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Identity surfing, pseudonymity, reputation

Real reputation is emotional. The penalty for identity surfing is and should be leaving your reputation (friends) behind.



Truly anonymous identities, by design, cannot have reputation; there's nothing to distinguish one anonymous person from another one, thus reputation cannot result.  A very good example is Slashdot's "Anonymous Coward"; by choosing to remain anonymous, you evidence no identity whatsoever, remaining truly anonymous.  You can also choose to evidence a name, url, email, and/or Slashdot account -- however, the option to choose none remains.

There's another kind of identity, a "pseudo-anonymous" (?) identity.  It retains the aspect of anonymity that shields the participant(s) in that identity's communication from identification, while allowing the identity to be distinguished from other identities.

anon.penet.fi used to give out these identities; many Usenet posters developed relationships with others that were filtered through a pseudonym like "an256748@anon.penet.fi"; other anonymous remailers now do the same.

Reputation doesn't port to truly anonymous systems easily; if you're truly anonymous, you have no identifiable attributes -- including reputation.  This is both bad and good; you can't tell if the person who's posting now is any better than the one before, but they're secure from the prying eyes of whoever.  With a pseudo-anonymous identity, though, reputation asserts itself.

Given a uniquely-identifying characteristic, reputation seems to be a pervasive feature of social networks; either in the minds of the participants (the perl5-porters mailing list), or by a vaguely descriptive adjective (Slashdot's "karma" ranking), or by a numeric point ranking (eBay's "reputation" ranking); examples abound.


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