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Scared of Your Own Words? 156

RedCedar writes "James Rutt, the CEO of Network Solutions has deleted all of his postings from the Well, apparently for fear of having some of them used against him in news stories. The Washington Post has this story on it. " Regardless of who it is, this is an interesting trend, I think perpuated by The Media in general of focusing on the person. Do you think this will become a more regular occurence? Am I going to have to wipe my own comments? *grin*
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Scared of Your Own Words?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can be a useful ruse though... I don't recall any particular examples from during the American Revolution (not much need to publish when in the middle of a war, is there) but in 1787 - 1788 the Federalist Papers were published anonymously, to great advantage. -Publius
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The internet has really caused in upheavel in my industry: The full-service brokerage Industry.

    In the old days (well, before the internet), every single letter that we sent out to client's had to be read, and approved by a principle. Mass mailings had to be sent to compliance in New York to be approved. Going on the radio or TV for interviews on the market or whatever topic was universally denied. Essentially, it was very difficult to send out even a simple newsletter.

    The reason for this, is that the firm does not want to be sued by someone believing their broker's opinion was the same as that of the company. There is even an archaic law that forbids us to recommend stocks that the company is not recommending.

    Nowadays, these rules are still enforced, but you can imagine the problems with brokers having access to e-mail. My firm is planning on rolling out an intranet and accounts for all brokers in about two weeks now. Every message that we send outside the firm goes through New York, which will trigger at such key words as "guarantee" or "hot item".

    I was quickly denied a while back when I brought up the idea of running a web site for my clients!

    There is also the problem of brokers (like me) posting their opinions on chat, or news groups. For a while, under my user's account, I would post my opinions on certain companies and different strategies I felt were beneficial when it came to investing. I quickly stopped doing so when I heard of a few cases where brokers were fired for doing the same exact thing.

    That scares the hell out of me. I would love to post more often on companies mentioned in slashdot, and I would love to help people when securities and investing are written about... but I fear for losing my job.

    There is nothing wrong with me voicing and speaking my opinions... but the idea is that, if they are written down, it is possible that my company or I can be held responsible for those opinions.

    That is very frustrating, and I hope things change soon.
  • For the first time I actually have some respect for NS, although he did remove his postings they are, essentially, a private discussion between him and the other members of 'the well'.

    Essentially what the story attatched to this article and most stories in question about just about anything (See: Jesse Ventura, convient part about that is that it's in playboy so they can make it out however they want and theres a chance no one 'respectable' in the media will find out) media related, they tend to take exerpts in a manner that 'shades the truth' also known as 'spin'. Now, if this is an archive from 1989 to 1999, you can be damn well sure that whatever he says will not be taken in context.

    He kind of has to in order to protect himself otherwise he'll just be a martyr to the mainstream media, god I hate them right now, can you tell? I can see this becomming an exerpt one day on MSNBC.

    I gotta give him one thing though, he certainly doesn't have a mainstream taste for women. Which is a good thing because if this keeps up we wont have to look at the glorified hungry who eat nothing all day and are just skeletons with skin tacked on. (See: Ally McBeal) I don't like breaking skin when I tap someone on the sholder, you know? ^_^

    -[ World domination - ]-
  • I have.

    The key is to not let people know who you are from the start.

    Maybe if you follow my urls read my sigs track everything i've ever posted for a few years, then you'll find someone who has my name in an IRC Log, other than that, good luck, and even if you did find it, I have a very common name :)

    -[ World domination - ]-
  • Cut


    Not useful.

    -[ World domination - ]-
  • Your right. You can't hide.

    I beleive AOL does news and web searches on everone looking for a job at AOL. I know other companies are doing this.

    How have you been in the News? Did your kids win a socker game? Did you buy a new house? Have you been arrested for durnk driving? Do you post to HATE news groups? What does your web site say about you? Do you like guns?

  • When I got on the net for the first time three years ago, I picked a nickname that became my "virtual real name", a true pseudonym. I use it all the time, but the people I know in real life and on the net as well, they know the connection and my identity. I trust them but since they trust others who I can't trust since I don't even know those, I don't know who else knows about it, that's why I can just as well publish the info on my homepage. I could try to hide the connection between my nickname and my real life identity, but to me, they are equal. I don't want to have a split personality and be too paranoid, especially since that doesn't really provide any security, it's just obscurity. It only works for so long.

    The true problem is an attitude: We must all remember that people grow up, change their minds, evolve. We learn a lot from mistakes, hopefully, so our mistakes and problems are good things (PRO-blem). There are no pure or innocent people around, we all fuck up, we all evolve. Some faster than others. has archived a few stupid things I once said, but that's not a bad thing, it's a good thing since it also shows how I improved myself. My Slashdot history also gives a lot of insight in my interests and believes, which can be connected to my real life identity by looking up my info. I'm not anonymous, since I try to only say what I believe in, and I'm standing by my believes until I evolve them on my own.

    Freedom of speech doesn't only mean you can speak freely and anonymously, it also means you can speak freely and not be threatened in real life. If you only speak anonymously because you are afraid that your opinions are a danger to yourself, then you're actually supporting the media, the misconception that what you (once) said is what you (still) mean. It's as useful as claiming evolution is just an illusion...

    Anonymity is important, but not all the time, otherwise you hurt your individuality without noticing - and if the obscurity ever fails, you'll be in for some serious trouble, since you've forsaken the chance to maintain that opinions can change.

    Implied Disclaimer: That's what I just said, it might not be what I'll mean at a later time, I retain the right to freely change my mind without any notice. -- this should be OBVIOUS at all times!!
  • ...Somewhere, someone will have cached it, copied it, given it to their grandmother
    On the internet, everyone can hear you scream
    Personally I think its impossible to ever completely cover your tracks on the matter how diligantly you try..
  • I think the more honest thing would have been to leave the posts up. I've posted responses to many things here on slashdot over the last couple of years, I wouldn't remove any of them. In some instances I've posted things that were wrong. In other instances I've posted views that don't hold with my current views. Some of these views have been modified by especially eloquent posts by others on slashdot. That's personal growth, its nothing to be ashamed of. I'm semi-anonymous in that I don't post under my real name and I've removed my email address not too long ago (thanks to a rather hostile email bombing response to one of my postings) but the persona is still me. A couple of friends have figured out that this is the persona I post under. I don't worry about this, it just means that I'm honest about my opinions and don't let the facade or moderation modify my views.

    The best response to anybody dredging up old posts would be to say hey, that was posted N years ago, at the time its how I felt. When I was a kid I wrote letters to Santa too. If you'd like I can probably get some samples from my parents.

    The admission would speak better of the person than a futile attempt to remove all traces of their net existance.
  • I may not agree with it in the future, but that is just normal change of opinions. I still stand by it as my genuine opinion at the time.
  • For my part, if an employer won't treat me like the adult I am, I wish nothing to do with them. I'd rather starve than in effect lie about who I am to get past a "daddy knows best" corporate policy.
  • X-no-archive is used a lot by a certain group of monks in a certain usenet group (if you don't know what I mean, you don't deserve to know). Past posts in that group have been dredged up to haunt their writers. The group is there to rant about the stupidities of management, software vendors and a whole host of other idiots. Some of these idiots don't particularly like to be attacked in this manner. I think sackings have resulted from this as well.
  • Perhaps when I clicked "submit" I somehow managed to hit "Post Anonymously" at the same time, but the fact that it occurred with this particular story is just a little too co-incidental for my tastes.

    Is my karma too low or too high?

    unitron(just in case it happens again)

  • Make powerful enough enemies and I'm sure they'll be more than happy to search out and recover all the postings you've ever made.

  • never never

    Ahh, you say that now, but what happens when you become CEO of Blue Hat BSD Distributions and someone brings up that post about the dog and the nun you posted back in 97?


  • one of the fine print bits at the top of each /. states specifically that the owners of the site DO NOT own the words of posters...

    why would the owners of /., or any other site, want to place itself in legal comment because of a statement that someone that they have no control over made.

    not to mention that many people around here would stop posting if /. tried to claim a posters words as property of the site.

    didn't this kinda come up awhile back during some talk of a dead tree version of /.?
  • one of the fine print bits at the top of each /. states specifically that the owners of the site DO NOT own the words of posters...

    why would the owners of /., or any other site, want to place itself in legal trouble because of a statement made by someone that they've no control over?

    not to mention that many people around here would stop posting if /. tried to claim a posters words as property of the site.

    didn't this kinda come up awhile back during some talk of a dead tree version of /.?
  • An easier response would be, ``I don't recognize that email. Someone must have forged it & made it look as if it came from me."

    Anyone here who has received spam & trolled thru the headers knows how easy it is to forge return addresses. It requires a bit of effort to identify the location of the actual sender -- & exponentially more to actually identify the creep.

    And then we get into the problem that anyone can take a piece of electronic data & manipulate it. Turning a harmless email from Jane Schmoe into a racist death threat is a trivial exercise. (And if you can't figure out how to do it, please leave Slashdot & find another forum more to your level -- like WebTV.)

    Quite simply, if someone claims you wrote a given piece of email, the burden of proof is on them, not you.

    Online forums, however, are a little more difficult -- but sites *do* get cracked all of the time. And passwords sniffed. Still insist on the accusing party to prove authorship.

    (or perhaps a cracker pretending to be him)
  • I always use my real name on the internet.

    Someday when I run for president, I'll have to make up a fake name.

    Seriously, in a few years it will be a routine thing to search for politician's postings on That will be a crazy situation, because a lot of them got onto the internet in college. I don't know about everyone else, but I am a far different person now at 30 that I was at 18. If someone were to look up posts that I made back in the 1980's, they would look pretty silly. I don't think it's fair to hold a candidate to higher standards. Words uttered at 18 in the middle of a flame war don't have any real correlation to the actual physical person, maybe two decades later. A lot of people might get tarnished unfairly.

  • You can remove your posts from dejanews archive by going to .. unfortunately this is just one of many such archiving services and I doubt you'd ever be able to get them all. []

    Another way is to add the "X-no-archive: yes" header to your messages. If you are using Mutt put "my_hdr X-no-archive: yes" in your .muttrc (no quotes). This, however, doesn't work all the time. For example, some of the FreeBSD mailing lists are echoed to USENET newsgroups with the X-no-archive stripped out. There is nothing you can really do about this except not post to those mailing lists. Also, there are probably archiving engines out there which ignore X-no-archive just like there are probably web robots out there which ignore robots.txt

    Also, you can be sure that governments keep track of all your newsgroup postings. and so on.

  • george w bush and cocaine perhaps?
  • possibly, but I hold myself up to higher standards than I hold the rest of the world to. I don't see a problem with that
  • Ah, but by being willing to 'play along' with HR and other narrow minded folks we just encourage them. Or to quote a cliche, 'if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem'. I'm aware that there are risks (i.e. not getting employment, etc) in being outspoken, and I would not cease respecting someone because of that fear. At the same time, actively supporting the interests of those in power by criticizing those who are willing to buck the trend and fight is counter-productive.

    If more of us stood up for our rights, we'd have less trouble with the erosion of our rights.

  • NSI, the most reviled company this side of Microsoft.
    They spam, they obstruct, they suck. Of *course*
    he's hiding.
  • My hope is that perhaps as more and more people get online and consider it a medium for unveiling there most personal thoughts, that the existence of those thoughts will be more publicly accepted. Let's face it, we all have thoughts we don't want others to know anything about because we're afraid of how they'll react. But if everybody knew everybody else's dirty little secrets what would it matter?

    I envision this press conference in the future where a press guy would dig up something about some politician's occasional visit to a dominatrix. They bring up the question at a press conference. The politician responds, "Yeah, she's a great dominatrix, if you want her phone number, talk to me after the conference." :)

    Perhaps Jesse Ventura is one of the first people to start the trend that direction. He said a whole lot of offensive things in that Playboy article, but his reaction was simply to ask people to judge him by his politics not his personal beliefs. Of course he'll probably be politically burned at the stake for it, but oh well.

    In a world where everybody accepts eachother's humanity and their falibility there's no need for secrecy and anonymity. That day's not now, but I can dream can't I? :)


  • This could scare people from participating in the Internet.
    I don't mean just surffing but well like posting this message on /. and you reading it.. and maybe you'll comment on it.. mod it or just call me a duncehead and move on.
    People with a public presona may wish not to have unstarilised comments up on /.

    I can make some pritty boneheaded comments some times and thats ok your reading it in context. But if I were Bill Gates and someone snipped my comments I could be made to say anything. If Bill Gates said "Linux is ok for hackers" in a long rant against Linux then bam on the news "Bill Gates says 'Linux is ok'" eventually the comments blur and it becomes "Bill Gates makes postive comments about Linux" a Slashdot artical and MsWindows enters it's finnal days.

    Thats techno politics.. government politics is worse. People running for office are often missquoted and not allwase by mistake. Only 1 in a million reporters have some political ax to grind but right now with so many doppleganger reporters who don't check out storys it only takes one to prepetuate a myth.

    It's much diffrent from seeing the original on-line quote as on-line the auther controls the context not a third party.

    It would help if reporters would just give refrence urls rather than quoting [or missquoting] matereal. With reporters on deadlines it's very easy to misquote and even easyer when the quote is techlaced and the reporter isn't up to speed.
  • Having to go an erase all you thoughts and writing's for the last ten years just because you got promoted? How ridiculous. How foolish, as well.

    If only he'd used an alias (well, okay, not allowed on The Well...) or an anonymous coward method to express himself, his words would still be there.

    How sad.

  • Funny story on that.

    I had a friend in college who was 21 when I was 20. He had discovered a liking for scotch, and I had never tried it before, so one night he went out and purchased a massive bottle of Dewars. Cutting out many, many details, my friend and I, along with a third mutual friend, split the bottle three ways - straight up, no mixing or chasing.

    I woke up the next morning (with virtually zero recollection of the night before) to find an email waiting in my inbox from one of my friends, asking me if I was drunk. After inquiring about how she knew, she forwarded me the email I had apparently sent her the night before.

    I was surprised at how well I had actually managed to type, considering how drunk I must've been to have the large gaping hole in my memory. After a few hours, I had managed to puzzle out almost everything I had written. One sentence still eluded me, however, largely because it did not contain a single vowel.

    So that "Dude, I wrote that?" isn't very far fetched. :)

  • I guess not. But in the case of The Well, which is a pay-for service, there is some vetting. You need to give them a cheque or credit card details, which bears your identity. Obviously it's easy to deceive people on the net, and it is more of an issue, because there is seldom a way of tracking this down.

    I have nothing against anonymity, obviously however, there is a problem if the anonymity is abused. Wasn't it who used to provide an anonymous posting service for usenet? Didn't it get closed down because of abuse.

  • Aliases have a down side too, in that anyone can dump their old identity and resurface under a different one. I did this when I left university, eight years ago. Simply to disassociate myself with comments that I might have left on Usenet which might come back to haunt me in a corporate environment.

    In the hands of lower, lamer, individuals, however, the ability to change your identity can lead to havoc.

    Real Names have the advantage that you know the person has thought about what they are writing and will be more conservative in their comments.
  • I saw a similar post on usenet, probably alt.peeves ages and ages ago about dejanews and worry about it storing the history of our lives. Me, I'm more interested in hiding some newbie limpings with MFC (I was young), but this poster had a much more valid point:

    What if, at some future time, world feeling should turn against - say - industrial music, in such the same was as it has been known to against other beliefs, being Jewish for example. Once I have been tracked down and hauled up infront of the powers that be, will the prosecution be using my Usenet posts as evidence against me?

    Maybe a slightly extreme example, but it does illustrate a point.

    Must go, documentation beckons.
    Dave :)

  • I know exactly where he's coming from, that's why this Slashdot account doesn't use my name.

    Why do I maintain a second "identity"?

    Well, y'see, I have opinions. Lots of them. Some of those opinions could get me in trouble. For example, it's not completely impossible for vendors to unleash their legal beagles on folks who publicly criticize their products. I happen to think that a lot of vendors ship products that are... suboptimal. (Oh, what the hell, just a short rant.)

    If I ever get my hands on the design team for DLink print server boxes, I'm going to infect the whole lot of 'em with leprosy, and force them to play hockey every day in the winter (hey, there's a face off in the corner!) and Aussie rules football every day in the summer.

    If I was posting under my own name, I probably wouldn't describe a previous boss as a "spineless beancounter who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. In fact, I can't decide which is greater - my personal dislike for him as a human being, or my utter contempt for him professionally".

    Or perhaps I'd hesitate to describe the last company I worked for as "a dismal hellhole where they've been so disorganized for so long that they wouldn't be able to do anything right to save their souls".

    Ah, I feel better now. But I don't know if my boss would approve of those statements, and some of my customers are oversensitive fsckwits who might get offended or something.

    Sure, this isn't bullet proof privacy, I'm sure the cops could find out who I am... But it's anonymous enough for my purposes.

  • I recently got a couple of "Deja News Nuke Article Requests" -- e-mails trying to confirm that I really wanted some of my articles deleted from Deja News. I hadn't asked for any of my articles to be deleted, so I was a bit surprised, to say the least.

    A couple of minutes later, I got an e-mail that said:

    "In 1995 I posted a message that you replied to on . In the reply you quote my message. I am now trying to go back and remove all instances of my name from Usenet. If you would kindly send back the DejaNews Nuke form, all you have to do is send the entire thing back to the address which it came from, I'd really appreciate it. If you have any questions please e-mail me."

    I went and checked the messages in question, and nothing he said was particularly controversial or anything like that. My responses were quite long and actually pretty good, in retrospect. :) The topic was nothing that anyone would be ashamed of having posted to. So it appears that the guy really is just trying to remove all traces of his existence from Deja.

    I decided not to return the nuke forms, because while he may want to eliminate all of his own words on Deja, he has no right to force me to eliminate *mine.* He posted publicly, and I responded publicly, and he has to deal with that. What's done is done. (The funny thing is that, back when I first heard about Deja, I had all my postings set to no-archive. But apparently some slipped through back then, and now I don't even bother preventing archiving anymore.)

    Am I wrong here? I'd love to hear some feedback from the rest of you on this.
  • Here's what I get for not using Preview. The line of the guy's letter that said "In 1995 I posted a message that you replied to on ." actually said "In 1995 I posted a message that you replied to on (some newsgroup name here)." Sorry about the munged post.
  • You wanna be careful you don't PGP sign that thing ;)
  • Good points in the article. Am I sure I want to post the comment I'm writing now? How long does /. archive comments, anyway? What if I ever get famous? Did I say anything I might regret later?

    Well, I guess I'm pretty safe this time.

  • > This is one of the reasons why the ability to be anonymous on the Internet is important

    Sure. But it's also silly to judge someone NOW for what s/he said X years before. Different circumnstances: it should be obvious.

    We may be choerent for the whole of our life only on a small set of subjects. Otherwise, no one'd be able to change his mind _EVER_.

    If the other's opinion drives your life in a significative way and you don't feel comfortable for this, well, probably you pay more attention to others than you pay to yourself.

  • The problem with your point of view is that you've never had to endure the scrutiny that the media subjects people to. Is there anything you've ever said that, taken out of context, would make you look bad?
    Now imagine that your job is at stake for that out-of-context statement.
    Now imagine that your statement is headlining the six o'clock news.
    Now you've got a Slashdot icon with your face because there have been so many links submitted about you.

    It's not about honesty, it's about scale of exposure and the rabidity of the media/public scrutiny.

    > At least, that's what I was told.

    Hey, you ar the lucky winner of out monthly XXXXX contest. Go to XXXXX [] to collect your prize!

    This message is sent only to people who have an interest in our products. The mailing list is created with our sophisticated InterScam interest filter package.
  • Yes, but can you be sure that people are using their *real* real names?

  • I think that a lack of anonymity is a good thing. Especial in online forums such as slashdot. The fact is that the old saying, "think before you speak" still holds, perhaps more so because as the article says, "the internet does not forget." At the end of the day accountability is a good thing, it leads to more thoughtful discussion and less irrational, knee-jerk posting.

    The problem is that people have not yet realised that their words online are perpetual. I think many people view posting online to be similar to shouting in a crowded noisy room (slashdot feels like this at times). How important can your one quote be when it is among 300 others? In a traditional forum it would not be, but on the internet it could mean the world. I think that once people come to realise this we will see much more order online.

    Th benefit of online discussion is getting credit for your ideas, but with this comes responsibility, something which many people choose not to accept.

  • What's the big deal about accountability for your own words? Annonymity is an illusion.

    (Can't be first post, can it?)
  • As a person still capable of the occasional flame, I'm willing to spot people their sincere feelings; that is, sometimes it's OK (even necessary) to abuse someone in ASCII. [In fact, right now I can think of several people on the discussion forums, let alone Jon Katz, who sometimes need a good broiling.]

    What would seem to matter more (with regard to posts that a person had reason to delete later) is the context in which a flame was posted, for one, but also inherent questions like why, and to what end one flamed, was one logical and pissed off or just pissed off, and what does it say about the person other than that they were pissed off?

    That being said, unless the deleted posts were something like "I harbor secret fantasies of monopolizing DNS service in a way that is hostile to the Internet," or "One day, I will put the wood to that shrew Esther Dyson like she deserves," I don't see the point in this guy trying to erase his past posts -- you can never be sure there isn't an archive SOMEWHERE.
  • Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

    I suppose some people find it easier to erase the past than to have the integrity to admit to their own opinions later. they don't have to agree with them later -- a foolish consistency and all that -- the they should at leat own up to them.

  • In some period of time there will be a whole generation of politicians that will have to relearn some present day techniques.

    On military service during the various wars, candidates always find some way to explain their actions as honorable. Clinton, Quayle, Bush, ad nauseum all have wriggled like worms. So will politicians with socially unpopular words resurfacing from their past lives.

    On nominating Justices, politicians have searched for candidates with a very small paper trail, ever since the Bork hearings. As a compromise, they accept a paper trail that runs through a fairly wide middle of the road. Fall outside that with your Internet posting history, and you won't get nominated either.

    On 60's drug use, some claim not to have inhaled, others plead youthful inexperience. Some ask for a statute of limitations. These too will be repeated with Internet words typed in haste.

    It's just another case where something happening on the Internet first comes across as new and never before seen, but really everything old is new again.

    Or, "History repeats itself, but each time the price goes up" -unknown author
  • you could do it; but it requires that you
    1) allow and trust a central authority to authenticate your mail, and
    2) require authentication for all mail


    Bob sends me mail. This is a two step process; it is sent via Auth, who signs it and sends me the message and Auth's signature. Now I can ask auth to authenticate the message, and until it expires the message will be authentic. After it expires, I'll still have the message, but it won't authenticate, so by our second assumption, it will be worthless.

    Mind you, the two assumptions are a bit much for anyone to swallow, but it could work.

  • Whoever called this flamebait is completely missing the point, even if it was a first post(tm). The whole concept of posting anonymously ties in with the discussion here; what's under discussion is people being so afraid of having what they say held against them in the wrong context that it never gets said at all.

    Nobody knows what's appropriate anymore. Somebody, somewhere, will be offended by something you say; if they live in a jurisdiction where they could sue you, you'll get sued, or disciplined, or fired. It happens all the damned time. Remember the niggardly [] incident? A white mayor's aide in Washington, D.C., was discussing how broke the city was and how they needed to make every budget dollar count. Unfortunately, instead of saying "parsimonious" he said "niggardly", and some vocabulary-challenged bozos started screaming "racism" so loudly the aide eventually offered his resignation, which the mayor accepted. So you see, it doesn't even matter what you're trying to say; all that matters is that somebody's perfectly willing to take it the wrong way.

    And the potent combination of political correctness and literary deconstructionism can be used to turn you into something you're not, too. If this flap were raised at a university rather than a mayor's office, the poor schub would never, ever, get tenure, on account of being a crypto-racist.

    Words have a way of coming back to haunt you, even when they're far too old to matter. Who here remembers the letter a twenty-one year old Bill Clinton wrote his college ROTC advisor a letter opting out of the program? It included the phrase "I loathe the military way of life." In 1992 Rush Limbaugh recorded an uncanny Clinton sound-alike saying "I loathe the military", and that sentence has been used against Clinton for over seven years now. A twenty-one year-old intellectual saying he didn't want to be in the Army while there was an unjust war going on? Who'd've thunk? When you're fifty yourself, do you really want people judging you by the dumbfuck things you said when you were twenty-one? Eighteen? Fifteen?

    You can do it to yourself, too: Say you write, "I'm disgusted by Microsoft's acquisition tactics" on a mailing list somewhere, and five years later, while MS is getting ready to offer you three hundred million dollars for your innovative little software package, they decide to do a quick Yahoo [] search on you. They find an archived copy of the mailing list, and suddenly the deal is off. You're out one third of the company's sale price, all because you voiced an opinion about MS's attempt to buy the company that makes your favorite game.

    This is the fear that Rutt's given in to. This is the fear we should all give in to, to limit our exposure to liability. This is the duct tape over all our mouths: that no matter what you say on-line, anyone, anywhere, can try to use it against you, and for reasons that don't make sense to anyone but a room full of lawyers, they just might succeed.


  • sure does sound a lot like the message on WWII German communications equipment. They used microphones with the message "Feind Hört Mit" (the enemy is listening!) written on them.

    I was under the impression that German military comms in WW2 were not VOX modulated. I thought that the vast majority was transmitted via code encrypted using the Enigma device. Well, perhaps they used VOX in close range tactical battleground scenarios...

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • Popeye the Sailor expresses my opinion on this issue perfectly, and provides a perfect response to anybody attempting to throw some post back in my face.

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • Ahh, you say that now, but what happens when you become CEO of Blue Hat BSD Distributions and someone brings up that post about the dog and the nun you posted back in 97?

    I'd tell them with a straight face that the post in 98 about the penguin and the priest was better.

    I used to live in fear like this. As I approach the ripe old age of somewhere in my mid 40's, I no longer care. I'm confident in my ability to provide for myself and if some ignorant schmuck wants to drive me out of my job by taking something I wrote out of context, it's not my loss. And if my employers allowed this, I would not want to work for them anyway.

    "Cyberspace scared me so bad I downloaded in my pants." --- Buddy Jellison

  • Uh oh. Once upon a time I submitted a "First Post"... I'm sorry, I apologize.

    Hehe, Imagine all those "first-post"ers get denied gainful employment due to "lack of maturity".

  • i would guess that much of the more incendiary stuff jimrutt has scribbled, as someone offered in the 'niggardly' example, would have to do with race. jim and i have regularly traded barbs on the subject, but i have always found him to have the integrity of a dedicated interlocutor.

    now as i go back to the well, the context of many of our discussions will be destroyed. people will read a conversation in which one of my personnas is yelling at a non-existant wall. it makes us both look loonier than we are. so what's interesting is what speculation people might draw from these disconnected comments. i would have not put it past myself (although i haven't engaged jim on the well or anywhere else for a while) to have told him that any of his admittedly provocative comments 'was the most idiotic and reactionary racist tripe i've ever heard'. one can only guess what people will guess.

    when all is said and done, i would make it my duty to see that he's not slammed in that regard. i've found him a fine foil for instructive purposes, and i would hate to see him catch heat for being provocative. i have little doubt that plenty folks would like to give him heat he doesn't deserve.

    my advice to myself has been to write in lowercase to distinguish my online communications from those which i type up for other purposes. as well, i have anonymized myself in various ways. the chill factor for me is already built in, yet i understand that my speech is subversive, so that gives me courage of a different sort. i hope that it can live on in this context, and i lament the loss of my virtual sparring partner's words.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Check out the front page of today's (Oct 7, 1999) USA Today. There's a story [] about Disappearing Inc., a San Francisco start-up that offers an e-mail time-out service. Add their software to your e-mail program and you've got e-mail that becomes unreadable after a certain date. The article talks about the software as a lawsuit defense system.

    See []
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Mattel / The Learning Company / Microsystems Software is suing me for libel based on my words on the web!

    They are mainly focusing on my website [www.sorehands.cominjury] but in discovery they also pointed to some postings that I made to yahoo and Prairielaw [].

    Even after they filed their countersuit, I have not stopped! What I have posted is either true or opinions that any reasonable person would agree with based on the facts. The underlying facts are posted on the site [].

    I would say these things to their face (and did to under oath in depositions). I have had to provide them with more than 200 pages of emails related to the site.

    Injured employee wins against Mattel" []

  • I always use my real name. I understand why some people wouldn't, but I'm ready to do the battle of defending my own rights, and as such, everyone else's rights as well.

    I'm also the one who won't pee in a jar for anyone. I'm the one who won't give out my social security number to get a driver's license. I'm the one who won't work for a racist boss, even if it benefits me.

    I'm not saying these things to be self-righteous. I'm saying these things because I hope everyone will come to their senses. Who wants to live a life of cowardice? Who wants guaranteed safety? What will you have gained by living such a life?

    When the tanks roll through the square, I'll be under one, not in one. If enough of you join me, we won't have anything to worry about. They won't put our names in the history books, but we will be the true heroes of our time.

  • No matter what your *own* views are about the bravery of saying that you "won't pee in a jar", the reality is that such language will result in you not even being considered for a job. Many of these decisions are made by human resource personnel who have no clue about your viewpoint, and nor do they give a damn.

    Yes, and you will get those jobs over me, without a doubt. And then you will be the one stuck in these ridiculous organizations that don't give a damn about you. The day I put my life back in the hands of HR is the day I decide my life isn't worth much.

    Maybe you're young, and maybe some day you will apply to a really different job 20 years from now. These things may come back to haunt you at that point, and you may not want it if you have kids and a wife and mortgage payments.

    I'm there already. It took a wife and mortgage payments to make me realize some of what is important in life. Safety and security is over-rated, and worry is a contributor to almost all major health problems.

  • Having a public personality should not be too difficult, unless greed is the only useful skill. The trick is to make one's self valuable to society. There is a saying in small towns that the worst thing that can happen to a person is if nobody knows them. Granted, there will be rough times and the downward spiral or two, but this builds character.

    People like Jenni have developed unique positions for themselves and that is part of their personality. It may be difficult to throw away a personality and a disadvantage to do so. Its interesting to watch the reaction of those who are famous and those who react to them. It would be silly to think I would know a polition or anyone else on a personal level, just because they (and the families) would be in the news so often.
  • I have been posting on usenet news for several years and have found much, but not all have been archived. My floppies may have not lasted over the years, but many of my posts have. Many were good posts and then there were the ones that made me feel like I was looking at my own ass. But one thing is for sure, I have never regretted using my identity.

    There were times when being anonymous was important, but usually, I like to have a name, not a number.
  • Granted, I've said a lot of stupid things in the past, said a lot of them in public forums, and plan to continue doing so in the future... but anything I post publicly I intend to be read publically, damn it, and I hope to be able to either stand behind or apologize for any of it if it's ever brought up in the future.

    Ironically, my problem is that there aren't *enough* archives to suit me. I wrote a lot in #politics, #religion, and a few other MajorNet/FidoNet forums back when I was 12/13, and I'd love to go rooting through it all now and see how my views/writing have changed. Unfortunately there's only a couple weeks of posts that didn't get deleted from my HDD, and I've never found any public archives. Anyone know of anything?
  • Right now, there's a generation of people who "understand" that you really have no privacy left in this society, and most of them are under 35 (they came of age during the PC era), give or take a few years. People growing up today don't really expect privacy, they're used to targeted junk mail, credit reports, demographic data being pulled up on them, and leaving a trail on the web. As these younger generations move into control over society gradually, the public attitudes that lead people like Rutt to delete as much of themselves as possible will change. Since everyone is transparent themselves, they won't be as inclined to look at a 10 year-old posting and cry "gotcha!" (the old "people in glass houses" thing, in the future, everyone will live in a glass house).

    Today, though, I understand Rutt's impulse. I refuse on principle to delete my words from places - I try to think about what I say with the knowledge that it is permanent being a factor. I keep as much of my private self private as I can, and don't sweat the details. My drivers' license has a random number, I deliberately give wacky answers when required to give demographic info, fake phone numbers when possible, etc. I also vary my middle initial a lot to see who's renting my name out to other companies. Anybody who really wants to can find out anything they want to know about me, but I like throwing monkey wrenches in "the system" when I can just for fun...

    So it's a shame that he deleted his postings, but understandable in this not-yet-enlightened era.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • Places like DejaNews, while great resources, also have some privacy implications. Who is this person? What else is he interested in? How long has he been on the 'net? What sorts of things does he buy and sell? What software packages does he use? Is he involved in pornography? Etc... Many of these questions can be answered in part by using the archive search features on DejaNews. Sure, when you post to Usenet, you are giving up a lot of privacy. But when you consider that the archive goes back for *years* the implications are bigger than you might think at first glace.

    It's only a matter of time until a presidential candidate bows out of the race when someone dregs up a past Usenet post that makes him/her look bad...

    At least, that's what I was told.


  • If we all go around trying to alter or delete past words for fear of the reprocussions, we make ourselves a part of the Big Brother tyranny.

    Historians are already worried that the increasing migration of cultural records into electronic form may make it difficult to preserve for future generations. How much worse is the problem to become if all of us are actively seeking to cover up our own past? It brings to mind images of Cancer Man and the Syndicate, who laborously concoct schemes to keep the world from knowing their evils.

    What exactly do we have to hide? The admissions of criminal acts? The fact that we may have ingested substances which the state, in all its divine wisdom, has declared unfit for mankind, hence illegal? Or is it something as innocuous as expressing a dislike for a governments, corperations, or individuals whom we view as unsavory?

    Being a creature of the net that I am, I have said some things online, in my own web pages, that I am not entirely pround of. However, I don't delete them and pretend as if they had never been said. If people can't handle the fact that I am a human being and may say/write things on the spur of the moment, I'd rather not associate with them anyway. I guess that's why I'll never be a politician.

    I would hope that society is more mature than to reject people on something so petty as speaking their mind. Let's practice the 1st Amendment in spirit, as well as following the letter.

    I support The Party. I have always supported The Party. I will forever support The Party.

  • >deliberately give wacky answers when required to give demographic info.

    Heh heh. When I heard how the supermarkets were misusing the demographic data gathered from customer's use of store discount cards, I threw mine away and got several more under false names and data. Now, I have one card that I just buy Sweet-Tarts (tm) candy with. Another that I use to buy 15 gallons of distilled water at a time.

    Best of all, I choose names that are amusing to pronounce so I can hear the checkers say, "Have a good day, Mr. Auoeouuei..."
  • At the company where I work, a program trolls through our email and deletes anything older than a few months. The idea isn't to prevent any record under any circumstances, but to provide a common business practice which can be helpful if subpoenaed (?)

    If no such common business practice exists, then it may seem as if a company is withholding evidence when they are not.
  • Is there anything you've ever said that, taken out of context, would make you look bad?

    Certainly, and you raise a very good point. The media does a wonderful job of taking things out of context, if only for ratings and yellow journalism. However, if you are a generally honest person, something that has been taken out of context can usually be rebutted.

    The point I was trying to make was that even if the media was after me, and were taking everything I said out of context, *I* would know that I was being honest, and doing the right thing, and to me, that's all that matters. I'd rather go to the grave with a little honor and dignity for myself and have the rest of the world hate me, than trying to cover all my tracks and being a liar just so everyone will love me.
  • I guess I feel that if someone is deleting things they've said, for fear that they may be cast in a bad light, then they probably shouldn't have said them in the first place. This is why I don't mind if people were to find out what I posted or sent to someone, because frankly, I have nothing to hide. If he deleted them for security reasons that's one thing, but to do it to cover your tracks and look innocent on something is a bit shady. Plus, I'd probably respect the guy more if he was upfront and honest.
  • This is a very interesting ethical question which is going to become more and more important as time goes by. As we become more involved in online communities and the power of the Internet as a search tool becomes stronger, we will see more occurrences of this sort.

    How will it be though for people like Jenni (Jennicam) who live their lives completely openly. Judging from her diary, I gather that there is some evidence to say that her life has already been affected hugely to the extent where she finds it very difficult to find employment - despite having shown that she is one of the most marketing savvy people on the net.

    Will our online words become something we guard closely, afraid of repercussions in later life, or will society's views change, so that people's private lives and work lives become more divorced from each other.

    In Sweden where I live, it's common (relatively) to sauna in mixed groups. The trick is to sit and NOT stare at someone else's private parts. (I'm British, so it's a learnt trait ;-) I feel this is much the same issue - who cares if you've posted viewpoints on the web advocating bull spanking, as long as that is divorced from what you do in the office, it shouldn't be anyone else's business.

    Wishful thinking I'm afraid, but an extremely interesting ethical question in any case.

  • Words uttered at 18 in the middle of a flame war don't have any real correlation to the actual physical person, maybe two decades later. A lot of people might get tarnished unfairly.

    Thats why it's important for people to get more perspectives and gain a better look. American culture is finally gaining an understanding that everyone does stupid stuff. We've been fooling ourselves for a long time, but we're growing up. The U.S. is a teenager internationally and acts like it, but recent events and folks like Ventura just might break through the illusions of expectations we've created,....and make the silly posts you made when you were young, looks like the single tiny bits of the big picture they are.;^P
  • Hear, hear!

    William Gibson described the Sprawl in Neuromancer as "a sick sociological experiment with somebody's finger permanently on the fast-forward button" (approximate quote; I don't have the text with me). One neat thing about the Internet is that it speeds up human interaction. Like biologists use fast-reproducing animals like insects to learn about genetics, we can use the Internet to learn about sociology.

    The lesson learned here, as I have seen it: It is easier and better to do the Right Thing in the first place, rather than figure out where to hide the bodies later.

    As people, we would often rather be crafty and sneaky than do the simple (and hard) Right Thing. It burns you in code. It burns you in life.

  • Imagine if the net had existed during the McCarthy era in the U.S. A lot of the people making leftist comments about software development could be in for investigation. And having *lots* of trouble getting work.

    Yes, imagine the intersection of McCarthyism and the Internet. Frankly, I think that the Internet would have killed McCarthyism a lot faster than it was killed in real life.

    Paranoia and authoritarianism is fueled by centralized control of the media. Whenever you see a highly centralized, oppressive government, you always see two things: state-controlled mass media and its opposition, guerilla media/pirate radio.

    The Internet is guerilla media in ways that pirate radio can't dream of. Knowledge is power, and nobody should know that better than IT crew. The Internet diversifies the balance of power, making it hard for any one entity to take command.

    Can the majority use the Internet to find and persecute the minority? Yes. If Microsoft wants to compile an enemies list, for example, it could do little better than get the active roster of Slashdot users. But on the other hand, the minority can use the Internet to band together. Divide-and-conquer tactics tend to fail against a wired population.

  • Hm that piece about that sticker which he supposedly taped under his monitor (...Now, under his computer screen he has taped a warning: Do you want to see this on MSNBC?...) sure does sound a lot like the message on WWII German communications equipment. They used microphones with the message "Feind Hört Mit" (the enemy is listening!) written on them. So now the ubiquitous message archives on the 'Net have become virtual playgrounds for potential enemies.

    Hmm, I'd say `as long as you are nothing but yourself, on- or off-line, who is going to hurt you' but then I am an incorrigble optimist...
  • I used to have one identity for all my online and meatspace activities. But after several years of seeing the continual erosion of privacy rights and individual rights in favor of group rights and the development of the surveillance state, I concluded that this was no longer practical, and so I "killed off" the parts of my real identity that wouldn't reflect well upon me, and developed new identities, which I keep as compartmentalized as possible.

    One of them is "me", and has a fairly typical geekish profile, including USENET postings.

    One of me is on Slashdot. You're reading from him now.

    The interesting identity is an old version of me who used to hang out with a group of folks who [censored] which, while trendy now, may at some time in the future become unfashionable.

    I no longer associate with that last group - not so much because there's anything wrong with [censored], or because I'm no longer interested in [censored], but because I'm hedging my bets against catastrophe. I miss 'em. They were good people, and I made some good friends.

    But if you believe - as I do - that the war for privacy and individual rights will ultimately be lost, it was a necessary sacrifice.

    My [censored] was pretty mild by today's standards. But it doesn't matter if my [censored] was politics (communism? fascism? democracy?), guns (of any form), sex (of any form that involves pleasure, judging from the religious right), drugs (hey, there are folks advocating prohibition of tobacco and alcohol too!), or rock 'n' roll (industrial music post-Columbine anyone?). If we end up with living in a surveillance state, and folks into [censored] become the scapegoat-du-jour, I could have been targeted for surveillance in a random sweep.

    Remember the corollary of the "they came for the foos and I didn't speak up" quotation is that "sooner or later, they'll come for you".

    By cutting off that association now, as opposed to "the day the Bad Guys Take Over", I gave myself - and my friends, who may have more integrity and courage than myself - some protection. "Yeah, Mr. Thought Policeman, I used to think [censored] was cool, but I'm better now. I don't know any of my former associates, ain't heard from 'em in years, and your records'll back me up on that. Sorry I can't help you track them down for treatment/reeducation/extermination, as is my civic duty under Neomegalopolis Penal Code Section XVIII.4 Sub-Paragraph (b)."

    Yeah, that's spineless cowardice. I sincerely admire the courage of the /. poster who said he'd "rather be under the tanks than riding in them", but when it comes right down to it, how many of us, when push comes to shove, are willing to make that commitment? And how many of us are willing to make that decision on behalf of our families and loved ones well as ourselves?

    Frankly, I kinda enjoyed my [censored] days. But I also enjoy my job and my geeky toys. And when I concluded that the halcyon days of a "free world" were almost over, I was forced to ask myself whether I wanted my job and my toys more than I wanted my [censored]. I concluded that there were other forms of fun that I enjoyed more than [censored], and walked away from it.

    If I'm wrong about the future, I'll have given up a small part of my life in exchange for more time to spend on other things that I enjoy just as much. A fair trade. But if I'm right, ten years from now, I'll be thanking my lucky stars that I chickened out now and got some experience in living under authoritarianism before it became an essential skill. I'm still not that great at it, but I'm learning and adapting.

    It sucks to live in the twilight era of freedom, but there you have it.

    "Oh, I know I'm a louse, but I'm a live louse!"
    - Daffy Duck

  • There are some scary issues involved in having an easily accessible archive of someone's posting history. One is that someone may be, um, "less intelligent" at a younger age and regret things later. Routinely someone gets into Usenet for the first time and becomes a flaming idiot for a few months, disappears for a while, then returns as a much lower key citizen. I've done deja seaches on job applicants and run into more than one person who used to be a rampant software pirate at one point in his life. Maybe they got over it. But, man, does it look really bad.

    Another issue is that a search can turn up personal opinions and interests that you don't necessarily want to know about, but can end up biasing your views. I did a search for postings by a programmer I respected and found all sorts of apparently serious discussion in a bestialty group. Ugh. I didn't want to know that. Or what if you find that a job applicant strongly holds views that you disagree with on abortion, gun control, government, the death penalty, or legalization of drugs? How could that not bias your opinion of that person? Yes, it *shouldn't* affect anything, but let's be realistic.
  • You can try and hide if you want to, but you will be found out eventually. Check out that loser big-wig tech guy who got caught by the FBI trying to hook up with a 13 year old girl. He did his damnedest to remain anonymous to no avail. Accountability for your actions isn't such a bad thing. It's called being a respsonible person.

    Can you imagine what would have happened if the internet had been around during the Revolutionary War? We would have had a bunch of Anonymous Cowards ranting about some Declaration of Independence in a forum somewhere only to be dismissed. Sometimes you have to put yourself on the front line if you want to be taken seriously.
  • Yes, people should realize that comments in forums like this are effectively permanent. But that isn't the real problem. Even being careful about what you say may not suffice if what you say is controversial relative to the mores of the time, which are always changing.

    Imagine if the net had existed during the McCarthy era in the U.S. A lot of the people making leftist comments about software development could be in for investigation. And having *lots* of trouble getting work.

    Another fairly easy thing to imagine is a period of political religious conservatism making life difficult for pagans and atheists.

    Or how about political correctness metering?

    Thanks to the net, if you're honest, you can no longer hide what you believe. The net makes it easier to persecute you, but it also makes it harder to ignore you, and gives you a voice to protest such persecution. Can you imagine the furor if they started arresting the GNU-lefties?

    The real danger here is the quiet stuff personnel departments and insurance companies do before hiring/insuring someone. Even though it is illegal, some may perform a credit check. Even though it is illegal, they may try to obtain medical records. Even though it *should* be illegal they may try to determine your political or religious beliefs thru net postings. I can't say how widespread these practices are, but I've heard a great deal of anecdotal evidence about them.

    As our lives become more transparent to the powers-that-be it is essential we demand equal transparency in return from those with the potential to misuse the information.
  • I'm impressed that you illustrate my point without meaning to. The subject practically hammers it in, and even adds a touch of brilliant irony.


  • Tony,

    There is no battle. The reason it's not a good idea to add your name to everything you post is because you may not even know who is looking it up. I know for a fact that many employers search names before considering an interview. And they don't tell you if they don't call you.

    No matter what your *own* views are about the bravery of saying that you "won't pee in a jar", the reality is that such language will result in you not even being considered for a job. Many of these decisions are made by human resource personnel who have no clue about your viewpoint, and nor do they give a damn.

    Maybe you're young, and maybe some day you will apply to a really different job 20 years from now. These things may come back to haunt you at that point, and you may not want it if you have kids and a wife and mortgage payments.

    Personally, I'm not in that situation, but I'm not fond of HR people and their narrow perspective either. We can't predict the future, and I don't trust having my heat-of-the-moment views littered all over the place for misinterpretation.

    Basically, my views stand on their own - I don't gain anything by having my real name attached to them. But I have a lot to lose if those views can be misinterpreted or prove embarrassing years or decades from now. You need to think about it. That's all.

  • Very few people in high power high profile positions today have a background that includes online time. However, think about how bad this will be in 20 years? What if Rob goes onto to a respectable life in corporate America, or God forbid, politics ;) Can you imagine the furor that could erupt over things he may have said on Slashdot 20 years previous? I hope that by then this technology is so pervasive that it won't be that big a deal. However, I suspect our societies values and attitudes will change much slower than the technolgy and resulting lifestyle. I can see it now...I'm running for President in 2030 and my opponent digs up an archived copy of my Pamela Anderson in the nude home page from college :)

    Note - that was just an example - I never posted a Pamela Anderson page of any far as you know :)
  • I seem to recall hearing about a news conference in France in which Miterrand was asked "Do you have a mistress?" His response was along the lines of "Sure, doesn't everyone?" and the matter pretty much died to to lack of interest.

    If our society ever grows up, this will cease to be a problem; it's impossible to sell scandal sheets when nobody is scandalized. Unfortunately, we seem to be going in the opposite direction these days.
    Deja Moo: The feeling that

  • The best rule of thumb is to be prepared for everything you say and write to be used against you. It's not right that that's the case, but there are many cases where your employer could accidentally bump into you (or your writing) that could put you in a very uncomfortable position.
    You'll never see me giving away and information or speaking badly about that big computer company based out of Round Rock for that reason.
  • never never... my words are my words... if people want to misrepresent me through a misinterpretation of my words, then so be it..

    (err, how do I unpost something?)
  • This seems like yet another outgrowth of the Microsoft Trial. Here at work (not MS) we have been ordered to delete all email older than six months, and I imagine many other companies have enacted similar rules in the last few years. The use of email and other electronic correspondence in ligitation is definately a bad thing in the long term.

    Not that this is all that new, even when everything was kept on dead trees it could be subpoenaed and used in evidence. The difference? You had to know it was there, or else you had to go through files and archive boxes by hand. An expensive and difficult process.

    Now you can just GREP a hard drive or use Dejanews or Altavista or search a MS Exchange PST file. It is neither difficult nor expensive. An interesting example of why the paperless office may not improve on the old way of doing things. This bothers me a lot, because I am a believer in the digital age.

    But the thought of removing personal correspondence from electronic databases bothers me even more. There was a time when people wrote letters the way we now write email; as a method of remaining in constant communication with others. They didn't have telephone, or even telegraph, so they had no other way to carry on conversations over great distances. And many of these people took great care to preserve their letters for posterity, correctly seeing these missives as a legacy of thought and person.

    Without this preservation we would not have the access we possess today to the minds of men like Jefferson, Madison and others. Generations later these letters represent important historical documents. Could you imagine if they had decided to purge their files so that the expression of some youthful lack of sense could not be taken out of context or to avoid seeing the letters show up in court?

    I repeat, this is a bad thing. Perhaps the best thing we can do is to never say anything, in email or otherwise, that we would be ashamed of. Personally I don't think that is entirely possible -- but I will keep it in mind from now on...


  • I don't think I want to be in a position of authority if it means giving up my right to free speech. If my opinions offend the stockholders, let them hire somebody else. (Not that I'll ever have the opportunity to worry about that :-) )

    I guess some people think it's worth it, though. But do we really want people in control (whether it's corporations or the government) that will so readily back down from their opinions in order to keep their power?

    As for the media focusing on individuals, I don't think you can blame the media for that. People in general like to have a real person they can rally around. It's hard to like or dislike an organization. It's easier if you can put a face on it. How much do you think Bill Gates is actually involved in writing code for Win2K? My guess: none. But when we are using it (and, unfortunately, we will) and we get the blue screen of death (and, unfortunately, we will), who's name will we curse?

  • I can't say I worry about anything on the net coming back to haunt me. I go by the same rules on the net that I do in public, don't say anything you wouldn't want to repeat. People seem to think the net is a private place, when in fact it's a completely open forum. Most people would never go into a crowded restaurant and loudly discuss how crappy you're boss is, or who you slept with the night before, but these same people have no qualms about saying these same things on the net. People seem to think that if your face is hidden when your talking that no one can ever find you, kind of the ostrich syndrome.

    People just need to realize the net isn't their living room, it's a lot closer to a crowded mall where anyone can here you.

  • However, on the other hand is the point that people should think before the speak. Quite often that is the core of the problems.

    Quite the opposite. The core of the problems is that society has stopped giving the benefit of the doubt to anybody under any circumstance.

    The problem is not that people don't think before they speak -- people will always do that because they're human. The problem is that people refuse to say "hey you probably didn't think before you said that, forgive and forget."

    As others have said, the core of the problem is with the media, who takes every little thing every preson says and blows it out of proportions. The solution is to come down hard on members of the media who resort to such tactics. Make the media think twice before using every silly word anybody says and ruining people's lives, just to make an extra buck.

  • Oh come off it, Harry Bowles, we all know who you are and you're not fooling anyone.


  • Example: Jesse Ventura. That wacky governor of Minnesota has gotten into way too much trouble trying to be funny. Remember how he said he wanted to be reincarnated as a 36DD Bra? How he thinks religion is for weak minded people? He's had to backtrack for the entire time he's in office over some of the stuff he's said.

    Being as I am here in Minnesota, I can reflect on Mr. Ventura a bit.

    It was frightening to me that as the election returns were being announced, the person Jesse spoke of being his greatest inspiration was "Rocky." Rocky! Someone who isn't even a real person, just a film creation.

    Jesse is a flake. The kind of antics he practices in the media would set off "flamebait" and "troll" alarms all over the 'net if he dared express them there.

    Last night, I found out my brother-in-law, an all-out Jesse supporter during the election (who worked in Ventura's organization) has pulled the bumper stickers off his truck.

    I first met Mr. Ventura at a "Twin Cities Stop-The-Draft Committee" meeting in about 1979. He showed up out-of-the-blue to express his support for the "Don't Register" campaign we were organizing. He's a former Navy Seal. That move made me respect him, but everything he's done since then has been downhill in my opinion. As a Minnesotan (Minneostans are still the only people he represents, but watch out...)
  • Hi--it's John Schwartz, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the story, delurking. Just wanted to say that some of the people commenting on the story don't seem to have read it. "Rabid?" Me? My story? Please take a look: this isn't "gotcha!" journalism. Instead, it's an attempt to show somebody who is afraid that the gotcha squad may come after him some day, and taking action. The story raises a lot of the questions that are being discussed here at slashdot--should people post anonymously? Shouldn't they understand that posting in online discussions is more like publication than conversation? Most important, if society could become more accustomed to the notion that people say strong things in unguarded moments, could that somehow lead to a little more honesty and a little less hypocricy? I can't speak for Jim Rutt, but I can tell you that he participated in the story because he thought the issues are important, and because he'd been thinking about them himself. With some reservations, since the stuff I was going to quote could get him into trouble, he talked to me. The story is better because of it.
  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @08:21AM (#1631719) Homepage Journal
    I agree entirely: access to anonymous forms of communication seems to me an essential freedom of a democratic society. Ideally, of course, people should be able to speak in their own name without fear of State comeback, but if that freedom is threatened you might need anonymity to know about it.

    However, anonymity is not about having no identity: it is about having more than one identity. Superman is anonymous because no-one knows he's also Clark Kent, but it's clear that the guy who rescued the school bus yesterday is the same guy who stopped the nuclear terrorists last week; it's just not known that he's the same guy as wrote the story about the kitten hospital on Tuesday. That's why I don't respect AC's: it's not that they don't give their real names, but that they don't give any name at all: every comment is a "hit and run" comment, and there's no point in responding because even if you hear from them again you won't know about it. I think Slashdot should abolish ACs in favour of special anonymous accounts that don't need a valid email address to be enabled, for the best of both worlds.

    For my part, I use my real, legal name. I now wish I hadn't - I'd rather not be *quite* as out as I am about, for example, SM - but I'm known by this name online now and I'm not inclined to change it. But I'd certainly encourage anyone who's started using online public forums recently to come up with a pseudonym (not a silly one, a straightforward one you can live with for a long time) and use it as a matter of course. Who the hell needs to know your real name anyway?
  • by lar3ry ( 10905 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @07:06AM (#1631720)
    Such NONSENSE!!!!!!!!!

    I have had an online presense since the 1980s, and have always known that things that I say or that I have said could or would be archived and still around years and even decades later. You never know who might be archiving a USENET newsgroup, or even just messages from you.

    I comport my life in that I tend to say what I mean, and mean what I say (and Humpty Dumpty points out that these aren't always the same things!). My opinions may change over the years, but I have rarely said things in public forums that I am sorry for having said... if my views have changed over time, then it's documentation of a learning process!

    In the unlikely event that somebody would find such a change in my personal opinions, and would take the effort to try to use my own words against me, my response would be to point out that EVEN *I* CAN MANAGE TO CHANGE MY MIND AND (get this!) evolve better opinions!

    For those people who may find themselves ashamed for things that they may have said a few years ago, my feeling is "well... it's your own fault if you said such things in a public forum."

    Speaking on USENET, on a "community bulletin board," on Slashdot, or in any other public online forum, is the same as talking to a reporter for a newspaper. Whatever you say will be still be around years later... even after you die (there are newspaper "morgues" that go back many decades!).

    The moral is: think before you speak. And most important: Think about the legacy you are leaving behind! I think I am proud of my legacy... even the things that I have done in the past that turned out to be incorrect. After all, everything has contributed in my being the person that is me right now.

    But then again, maybe I won't feel this way in a year or so. If not, in the words of Emily Litella, "Never mind!"
  • by phred ( 14852 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @01:33PM (#1631721)
    I'm the co-host of the News conference on the Well, where Jim's mass-scribble was discussed and John Schwartz picked up on it and wrote the WPost article. I've known Jim since he started on the Well a decade ago, and think it's perfectly fine for him to do this, and said so at the time. At my request and others, though he was under no obligation to do so, he briefly mentioned his viewpoint on this. Frankly, it's his own damn business as it should be for anyone on the Well. That's the way it has to be if you really "own your own words."

    bandy, booter, blair and now jimrutt are not the only ones to do this over the years, and the reasons and context have been discussed extensively. My guess is that many Well members are uneasy about cases like this but support the right of anyone to do so. On the other side, a few have been vehement about the damage to the flow of discussion (and by inference, to the sense of community) that wholesale removal of postings causes, particularly in topics where the person has been quite active. But my feeling has always been, if you can scribble one posting for whatever reason (and nobody I know of questions that feature), then why shouldn't you be able to do that to all of your postings if you so desire?

    jef deserves credit for providing a tool that both makes this more convenient to the user and diminishes the impact on other users.

    As for jimrutt, alert Slashdot readers know that I have been quite critical of NSI both before and since he came on board. We've tangled over a number of issues over the years on the Well, but once you look at how he thinks and acts and presents his views (modulo the obvious shit-disturbing comments!), he has genuine integrity. I was not happy with the tripartite agreements announced last week between NSI, ICANN and the Department of Commerce: I think Commerce gave away the store to NSI. But I can't fault Jim for reaching an agreement that is as favorable as he could get for his company. When he first took the job I urged him to focus on dropping the whois database intellectual property claims, and instead get with fixing NSI's obviously broken customer service. To a large degree he is doing that; I'm still not happy with NSI but we have what we have. If the ongoing NSI/ICANN/open registry system can sustain Jon Postel's vision of the net as a resource freely and fairly available to all people, then Jim's professional activities will be vindicated.

    But regardless of that, he had the perfect right to scribble his stuff on the Well. Or not.

    If y'all are interested in checking out the rather unique place known as the Well [], please come check it out. There are both graphical (Engaged) and command-line (picospan) user interfaces, and a lot of ferment in our conferences, and though it's not quite the hotbed of whatever that we used to be, it's still something of a lab of social online interaction.

  • by Pyr ( 18277 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @06:06AM (#1631722) Homepage
    You say one thing sarcastically or in jest and the media is all over you. They will misquote you and argue over your words till the day hell freezes over. Everyone will get up in arms and then you'll have to backtrack on everything you said.

    Example: The new biography of Ronald Reagan is out, and in it the biographer called him an "apparent airhead". For the last two weeks all I've seen interviews was "OOh! You called him an airhead!" "You called him an airhead!". Reagan's whole family has denounced the biography over just that one word.

    Example: Just in the paper today there was a short article on Eric Idle and Monty Python. He was quoted as saying "I have discovered I really don't mind doing Monty Python, providing none of the others are around", and at the end of the article they had to mention one of Idle's spokespeople saying he was really just trying to be funny.

    Example: Jesse Ventura. That wacky governor of Minnesota has gotten into way too much trouble trying to be funny. Remember how he said he wanted to be reincarnated as a 36DD Bra? How he thinks religion is for weak minded people? He's had to backtrack for the entire time he's in office over some of the stuff he's said.

    Nobody has a sense of humor, and frankly, I'd be afraid to have any of my old messages show up if I became a public figure. Geek humor is very strange, and very difficult to understand, and waay too easy to take seriously. I like to tell dead baby jokes, call people idiots, and be an all around misanthrope/misogynist. I would be dead meat if some of my old messages popped up and the media got it's hands on them.
  • by georgeha ( 43752 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @05:52AM (#1631723) Homepage
    First I have a work email and a home email, admittedly a weak subterfuge.

    Then, if someone corners me about an old post, I'll look it over, with a puzzled expression on my face, and finally say.

    "Dude, I wrote that? I must have been blitzed on some serious 'cid at the time, whoa!"

  • by aedil ( 68993 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @05:30AM (#1631724)
    It is both understandable and sad to see that things like this happen. Indeed, the media tends to take things out of context and make a story even out of slight remarks. Worse, some people's comments indeed are getting used against them.

    However, on the other hand is the point that people should think before the speak. Quite often that is the core of the problems. Especially when you are a figure of power, high standing, or just well-known, it is important to be careful with what you say or write, because of course people will interpret things, and quote you on what you say. If you have thoughts you wish to express, but you don't want them to be thrown back at you as in 'You said ...' then don't say them :-)

    So if people would take a bit more accountability into consideration when writing things, or when giving interviews or speeches, etc... And if the media could perhaps stick a bit more to reporting rather than scandal and headline hunting, things would look alot better.

    Sounds like the hopes of a dreamer, right?

  • by Slothrup ( 73029 ) <curt AT hagenlocher DOT org> on Thursday October 07, 1999 @05:23AM (#1631725)
    This is one of the reasons why the ability to be anonymous on the Internet is important. Semi-public figures like Rutt should be allowed to communicate in a public forum on a personal level without having his every utterance scrutinized by a ruthless media and public.

    As far the "Media" focusing on individuals is concerned, I think that this is something that we all do. It is easier for us as individuals to focus on specific individuals. In regard to bands, for instance, people tend to focus their attention on the vocalist as an individual, even if the band is truly a collective effort.

  • by Tau Zero ( 75868 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @06:45AM (#1631726) Journal
    Eagles are visible. Weasles can get stepped on.


    This does make me wonder: how long will it be before someone turns the openness of their opinions into an asset? If the media try to spin some comment out of context it could easily backfire if that entire context is available for the asking; the publication or reporter who tried this might wind up zeroing their own credibility. And imagine what might happen if the public starts using the Net as a way to check on the views of candidates. Who's going to be more "real" to a discerning electorate: someone who's been on the record for years, or someone whose carefully-tailored platform appeared ex nihilo on their campaign web site last week?


    "Discerning electorate"? What was I thinking. Never mind!
    Deja Moo: The feeling that

  • by jefp ( 90879 ) <> on Thursday October 07, 1999 @07:35AM (#1631727) Homepage
    Mass scribbling on the WELL is a peculiar institution. It started years ago when Bandy and his then wife Booter were being harassed by one of the WELL's mad dogs. Bandy wrote a somewhat baroque C program to find all their posts, emit scribble commands, and execute them. Then they made an unexpected discovery - due to a bug in the conferencing software, each topic where they had scribbled a post would show up as "new" for all readers, even though there were no actual new responses. That morning, every reader in every conference was having to hit return hundreds of times to make their way through a whole lot of nothing. There was an outcry, of course. I believe that the WELL's prejudice against mass scribbling is really due to this stupid bug, not to any lofty considerations of conversational integrity. Blair Newman's mass scribble followed shortly after Bandy and Booter's. I'm pretty sure he did it just for fun, to try out a new techno toy, and it was not related to his suicide a few weeks later. However, those who were still pissed at Bandy & Booter naturally seized upon the suicide as an opportunity to paint mass scribbling as evil or something. The WELL is like that sometimes. The peculiar thing was that in order to make this rhetorical connection, Blair had to be retroactively sanctified. So, a lot of the folks who harassed him while he was alive - including the same person who was harassing Bandy and Booter - were now praising Blair. Very strange to see. In the years since then, the original motive - protection from a harasser - has been the most common reason for mass scribbling. Jim's use for pre-emptive political protection is a first. By the way, Jim didn't use Bandy's original mass scribble program, he used a later simpler shell script written by me.
  • by Lucius Lucanius ( 61758 ) on Thursday October 07, 1999 @05:35AM (#1631728)
    Simply because no matter how clever and wise you think your thoughts are today, they may be regrettable in 20 years. Your views and employers may have changed, but your ASCII scribbles would still be on the wall.

    Who knows, maybe the ideology or F word may be out of fashion and make you look like an idiot. Or maybe your writings were never very sombre to start with.

    Another good reason is that you don't want to land up in a collected database. Information is always collected. Just check up your name on or similar engines - you may be in for a shock.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll