Thursday, February 22, 2007

QotW5: Identity Theft

My personal policy is that my IM account should be reserved for my friends or people I’m otherwise acquainted with. Ditto with my Friendster or Facebook account. I have three email accounts with Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, and depending on my level of trust, I would decide which to use – Gmail for personal and professional communication, Hotmail for sign-ups requiring email verification and the like, Yahoo for the shady stuff. ;D

According to the Online Identity article on Wikipedia, "an online identity is a social identity that network users establish in online communities" (“Online Identity”, 2007). It is a mark of how important online identities have become today that there are numerous services purportedly dedicated to managing and even protecting your online identity, or identities (ClaimID, 2007; OnXiam, n.d.; ReputationDefender, 2007; Naymz, 2006) . Of late, in forums, and more recently IRC, I have taken to using the pseudonym Farinelli, as a tribute to the legendary castrato singer. It’s quite effective; I’ve yet to see anyone else use it. If someone else does, I’m pretty sure our paths don’t clash.

When I post on forums or reply to questions in IRC, I do so because, as mentioned by Judith Donath, I want to help (Donath, 1996) and feel that I have the adequate knowledge and relevant expertise to do so. I am in this way able to build a reputation for myself, if not for being an expert in a particular field, then at least for being a decent poster instead of a troll or flamer. In this age of highly increased interactivity on the Web, there seems to exist an underlying current of wariness towards newcomers until they prove themselves worthy of the forum’s trust.

In forums where media is exchanged, such as PDF form books or musical scores, video files of anime episodes, or image files of scanlated manga, being able to provide the material in question commands a certain amount of respect, and consequently reputation. In IRC or some forums, having the capability to act as a file distribution server also earns you reputation, and privileges as well, notably prioritized access to long-queuing files or a higher share of bandwidth. Long story short, the only alternative method to slowly building authority on a forum through exhibiting your knowledge is to have material possessions.

If one even has to choose a nickname, chances are that forum requires registration to utilize. Once I secure Farinelli, a newcomer probably has to be the moderator’s best friend to snatch that pseudonym from me. In some forums however, the login name is not necessarily the same as the displayed name, and malicious posters can simply change their nickname to Farinelli, post a whole load of incendiary trash, and change his nickname back to the original one. It is far from infallible, but it still takes a whole lot of time to track down, assuming the virtual community even thinks it might be someone faking my name. It is possible that for fear of losing track of the main purpose of the forum, they would just shun me aside in order to get back on track ASAP. Such is the level of damage I feel can be caused to the online reputation which I have taken time and effort to build.


“Amilgate” (2007, Jan 15). Online Identity. Retrieved February 21, 2007, from Identity and Deception in the Wikipedia Web site:

ClaimID (2007). About ClaimID. Retrieved February 22, 2007, from ClaimID Web site:

Donath, J. M. (1996, Nov 12). Identity and deception in the virtual community. Retrieved February 21, 2007, from Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community Web site:

Naymz (2007). What is Naymz? Retrieved February 22, 2007, from Naymz Web site:

Poulsen, K. (2007). About OnXiam. Retrieved February 22, 2007, from OnXiam Web site:

ReputationDefender (2007). ReputationDefender > About Us. Retrieved February 22, 2007, from ReputationDefender Web site:


Kevin said...

Good overview of identity on IRC, as well as for mentioning reputation protection services. Full grades.

Anonymous said...

Genius, you should paint a big red target on yourself.

Renhao said...

Impressive. You've logged 10 ways to find me. Five of which are dead or hardly active. So what's your point?