This post is the second of a two-part discussion about filters, personalisation, social conversations, social media, anonymity and privacy vs conversations specifically tied to your real life and the real you. Part 1 can be found here.
The second issue is transparency vs anonymity, and whether one is better than the other. Mark Zuckerberg the founder and CEO of Facebook directly profits from personalisation, conversations and interactions argues strongly that tying real life discussion to individuals is important. Christopher Poole, founder of 4chan.org , believes that there is value in anonymity and that it is an important right to be able to speak out without fear of long-term repercussion. I’m still on the fence for the majority of the arguments, but I’m siding with Chris Poole for the most part, and I have a few reasons:
– Anonymity is an important factor that can contribute for a more open discussion. If everything you ever said verbally was recorded and could potentially be brought up at any time, for any reason, out of context, from dozens of different parties with their own vested interests people would be reluctant to say anything at all. But this is precisely what happens on the internet. Every conversation, every discussion, everything can be stored forever, somewhere, and might just come back to haunt you when it’s least convenient. I argued this point on mumbrella about a year ago, using my real name, and in the interests of seeing if it was still available, found it via google in under a minute. Makes you think what else it out there about you, me and people you know, huh?
– Drinking the coolaid. If every conversation we have online is tied to our real lives, especially when it comes to individuals interacting with brands, then they might be more interested in telling the company what they think the company wants to hear, not what they actually want to say. And that doesn’t serve the company well, as a false sense of security develops.
– A common criticism of anonymity is that it quickly reduces to a slanging match and a farce. Not so. If you want to see one of the best examples of growing online discussion, head over to reddit, and check out some of the conversations between anonymous people in the Science, Worldnews or even ‘less sophisticated’ subreddits like the motorcycles or sewing subreddits. And beyond anonymous thread boards and websites, some people simply don’t care that their real profiles are tied to feisty and downright insulting/racist/abusive discussion. In March this year a Bond’s baby competition almost immediately turned into a slanging match between parents over how ugly other children were and there were even racial slurs thrown around. Every one of those conversations was tied to real people and real profiles, civility wasn’t maintained despite being tied to real profiles.
– Tying real life personas to casual interaction is a barrier to entry for some people, and that might be enough to turn off potential customers. When you buy products at the supermarket your name and details aren’t recorded next to the products and brands you purchase, and then put on display or held in a publicly available registrar for all to search. (There’s a side thought here that if they were we might all eat healthier, but that’s a different argument altogether). When you purchase from a supermarket, or Dan Murphy’s or a chemist there’s an expectation not necessarily of privacy, but certainly anonymity. Buying condoms, or two dozen candy bars, or three slabs of beer? Fine, no one cares, the person at the check out just wants their shift to end, and even if they do care a little it’s not like they know you anyway, so it makes little difference anyway. But, if everything you bought could be searched and sorted in seconds by anyone, how much of your shopping would you re-think? Would you really buy items that could look bad on you in the future, but were well-intentioned, harmless, or casual purchases at the time?
Anonymous interaction isn’t always better, but individuals can be more open honest with companies when their buying habits and other interactions are anonymous, or they are given the choice to do so.
Namesake.com has produced the great infographic below to drive home each sides argument further.