Eccentric Flower:Privacy policy

From Eccentric Flower

Privacy and Anonymity Policy

The ease of anonymity on the web has its pros and cons, and I'm on the fence, but anonymity is discouraged here for things that actually matter. I don't insist that people who are just coming here to read a particular article have a login; that would be silly - but:

  • You can't post on talk pages unless you have a login;
  • You can't read some pages (a very small set) unless you have a login;

If you never want to post a comment, then you can mostly ignore the rest of this page. A large percentage of the people who come here never post any comments and never want to, or are one-shot people who want to say one thing on one page (and I don't grant those people accounts if I can tell that's what they intend). If you want to apply for a login, feel free, but I will grant it only if 1) I have some idea who you are and 2) I think you want to become a regular commentator/participant here, and not just a drive-by.

Why Not

I don't do this without regrets. As the web is revealed to be a festering, reeking swamp of assholes and spammers, more and more sites require you to register - if for no other reason than minimal proof of good intentions, a token hoop to jump through - to have any sort of privileges or get to the good stuff. Like you, I find this an enormous pain in the ass. I have to keep a private record of all my minor, low-security site passwords (despite the fact that such a record is itself a security flaw), because otherwise I wouldn't remember how to get to some sites I go to once a week, never mind the ones I go to once a year.

Single-sign-on systems like OpenID do not work well enough. Yet.

There are places where I keep silent because I have petty personal reasons for not wanting to register. I have essentially given up making comments on at least one of those sites, because I've learned that anonymous comments there, if they ever get posted at all, are mostly ignored. I can't say I blame them; part of me says, "If you won't even do the minimal work of showing us some form of identification, why should we take you seriously?" The other part of me says, "Hell will freeze over before I get an ID there, and if that means they choose to lose whatever profound insights or snappy words I might offer, so be it."

I have more or less stopped registering for new websites, forums, message boards, et cetera because I just can't keep track of it all; yet I worry about what I might be missing. I'm starved for online forums of all kinds at all times, yet I close myself out of them because seeing yet another "Log in to do X!" message raises my hackles, from sheer perversity more than anything else.

So you'd think I'd be a cheerleader for anonymous access.

But, ultimately, here are the reasons I have decided in favor of pushing you to get and use a login here, if you are a regular visitor and intend to do more than just read silently:

It really does discourage nuisances

By nuisances I mean not only anti-social types, like the people who only come to start fights (trolls) or piss on things perfunctorily without actually looking at them (drive-bys), but also people who are trying to insert advertising where it doesn't belong, who post dangerous links, who are here only for self-promotion, et cetera. While a login system, even a moderated login system like this one, does not prevent such pests entirely, it does raise the bar a bit. For spammers this increases the time investment to get in to the point where (ideally) it becomes impractical for them to want to do so; for trolls it takes trolling out of the realm of a casual act, and hopefully exceeds their attention span.

You can't make your house burglar-proof, but you don't have to; you just have to make it more burglar-proof than the house next door.

It encourages continuity of identity

I almost used the word "community," but that's one of those web tropes whose good name will never again be unsullied. The point is, you can't get to know people who don't identify themselves. If someone has a known identity and you are able to connect their posts with posts they made days or months or weeks ago, eventually you learn things about that person, their quirks, their habits, and so on. This is a good thing. It helps promote conversation, and it makes people less likely to start destructive arguments (i.e. "Oh, yeah, he has a real bug up his ass about that topic, I'll take him with a grain of salt and not flame him.")

You can still do this if everyone uses aliases; it's just that there has to be continuity. In other words, it's okay if you wear a mask, so long as it's always the same mask. We want to know it's you; we don't so much care what your real name is.

It encourages people to take more care with their words

An extension of the above is that if your identity is known, if people have an idea that they know you (even if it's only the online version of you), if you, in short, are actually putting something on the line, then you will tend to pick your battles better and choose more carefully whether to get out the napalm.

Or at least that's the theory; but experimental evidence has shown that it seems to have some basis.

You have to be identified before you can be trusted

Although it is my intent to keep as much content on this site unlocked as is possible, there will always be some things the world at large is not permitted to see. You may qualify for some of those subsets; not all of them are "close friends" barriers. Sometimes I am trying to make sure you don't see something that it would be dangerous to me for you to see. Sometimes I am trying to make sure you are not evil.

The point is, I can't begin to learn those things until you establish an identity with me.

So, yes, even though it is a pain in the ass, if you decide you want to participate in conversations and other privileged material on this site, you will eventually want to register an identity here. I apologize for requiring it. You will be perfectly justified if you choose to say "screw that" and walk away. But I hope I have at least convinced you my reasoning is sound.

Your Privacy

I don't reveal your real identity; if you choose to, that's your business. I just ask, as noted above, that you maintain a single consistent alias.

I do not repost or reuse any of your comments and contributions anywhere but this site without your permission. I expect you to do the same for me.

You may also want to read the other two germane bits of boilerplate, the copyright policy and the general disclaimer.

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