I came across this article and it highlights wikipedia’s approach to Identity.
Wikipedia tracks unregistered users’ IP addresses â€” which, with a court order, can usually be traced back to a real-world identity â€” because it has no other way of telling if a slew of trash articles are coming from a single source. Wikipedia does not track the IP addresses of registered users because their pseudonyms serve the same purpose. So requiring people to log in will make them more anonymous, not less. But it will enable Wikipedia’s reputation system to operate more effectively on new entries. And it will cut down on the ~5,000 new entries created every day, of which about 3,500 are obvious junk (“Asdfasdf” is a particularly popular entry) quickly weeded out by the Wikipedians who patrol the site.
Allowing unregistered users to edit existing articles plays into that reputation system. Says Jimmy: “Why do we allow anonymous users to edit existing articles when we know that the flow of edits from anonymous users is worse than from logged-in users? It implicitly self-selects trolls because we see the IP number but not the login name.”
Jimmy thinks the the mainstream media misunderstood this story because they have a cognitive problem when it comes to anonymity and accountability:
The thing that people always latch onto is that it has to do with anonymity. But it doesn’t have to do with knowing who you are [in the real world] . We care about pseudo-identity, not identity. The fact that a certain user has a persistent pseudo-identity over time allows us to gauge the quality of that user without having any idea of who it really is.
Trying to find out who people really are is a fool’s mission on the Net. You could get a credit card ID but that doesn’t even tell you very much: This is Bob Smith of Missouri. But if an editor identifies himself as Zocky [the handle of a trusted Wikipedian], I know it’s good even though I don’t know who Zocky is [in the real world] because I know Zocky’s history on the site. I know he’s not a spammer, I know he’s not making things up â€” at least within the value of “know” that’s relevant in this case.
….The media have a cognitive problem with a publisher of knowledge that modestly does not claim perfect reliability, does not back up that claim through a chain of credentialed individuals, and that does not believe the best way to assure the quality of knowledge is by disciplining individuals for their failures. Arrogance, individual heroism, accountability and discipline … those have been the hallmarks of the institutions that propagate knowledge.2
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