What Could Possibly Go Wrong!!!???

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123 Responses

  1. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Yeah, when I first heard about this a while back, I thought “That’s exactly what the Internet needs: a greater ability to talk to others behind a mask…”

    (Says the guy who uses a pseudonym and a fictitious map of the United States to cover his identity.)Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Balls Touching or Get the Fuck Out.
      … there are solutions for this. Timetested solutions, because some people appear to think that folks get Cards Which Give them Privilege, and this is a Problem, because some people think they can pretend to be who they’re not.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I do not follow what you are talking about, Kim.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        1) It was apparently quite the fashion for certain authors to pretend to be female in order to get out of the slush pile.
        2) Trying this tactic with a science fiction magazine led to the inevitable “Creative Solution” (left up to the reader).
        3) 4chan, being 4chan, was a good deal more graphic in calling bullshit on people’s pretend genders.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Yeah we have anonymity but also the always looming threatening hand of the management to keep us in line. As a community we do have some permanence and group oversight.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Yeah, I post anonymously too. I also somehow restrain myself from insulting individuals and races I hate. (They know who they are.)Report

    • Avatar dexter says:

      @will-truman , Two things: One, you are not a jerk.
      Two, Couldn’t any serious computer geek find you if they wanted?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        My former boss did!

        I would be detectable to anyone who knows me in real life, if the possibility crosses their mind or they run across an identifying detail. Otherwise, they’d need to find out from management or someone else who knows.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Dude, you posted pictures of your house. You’ve told the world about its general location in a relatively small state. Your wife is a pediatrician licensed to practice in that state. You moved from a known western state at a known time. Someone with time or money and access to enough public records can find you. Not as trivially as they can find me, but they can find you.

        I’ve been wondering lately about terrorists’ ability to use Google Earth to locate infrastructure weak spots like substations and water treatment plants. (“Hi, NSA! Just me again.) Both typically have identifying visual characteristics, and well, processors that execute billions of instructions per second can do a lot.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @michael-cain google earth is, for the most part, why I don’t really think we have the ‘terrorist’ problem everybody seems to think we have. Our soft targets have been out there since the WOT began, and without much incidence that I’ve seen; and I’ve thought that since I had to examine my conscience and deal with the intricacies of homeland security in writing investigative pieces about a public water supply — the fear of terrorism was how that august authority tried to suppress my work; despite their appeals to higher authorities, it didn’t go anywhere.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Someone with time or money and access to enough public records can find you.

        Somebody willing to spend money could probably most easily find out by saying “I am offering $5,000 to anyone who can tell me Trumwill’s name” and someone will give me up.

        My wife’s licensure could be a vulnerability. Especially since I was probably didn’t kick enough dirt over my tracks for them not to figure out where I lived in Arapaho and to track it out from there.

        Incidentally, some of the states I have lived in are actually a tad less obvious than they seem. Whenever we move, I pick a “red herring” location and throw in details that make it seem like I’m talking about someplace else. People who read long enough, and deeply enough, will likely figure out every state but one. I’d be impressed if anyone who hasn’t been reading me since 2006 would get every one of them right, unless I’ve actually talked to them about it. Maybe I should have a contest! 🙂Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @will-truman I’m quite sure I could find you. I don’t think it requires money, just time and knowing how to look.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        He’s Spartacus.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        No, I’m Spartacus. And so is my wife.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        FTR, I have a similar lassitude concerning my own pseudonymity. It would not be altogether difficult to figure out who I am, either, based on facts about myself I have published on these very pages. My gamble is that this information, once obtained, will be of trivial value to anyone and that this can be known prospectively, so there is no need to put in the effort.

        While there are those people who read here but dislike what I write for some reason or set of reasons that they have never really cared to articulate (nor is this remark a solicitation of such), why would they even care about my meatworld life?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        So I just figured out a way that someone could figure it out in under an hour, if they really wanted to. Or if they just had a passing curiosity.

        Zic is right. It’s about knowing precisely where to look.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Or, for that matter, they could find out my identity the same way ScarletNumber did, if I made a similar mistake elsewhere.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I just hope no one ever figures out I’m really Batman.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Sorry, Tod, but your voice is a dead giveaway.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I once idly googled an old ex (hey, who hasn’t?) and was shocked at how easily and how much info I was able to get – and I am not even on Facebook, nor did I even know her married name – what I DID know was her maiden name, what county she got married in, and roughly when (a several-year range).

        County marriage license public records got her married name, and within 15-20 minutes, using only free tools/sites that popped up on the first page of a cursory Google search, I had her current home address (as well as some past ones), her current home phone number, her husband’s public blog/email address (he’s a pastor!), and recent pictures of her, her husband, and their child. I also learned her parents had divorced in the intervening years since we had split (no surprise), just from stray associated info encountered while following the link chain.

        It was a real eye-opener.

        I’m no detective, had no special informational access or hacking skills, and wasn’t motivated by anything more than mild curiosity (both about her, and how hard the process to find her would be). And it took no time at all.

        Anyone who WANTS to find you can, with minimal effort and no expense. And obviously if that person has ill intentions, making your life hell would be simple.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Oh, once somebody has your name, it’s all over. I used to pay an annual fee for access to DMV records back home. These days, that’s not even necessary.

        Though you are aided by having a name like John Smith. The people I’ve had difficulty locating are those hiding behind hundreds or thousands with the same first and last name.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I just googled myself. I never knew there were so many people that had the same name as me. I didn’t show up anywhere in the actual googling at first, just all sorts of other impostors with my name. Of course narrowing the search very slightly led to a hit which told where i work…darn court decisions. Interesting.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I once dated a woman with the last name Olson, from Wisconsin. She is impossible to find.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Googling my name (Probably about as common as “Eric Beasley”) doesn’t turn me up on the first page. Putting in the name of the state where I was raised does, though.

        Unfortunately, putting in my name and the name of the college paper I wrote for does yield results. Maybe I need to rethink my opposition to European “right to be forgotten” laws…Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        by googling myself, I once discovered that my bil had a cyberstalker; she and I share the same first name, he and I the same last. When I asked about it, he cringed; he never was sure what made her stop whatever it was she was doing, which involved filing several bogus law suits with the French courts, and he thought, though wasn’t sure, a ruling there might have ended it or she’d been put in an insane asylum.

        Thanks for the fond memory; I’d forgotten until I just googled myself again, and found some remaining residue of that time.

        (And was absolutely stunned to see how often my photographs have been shared from various platforms to twitter, too; I had no idea.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        In one of my novels, I have a situation where the main character needs to have difficulty finding someone. Not impossible, just difficulty. The two problems are: (1) he made millions creating search algorithms in Silicon Valley, (2) the someone has what is not a particularly common name, and (3) this person had something happened to them (actually, she did something) that there would be news articles about.

        So what to do?

        I decided that in the universe this story takes place, there is a famous actress by the same name who was in a sex video, and the target of the search is buried in there. Which itself will take you only so far, but at least made it plausible that he never found her by getting bored one day and saying “I wonder whatever happened to Erin?”Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        In the original Night Stalker movie with Darren McGavin which led to the wonderful series by the same name, Kolchak, the lead character, lost track of a woman he met in the movie. (OBTW if you aren’t familiar with The Night Stalker go watch the movies and tv show then come back. I’ll wait.) Anywho, the movie is set in the mid 70’s and the only way Kolchak has to try to find the woman is to put ads in personals columns in cities all over the west. Its a somber end, since he can’t find her and has little hope of doing so. That was a different time if that was the only way of tracking someone down if you didn’t have much info about them.Report

      • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

        I used to pay an annual fee for access to DMV records back home.

        Why would you do that?Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        I decided that in the universe this story takes place, there is a famous actress by the same name who was in a sex video…

        Plausible. I am somewhat protected by sharing the same spelling with a jazz pianist with multiple albums, and of course by a famous actor with a similar spelling. I find it interesting that even with my name printed out at the top of each comment, some people here still type “Michael Caine”.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Based on the information given here, I’m probably pretty easily findable.
        The better question is what name you get, and that depends on the information you find verifiable. (credible is only useful for fictional stuff.)

        … I sincerely hope no one here gets “She lives in Africa, I think”Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    One thing that can be done is to revive torts like defamation, false light, publicity, infliction of emotional distress and other social torts. People who are gossiped about through social media apps and can prove damages should be allowed to bring suit against the companies that manage the social media apps for one or more of the social torts.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      People have attempted to do this with varying degrees on non-success.

      There is a theory that Yelp works as a kind of shack-down/protection racket. Meaning that they promote or create bad reviews and then call the business owner and ask them to pony up to promote the good reviews and/or take out the bad ones. I’ve heard of clients going to plaintiff’s lawyers about bad and hostile Yelp reviews. So far the success is non-existent. Companies like Yelp and Yik Yak have liability shields. Also the idea that Yelp acts as a protection racket is kind of far-fetched and the evidence pretty slim but I suppose it is possible.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yelp’s been taken over by pros in NYC, or so I’ve heard. (otherwise known as Do Not Trust NYC Reviews).
        I’ve seen better advertising strategies.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        I am not sure why Yik-Yak would have a libability shield. They are enabling tortious acts and this is usually good enough to invoke liabilty in tort. Yik-Yak can’t really invoke the publisher’s privilege in this case because they are dealing with private citizens in matters of private concern. Maybe the right tactic is to sue for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress rather than the traditional social torts. Trying to argue that Yik-Yak’s service constitutes extreme and outrageous conduct might be a bit of a stretch but at least you avoid First Amendment issues. If I was even more ambitious I’d argue that Yik-Yak should be held strictly liable for damages because they are engaging in an ultra-hazardous activity with no adequate safety precautions. Its not like dynamiting but people’s lives can still be ruined.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        I only vaguely remember the details from Cyberspace Law but I think that on-line services have been given pretty broad immunity from what users do or post with their services.

        There were similar concerns with the phonelines during the early 20th century and Congress similarly granted the phone companies immunity so they could not be sued for various hurtful or illegal actions that happen over their lines. You can’t sue Ma Bell if you find that your spouse was using the phones to make illicit rendevous with his or her lover.


        There are other laws with “safe harbor” provisions that could cover places like Yik Yak. The reason newspapers can be held liable is that they exercise editorial control.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        Saul, that makes sense. I know from my recent studying for the California Bar is that courts perceive internet trolling as less serious than traditional libel and slander but I think this is just dicta rather than case law or statutory law. With the right set of facts, lawyer, and judge this could change.

        Society is going to have to find a way to regulate the destructive powers of social media. We could just ignore sites like Yik-Yak but considering human evolution and past societies, this seems highly unlikely. Gossip-mongering and the harm it brings is a common feature in many societies. I don’t see how the Internet is going to change human nature and enable us to be more forgiving. This means that we either just let gossip-mongering go on and damn the consequences that while the pain and devestation is real, the number of people hurt is numerically low or we find a punitive and regulatory way to deal with it.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        ” We could just ignore sites like Yik-Yak but considering human evolution and past societies, this seems highly unlikely. ”

        Why? Maybe people honestly need to develop a stronger DGAF response. You will never stop people writing nasty things on bathroom walls.

        When people start getting fired or not-hired over stuff sourced from Yik Yak, then we’ll have a problem, but the problem will be with the employer reading bathroom walls and acting on it.Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    From the article:

    “I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused. I am about ready to hire a lawyer,” said Margaret Crouch, professor of philosophy at Eastern Michigan University, after learning of comments posted about her on Yik Yak.

    Here is where I usually make some comment about how the current climate of cracking down on free speech and defending delicate sensibilities is neo-Victorian. After reading that quote, however, I am starting to question the need for the “neo” qualifier.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      JR, well i guess we can agree then that calling people racist is just fine and dandy. All part of a healthy conversation. Why would anybody get bees in their bonnet about being calling racist or sexist or anything like that.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        JR, well i guess we can agree then that calling people racist is just fine and dandy. All part of a healthy conversation.

        Yup, that’s exactly what I said. No need to think any deeper about it…Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        But calling someone a “racist” is pretty much the worst thing that you can call somebody these days! It’s practically fighting words! People shouldn’t be allowed to use fighting words in situations where the person they’re saying them to can’t punch them!Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Ohhh so people can be actually offended or harmed by words….gotcha.

        Okay, so i was snarky. But blithely dismissing the various insults and sleaze that seems to going on in the Yak seems silly. Of course people can be harmed or deeply insulted by this kind of thing. (Now here is the part where people mock that being insulted is a thing i guess.) Being offended nowadays is easily laughed off and just so “Victorian” or shallow or evidence of not being tough enough. It seems like this is all part of a giant conversation about how social norms should work nowadays with all the various changes tech is bringing to us. Dismissing the harms some people feel isn’t really addressing the problems.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        I did no such thing. I only pointed out the similarities. If you equate calling something Victorian with dismissing it, that sounds like a value judgment on your part.

        There is a lot of projection in your comments.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @jr Okay…if you say it wasn’t dismissive of the people complaining about the poop on yak then okay. It read as dismissive to me though. People rarely equate much good with victorian, it is usually seen as old fashioned, shallow, highly concerned with appearances and overly focused on keeping society rigidly stratified.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        shallow, highly concerned with appearances and overly focused on keeping society rigidly stratified


      • Avatar j r says:

        @jaybird makes a very good point. The past is more than a graveyard.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        Greg – A thing can be wrong, and worth criticizing, without it being worth shutting down.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        @pinky When did i say it should be shut down? Cause i didn’t.
        @j-r Umm If Jay thinks we are like victorians then i seriously question his grasp of history. We are far different from them on most scales of behavior; ie if the V’s were a 8 on sexual repression we are a 2. We’re still human but not close to them in terms of how our societies are set up.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        What I think is that you really want to jump in and argue a side, which is having a deleterious effect on your ability to think about this with any degree of subtlety.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        @greginak True. Sorry if I came off as accusatory. You do seem to be playing a game with JR to the effect that internet jerkery is either black or white. (Again, I might be phrasing that poorly.) Certainly the NYT article presented the topic of blocking and banning.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I don’t really have a side here except that i think there are far to many shallow dismissive takes on this which is how i originally read JR’s comment. I don’t know what the answer is but i think there is a real problem with how some new forms of tech communication, especially when it is anonymous, exacerbate peoples worst instincts.

        I see people being “offended” as something easy to dismiss as just wimpy people who aren’t tough enough for the real world often enough. I see complaints about people being harmed by “just words” considered nothing burgers. Does that mean there is a solution, beats me.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I don’t really have a side here except that i think there are far to many shallow dismissive takes on this which is how i originally read JR’s comment.

        Again, all I said was that there is something neo-Victorian in this species of speech and expression objections. Heck, the woman even used the term “besmirched.”

        You are the one who equated Victorian with something to be dismissed. I used the term because I think there are common threads between the two. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I’m not wrong purely because you interpret Victorian to mean pejorative.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I support the right to criticize people but the criticism should be constructive.

    Also: Criticism of my opponents is, by definition, constructive. Criticism of me is, by definition, not constructive.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Hrm. I’ll need to rephrase then. Only people who are punching up should have anonymity. People who are punching down should not.

        I’m just glad that me, or people just like me, will be on the review board.

        (There was this one Jewish person who applied but withdrew after we gave her some hard questioning about whether she was willing to put her personal biases aside when it came to issues about Israel.)Report

  5. Avatar Zane says:

    “…it proves my theory that there is still something about the Internet that taps into the unrestrained ID of many people.”

    It’s not the internet, it’s the anonymity. When people face no negative consequences for their actions, some will choose to do terrible things.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Here’s where I will point out – as I always do – that even sans anonymity, some people will do terrible things, and your own anonymity helps limit the damage they can do to you.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Death Threats can’t KILL you, if they can’t FIND you.Report

      • Avatar Zane says:

        I don’t disagree that people will do terrible things even with their name attached, but the scale is important.

        It’s one thing if UserJimSmith is an ass when everyone knows who UserJimSmith is. If UserJimSmith defames someone, people know where to aim their attorneys. If UserJimSmith threatens rape or murder, the police know where to go. But when it’s UserX?

        This American Life did a piece on the problems of anonymity in social media last year. The episode is “Tarred and Feathered”, the segment is “The Hounds of Blairsville” and it can be listened to here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/522/tarred-and-feathered?act=1

        In brief, Topix, a anonymous social media website, was used to spread malicious and false information about a man. He was accused of drug addiction and child molestation. He lost his job. It damaged his friendships. And there was nothing he could do to address it for a very long time. He finally found an attorney who would sue the website to get them to lift the anonymity of the person who was making the accusations. It was not a sure thing that he would win.

        Now, listening to the story, it seems perfectly possible that a lack of anonymity wouldn’t have prevented the accuser from posting. A lack of anonymity would have allowed other readers to evaluate the information based upon who the accuser was, however. It also would have prevented the sock-puppeting by the accuser which made it look like many people were making the accusations.

        I understand the usefulness of anonymity, particularly as a member of a stigmatized group. But all-anonymous, all-the-time is almost always a recipe for irresponsible maliciousness. As a society, we rely on informal social controls all the time. We can argue about whether those social controls are bad or good and to what extent under what circumstances, but I’d never advocate throwing them out the window altogether. And anonymity is one method of removing informal social control as a regulator of malicious behavior.Report

      • Avatar Zane says:

        @kim : “Death Threats can’t KILL you, if they can’t FIND you.”

        The problem is that the anonymity isn’t symmetrical in these cases. These are anonymous people posting about named individuals. It’s not UserX threatening to kill UserY. It’s UserX threatening to kill Jane Doe. Or UserZ saying that John Smith raped someone. Jane Doe and John Smith have no real or effective way to respond.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Nom de guerres are legal in most jurisdictions I hear, and nom de plumes in nearly all.
        People would be well advised to not use their real name on most work they do, in the real world and in the virtual.

        I know someone who’s done vast numbers of things, but he uses a different name for each business. Devil to tell when he’s involved, except if he tells you himself. (and yes, he does submit multiple bids for contracts – each with a different name).Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        @zane is right here. Yik Yak is not like OT, LGM, or Crooked Timber. This is people taking real world events and making anonymous threats. Professors and College Students can’t be anonymous. I doubt you go as glyph at your job.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

        I remember that TAL story. The woman seemed like she suffered from mental illness.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @zane – Sorry, I should have framed that better. I wasn’t intending to flatly contradict you, since you are not wrong – I was just trying to point out the other side of the coin. For example, this:

        a anonymous social media website, was used to spread malicious and false information about a man. He was accused of drug addiction and child molestation. He lost his job. It damaged his friendships.

        If for some reason somebody at this site starts such a vendetta against “Zane”, they are sorely limited in the amount of IRL damage they can do to you (at least, if they are a casual internet stalker/nutter – someone with real skills, or back-end access, could find out your true identity and make your life miserable).

        And if the harassment gets bad enough, one day “Zane” stops showing up, and “CommenterX” starts; and just like that, you’ve left your stalker behind.Report

      • Avatar Zane says:

        @kim “Zane, Nom de guerres are legal in most jurisdictions I hear, and nom de plumes in nearly all. People would be well advised to not use their real name on most work they do, in the real world and in the virtual.”

        I’m not sure what this has to do with the OP or with what I wrote. The problem with anonymous social media sites isn’t that some people use their real names and others are anonymous, the problem is that people use anonymous social media sites to engage in malicious behavior against individuals who may or may not be on the social media site.

        The anonymity is asymmetric because anonymous people post about real life individuals.

        For example, Ms. Johnson teaches English 101. Dave Smith takes her class and doesn’t like the grade he receives. Dave Smith then makes defamatory posts about Ms. Johnson, but he posts anonymously. Ms. Johnson is *not* anonymous, but Dave Smith is. His actions are without consequence (to him), but she cannot effectively address them, even as others read the comments and may believe them. This can have real-world implications for the targets.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        This is people taking real world events and making anonymous threats. Professors and College Students can’t be anonymous.

        True, but other than the technical aspect/medium, I am not sure what’s different. Anonymity itself has always been an option.

        When I was in college, I knew a bunch of punk kids that liked to play all kinds of practical jokes (printed satirical anti-cop flyers/pamphlets, posted on campus etc.) Presumably had they wanted to print death threats or libel on the flyers, they could have done that too (EDITED TO ADD: not legally or rightly, of course. But they still could have done it).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        This is the age of the internet. I deny that a student is truly anonymous when dealing with a teacher, should the teacher have a substantial body of writing available to her (as, say, with a student’s papers).

        Also, that is actual bona-fide libel. It is my understanding that one can unmask IPs if you’re investigating crimes.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Potentially but not totally.

      Tablet Mag is an on-line Jewish mag and you leave comments there via logging into facebook. They also have threads on facebook like many on-line magazines.

      There were plenty of people willing to leave anti-Semitic comments on Tablet’s website and facebook threads using their real names and real pictures of themselves and real facebook profiles. Stuff like “It is the goal of the Jews to disrupt the natural order of things and dirty white Christian culture.

      Tablet’s solution for this was to institute a charge for commenting. 18 dollars a month or 2 dollars a comment.

      Though I doubt someone would make a gang rape threat about the Kenyon Women’s Center using their real name.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @zane is exactly right.Report

  6. Avatar Jim Heffman says:

    ” there is still something about the Internet that taps into the unrestrained ID of many people.”

    It’s not the Internet, it’s humanity.Report

  7. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Before the internet, nobody talked trash about teachers behind their backs. And no one ever used juvenile vulgar language to mock authority figures.

    Tim Berners Lee – sorry, Sir Tim Berners-Lee – you have a lot to answer for.Report

    • Avatar Zane says:

      @kolohe : “Before the internet, nobody talked trash about teachers behind their backs. And no one ever used juvenile vulgar language to mock authority figures.”

      Of course they did. But scale is still an issue. Before the internet, you could anonymously (to the teacher) talk trash about a teacher behind their backs to just a few people. After the internet (and anonymous social media sites), you can falsely accuse your teacher of sexual impropriety to (potentially) millions of other people with little fear of any repercussion.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky says:

    I don’t recall it being mentioned on Ordinary Times, but this story has been getting some attention around the net:

    The world we live in…Man has it changed. ADDENDUM!

    For some reason, I can’t link directly to the article. The site is former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s blog, and the article is his response to some comments made about his daughter. It seems relevant to this conversation.Report

    • Avatar morat20 says:

      On a random note, I know Curt Schilling almost entirely from the hilarity of his attempts to make a triple-A game complete with the business acumen one would expect from the average four year old.

      There was also some hilarity involving tax breaks, which involved stupid businessmen (Schilling) and stupid politicians (Rhode Island legislators, I believe).

      I believe he also used to play baseball, but I shall fondly remember him for the hilarious meltdown of Green Monster Games.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Don’t be mean. He did honestly want to make a good game and figured that if he bankrolled it himself as a vanity project then the usual “(x) was a compromise to save money/get cheap revenue” wouldn’t happen. The gaming world was rather excited about the idea when it started.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I do remember thinking “oh, cool! They got Todd McFarlane to do the monster design!!!”

        And it moved a million units! A million-point-two in a year!Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Schllling actually got real money, millions, in incentives and breaks from the state he lived in. Sure he put a lot of his money in, but he got plenty of outside help from the state which he defaulted on as i remember.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        The tax break thing was part of the hilarity. Both on the part of the state (seriously, guys, really. It was ‘job boosting’ and I think they loaned and/or tax breaked out tens of millions to make…a dozen jobs) and on Schilling’s part.

        Mostly, however, it was that the entire thing was doomed to fail because of basic math.

        The short version was he needed to sell Blizzard level numbers to even break even. When a million boxes sold can’t keep the lights on, you are properly screwed. They needed five or six times that number to go forward.

        Which was..never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to happen.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Not related, if anyone was wondering.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        But you ARE related to this guy, right?:


      • Avatar Kim says:

        when you see something doomed to fail, ask yourself if anyone’s making any profit.Report

      • Avatar morat20 says:

        In this case, I don’t think anyone did. It appeared to be a vanity project that involved more obvious than usual political stupidity. Even by the ‘tax breaks will create ALL THE JOBS’ mentality, the ROI on Green Monster Games was pretty bad.

        To the point where they got sued, IIRC.

        Look, you can love games and make ‘what you want to play’. EVE does it. Dwarf Fortress does it. Minecraft made serious bank doing it.

        But you can’t design and bankroll a triple-A game that way. Because you’re not going to buy a few million copies. You gotta make a game millions of people want to play.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        No, nor to the first Dagny.Report

  9. Avatar zic says:

    The part that I thought interesting was the geocentric nature of the ap.

    I see, not to far in the future, a two-roads internet; one with some sort of ‘authenticity’ user, designed to give that user more credence; both financially and reputationally, and the other just the anonymous ass biter who nobody pays attention to because they’re like any old scold on the street corner.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      I see the same thing. In the parlance of the internet evangelist crowd, the internet is moving towards “curated” spaces.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I’ve written about a couple of businesses (failed, there are others now) that help clean up and verify people’s reputations — basically covering the person with a bond, their education’s what they claim, their credit’s good, their work history is accurate.

        I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with a similar internet model; and expect it will happen within the next year or two. I think I’ve already seen businesses in the business of cleaning up your social media presence.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Which of the two internets do you think will be better at creating funny memes?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Ha. I’d bet internet performance artists would gravitate to the unauthenticated highway, but mostly riffing off the authenticated highway.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Yeah, probably. But the uncurated scene will be a cultural driver in a way that the curated scene would/will envy.

        Just like jazz. Just like rock. Just like punk. Just like hip-hop.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        you wish. truly talented performance artists come with a Budget. ($5 million invested. $4 profit. 10 year investment. Who knew you could make a profit on performance art??)Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Kim, with the really talented artists, you often never know you witnessed a planned performance, and there’s no budget at all.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Well, there is LinkedIn. And there’s Facebook. And then there is all the stuff even crazier than FaceBook.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Yes, @kazzy but does Mayo have a sibling yet? (I’m hoping you go for Mustard for a name, too. Or maybe Catsup, but I prefer Mustard.)Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        No baby yet. Real name TBD. Nickname already decided as “Little Marcus Allen.” By my friends and I. Zazzy is less than enthused.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      I was sort of hoping that Google+ was going to veer in this direction. Attaching a degree of “authenticity” to people with google accounts that sites could use at various thresholds. For Google, it would have helped get people to use their service to establish authenticity, and sites in return would use this as a form of verification.

      Facebook already does this, sort of, but they severely limit the ability to use psuedonyms. Google+ sort of went in the same direction, but not in a way where they seemed to “mean it.” I felt comfortable giving Will Truman a Google+ account (in addition to the one under my own name), but never with Facebook.

      At the least, it could have given Google+ the purpose that seemed to elude it.

      Alternatively, it would be nice if Facebook realized that we often have multiple identities and allowed us the ability to have a core account and some linked pseudonymical ones. They could even make it clear that pseudonymical ones are such. They could internally link the accounts together, while at the same time protecting privacy and allowing websites to ban users, without knowing who they are, by banning one of the pseudonyms.

      By way of example, I could have an account under my actual name (let’s say my real name is Eric Beasley) and a pseudo under Will Truman. If the people at Website X see fit to ban Will Truman, then any future pseudonyms associated with Eric Beasley would be similarly banned. (Elsewise, a site could prevent pseudonym accounts from commenting at all if they want people to use their real names.)

      But neither Google nor Facebook seems to have figured out how they could increase their importance by allowing people such flexibility.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


        Semi-OT: I think that Google Plus damned itself by being integrated into gmail. I never check my Google Plus stuff because I am just using gmail for the gmailing. There is actually something to facebook being separate and needing an additional login step.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Facebook sucks. There’s just no way around it.

        G+ I like a lot; but it’s opt-in community combined with the reticence a lot of people have about sharing is sort of clumsy for effective social media; and the only tool in the G+ box that seems to generate viral stuff is youtube. I think the maps and rating potentials are seriously underused.

        I detest twitter, and though I have an account (and followed many of you here just to try and figure out how it works,) I never use it or look at it. From what I do see of twitter, I think it’s a smart-phone friendly ap, but not so much a friendly laptop ap. I don’t have a smart phone; there aren’t good carriers here, and it’s very expensive, so not worth my bother, which, from my critique, suggests I think twitter not worth my time.

        I’ve been experimenting with photo aps, and the one thing I’m certain of is that the proprietary nature of such things is why things don’t work together as seamlessly as they could; and the folks who build plugins that aid that are the new economy. Which sort of leads me to think that a serious effort to build authenticated on-line identities will probably come out of the open-source hacker communities, looking to build ways to make freelancers reputable.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @saul-degraw I think without the gmail tie-in, they’d have significantly fewer users than they do. Where they messed up for me personally was closing their API, which made it harder to share things directly with G+ (compared to Facebook, Twitter, etc). I suspect if they’d been more open with that, there would have been more crossposting, and that would have laid the seeds for more usage in general. Maybe. Instead, they acted like they had leverage that they didn’t.

        Technically, I consider G+ superior to Facebook in just about every way except the API. That does no good if people don’t actually use it.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @will-truman the API stuff is definitely a pain (and part of what I was talking about). I think it’s also indicative over the competition to be the treasure trove of storing our online stuff.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @zic Twitter is really good for earmarking links, which is mostly what I use it for. You’re right that it’s a specifically phone-friendly app, though with the right plugins it’s us useful on certain browsers, too.

        On a sidenote, you don’t actually have to have cell connectivity in order for smartphones to be useful. Having one is like having a computer in your pocket. If you spend most of your time around somewhere with WiFi, it’s really nice to have on you. Sometimes I carry a spare smartphone around when my real one is charging. (Of course, I have a little girl who makes using a laptop a lot more difficult than it was three years ago….)Report

  10. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    Regarding free speech:

    1) Sexual harassment is not part of free speech.

    2) There needs to be a distinction between slander and insults. The quote Saul mentions about his friend was definitely insult/opinion so you couldn’t take someone to court for that, but there should be ways of dealing with libellious statements.

    3) That sounds like a very good site to stay away from if you don’t want to listen to malicious gossip (about yourself or anyone else).Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      +1 on all three pointsReport

    • Avatar ScarletNumber says:

      Sexual harassment is not part of free speech.

      Yes, but sexual harassment as a term gets thrown about a little too freely.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @katherinemw FWIW, I am not entirely sure that this will end up being construed as sexual harassment. (I say ‘end up’ because I think this might be a case where the legal precedence has not caught up to technology.) It seems at the most to be in a gray area.

      You would not, for example, be able to hold your employer liable for something on Wikipedia about you that was slanderous if your employer did not put it there, and being on Wikipedia was not part of your job function. Similarly, if a client says something inappropriate at a party about someone who works for you and it gets back to them through the grapevine, that is unlikely to be harassment so long as that client does nothing to make the workplace hostile. Generally speaking, if you have to go out and seek things far enough outside the workplace to find the transgression, there’s little if any grounds for a harassment ruling.

      My guess is that this would be instead addressed buy a student code of conduct, which most likely has some degree of possible punishment to the students who posted on Yik Yak.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I”m now realizing that Yik Yak may be provided by the university?

        I’m not sure, but if it is than what I said above is wrong — it would definitely be harassment.Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        “I”m now realizing that Yik Yak may be provided by the university?”

        it’s not, no more than twitter is. it’s app based and geofenced.Report

  11. Avatar dhex says:

    contra view from on the ground –

    not every school’s yik yak is a cesspool. some are weirdly supportive, something you wouldn’t expect from seeing the news coverage. and by and large it is social driftwood – who’s hungover, who hates midterms, who hates the peas in the dining hall, etc.

    culture determines much about how a tool is used. if you search insidehighered, you can find find all sorts of uses and responses to yik yak (and whatever replaces it in a year or two as the grups colonize it) that aren’t nearly as stark as the times would make it appear. it can also provide a useful temperature check for an environment, taken as a whole and with copious salt.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Do admins pay close attention to this site at most schools?Report

      • Avatar dhex says:

        varies, but at this point i’d assume yes. early and mid 2014 it was less common to be checking in now and then as we did, but it was all of six months old at that point iirc.

        student affairs/life/counseling etc would generally be well-served to keep an eye on it now and then.Report

  12. Avatar Lyle says:

    I wonder if the spammers will take over Yik Yak just like they did usenet, to the point where it is essentially dead. It seems to me that lots of comments re Viagra etc, as well as other ways to sell things, such as the various Nigerian lost money schemes etc, would be easy to do on Yik Yak. Let them try to censor this and their legal shield would be lost. (If you censor once you become responsible for any posting). If Yik Yak becomes more successful, expect more spamming on it resulting it rapid demise. Which IMHO would be no great loss. Or if Yik Yak is implicated in a bullying and suicide as comments made there lead to a teen suicide.This then would fall into the whole cyber bullying issue.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      Don’t know about spammers, but I was thinking something similar. By the time college administrators figure out how to appropriately deal with the supposed abuses of this app, kids will have moved on to something else.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Spammers will take over everything, like pigeons shitting all over the doorstep. They can’t help it, spam is part and parcel of the free-market economy just like roofs are part of roosting.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Last I was on usenet, there weren’t many spammers.
      People passing porn around, sure, same as anime and half a dozen other things (star trek).
      but spammers? nah…Report