Tag Archives: pseudonymity

Screenshot of video player playing Kathy Sierra video

Kathy Sierra: Take back the comments: stop online harassment

Warning for quoted ableism, and harassment and malicious behaviour towards people with a disability.

Kathy Sierra has published a video about online harassment and malicious behaviour:

I haven’t seen a transcript anywhere else yet, so hopefully this is of use in making it widely accessible. I’ve altered the text of Sierra’s slides very very slightly in a couple of cases, adding punctuation for clarity where the slide layout was originally providing information about which words were in different sentences.
Continue reading

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Linkspam shattered on impact (19th September, 2011)

  • The GNOME Women’s Outreach Program is running paid internships (for women, and not only students) from December 12, 2011 through March 12, 2012. The application deadline is October 31.
  • Just 12% of CSIRO’s senior scientists women: While at entry level almost 50 per cent of post-doctorate graduates are female [at CSIRO, Australia’s government research agency], just 12 per cent of senior specialists are women.
  • Women, swearing and the workplace: Since [Carol] Bartz’s very public departure from Yahoo last week, her penchant for blunt, profane language has become recurring themes in discussions of her career, driving conversation about what women can and can’t be in the workplace.
  • (Warning: self-harm and harassment mentioned.) Naming Names on the Internet: Three years ago… It required contributors to Web portals and other popular sites to use their real names, rather than pseudonyms… Last month, after a huge security breach, the government said it would abandon the system.
  • (Warning for sexual assault and denial.) Reddit Users Find New Way To Be Assholes. When a woman posted about her sexual assault on Reddit, she enraged doubters, who eventually convinced her to post video proof of the crime.
  • Introducing Ladydrawers: it’s the female-identified creators who aren’t being encouraged to submit [comics] work, aren’t being sought out and aren’t getting books turned into big movie deals. In comics and elsewhere, women creators of all sorts of media are starting to ask: Why? Ladydrawers, a new semimonthly comics collaboration, will look at a few possible reasons and impacts in comics form.
  • Across the digital divide: This doesn’t change the part where, every time a discussion of ebooks turns, seemingly inevitably, to Print is dead, traditional publishing is dead, all smart authors should be bailing to the brave new electronic frontier, what I hear, however unintentionally, is Poor people don’t deserve to read.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Pillar covered by colourful advertising bills

Enough of this linkspamming nonsense (7th September, 2011)

  • (Warning: stalking and threats of sexual violence.) OkCupid allowing impersonation, which allows someone to set up an account with your email address inviting, essentially, harassing replies. (In this case, someone also maliciously posted their target’s address, which is harder for OkCupid to check for automatically, but a complaint should result in a takedown.)
  • Don’t dumb girls down: The next time you want to tell a little girl how cute she is, try something else instead. (Discussed on Hacker News, ‘ware general fail.)
  • Gender Bias in Wikipedia and Britannica in International Journal of Communication, Vol 5 (2011). Is there a bias in the against women’s representation in Wikipedia biographies? Thousands of biographical subjects, from six sources, are compared against the English-language Wikipedia and the online Encyclopædia Britannica with respect to coverage, gender representation, and article length.
  • Women’s Quest for Romance Conflicts with Scientific Pursuits, Study Finds: Four new studies by researchers at the University at Buffalo have found that when a woman’s goal is to be romantically desirable, she distances herself from academic majors and activities related to science, technology, engineering and math…
  • Seriously, stop with the booth babes: On the one hand, YES! Absolutely!
    On the other hand, women have been saying this for years and been told, "You're making too much of it."
    Now, all of a sudden, the mens are up in arms. *facepalm*
  • A widely linked nymwars post by danah boyd that we may not have shared yet: “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power: She draws on Skud's survey, and adds some additional context based on her FaceBook research. boyd points out that ethnic minorities and teens have used handles on Facebook—signing up and giving the name that they were most commonly known by.
  • Felix Salmon believes Apple CEO Tim Cook’s sexuality should be publicly discussed. (Salmon discussed it in Don’t ignore Tim Cook’s sexuality and Why I’m talking about Tim Cook’s sexuality.) Ken Fisher at Ars Technica asks Does the press have an ethical duty to out powerful gays in tech? Note that Cook is not on the record about his sexuality or his private life much at all.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Man's face in profile overlaid with mask in profile

Quick hit: the science front of nymwars

While the discussions about pseudonym use on Google+ continues on, there’s a different front that opened up in mid-August: Science Blogs, which is the home of a huge number of top science blogs, has decided to end psuedonymnous blogging.

On August 18, biomedical researcher DrugMonkey wrote:

I have just been informed that ScienceBlogs will no longer be hosting anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers. In case you are interested, despite extensive communication from many of us as to why we blog under pseudonyms, I have not been given any rationale or reason for this move. Particularly, no rationale or reason that responds to the many valid points raised by the pseudonymous folks.

Years ago, Janet D. Stemwedel wrote a scientific-career-focussed list of reasons to use a pseudonym:

You are a student whose advisor will equate your blogging with time not spent doing research… You are trying to get a promotion/tenure and you have no idea how the committees that will be deciding whether to promote/tenure you view blogging… Blogging about what you blog about under your own name might significantly reduce your safety. (This might include doing research with animals, providing reproductive health care services…)

Closely following this, epidemiologist René Najera was tracked down by an online opponent and this resulted in his employer asking him to stop blogging. Tara C. Smith writes that science blogging isn’t new to this:

These things aren’t just theoretical. HIV denier Andrew Maniotis showed up, unannounced, at my work office one day a few years ago. The recently-arrested “David Mabus” showed up at an atheist convention.

Maggie Koerth-Baker has a great piece at Boing Boing about the difference between being a professional writer and a scientist¸ which also has links to a lot of discussion in and near the Science Blogs community:

I know who DrugMonkey is [in the sense of knowing his pseudonymous persona] and I know that he has to be as responsible for everything he writes under that name as I am responsible for what I write as Maggie Koerth-Baker. The difference is that writing is my profession. It’s not his. Instead, he has to balance the needs of a profession in laboratory science with the needs of a writing hobby.

Masked by Harhsa K R (CC BY-SA): a group of people sitting on steps wearing duck and pig masks

Pseudospam: nymwars continue

We have enough nymwars links for them to be their own linkspam, and likely our commenters have more to add too.

Lots of dedicated discussion and link tracking at googleplus.dreamwidth.org and Botgirl Questi’s collection of #plusgate articles.


Front page image credit: Masked by Harsha K R, Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Linkspamming saves lives (3rd August, 2011)

  • A timely reminder: are you running a blog? Make automated backups and store them on a different server to your blog in case of disaster. For WordPress, two plugins that will email you backups on a schedule are Online Backup for WordPress (both database and WordPress installation) and WordPress Database Backup (database only).
  • Pseudonyms:
    • My Name Is Me: Be Yourself Online. Statements in support of pseudonymity. Share the link, and if you are well-known or respected and support the use of nicknames or pseudonyms online, consider making a statement.
    • Electronic Frontier Foundation: A Case for Pseudonyms: It is not incumbent upon strict real-name policy advocates to show that policies insisting on the use of real names have an upside. It is incumbent upon them to demonstrate that these benefits outweigh some very serious drawbacks.
  • Women, Let’s Claim Wikipedia! : Ms Magazine Blog: I believe that more women would be involved in editing Wikipedia if it were a social activity, rather than an insular one, so I hosted a WikiWomen party at my house to make the experience collaborative. In attendance were five female chemists: myself, Anna Goldstein, Rebecca Murphy, Chelsea Gordon and Helen Yu. We started the night with a dinner, over which we discussed the experience of being a graduate student and how writing for Wikipedia compares to teaching undergraduates.
  • In praise of Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series, praising the series that wasn’t, and The Further Adventures of Hermione Granger
  • Factors Influencing Participant Satisfaction with Free/Libre and Open Source Software Projects:

    The purpose of this research was to identify factors that affect participants’ satisfaction with their experience of a free/libre open source software (FLOSS) project. […] The central research question it answered was, What factors influence participant satisfaction with a free/libre and open source application software project? […] These suggest that being able to be an active participant in a FLOSS project is one factor that should be examined, and therefore the first sub-question this project answers is, What types of contributions do participants make to free/libre and open source software projects? […] Do the factors that influence satisfaction vary for different types of participation? If so, in what way?

  • New Toronto Initiative Supports First-Time Female Game Developers – Torontoist: A new program, the Difference Engine Initiative, to support women wanting to make their first video game will be starting up in Toronto next month.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

g+-real-names

“Real”/legal name communities behave better: where’s the evidence?

This is something I asked in comments here the other day:

So I think at this point we ideally would turn to research: how do people perceive the quality of communities on the real name required/encouraged/discouraged/forbidden axis and is this perception linked with or overwhelmed by their minority/exceptional/marginalised status in that community? Because it’s fairly clear by now that many people who personally have better perceived experiences with real names will universalise based on their own experience, and possibly people who prefer pseudonyms likewise (although pro-pseuds-allowed people don’t to me seem to turn it into pro-no-real-names-allowed as much).

Suw Charman makes a similar point:

I’d like to see the evidence that using real names changes people’s behaviour that much. Whenever I’ve been trolled/stalked online, it’s been by people using their real name. Dicks will, sadly, be dicks whether pseudonymously or eponymously. Whenever I bring this point up, people always point to 4Chan as an example of the sort of negative place that springs up when people are pseudonymous or anonymous. But 4Chan is a small corner of the web, and they are vastly outnumbered by all the pseudonymous people elsewhere that act perfectly nicely.

The ‘anonymity/pseudonymity = trollish behaviour’ meme has been doing the rounds for years, but it’s just not that simple. And it’s especially not that simple when the easy way to get round it is to use a pseudonym that looks ‘normal’ to Western eyes.

Are people aware of better-than-anecdotal evidence in either direction, that there’s a connection between permitted or encouraged pseudonymity and a decrease in civility or an increase in harassment? Or the other way around?

Note: when I say “better than anecdotal” I mean better than anecdotal. Comments along the lines of “well I don’t think I know of any evidence, but I have this anecdote/opinion that I really want to share” will be summarily deleted or possibly replaced with pictures of cranky cats.

Note 2: let me be even clearer (in response to stuff in moderation). What I want is data. Maybe not superb quality data, maybe self-selected or limited demographic or small sample or similar (obviously the better the quality of the data and the analysis the more convincing the research), but “my experience as a forum moderator” and “my friends’ experience online” is anecdote. I don’t have something against anecdotes in general—they are crucial in understanding lived experience—but in this thread I am asking for research.

(Tangent: I am hopeless at starting memes, but my G+ Share this if you’ve been harassed online by someone(s) using their legal name prominently in their email headers/profile/etc. is the second most successful ever, with 32 reshares.)

g+-real-names

Who is harmed by a “real names” policy?

There’s been a lot of talk lately about pseudonymity and about online services that disallow it, instead requiring so-called “real names”. For example, previously on Geek Feminism:

Some time ago, I helped draft a list of groups of people who would be harmed by a policy banning pseudonymity and requiring “real names”. Unfortunately that document’s not available anywhere publicly online, so I thought it might be good to recreate it on the Geek Feminism wiki, and offer it as a general resource.

Here it is: Who is harmed by a “Real Names” policy?

Please help us fill in any categories of people you can think of who benefit from pseudonymity online, or who may experience real harm from a policy that bans it. You can edit the wiki directly if you like, or just drop a comment here on this post and we’ll try and include them.

And, of course, please bookmark the link and use it whenever anyone claims that only trolls or people with “something to hide” want to use pseudonyms online.

g+-real-names

The status of pseudonymity and privacy on Google+

Here’s a separate thread for people most interested in keeping track of official, semi- and unofficial pronouncements about pseudonymity and/or privacy on Google+ in particular, in addition to the more general discussions taking place at Anti-pseudonym bingo and Social networking requirements. You can also discuss your feelings and reaction to various announcements here. warped-ellipsis, you can re-post your existing links in this thread if you like.

If you’re linking to a blog or Google+ discussion, please also include a summary or excerpt that explains why you’re linking to it. Is it a user test showing such-and-such a property of Google+? Is it a statement by Google or an employee? Is it a change or a clarification? That sort of thing. (No linking/quoting anything from G+ that isn’t marked “Public” please.)

Note: yes, Google+ is in beta/early launch/testing/something, and they’re actively seeking feedback. Please no nagging to people to send in their comments here as feedback, since they now know this for sure and presumably they have or will send it in if they want to, and if they haven’t they presumably have their reasons.

5x5 bingo card with anti-pseudonymity arguments

Anti-pseudonym bingo

People testing the Google+ social network are discussing increasing evidence that, terms of service requirement or not, Google+ wants people to use their legal names much as Facebook does. Skud shares a heads-up from a user banned for using his initials. Then, for example, see discussion around it on Mark Cuban’s stream, Skud’s stream and Sarah Stokely’s blog.

Let’s recap really quickly: wanting to and being able to use your legal name everywhere is associated with privilege. Non-exhaustive list of reasons you might not want to use it on social networks: everyone knows you by a nickname; you want everyone to know you by a nickname; you’re experimenting with changing some aspect of your identity online before you do it elsewhere; online circles are the only place it’s safe to express some aspect of your identity, ever; your legal name marks you as a member of a group disproportionately targeted for harassment; you want to say things or make connections that you don’t want to share with colleagues, family or bosses; you hate your legal name because it is shared with an abusive family member; your legal name doesn’t match your gender identity; you want to participate in a social network as a fictional character; the mere thought of your stalker seeing even your locked down profile makes you sick; you want to create a special-purpose account; you’re an activist wanting to share information but will be in danger if identified; your legal name is imposed by a legal system that doesn’t match your culture… you know, stuff that only affects a really teeny minority numerically, and only a little bit, you know? (For more on the issue in general, see On refusing to tell you my name and previous posts on this site.)

Anyway, in honour of round one million of forgetting about all of this totally, I bring you anti-pseudonymity bingo!
5x5 bingo card with anti-pseudonymity arguments
Text version at bottom of post.

What squares would you add? Continue reading