Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
4chan's Chris Poole: Facebook & Google Are Doing It Wrong (readwriteweb.com)
320 points by jonmwords on Oct 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments

The problem with the multiple-vs-unique-ID debate is that people tend to ignore what these systems are really built for: data mining, behavioural analysis, targeted advertising etc.

Users will agree with moot that separate identities are better and safer, but this is not how the real FB/Google customers see it; advertisers and marketeers want to know that user-A is an engineer AND loves cooking AND has a pet AND goes on 4chan.org/tv, not just one OR the others.

That's why FB/Google try so hard to reconcile all your activities under one ID: to better represent the unique intersection of interests that will be resold to marketeers. Any feature they implement to "manage your faceted identity" will only give you an illusion of separation, and will inevitably link all your activities anyway, because that's necessary for their business model.

Note that this is not a rant (I use FB and G+ every day), I just think this point tends to be overlooked when talking about "social" websites, almost like it was not polite to point out where these businesses make their money.

I'm not sure why Google would care to know those things. The most profitable form of advertising is a direct search. "Bears tickets" is advertising gold. Joe liking the Bears on Facebook is not on the same level. Google might get incremental value on having the additional data but I don't think it's worth the reputation hit.

Google seems to care. You can see it here: http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/

An optimist would say that's exposed so you can wipe it clean, a pessimist would say that's exposed so you can refine your profile to be better advertised to.

There's a whole spectrum of user data with varying value to advertisers. Google already rocked search big time and now they're on to the rest of the online advertising budget.

Ad networks (like me!) use demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data to target most display ad campaigns. I have run campaigns specifically sold as "market to Nigerian immigrants living in America" or "moms 25-35 interested in beauty products." And even when not specifically targeting those audiences, one can often find surprising performance pockets from these audience intersections- good for my performance and useful info to bubble back up to the advertiser.

And... guess who's the current biggest display ad platform?

yup: http://www.google.com/doubleclick/

And why should we trust you (or Google etc) with our data? Perhaps you (they) will exploit our ignorance and manipulate our preferences?

Not everyone in the world can be assured their human rights and exposing personal information can lead to persecution. Therefore, there is a risk attributed to this data collection, at least for some. Not everyone is willing or able to take these risks.

While I can agree that this data may be useful for both customer and advertiser, its potential misuse should not be ignored. And when these networks deny the use of pseudonyms, they force their users to take (unnecessary) risks.

For sure. But parent was wondering why Google cares about our data- so I'm explaining why that is.

I would like to see some studies on the effectiveness of the various targeting criteria. Sometimes i think marketers obsess on targeting criteria that may not be so effective, missing other psychological effects. For example, i thought google's idea of showing you the same ad across websites to make a lasting impression was a no-brainer, yet it was missing for years. Also what about other factors such as time-of-day, or recently clicked ads?

If it's worth a few billions to Facebook, it's worth a few billions to Google.

That's not true; the law of diminishing returns applies.

In this case the law of diminishing returns is offset by the massive movement from TV-based advertising to web-based advertising. As long as TV loses add dollars, there will be plenty of "rising tide" to lift both Facebook and Google in terms of increased advertising revenues.

On the flip side, that's a confounding factor that makes it hard to compare Facebook to Google in terms of some type of battle for advertising dollars. For the time being they should both see revenue growth, irregardless of who does a better job.

How? Advertisers are always looking to show targeted ads

Perhaps if several social sites offer targeted ads with the same level of precision it may decrease the ads' prices since the ads budget won't grow accordingly ? (then it would mean that people are using several services at the same time and not migrating from one to another)

Google's customers do care about better targeting, and don't give a damn about google's reputation. If google gives them inferior product they'll lose money. But worse , they'll open an opportunity for a competitor.

Google understands that ignoring competitors , even niche ones , can be a long term risk. So they work on controlling all the advertising market. I think that's also the biggest reason behind Android: google makes very little money with it. But it's a great defensive strategy.

I just think this point tends to be overlooked when talking about "social" websites, almost like it was not polite to point out where these businesses make their money.

Absolutely. That's the dishonest part about this conversation. G+ and FB make more money if you use your real name. Asking whether they are right or wrong about identity is allowing them to keep the conversation one step away from where it should be. G+ and FB use you real name. Fine. Here's the conversations that need to follow: 1) To what extent can they leverage that for profit? 2) Is this leading us to an internet that is non-anonymous by default, and do we want that?

Poole is right, but he's really just talking strategy. I do agree that G+ and FB are creating a vacuum to be filled with anonymous social services.

It looks like a social network that allowed you to actively use multiple identities with one single login - what many people already do using special software, but in a cumbersome way - would hit the jackpot: Give users what they want, and give customers what they want too. If G+ did this, it would REALLY differentiate itself from FB.

what makes you think the general population cares about this vs the hackers that this article is about? are there any statistics to show this is more than a 1% phenomenon? i don't think my mom cares.

Agreed, my mom wouldn't care either. But using multiple identities isn't for hackers only. My wife, for example, would use it to separate her work persona from her family one. She is a heavy facebook user and separating those two identities is a big concern for her.

that's what circles are for.

Circles only solve part of the problem: What you publish can always be reshared and then linked to your (real) name. And of course you have to use your real name to start with.

With multiple identities, on the other hand, I could have my real identity, with my real name, and then - for example - my hacker identity, or my secretly gay identity or whatever. With the guarantee that for other users there is absolutely no way to connect the dots if I don't want that myself, but with an easy to use interface that allows me to manage them all as seamlessly as possible.

I personally wouldn't mind if the provider was able to connect the dots and use that information for targeted advertising - as long as it doesn't sell my identity to the advertisers, only the target. And this could become a real differentiator from FB.

that only works if you are so careful with your identities that they can't be linked. so that won't help your wife. there certainly are people who want this, but the burden of proof is on you to show that demand is more than hypothetical or anecdotal. this is a niche feature, not a killer app.

I never claimed to have proof that there would be sufficient demand for this. But if I had to prove something, I would start looking at the number of users who use apps that allow you to use multiple twitter, facebook etc. accounts.

By the way, my wife already manages different identities by using different services (ie facebook and linkedin).

Facebook forbids a lot of things, but that doesn't mean that they don't happen anyway. Before you ask me, I don't have any data about how many multiple accounts there are on FB, but my anecdotal experience suggests that there are many. I also think that it would be very interesting to actually take a survey about that, and about how many people would like to have multiple identities without violating the TOS.

About resharing, of course if you use the same real name in both services that would't be different from circles - it would just make it much harder to reshare, but by no way impossible. That's not my wife's use case. But if you use different names, tracing you becomes pretty difficult.

so what's to stop someone from resharing an update of hers from facebook to linkedin? i don't see any real difference from circles.

facebook does not allow multiple accounts. twitter doesn't have that many users.


we all know somebody who posted the "wrong" thing on Facebook at least once...

The average dude mightnot care yet, but s/he will care in the future. A few years ago it was common practice to participate in mailing lists, forums, etc. using your real name. Then people gradual learned that that had consequences and nowadays nobody really does it. The same goes for posting pictures of you and/or friends and family on an open webpage, nobody does that anymore because people learned the potential problems with doing that.

People haven't put facebook and G+ through the same judgement as they have put the internet in general. They still look at it as a place were they can conveniently post personal information. But eventually they will.

An interesting phenomenon occurs among adult people that go through a serious relationship break up. Most go back to their private life and abandon their facebook activity for obvious reasons. So I would say, people will eventually care.

On the other hand, most of Google's (adwords) customers still target their ads based on keywords. That is, they don't care if their audience is an engineer or a farmer, as long as they are currently interested in their product. And it clearly works well, based on the prices of keywords. So it's not like adsense won't work without G+

Google is being paid per click. They're probably also targeting the ads using their own data, so they can achieve maximum click and revenue revenue per ad shown.

I guess I'm the minority, but if I had the option a filter engineer vs farmer based on click history it would beneficial.

> I just think this point tends to be overlooked when talking about "social" websites, almost like it was not polite to point out where these businesses make their money.

I am not sure that this is overlooked. I think most people know it is as so obviously true that it doesn't need restating anymore.

The way moot promoted "the Twitter way", I find it hard to believe. Twitter's multiple-disjointed-throwaway-identities model is completely useless to advertisers, and as such it will never be adopted by commercial websites on the same scale as the G+/FB model (unless you prescribe it by law).

  We present ourselves differently in different contexts,
  and that's key to our creativity and self-expression.
  "It's not 'who you share with,' it's 'who you share as,'"
  Poole told us. "Identity is prismatic."
moot just kinda blew my mind. And it makes total sense. I'd go so far as to say it's almost painfully obvious once it's pointed out to you. I hope someone's got it on video and posts it somewhere.

As individuals, we don't act the same way around our peers, our friends or our family. While we certainly present ourselves differently in different contexts, I wouldn't call these different "identities", rather the same identity applying the rules of the given context to their behavior.

Where it becomes tricky is when one is strips away the context isolation. For example, at your friend's bachelor party, some behavior might perfectly normative within context and participants, but the next day when people outside of that context can watch a video of your behavior - you might feel a little shame/embarrassment/regret/etc.

The internet, for better or worse, allows a complete breakdown of context isolation. While the rules of posting on 4chan or HN greatly differ, a person adhering to rules of a given context, will still be judged across both contexts by outside viewers.

The solution here is to create context isolation - which is very easy to do with anonymity.

>The solution here is to create context isolation - which is very easy to do with anonymity.

Not the best solution. I in fact has been saying the illusion that people are perfect is fundamentally flawed for a while now.

You're completely missing the point. Nobody is saying or implying that people are perfect. Rather, it's the opposite - we acknowledge that people are imperfect - and that's exactly why we need anonymity and different identities.

moot also made another very good point about total anonymity once before: the reason 4chan (and by extension, other image boards) became such a success is because there is no personal cost of failure, which allowed almost boundless creativity - which is why most of the internet knows 4chan mainly as a meme-generator.

And my point is that it is not the best solution to the problem.

Is there some difference between this and what Danah Boyd et al. were saying 8 years ago regarding "Faceted Identity"?


Rhetoricians have actually been talking about this for more than four thousand years. Everything's performance.

Only reading the 118 page thesis' abstract? Probably not. Kudos to her for writing it, and you linking it; I've saved it for the weekend.

But my point wasn't that "it's an original thought that he's had and no one has ever considered it before!" just "I was ignorant of this exact problem until it was pointed out to me. Then it became evident."

But, maybe I'm just reading that as a little more antagonistic than intended.

No worries. I've actually probably only looked at the pictures. SecureId has some good ones.


Danah boyd doesn't capitalize danah boyd's name.

A person can choose to brand his or her name with lowercase letters but it's perfectly reasonable to use the convention. http://www.technologyreview.com/TR35/Profile.aspx?TRID=948

Spot on, can't remember who summed it up slightly differently, but it was like this: in the non-internet world you can only share as yourself... BUT in the non-internet world what you share isn't permanently logged, so when you share something with close friends or even anonymous folks at a bar, you're always expressing ideas that will not be tagged permanently t your name. Once in the internet space this changes, and if you can only post under your name, you will self-censor anything controversial since you'll never be able to shake the associated with it otherwise.

ShawnJG posted this, I liked it. It's dead for some reason...

ShawnJG 1 minute ago | link [dead]

I agree completely. It does seem really obvious now. But anyone who's had a pre-Google/Facebook online life remembers that you had different handles for diff sites. My aol name was not the same as my underground name, wasn't the same as my regular email name. At first what seemed like a good idea, "mirroring" yourself online as Poole puts it became the bane of people who were diverse in their online dealings. But I look at Google and Facebook as the "establishment internet", there for the masses. And for most people that is fine, they rarely stray from these walled off gardens. But there are still options to be as diverse or "prisimatic" as you please if you look for them. -----

I have always to have three areas of identity online. I've had my professional persona, which I try to associate with my work and professional interests. I have a different identity that I present to my friends, which is a lot goofier, complains about work and plays a lot of video games. Then I have my third layer of handles which I use to identify with others in games or specific mediums such as discussion boards. I don't want potential employers looking at my Reddit post history, or my gaming clan looking up details about my personal life, or Reddit trolls looking up pictures of my wife.

I like that Google+ made some efforts to let you keep those lives separate through Circles, which prompted Facebook to make their lists more prominent, but I still prefer to have multiple identities.

I acknowledge that with a little work you could probably connect all my identities together, but I'd rather not make it obvious to the casual observer. Let's keep honest people honest.

Why? I am not for real name policies, but would still like the problems be fixed if possible.

Er, they obviously didn't want his name associated with the post, though I agree it's a good one. Maybe replace it with "An HN user posted this, ..."? Just as a kindness to them?

No, it seems like he's been hellbanned. All his comments since 4 days ago are dead.

hah, and to think, I just sent an email to pnathan asking about editing his comment out of politeness to the other party. Weird.

Apologies pnathan!

No problem!

Hm. I have three responses to this:

1. It seems similar or at least parallel to something I wrote about needing new metaphors for social networking: http://blog.byjoemoon.com/post/7072771434/a-new-metaphor-for...

2. We need our social networking software to give us better representations of social context, and good representations of that context through UI.

3. Maybe it's the case that the different services will evolve into different contexts, with a different service for every context? I.e. Twitter for shouting pithy aphorisms into the public void, G+ for conversing about nerdy stuff, HN for conversing about even nerdier stuff, LinkedIn for marketers to market to each other about marketing jobs, and FB for farming?

Absolutely spot on. I struggled with the notion of putting myself out there on the internet as since the days of BBS's I've always interacted with other "internet folk" through an alias and very much under a different persona. Even running successful websites I ran them under a female alias not just because I could, but because it was a great marketing trick.

But today, the web has become so ubiquitous with the real world that I know I now have to play the game. It has taken me a long time to realize this, and I still don't feel comfortable with it.

> We present ourselves differently in different contexts, and that's key to our creativity and self-expression.

Isn't this pretty much exactly what Google+ tries to reflect with circles? It almost sounds to me like the marketing speak they had going when the product first came out.

Yes, I agree. But it's really not the same. Think about steve yegge and his posting on google+. We cannot rely on anonymity across a board when user error is such a likely possibility. While it's easy and intuitive to correctly post when sober and clear minded, certain things may slip your mind. Steve yegge also intended for only a select group of users to read it. Let's pretend that he had full anonymity. There wouldn't have been any hesitation in posting. No immediate deletion. And no backlash or grief from his readers.

However, it's likely that his post wouldn't have had the same effect if it had been fully anonymous. Being _by him_ carried with it a lot of other things. Reputation matters.

Could that reputation been carried throughout an anonymous identity? The only benefit from having an actual name is verification of identity. But when you talk in a certain manner, identities can become fluid and obvious of spoofs -- eliminating that need for verification.

How is that not isomorphic to Circles?

It's not. You seem to have misread the article. moot's saying that it's important "who you share as" not "who you share with". G+ doesn't allow you to have multiple identities, it allows you to share in different contexts with the same identity - which is fundamentally different.

Besides, it's a very bad idea to leave identity management in the hands of a third party anyways, and the last third party I'd trust with my identities are Google and Facebook. Call me paranoid all you want, but identities are something you manage yourself - nobody should be trusted doing it for you.

I didn't misread anything. What I'm saying is that sharing "as" a different aspect of myself is functionally equivalent to sharing with a different Circle, from a privacy perspective.

Heh, he spent the evening at my house working on and fretting about this presentation. While my dog watched:




He's ruined your hard-earned reputation as a slick, suave James Bond-type operator.

This thread is now about Moot's hair.

 ▲ ▲ ▲


I don't know what I find my humorous, moot's hair or the stairs for your dog...

Actually, the dog is a little acrobat and has no problem getting on the couch (she regularly hops up the BACK of that couch.) I actually just flop off the side and put my ipad on them for reading. It works great for that.

moot sits like a Nippon girl!

You can find the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbPASJiAfu4

Ahhh, thanks for the link!

"It took me four hours to pick my AOL screenname."

Same here. And I've been using it ever since. I'm not sure what, if anything, that says about me. But yeah, it's the name I've chosen to associate with.

The thing is, that AOL screenname I chose 15 years ago isn't how I want to be seen now. I've changed a lot since then, and it feels right to me that my handle should as well. Over the last 8 years or so I've been moving away from that handle and to something a little more... professional. I'd really like the things associated with that handle to stay in the past, and not be easily accessed by anyone who has my current handle.

I can absolutely understand what you're saying. I don't have so much of a problem with having the same name I chose in 1996, at the age of 16, though. (That's what I meant by "I'm not sure what that says about me.")

And actually, my problem is different. I worry not about my past overlapping with my present, but my "real life" crashing into my digital one. While it certainly doesn't take much to piece together who I am, I do get oddly disconcerted by people who I grew up with who are only now getting online. I've mostly avoided it by not visiting Facebook anymore.

I like to compare the Internet to a swimming pool, only, it operates exactly the opposite as you'd expect. Normally adults would be wary of children getting into the deep end, as it's less safe. But on the Internet, not only are the younger ones far better swimmers who live in the deep end... The adults stay in the kiddie pool/inlet. One scary run-in with the deep end, and they never want to "swim" again.

I'm very curious about the effects this is having on society. I can't wait to see what parents and children are culturally like in twenty years. (Of course, who knows what'll be around then.)

For the record, they got his Twitter handle wrong in the info slide - it's not @moot69, it's just @moot

That's the point of his presentation: your Twitter handle is not you.

A character assassination attempt surely!

The most insightful discussion of online identity I've heard to date.

Facebook has painted themselves into a corner, and Google isn't creative enough with their approach. Twitter is better, but only because they don't have the same policies and don't try to get in the way.

Chris came up with a great metaphor to explain online identity.

Most of the people leading major product decisions in this area either have very common names or are already famous. But for the rest of us, using our real name online means that anyone who meets us can discover our online identity with a google search.

When I "meet" someone online (such as reading a comment he/she wrote on HN) I really don't care what his/her real name is. I don't understand why Google cares.

Google cares because it allows them to correlate all that juicy information you give them online with all those things you interact with offline. Together, these will combine into more targeted advertising (or "direct-to-individual marketing").

There is a HUGE financial incentive to force people into using their real names.

>There is a HUGE financial incentive to force people into using their real names.

"Financial incentive" is not, or rather, should not be a valid argument, ever. Especially not for infringing on fundamental principles of personal rights and liberties.

We (as in, the privacy/anonymity advocates) have always known that Google/Facebook wants to profit. What we question is why that is any justification for the shit they are pulling. Has capitalism really clouded most people's minds this much?

Unfortunately, "financial incentives" are the basis for any business. Are you arguing that Google and Facebook should be run as charities, or by the State? Or should they simply shut down their social networks and tracking, including Like buttons etc? I'm not criticizing, i'd like to know the alternatives.

I'm saying that "financial incentives" is no valid argument to excuse the stuff that G+ and Facebook do, and so far it is the only. Do we justify all shady, if not borderline criminal business with "financial incentives"?

Besides, there have been non-intrusive ways to implement Like/+1 Buttons. heise.de for example did. You might remember what Facebook did - threaten to sue. With reasons that I cannot describe as anything but bullshit.

The problem is that data-mining for advertising purposes seems to be the only working business model to sustain a general-purpose social network at the moment. Until we come up with something better, we'll have to pony up our behavioural data if we want to enjoy this sort of activity.

Heise.de only "fixed" generalized tracking, not the single-sign-on/unique-ID problem, which is the real root of the issue: as soon as a website, or Disqus, let you log on with your FB/G+ identity, you're back to square one.

As someone who used to post a lot on forums, I agree that being able to have multiple pseudonyms is great. On the other hand, I also appreciate the value of enforcing real names in online discussions.

If you've ever read the comments on news articles on Facebook (MSNBC/Breaking News/etc.), it's amazing the hateful, racist, bigoted shit people will post under their REAL NAMES. I can only imagine how bad it would be if people could choose to post anonymously.

We're mostly anonymous here, and it seems to work fine. Social mores are determined by the group. For some people on facebook, the makeup of their social circle means the posting of hateful content is ok. Others would never dream of it, due to the backlash they'd receive. The same is true anywhere. HN is far more like 4chan than facebook as far as anonymity is concerned, yet the level of discourse couldn't be more different.

Again, norms are determined by the group, just as they are in real life. There are some things I'd feel comfortable saying to a group of friends that I would never say to a stranger, and others that I could say to a group of strangers but never dream of saying to my friends. In this sense, moot is absolutely right.

>I can only imagine how bad it would be if people could choose to post anonymously.

You don't have to imagine the past very hard. Was it really that bad just a few years ago?

Well if you look at comments on any Yahoo news piece, it's a clusterfuck.

Moderation is the solution to he problem you are describing, not identity. It is a bizarre logic to say "A is better than B. Here is an example of how A fails. Therefore A is better than B."

Mainstram media forums are full of idiotic posts because the mainstream is primarily composed of idiots.

You may want to visit Mr. Poole's first website, 4chan, which requires anonymous posting on some areas but allows a limited identity in others (through tripcodes). The effect of anonymous posting on content quality is immediately apparent.

4chan doesn't dissallow tripcodes anywhere. edit: they apparently do that in /soc/. Oh well.

I wouldn't say that the discussion there is that terrible (of course if you don't go to /b/, the "everything goes" board). Yes, for example for technology, /g/ board is unreadable, full of mindless hatred and the same type of discussions over and over (absolutely incomparable with Hacker News). The same for /v/. /int/ is just a shoutbox for racism and stereotypes. Really, the more popular boards are terrible. Poole sometimes seems to like it, trumping it as "raw uncensored opinion", but it's mostly just dumb.

However, I also visit /co/ board for cartoons and comics, and it is one of the best places to talk about these.

Actually they do disallow tripcodes on /soc/, which is hilarious.

Doubly funny though, is how people there still use the name field, and rarely troll with it. The honor system largely works.

Oh. I didn't know that. I don't visit /soc/ at all.

... I've said too much.

Try reading /k/ or /o/. Tripcodes don't really make a huge difference, it just means the flamewars are more personal.

I heard of a website called Hacker News that allows anonymous posting. I bet that's a cesspool too.

I don't think having profiles, like here in HN, means the system is no longer anonymous. As long as if you have nothing to link you to your other identities, it's anonymous.

Besides, 4chan is a clusterfuck for other reasons; it's part of the culture of the place, and that even differs for each section. /lit/ is much more civilized than /b/, for example.

Not particularly. If anything, it's a case study in how the older / more popular an online public community gets, the worse the average content quality gets.

Also, pretty sure there hasn't been forced anonymous in years.

The more I think about this stuff, the more I think there's almost a Smeed's Law[1] for communities, where the content quality is statistically dominated by the size of the community and not much else. But this would be next-to-impossible to formalize.


AH,good, someone in his own mind here. OP is pure wind, 4chan is full of shit, Google, FB, etc will never want this kind of content. I was on Usenet long time ago, you have some idle guys who would spend a lot of time turning all discussions into shit, allowing pure anon is giving them all latitude to do so.

Google and FB are full of 4chan content... love it or hate it, 4chan is the source for a huge number of the memes that eventually bubbled up to the mainstream over the last few years.

Anonymity (or at least, properly contextualized identity) allows people to try out different identities and modes of creation. Removing all social context results in a smoothed out, lowest-common-denominator of personality, but it's the jagged edges and oddities that really make people interesting - or ugly.

I will play the devils advocate here...

I've browsed 4chan every now and then during the last year I will totally disagree with you.

If anything, the post quality is deceiving, not immediately apparent. I couldn't understand at first, but then it became obvious. 99% of the posts are striped from any real content, they are irrelevant single words, offenses, f*ked up puctures, funny pictures, etc. But then, in 1% of the comments lies the real value of 4chan.

I've seen very insightful comments in there. Many topics that would be taboos on pretty much any other place on the internet are discussed there openly and with innovative views. I'm not sure about the purpose of the huge amount of useless fluff, but if you want to get the real content you need acknowledge that crazy people will post tons of stupid things while serious discussions take place.

If you have a totally new way of looking at a subject, if you expose it to a place where your identity is valued, you will for sure get it damaged. So everybody refrains from posting potentially controversial opinions. Going the opposite direction and totally remove identity ties, will attract trolls, but you get the real stuff, what people really think, no bullshit, no political correctness.

If you have a totally new way of looking at a subject, if you expose it to a place where your identity is valued, you will for sure get it damaged. So everybody refrains from posting potentially controversial opinions.

That's the part that scares me the most. In a world where everything you say is directly associated with you and indexabke forever in a search engine, people will have every reason to fear stepping out of mainstream opinions. The majority will become more beige. The minority will become more extreme. There will be less in between.

I prefer my world more interesting.

> If anything, the post quality is deceiving, not immediately apparent. I couldn't understand at first, but then it became obvious. 99% of the posts are striped from any real content, they are irrelevant single words, offenses, fked up puctures, funny pictures, etc. But then, in 1% of the comments lies the real value of 4chan.

I couldn't agree more. I've long since lost the ability to get offended by pretty much anything 4chan could throw at me, so I must be pretty biased at this point. My view, however, is that the trolling and gore are in essence just a filter for potential audiences. In the early days, not rarely would there be threads up posting gore with the explicit goal of getting rid of newbies. (The actual vocabulary associated with these subjects on 4chan is rather more crude and graphic, and I will not denigrate this discussion with voicing it aloud.)

By getting past the filter, ie. being able to scan boards and threads for relevant content and not getting too offended on the way, you will have proven to the collective consciousness your ability to partake in discussions of taboo matters and doing so with a certain degree of objectivity and an open mind. That's the point after which actual discussion can happen. Combined with anonymity and volatility of content, this quality makes /b/ not only a cesspool of humanity but a place where entirely new kinds of conversations can take place and new ideas be entertained.

To understand the essence of moot's argument of prismatic identity, I find a certain underlying understanding of the scene where he's coming from is also necessary. It's not often that I see this point discussed, but I think it's important. Thank you for bringing it up.

you might be conflating 4chan with /b/. there's a lot of 4chan that isn't /b/. further, i think it's possible to argue that the huge amount of useless fluff on /b/ is not a bad thing - the whole point of it is to be a sink for that stuff.

As someone who, until recently, worked at a local news TV station, it was downright embarrassing the vocal minority of people who are actively spewing their hate. We even had a few people who regularly would write in to race-bait black reporters and slam people in general. And you're right, it's under their real name, and they're very proud.

I'm reminded of a quote:

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman

Poole is spot on. I'll add as a corollary, that users also don't want real-time communication that is a mirror. This is one of the reasons that videoconferencing has failed repeatedly since 1964. The entire cosmetics and fashion industries exist to provide avatars for when we must endure the gaze. And yet, we continue to work on videoconferencing and tele-immersion. Sigh.

What on earth makes you think that video conferencing has failed? I might not use it for business calls, or to organise an evening out with friends, but I use Skype video every weekend to catch up with my family... Sure, it doesn't replace every type of telephone call, but it certainly does replace some.

Your reply illustrates exactly how it has failed. You use it only to catch up with family...every weekend. These are the people for whom we do not bother putting on makeup or even our clothes sometimes.

Depending on demographics, per capita voice minutes (though falling) are still 500-1000 per month; and you are spending maybe a 10th of that on video calls with family. Judged against 50+ years of heavy R&D and promotion of this communications medium, I'd have to call that failure.

They may be doing it wrong from a psychology perspective, but seem to be doing fine from a business perspective.

This point (anti-point?) is often made, but I'm not sure it actually means anything. After all, you could have said the same about AOL at the time when the few forward thinking among us were saying "Hey, there's more to the internet than this walled-garden stuff."

On paper AOL looked great (at the time), but they'd made a grave conceptual error in their product design that eventually became apparent to all. Perhaps we're in the same early stage with regard to identity?

My point is, they seem to be serving their users to their satisfaction, there has been several iterations of social sites (Geocities, Live Journal, MySpace, etc) and Facebook seems to be the best combination of simplicity and features right now.

I'm not saying there isn't a business model for Poole's ideas, but execution will not be simple. Which shouldn't phase the HN crowd, as the rewards for doing it better and still meeting the needs of the users could be a large pay off.

This general "you're doing it wrong" thing reminds me of Jonathan Blow's comments on execution and Doom. It's easy to nitpick from afar, much hard to succeed. I know Poole has a successful community under his belt, but it's a community that's not exactly easy to generate a living from.

Yup. The thing is, people don't need to choose between real life identities and personas on the internet. Most people want both: they want to be in touch with their real life peer group and they want escapist personas that can be provocative, obtuse, interested in niche subjects or authoritative in a way that would only be undermined by their real life lack of credentials. And in different arenas, they can.

It's the former area that naturally tends towards large, unified networks worth billions though. Its understandable that Facebook prefers not to lose the factors that made it unique by permitting joke accounts and impostors and devils advocates and trolls, even if many people find them find entertaining. Not to mention all the other things that come with a truly liberal policy on identity (like hundreds of millions of autofriending spambots).

There's the rest of the Internet for that...

Google and Facebook didn't get it wrong, they just don't want pseudonyms or at least limit each person so they can conquer/monetize the identity space. Two examples, (1) online commerce trust Google and Facebook identities sufficiently to allow them to purchase, similarly some poll sites can trust those identities, i.e., a single person can't vote a X times but creating X fake identities.

In 2007 I was part of a committee looking at the OOXML proposal for ISO acceptance. I had to listen to Google and IBM release twisted media releases about what was going on. I learnt during those few months that those two companies are in everything for the money. After that process was finished I consider Google a blight on this planet that I'd like to see gone.

One point that stuck with me was talking about the trade effects on the pacific island nations. Nations without proper access to anything thanks to isolation. I remember listening to FOSS make the case the case that those islands should be using Linux and not windows.

I remember making the conjecture these people where basic users, without access to proper education, and needed a monolithic MS style set up to keep them afloat, also people often without internet access, or reliable power (or even drinking water ATM). The response back was a blunt "oh well bad luck for them, thats not our problem".

That was the first time I became aware FOSS being used as an economic weapon, and in such a way that could cause entire populations of people to suffer.

And why? it sure as hell wasn't about making the world a better place, they made that perfectly clear. No it was about making money for themselves by hurting other people.

    > these people where basic users, without access to proper
    > education, and needed a monolithic MS style set up to keep
    > them afloat, also people often without internet access, or
    > reliable power (or even drinking water ATM). The response
    > back was a blunt "oh well bad luck for them, thats not our
    > problem".
I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say here.

Why would these nations need "a monolithic MS style set up to keep them afloat"? It seems to me to be the case that a properly tailored GNU/Linux distribution would be a more user-friendly first encounter with a computer than anything from the Windows family (see OLPC, for example), and then there's the whole added benefit of not running a nation on costly, proprietary infrastructure.

Regarding your second point, I get the impression that you're talking with FLOSS advocates. If that's the case, then it's hardly surprising that they are more interested in promoting free software than discussing other social issues.

I think moot's observation is less psychological and more sociological. If he's right, then Facebook and G+ are unsuited to their goal of becoming the hub for social interaction on the Internet, and they'll inevitably burn out when their networks become too large and dense for users to sustain a single identity.

Identity is prismatic, but the faces of that prism aren't disjointed. They're all part of the same whole and for this reason I'm not sure his metaphor works with his point about how we present ourselves differently in different contexts.

I've always used my real name on everything I do since I got in trouble in high school for being part of a group prank under a pseudonym. My father told me that unless I want what I do to be associated with my real name, I just probably shouldn't do it. I've found those to be good words to live by. And if you've ever explored 4chan for even a minute you'll see why this is important, the anonymity there turns those people into, well, freaks. I think "real names" can be considered a product of evolution, they came about for a good reason.

And if you've ever explored 4chan for even a minute you'll see why this is important, the anonymity there turns those people into, well, freaks.

Pseudonyms have been used all over the web from the very beginning. 4chan has problems because there is less accountability than other sites (like this one), not because they allow people to be anonymous.

That's a good point. It really is a free-for-all.

The problem is more about contexts. There are some things which exist on social networks that you may not want to be shared. If you cannot separate the contexts in your life then this may cause serious problems.

Think about your job. Depending on your workplace, it could be a huge disadvantage to get found out as a geek. You could get overlooked for promotion because you "play with toys" or "spend a lot of time playing World of Warcraft". Being a geek probably doesn't affect your performance in the workplace but it could get you shunned by people with prejudices against that sort of thing. That's an innocent example, there are far more complex and difficult examples which you are ignoring. What about if you are gay but you want to keep it secret from your family or you are living in a country where it is dangerous to be openly homosexual. I could go on listing traits, vices and attributes that could cause people problems.

Saying that someone simply "shouldn't do it" dismisses the fact that some things people wish to keep secret are part of their true identity. Someone shouldn't be forced to hide their true identity but it is an unfortunate reality that in many cases you must in order to protect your career, your family and even yourself.

Relevant xkcd that also perfectly summarizes my personal opinion on the topic:


unless I want what I do to be associated with my real name, I just probably shouldn't do it

This sounds an awful lot like "if you aren't doing anything wrong then you don't have anything to hide" to me.

I interpret it more like "If you wouldn't want your mother to see you do it, then you probably shouldn't."

For what it's worth, while I absolutely love my civil liberties and freedoms, I do believe in accountability for one's actions. If I say something indefensible against a minority group, I believe that I should be ready to bear the consequences of my racism. I can either defend my actions with an intelligent argument or I can't. I shouldn't be able to just say "Oh. That was somebody else."

On the flip side, if I'm arguing for a controversial idea, then I will expect people to take the argument as insincere if I'm not willing to attach my name to it.

Anybody can say something anonymously, in the same way that anybody can pirate music. The people who are purposefully exercising civil disobedience are the ones I respect, whether or not I agree with their cause. That said, very few people actually practice civil disobedience. They download music and say 'Damn the man' wherever they can, but what actual GOOD does that do?

And just before anybody attacks me for trying to take away their right to privacy, I fully understand and support that it is our right, generally, and would never knowingly support/elect/fund or petition anyone trying to take that right away. But for me, personally, I think the bigger statement is always going to come from someone who is willing to risk their reputation to make a statement that's unpopular.

> I interpret it more like "If you wouldn't want your mother to see you do it, then you probably shouldn't."

That pretty much means the same thing

I very strongly disagree. They mean completely different things.

No, I've openly done things that I knew my mom wouldn't be immediately cool with, and would probably find out about. It's just about taking calculated risks.

"Wrong" is too black and white to go by, the way I put it is more like saying that you sculpt your identity based on the choices you make.

Rings a bell, changing nickname on IRC was essential part of self expression.

Seems that email is the unifying online id and emphasizes the importance having an email address at a domain that you own and control so that you don't lose it when these social networks disappear or violate your privacy to the point that you need to walk away.

Would it be worthwhile to have a service that managed all of your online identities? You could register multiple avatars/aliases and the service would create email addresses for each of them that could be used to sign up for different networks. Then all of those email notifications, etc. could be forwarded to one confidential email address at a domain that the user owns and registers with the service.

Google captures your intent, Facebook captures your social graph. It's not Google and Facebook does it wrong, they just represent part of us. A service that tries to generalize the whole embodiment of human interaction where they only capture a piece of what we do is not going to work. I think it's human tendency to have multiple identities on the web based on context.

I think multiple ID is a working idea. We have used it in safe location sharing WATN: http://servletsuite.blogspot.com/2011/10/where-are-they-now.... And yes, it is good for users but bad for advertisers

Another corollary is that we need better tools for lying. Prismatic identity management require that you can manage the persona on each facet and lie about the occluded personas. One of the killer features of the telephone that is often overlooked is how well it has supported lying.

This is a problem for Linkedin, as well. We have many facted personalities for work, but we are only allowed one-dimensional presentation. It's terrible, but most folks don't care or just don't know.

As I said before, personally, I am not for real name policies, but I am for fixing the problems with using real names if possible.

So why require Facebook to register on Canvas?

He talks about that in the video (linked elsewhere in this thread, on YouTube.) It's used to keep out the more casual trolls. But on the site itself, you're not required to reveal your identity.

moot and Scott Heiferman argue about online identity here: http://www.atroundtable.com/onlinecommunities

I'll never understand why people are so afraid of having their information sold by Facebook in order to better target ads to them. Do you like seeing shitty ads that don't matter to you? I don't.

I understand it from the standpoint of privacy for privacy's sake, but beyond that I don't get it.

Chris Poole operates the world's most popular child pornography web site. Let's all listen to what he has to say.

You are getting downvoted because your entire post is nothing but a guilt by association fallacy.

That's like saying Comcast is the largest child pornography delivery service in the US.


Try again.

"Internet Service Providers have argued against being classified as a "common carrier" and, so far, have managed to do so."

ISPs are not common carriers, however the extent to which they are protected websites such as 4chan are also protected.

"The National Security Agency operates the world's most popular child pornography web site, originally founded by Chris Poole. Let's all listen to what he has to say."


You're thinking of facebook.

You're thinking "successful due to its remarkably high level of cooperation with", rather than "wholly operated by."

Insert Twitter, Google responses below.

It's baffling that I'm being downvoted so much. Apparently most hackernews users are devoted fans of 4chan who use that site to get their child pornography fix.

I'm baffled that you'd make such a blanket statement without expecting to get downvoted. There are a lot of things that can be said about 4chan, many of which are certainly not flattering. But you're not going to get away with saying "most users" in conjunction with child porn, without some strong evidence.

It's baffling that you're getting downvoted for accusing a site of being government-operated with 0 evidence, and then you put down HN users? Really?

Naw, that was me. He just said moot runs the world's largest CP site and that's probably not a good reason to listen to him.

This is the internet, so pastebin is as good as any other evidence:


Of course that doesn't say NSA but my tinfoil is strong.

Seriously, if you don't believe that these large social sites that popped out of nowhere with no obvious need and no chance of profitability haven't at least been very happily ushered along the path to success by an all-too-eager network of governments that give not two shits about their population for anything but their perverse amusement and enrichment, you're a complete moron and a prime example of why the founding fathers knew you can't trust the people to run a country. Because you're morons.

That paste doesn't pass even the most basic of sniff tests.

"it has brought bans and thread/post deletions on /b/ for anything except CSA trafficking to a screeching halt"

Is trivially false, and the statement:

"When I knew only guilty people used 4chan (and primarily /b/), knowledge of the ongoing sting operation wasn't terribly concerning to me. But now, 4chan is going completely mainstream."

Is absurd. Nobody with any sort of familiarity with the place years ago would ever believe "only guilty people used 4chan". That shit is and always has been the minority. Furthermore, anybody involved in such an operation would realize that "innocent mainstream" type people stumbling across that isn't going to get those people hauled into court.

No. That paste is a troll, and either you've been trolled, or you are a troll and I've been trolled.

Now, do I believe 4chan is cooperating with government investigations? Of course I do.. but that ain't evidence of it.

Both Facebook and Google are doing it right. They just work for the wrong interests?

Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact