Ming the Mechanic:
Who's Real

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Who's Real2002-09-21 22:12
6 comments
pictureby Flemming Funch

A concern for any virtual community space is how we can verify whether people are who they say they are, or whether we even care if anybody is who they say they are.

If people can just go and create a profile by filling in a name and an e-mail, we're not really going to be sure who they are at first, beyond what they say. They might create several accounts and pretend to be different people.

We can of course make more stringent criteria for opening new accounts. For example, that one has to be referred by some already known person, and that one has to fill in a considerable amount of information about oneself, and somebody has to examine that and approve the application.

But it still comes down to something more fundamental. Community doesn't happen just because some people fill in profiles, even if they do it correctly and truthfully. Community is something that happens between specific people, not something that can be automated in a database.

In that vein it would be somewhat misleading to call something like the New Civilization Network "a community". It is not a community, virtual or not. It is a space where community might happen, and it is a place where one can set up virtual communities, i.e. online groups that people choose to belong to, in order to accomplish some particular aim in some mutually agreeable manner.

So, how does it matter whether people are real or fake online? Well, it depends on the purpose. If the point is just online socializing and nothing else, it might not matter. It might for that matter be more interesting if you could make up fake personalities at will. But in any setting where we expect people to possibly work together on real projects, it is a different matter.

If one was going to enter into a business-like relationship with somebody else, it would be fair to demand that one could identify and verify each other's identity to some degree. Knowing their address, phone number, etc., and being able to talk with them over the phone or in person.

Personally, for many kinds of collaboration, I don't so much care whether they really give their real name, as I care what their track record is. I care about whether other people know them, whether other people trust them, whether other people have had successful interactions with them in the past.

One of the mast successful trust tracking systems online is at eBay. Buyers and sellers in online auctions will usually file feedback on each other. So I can come along later and decide to trust somebody based on their previous track record. And it works well. Millions of private people are sending each other money in advance for unseen products, with no legal guarantee of getting what they're paying for. But the fraud is minimal, exactly because of the feedback and rating system. And that is despite that you might not know anything more about each other than an online handle.

I think the value of a network or a community is in the trust relations that are established. Database software can help store that, but will not be able to figure it out by itself. So, the question is really how best to create features that allow trust to be recorded, without those features themselves being misused.

Asking for people to be sponsored or recommended by known members in good standing, before or after accepting their profile, is one way.

Asking people to record their relationship with others is one way. However, if it isn't based on well-defined transactions it is open to misuse. If nothing much is at stake, some people will vouch for just about anybody, just because they're in a good mood or they smiled at them or something.

We can pay particular attention to who have met each other in person. If somebody has been to their house, that says a good deal about whether the person is real or not.

Feedback and track record in relation to some kind of transaction is possibly more reliable. If something is bought and sold, something is at stake, and people are likely to give fairly correct feedback.

All of this is ultimately just information.

If we can require and store and elicit the right kind of information, and enough of it, we might have a virtual picture of each other that we can use for something.

My preferred approach would be that anybody would be allowed a virtual identity, no matter how thin it is, but that we would relate to that identity differently depending on how well developed and well verified and well trusted that identity is.

For NCN the practical compromise solution currently is that new members are screened by a human and obvious extra accounts for existing members are rejected, as are accounts that refuse to give proper information, such as (presumably) teenage boys who enter "Fuck You" or "None of your business" as their name. But people who just enter a single name or a new age name, like "Starbright" would be accepted. And from then on, the hope is for the web-of-trust system to work. Members can flag other members as acquaintances, friends or comrades (people you trust unconditionally). All of that has room for improvement of course.

The way I see it, people become more real the more information we get from them, and the more different channels of information we see, and the more history there is, and the more these things are cross-referenced with other people


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6 comments

21 Sep 2002 @ 22:47 by bushman : :} Works for me.
Being neutral is the hard part, since there is, good and bad in even the best of ideas. I like the relationship thing in that I can see what your talking about when I see a person is listed as a comrade, but also I dont even trust my real brothers unconditionaly, lol. But on the net , trusting someone you don't personaly know, unconditionaly, has a diffrent meaning to me. To me it means that I agree most of the time with what they say and do on the net. Also from my expiriance on the net, when I have the same person with 15 names that they use for different acts on my pager, I know the mood they are in, and if they want to be who ever for what ever, I go along with it. I accualy got people with those names above, lol. I'd just ask them to change it till after 10pm, and they would most of the time. So with this post of yours, you are now considered a comrade, lol, not that it's the only reason, your consistant and to the point, I don't have to break out the thasarus every time I read your posts. And I know that we have common goals. Basicly, I believe that your the same on here as out in the world.  


21 Sep 2002 @ 23:01 by ming : Comrades
Heheh, well, thanks, I try to be. Now, the problem is of course that we all have somewhat different criteria and interpretations. I personally take that Comrade definition very seriously. For me it means that it would be somebody I could hand a loaded gun to, with the barrel pointed my way. Or somebody I would feel comfortable leaving my little daughter with if I were going out of town. Or somebody I would give my credit card number to without hesitation. Sometimes I feel I can see people well enough over the net to make such a judgment, but most of the time it would coincide with somebody I physically have a connection with.  


22 Sep 2002 @ 01:30 by shawa : Thanks, Ming!
For me that was necessary reading. I´ll go back to my profile and check things now. *grin*
*Returning* Gawd, I get the point : I´m the perfect baby-sitter! (Does that make me a sitting duck, though?)  



22 Sep 2002 @ 03:34 by ming : Trust
Now, whether I would hand you my daughter AND the loaded gun, that would be the hard one, heheh.  


24 Sep 2002 @ 08:53 by magical_melody : Good newslog Ming!
Yes, a variety of channels to get to know someone. Common sense! The trust develops over time and throughout many differing levels. Good going bro!  


20 Dec 2014 @ 02:21 by Angelo @190.200.30.31 : cxkmUSxFzoQPGAlfqSzs
Hope your trip to Raleigh NC is safe and enjoyable. If you are ever in the Winston Salem Triad area and need a pfeaossionrl residential or commercial painter please give us a call for a free estimate. Hope you have a wonderful time.Triad Master Painters  


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