nym (tracing it to a physical body
is a whole separate issue-- the two should not be confused;
although the concept of "true names" does tend to blur this

in the case of PM, he thought that because some people ostensibly
dropped from the list, the list quality had decreased. but
he seemed to be making this conclusion based on their "real
identity". what if they were still around, posting under
pseudonyms? would he be able to tell? would the signal quality
be the same?

the point is that people seem to judge list quality based on
criteria in which "true names" play a major role. I'm not saying
this is the only way to do it, but I am saying that "true names"
seem to be very much ingrained into human psychology, particularly
in public forums and attributing credit, and the idea that they are 
wholly irrelevant to most human endeavor
is very suspicious, at least deserving more than a few paragraphs
of supposed proof.


another problem with pseudonyms and list noise is the following.
first, let me start by saying I think this list approaches the
"dysfunctional" level at times when everyone is ranting about each
other about staying on topic. there is an awful lot of hostility
on this list. maybe people like it, I'm not sure. I'm interested
in the sources of this hostility, though, and I think I can identify
some good candidates.

the list hostility and tension is quite palpable. when TM prefaces
many of his posts, and many others do, with frequent apologies about
being on topic, I am amazed to see this because I don't see people
so self-conscious on other mailing lists. 

in my opinion, this is where the role of the moderator is absolutely
critical. any mailing list with an AWOL moderator is only asking
for total chaos, IMHO. in this case I'll use the word "moderator"
and "list creator" interchangeably.

the best recommendation to everyone who subscribes to the list,
and to the moderator, is that THE MODERATOR DETERMINES WHAT IS RELEVANT.

that means that no one else has the authority to do this, NO ONE. if 
you find a post that bothers you, FIRST WRITE THE LIST MODERATOR.
ask the LIST MODERATOR to deal with the offending poster.

the list moderator should make a judgement when the list is in a 
"noise" phase and try to be clear about what is relevant to the
list and what is not. what this requires is a watchful eye and
regular interventions, IMHO.

a list where the moderator is never around may seem like a haven,
but in my opinion it only turns into a grouch free-for-all subject
to regular conflagrations that leave everyone *really* pissed off,
as did a recent eruption by TM and PM.

now, whenever you see someone write, THIS ISN'T RELEVANT TO THIS LIST!!
remind this person in email that THEIR OPINION OF WHAT IS RELEVANT OR NOT IS
NOT RELEVANT. tell them to write the list moderator first, IN EMAIL. jamming
up the communication medium with meta traffic about what is an is
not relevant is absolutely futile and useless and counterproductive
and extremely anxiety producing.

so, as you can see, IMHO people who are continually making judgements
about what is or is not relevant to the list, and posting those 
opinions, are PART OF THE PROBLEM.  (I am reminded of one himself talking 
about people who are part of the problem and who is part of the solution. 
well, IMHO, ironically, he is PART OF THE PROBLEM, and for a very obvious 
and clear reason that even an intelligent child could grasp).


the Yin to the Yang of all this, however, is that the LIST MODERATOR
MUST OCCASIONALLY SHOW HIS FACE and make unambiguous rulings about
what is and what is not appropriate, especially when the noise level
increases and people start to wonder.

the problem with this is a list moderator who likes to use one or
two pseudonyms. the pseudonyms may be so secret that not *anyone*
on the list is aware of his identity, even close friends. this 
list moderator may be loathe to ever post under his "true name"
or whatever name he used to start the list. 

anyway, you can see that this whole business of pseudonyms, while
perhaps workable, is certainly fraught with pitfalls IMHO. at least
in situations of *public forums*, I am going to go out on a limb
and say that it is very troublesome.

it seems that in any forum, there are people who will try to disrupt
the proceedings so to speak. in real life you can throw them out,
by identifying their *picture*.

in a cyberspace that lacks true identities, you cannot throw out
these "problem people". they continually come back to haunt you
despite your best attempts to bar them. doesn't that bug you?
doesn't that irritate you? doesn't that drive you crazy? or do you
like the idea that the person you most hate in life might be posting
behind any of the next few messages? and there's nothing you can
do about it? because you in fact embrace the capabilities that let
him do this, and you're pretty sure you're not a hypocrite?

well, just some musings for those who unabashadly promote pseudonyms
to contemplate.

p.s. in regard to the above, about "people other than the moderator
posting judgements about what is and is not relevant to the list",
I am not making a judgement about what is and is not relevant
on the list. I am making a judgement about making a judgement
about what is and what is not relevant on the list. <g>

--Vlad Nuri