September 19, 2008

Multiple-identity pseudonymity pathology perils - Wikipedia "case study"

Cade Metz has a good story in The Register regarding Sockpuppeting civil servant Wikifiddles himself:

Fronting multiple Wikipedia accounts with photographs of unsuspecting young women from our world, he juggled no fewer than 15 alter egos, and eventually, a handful of these virtual personalities spilled onto other sites, including Wikipedia Review - the infamous Wikipedia criticism site - and Wipipedia - a free online encyclopedia for the London SM scene.

I'd know about this, but didn't want to write about it myself, due to reasons such as the detail necessary to explain it all. Cade Metz has done a good job of putting it all in context.

What interests me is what I believe it reveals of the dark side of Shiny Happy "Community" Sites: "But his tale bares the flaws of the social web in general - and Wikipedia in particular.". Since of course these are not physical communities, it is trivially easy to manufacture members. And if you're a seeker of social approval, why not help the process along by having some admiring echoes of yourself? And also a support cadre for those inevitable arguments? There's a limit to this process, as all people aren't stupid, so a chorus of clones is going to be obvious. But that just raises the bar for the cloners (should the pseudonyms argue with each other to throw off suspicion? simulate different interests? protest loudly against allegations, or pretend to co-operate?). So one can get a kind of multiple arms race in terms of balancing factors between creators of multiple-pseudonyms and the targets of the deception.

Call it another experiment in a top laboratory of social pathology.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on September 19, 2008 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I can remember in the early 80s having a tadette of fun with two phone lines, two modems and two terminals into an online discussion facility (DialTalk/Teletalk - see Micronet). There had been some suspicion that two of my personae were one and the same, so I figured a dual session with them might allay such suspicions. It did work (thankfully simultaneous typing didn't need to be demonstrated), but despite considerable amusement I decided it wasn't worth the effort.

Sock puppetry is a mug's game.

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at September 20, 2008 07:41 AM

Where around the web have they made available the audio or video from the Ford Hall Forum?...

Posted by: the zak at September 22, 2008 02:12 AM

After letting it stew in drafts for a while I just posted on this, mostly about a few details I think are important that I haven't seen discussed anywhere else. It's here if you want to read. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

Posted by: Thene at September 30, 2008 03:53 PM