My own little troll and ruminations on identity

It appears I have my very own troll, how sweet, who has worked him/herself up into a lather about comments I made about Bode Miller yesterday. I deleted 3 of the comments last night because they were not really comments but rather long strings of profanity. Now I can admire the ornamental use of profanity as much as anyone, in fact I consider it an art form that I am still building proficiency in after many many years of dedication to the craft, but there is a difference between peppering your posts/comments with profanity and them existing entirely as profanity, which is neither interesting, humorous, or insightful.

The more serious thought about this that I had is on the nature of anonymity on the web. We, as an industry, have spent a lot of energy combating spam of all flavors, including automated and man-made spam. It is largely working, I don’t get much comment spam coming through, certainly a far cry from the days when I had literally thousands of comment spam messages to weed out.

The bigger issue now has to do with civility as opposed to outright spam. One of the interesting results of requiring real first/last name for registration and online id’s in forums is that the nature of the debate becomes more rational and less emotional. When people are trading on their real names they tend to be more thoughtful about what they write.

The downside to a pseudonymless system is that anonymity can actually be a useful stimulus for engaging in online conversation. Some people aren’t comfortable exposing themselves by name, others may have concerns about posting something concerning their employer, or for any number of other reasons, all of which are valid. The only real problem with pseudonyms is when they are used, as my troll is, to make the “drive by” comment, which is drop in and pepper spray a bunch of profanity and then go away.

When I faced the issue of how to moderate comments on SAP’s internal blog network I had to balance the need for identity with the desire to stimulate conversation. So what I decided to do is basically what I am doing on my public blog, enable anyone to comment without moderation and to not require registrations. What this means is that anyone on our internal blogs can post a comment as anonymous and it will be posted immediately. Over time I would like to introduce a registration system, ideally it would be integrated with our single-signon system, but it’s not my intention to do that until there is a significant amount of online conversation going on in the blogs.

At the TiE event last night Charlene Li said, and I am paraphrasing, that identity in web 2.0 was one of the more significant technologies to develop. When we invested in Ping Identity we did it on the belief that identity has to be federated and that consumer grade technologies would permeate the enterprise. In retrospect, perhaps we were being too limiting by thinking about the big silo’ed applications instead of thinking about identity in the context of social applications.

As for my troll, I am keeping him.

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13 thoughts on My own little troll and ruminations on identity

  1. Ahh yes, the art of civility. Were you civil with your derogatory comments to Bode Miller? Seems that the troll and CG were making a point that you can dish it out but you can’t take it.

    Much respect for the honorable Charlene Li.

  2. I left all of the comments intact, including your comment, minus the 3 that were clearly over the top. I have defended my comments and take nothing back, doing so directly to those who are critical of me for it. I think that is by definition “dishing it out” as well as “taking it”.

    What would you like me to do? Say I didn’t mean what I said… well then I would truly be just like Bode Miller! Besides, I do mean what I wrote.

  3. Hmm. Seems you are awfully whiny about it , especially in your responses to the troll last nite – which is why CG jumped in to defend the troll and Bode. And I respectfuly disagree with you: the troll’s comments were abusive, but poignant. If you were truly keeping the troll you would have left his comments standing. and responded with less emotion.

    P.S. Feel free to delete my comments too.

  4. p.p.s. I think it is disrespectful of you to denigrate an Olympian. Our world needs more heroes. Especially someone who has flopped so badly. Way to kick someone when they are down.

  5. I agree with you – we do not need guerilla blogging – and sniping. Full frontal war fare is ok, using conventional rules.

    Interestingly, if you look at blogs that follow Forrester, Gartner etc almost 90% of comments are face less. The excuse is the analysts would get mean if they knew who we are…I always enjoyed a vigorous debate when I was at Gartner – not sure things have changed that much.

    Also enterprise buyers do not like to leave comments. They will email me and ask me to post on their behalf anon – 2 reasons – their PR policy precludes talking to press, and blogs are a form of press. secondly, as a couple of them have told me…they do not want to get on even more cold call lists around the globe..

    so yes, civility, some form of privacy …all opportunities.

  6. Civility and tone begin with the blogger, not the reader.

    Note to Vinnie – Are you gunning for a job with Jeff or SAP? Seems so. I liked you ever much more when you were brilliantly contentious.

  7. Kristen, you must be psychic! But if they want to hire me they get the curmudgeon package…Go see my comments on his other posts –

    Look, I do not like foul language either (on my blog FUBAR is closest I have gotten) but I do not particularly care for people who want disguise who they are and then snipe. if they are in the FBI witness protection program fine, but jeez we are a free country – why hide?

  8. Vinnie,
    I am conflicted on anonymity for the reason that I wrote about, it amplifies discussion while at the same time lowering the signal-to-noise ratio. Maybe civility is even the wrong term to apply, perhaps just simple thoughtfulness is what I am looking for.

    Troll spray painting “fuck fuck fuckity fuck fucker dumbass” in a comment makes everyone more stupid for having read it. If that’s the best someone can come up with in a protest, rebuttal or debate, I hate to see what what they are capable of without putting the effort into it.

    Kirsten,
    “Especially someone who has flopped so badly. Way to kick someone when they are down.” Miller is the one that came out and said that the press and the public are the reason why sports get corrupted, implying that he would do a lot better if there were fewer pressures on him. This is typcial for Miller, it’s never his responsibility… 60 Minutes took his comments out of context and the Bonds/Armstrong comments should have been edited out because he’s a high profile athlete. It never is Miller’s responsibility. If that is your definition of heroism to you I would suggest you read this:
    http://tinyurl.com/bqghp

    We are surrounded by heros, you just have to look for them in places other than professional sports and People magazine. I remember an interview with Dion Sanders a long time ago, he was asked about OJ Simpson and the impact his fall would have on those who considered him a role model. Sanders replied OJ Simpson wasn’t the one who was driving him to football and baseball practice and showing up to cheer him on, his mom did.

  9. Might I respectfully suggest to you that people in glass houses should not throw stones.

    And with regard to Miller, he ALSO said some very poignant things:

    “Any athlete who isn’t doing well is left in the corner, nobody asks for their autograph and they’re left out in the cold. However, those who win things are regarded as symbols. This pressure is inhumane, born out of an athlete’s need to be No. 1.”

    “Some athletes turn to drugs in their quest for fame because the pressure to succeed is so great.”

  10. I thought Identity was the topic. In any case, I wonder if the teenagers building websites today on myspace etc will regret their decisions 10 years from now. I surely would have regretted today if I had blogged on “some” of my experiences in grade school through college. I don’t want 10 years from now when I am up for a executive job to have to defend (implicitly, since no one will explicitly ask) my attitudes and experiences of 10 years ago. Its like we are all living in this small tribe/village where everyone knows everyone else.
    Here is an idea for business:
    – Identity Rehabilitation Service: We rebuild a new online identity for you by deleting existing content and overwhelming search engines etc with ‘new’ content about you. May require name change in extreme cases. The term will be called “Self-Spam” (Defintion: To create content with your userid’s and name on the web to prevent others from finding out about your online past.)

  11. “identity rehabilitation”, that’s awesome.

    There are some interesting cultural dynamics to consider about confidentiality and reputation. Kids, the “millenia generation”, are far more open online than I am, which begs the question of whether or not confidentiality is something you gain as you have more to be confidential about, or if it’s merely a generational thing. I suspect the former.

    There are many instances today where kids are learning that what they put on their facebook profile or in their myspace is being read by a wide audience than their friends. For example, there are an increasing number of examples where employers are looking at applicants facebook profiles as part of their recruitment practices… I can only imagine the size of the negative that gets attached to you by the company you are interviewing with when they find your facebook profile where you included how much you like to party every night of the week.

  12. Looking at this from 5+000 miloes I find this a bit hard to fathom. Profanity in context = passion poorly expressed (mostly). But that’s NOT necessarily a bad thing. Ever heard the expressoin ‘stuck for words?’ The thing I like about the current trend in US blogging is a willingness to get from behind the BS that for me has characterised much of what used to pass (still does a lot of the time) for so-called explanation.

    I’ve interviewed pretty much most of the top dogs of our industry and without exception they always said the same thing – something like: “Tough, but fair.” It’s about getting on with the issue in hand – and if that means sticking a few f**ks into someone – so what?

    And a good player gives as good as – Hasso Plattner comes readily to mind, Larry O also. Greg Brady used to be pretty good until he turned (allegedly) crooked. Jim Goodnight remains excellent sparring value as does Chuck Philips. Dave Duffield is/was always a lovely exception but Aneel Bushri? Nah. OK – enough of the name dropping. The point is this is a dirty business at times. Emotions can run extremely high. There’s a lot at stake – isn’t there Jeff?

    Of course civility has its place but the real irony of that for me was and remains the Ben and Mena show at Les Blogs 2.0 last December. You had to be there – it’s on the web. For us cynical pillocks this side of the pond, that above everything confirms what ‘we’ believe we know about US hi-tech – full of BS supplemented by a liberal dose of hyperbole and topped off with a heavy dose of hypocrisy. Deal with that and civility returns in an instant.

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