1-3: Privacy & Anonymity

Online Identity

The Web is Public

One of the first things people said when invited to take part in the program has invariably been “I don’t want my identity to be public on the web”. This is an extremely valid viewpoint: going around posting identifiably as yourself willy-nilly on the web can have all sorts of unfortunate repercussions if you happen to be unlucky, such as your boss reading that snarky blog post denouncing the latest policy change.  Everything on the web, you see, is public, even when you think it’s not.  It’s the equivalent of having a personal conversation on a bus or train: you think only your friend is listening, but the guy in the row behind you could be paying avid interest too.  So, before you post something, think: am I comfortable with complete strangers knowing this?

The Web is Forever

The web is forever, too, despite its reputation as a throw-away platform or transient media.  Much as you don’t know who’s reading what you’re writing, you don’t know who’s saving it for posterity – or for another reason.  Indeed, attempts to remove information from the web often backfire spectacularly, only serving to draw even more attention to the information and disseminate it further.  This is known as the Streisand Effect.

The Online You

Fortunately, the internet has a long history of allowing, even encouraging total or partial anonymity from those who use it.  As a result, online identity tends to be a fluid thing: the ‘you’ you are online is not necessarily the ‘you’ you are in real life, and the ‘you’ you are are one place online might be a completely different ‘you’ in another (if that makes any sense to you).  It’s not uncommon for someone to maintain two or three three or even more distinct identities online, complete with unique pseudonyms and email addresses.

Most of the services we’ll be using for the 23 Things allow partial anonymity, in that they require you to register with a working email address and select a username.

To Complete Thing 3

  1. Google your name.  Do you actually appear in the results?  What sort of information does the internet already hold about you?  What happens if you add ‘Perth’ to your search string?
  2. Pick a pseudonym/username/handle that does not reference your name.  You will use it to register accounts for this course (with one or two exceptions), so check to see if it’s available at least on:
  • WordPress
  • Delicious
  • Flickr
  • Twitter

If you’re having trouble coming up with one, I’ve provided links to some useful resources below.

Advice Sites:

    • How to Create a Username WikiHow has how-to guides on just about any topic you can name.  Selecting a name is no exception.
    • Choosing and Internet Nickname An essay on choosing a unique nickname. Pretty informal and you should ignore all the links, but it contains some good advice
    • How Not to Choose a Handle The video essentially covers exactly what’s in the text, so just have a read of what’s written.
    Name Generators:
    • My Username Generator: A quick and simple username generator, that allows you to set the length of your username.
    • Behind the Name: Random Name Generator Behind the name is a very nifty resource in and of itself, but the name generator will create first, middle and surnames using names broken down into over 80 categories from African to Transformer. You can also browse the name database for names by meaning.
    • Rum & Monkey Username Generator Enter a name and the generator will, er, generate a username for you.
    • Seventh Sanctum A list of name generators – primarily fantasy
    • NewAlias Quickly generates some (really weird) nicknames
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