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    Re: Online anonymity, real names, and NavList posts
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2010 Jan 4, 23:31 -0000

    Let's start with the last words of Frank's recent posting, in which he
    "As for the fact that your detailed personal info, address and phone number,
    has not been used for any malicious purpose, you should consider the
    possibility that you have merely been lucky. Here's hoping your luck holds."
    Well, those details, name, address, phone number, have for many years been
    made available in the most public form possible, in my local telephone
    directory, handed out around the whole district, and accessible the World
    over via internet, without ill effects that I am aware of. It's possible to
    choose to be excluded from that, but only the paranoid, and those with
    something to hide, do so.
    Now, back to Navlist. When it recently became possible for a non-member to
    post messages from the message board, the sender's identity was no longer
    provided in the email header, as it is for all other postings. Instead, the
    only information given in its place was the navlist address,
    Navlist@fer3.com . That provides difficulties when looking back to locate a
    particular message, from the header information. We've all got to know, by
    now, our favourite "posters"; the ones that need to be taken seriously, the
    ones that are flippant, the ones that can be discounted. Searching by the
    sender's name or identity becomes impossible if there's no name given in the
    header. It hasn't become a serious problem, as yet, because few postings
    have arrived that way. If they become common, that will become a real
    But at least, the sender's email identity has been provided, within such
    postings if not in the header, in a recoded form that omits the @ symbol.
    Until now, that is. But we have lately had postings coming in, in which the
    sender is identified only as [Sent anonymously from the message boards].
    Neither name, nickname, or email address is provided. I do not think that
    should be acceptable. If a poster wishes to put his thoughts before us, the
    least we should insist on is that he does so in a way which allows us to
    communicate back to him.
    I see, from a look at the message board, that all messages continue to be
    allocated a message number. However, this no longer appears within the
    message itself, nor does it appear on emailed postings, as a header or
    within the text. I think this is a significant loss. And displaying that
    message-number only on the list in the message-board is the worst option.
    Anyone working from the message-board may well choose to refer to a posting
    by its message-number, but that number is, from now on, hidden from those
    receiving postings by email; a recipe for confusion. If the message-number
    is to be hidden from those using email, then message-numbers should be
    dropped altogether, everywhere. But given a choice, I would prefer to see
    message-numbers reinstated everywhere, emails and all.
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    ----- Original Message -----
    Sent: Monday, January 04, 2010 10:34 AM
    Subject: [NavList] Online anonymity, real names, and NavList posts
    I switched the thread title since the poor guy who came here asking about
    his Kollsman sextant is going to think we're a bunch of idiots for babbling
    about this meta-topic rather than addressing his question.
    George H, you wrote:
    "Already, with the new Navlist arrangement, we have had two messages [Sent
    anonymously from the message boards]."
    George, ALL email is anonymous (including in some ways that worried me
    enough to get us off google groups). But before the recent change that I
    made, people have been sending anonymous posts for years using services that
    mask their "real" email addresses and other tricks. The only difference now
    is that people can CHOOSE to state explicitly that they are posting
    anonymously. If they make that choice, why should you complain? If you
    answer their questions or help them in some way, they'll feel welcome and
    introduce themselves. Most people will say who they are by name at least
    after they have explored the group for a while and become comfortable with
    the place. And really, isn't that exactly how things usually work in the
    real world? If you go to a public lecture or meeting, and someone has a
    question, while some people will introduce themselves before asking their
    questions, many feel more comfortable asking first. It saves time. And yes,
    it preserves a little bit of privacy for them. And in this age, preserving a
    little privacy is something we should all try to do.
    And you wrote:
    "I do not understand this quest for anonymity, and deplore it."
    Well, then maybe you could have asked him or her, "hey, by the way, what's
    your name?" Anonymity and privacy in general are, in fact, rapidly
    disappearing online. I prefer to talk to people that I know by name, and
    especially dislike "handles" and online "nicknames", but it's up to each
    person to decide.
    And you wrote:
    "Why should anyone posting on Navlist wish to conceal his identity from the
    I can think of lots and lots of reasons. Here's a list for NavList:
    1) general concern about online security, abuse of personal information,
    etc. for the purposes of criminal activity: identity theft, extortion, etc.
    2) mild embarrassment among one's peers regarding the topic of celestial
    navigation. Many people find that their friends and even loved ones think
    that they are "weird" for taking an interest in this topic. So they post
    anonymously or under a pseudonym so that their friends won't find out about
    their secret interest. How would they find out? Googling.
    3) professional concerns. Some people want to limit online references to
    their names to matters in a specific topic. For example, if you're a young
    academic climbing the ladder, you might not want someone googling you and
    finding that you engage in pursuits which they might interpret as frivolous.
    A search should yield your academic papers and nothing else.
    4) anxiety over becoming a member of any group. This is quite common. Many
    people like to "hang out" along the periphery (in the real world and online)
    getting the lay of the land, learning the ropes, finding out how it all
    works before they're willing to become part of "it".
    5) posting efficiency. Most people who have been online for a while have
    learned that if you give your email address then you're shunted off into
    some long click this- click that, interpret the artistic merits of this
    fuzzy text to prove you're human, etc., when all they want to do is ask a
    quick question and get on with it!
    6) experience from reading archived posts. Plenty of NavList newcomers spend
    a lot of time reading the archived messages, and several newcomers have
    shared with me their concerns that one of the "veterans" will bite their
    heads off for asking a stupid question. This, too, is a common phenomenon in
    the "real world". Incidentally, when they ask me, I tell them to post with
    their real names and don't worry -- we love thinking about the basics.
    7) avoiding sexism and inappropriate offline interaction. This mostly
    applies to potential female participants. Even men who consider themselves
    "enlightened" will act differently when they believe they have met an
    available woman online. It's unfortunate, but it's definitely true. If you
    don't believe this, I highly recommend signing up in some technical online
    community, something which you are quite sure is gender-neutral as far as
    discussions are concerned, under a female name. Observe how differently you
    are treated.
    8) and the biggie... [insert drum roll...] fear of spamming. It's sad, but
    it's true. If you give up your email address online, it may come back to
    haunt you with a barrage of messages trying to get you to visit some online
    pharmacy to solve whatever "little problem" you may think you have. Any
    message posted online that includes your email address "in the open" and
    unmasked is harvested by automated search programs that seek out the pattern
    of an email address in all the text they find online no matter what the
    context. THAT is what gets you on spam lists.
    I am sure there are more reasons. But the bottom line here is that there
    really are good reasons. It's not just somebody being "shady". So give 'em a
    break. In the past year since I instituted non-member posting, nearly ALL of
    our active new members have begun by posting without joining. It's all about
    providing people with an easy pathway into the community that suits THEIR
    needs and attitudes. Have a little sympathy for the reality that all people
    are different. Some have concerns which don't match yours, and they might be
    right or they might not, but vive la difference. There's no need to deplore
    By the way, I am fairly sure that one of the "anonymous" posts in the past
    few days was just an accident. He forgot to enter his posting code. I think
    I will probably modify that to ask for confirmation to avoid such accidents.
    The other post was probably genuinely anonymous. Why should we discourage
    conversations that are right on-topic, no matter how they're delivered to
    George, you wrote:
    "I don't know about other Navlist members, but quite a lot of my
    communication with others is done backstage, off-list, and indeed most of
    that has been both informative and enjoyable. It's easy for me to
    communicate one-to-one with others, as they can with me, without bothering
    the list."
    Yes, I am aware of that, and I am sure that many others on NavList do the
    same. But myself, I try to keep all my navigationally-relevant conversations
    ON-list. Why have a community otherwise? But that's just my personal
    preference. I would encourage all of you who take your
    navigationally-relevant messages off-list to consider that you may be
    denying yourself broader input and a more interesting conversation, but the
    trend these days is towards one-to-many online communities (also known as
    "blogging") while many-to-many communities like NavList are slowly
    declining, and there is a reason for that. Then again, NavList had its two
    biggest months in years in the past two months, so we must be doing
    something right.
    You wrote:
    "For many years now, all my postings have included, with the email address,
    my postal address and phone number, which have proved useful when the email
    address is deliberately garbled, as it seems to be on the message board.
    That openness has never caused me any problems. What purpose does the
    garbling serve?"
    Masking of email addresses has been the rule in online communities for
    years, and with good reason. Do you honestly not understand this, George? I
    am asking in all sincerity. If you don't see why it's done, I would be happy
    to elaborate.
    Having said all that, have you bothered to visit the new "Join Now" page or
    the page that lets members edit their preferences? If you do so, you will
    see that there is ample encouragement to include a "real name" (no handles
    or nicknames, please). Also, you will see that established members can send
    email to any other NavList member through the message boards and doing this
    directly exposes that underlying bit of data that you were wondering about.
    That is, it will give you the text that appears on either side of the 'at'
    As for the fact that your detailed personal info, address and phone number,
    has not been used for any malicious purpose, you should consider the
    possibility that you have merely been lucky. Here's hoping your luck holds.
    NavList message boards and member settings: www.fer3.com/NavList
    Members may optionally receive posts by email.
    To cancel email delivery, send a message to NoMail[at]fer3.com

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