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Gwern answers 'Ask gwern: Who are you?' (pastee.org)
121 points by clicks on May 5, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments



It's sad that our personal info can be used with such malice in this day and age when we're supposed to celebrate the accessibility and transparency of information. That people still cannot be freely outspoken under their real identities because some spiteful person who disagrees with them might call up their bosses to try to get them fired (or worse). When people on the Internet cross the line and make things personal because they feel a sense of power in hiding behind their anonymous computer screen and having someone else's vulnerable and real identity in their hands.

Gwern, thanks for the humble reply and all your writings. Maybe one day we will be able to celebrate your talent as part of your identity.


It's not sad, it was not long ago that everyone used pseudonyms on the internet, with anonymity comes a certain amount of freedom, not just from malice but from perspective. People have a horrible sense of judgment when facing cultural identity, age, authority, etc. Anon posting tears they away so you can concentrate on the subject matter without preconceived baggage.

> Maybe one day we will be able to celebrate your talent as part of your identity

What on earth are you talking about, the content speaks for itself, that is his identity along with his name Gwern, there is nothing stopping your from having a conversation with him. There are no barriers in your way, go ahead and celebrate.


“people still cannot be freely outspoken under their real identities”

Sure they can, and millions of us are. If people couldn’t be, Facebook wouldn’t exist.

”When people on the Internet cross the line”

That’s not a given. I never hide my identity and it has only worked out positive for me. There are assholes online and offline, I sure as hell won’t let any of them limit what I say or do.


People on facebook barely ever have interesting conversation, exactly because of "what are your friends gonna think?".

Part of the reason HN is successful is pseudonymity.


Many of the most interesting HNers have accounts strongly tied to real world identities.


But isn't it great that we can choose?


Depends on one's definition of interesting. This very article is about a pseudonymous user. And you and I are too.


People on facebook aren't necessarily outspoken, as they have private profiles limited to only who they decide to add as friends. And usually, people remain "friends" with those who share similar opinions (aka circle jerk) because those who disagree probably have defriended them or have had a flame war over comments which doesn't lead to anything.. Because the "hater's" identity in this situation is not anonymous either.

For most people, posting under their real identity doesn't really get them in trouble. I'm talking about posters who discuss controversial topics publicly- not only is it so easy for someone to send in anonymous hate emails, but now they can anonymously harass the poster in real life by calling up their boss or family members, after a few clicks of research on the Internet.

It makes me wonder in what form this kind of "hateful" harassment (say, one step below actual hate crimes) existed in the days without Internet.


“People on facebook aren't necessarily outspoken, as they have private profiles”

I don’t hide any Facebook content from visitors who aren’t friends, because I don’t trust Facebook to keep my information private anyways. I’m sure I'm not the only one.

“I'm talking about posters who discuss controversial topics publicly”

No, you were generalizing, making it seem that everyone has to hide their real name online.

“makes me wonder in what form this kind of "hateful" harassment [...] existed in the days without Internet”

All the examples you already mentioned (snail mail, phone calls), it’s nothing new. If someone wants to make your life unpleasant, there have always been ways to do so.


> I don’t hide any Facebook content from visitors who aren’t friends, because I don’t trust Facebook to keep my information private anyways. I’m sure I'm not the only one.

You don't trust Facebook to keep your information private, and your response is to share the content you add with the world?

That confuses me.


I’ll explain: by posting it for everyone to see, I won’t be tempted to share content that I would mind being leaked. It also keeps me from gossipping and speaking ill of others, and it trains me not to do so AFK either.


Sounds like you're not being outspoken to me if you're censoring yourself because you know it'll be public.


On forums as well as on Facebook, I discuss technology preferences, religion, cultural differences, politics, sports, gender roles, dating, and more. I’m plenty outspoken, Posting in public just makes me try a bit harder not to be a dick.


“people still cannot be freely outspoken under their real identities”

I think it's more of where you choose to be outspoken. On Facebook you can post updates on important life things, things no one cares about, or even touchy subjects without much fear of being harassed. On places like Reddit, or deeper down into 4chan, or other sites that are known for their 'lynching' it gets riskier to be so 'outspoken' with your real identity because there are larger quantities of people that you don't know that are way off from your personal network thus making the possibilites well endless.

When it's an accepted peer to peer network it's different from either a 'real' user to anonymous user or anon user to anon user. The more anonymous people are, the more brave they become but as soon as their real identity is attached, things don't get quite so serious, at least not in the main factions of social media. The Wizard in Oz is a good example of how you can hide behind a figure or 'name' but when the curtain is peeled back, it turns out you're not much better or different than anyone else.

edit: added some more to hopefully make my point more clear.


Yes, people are braver under anonymity. Over the Internet there are more anonymous readers who can access a public discussion and a poster's real identity-- thus more chance that one of these anonymous readers are crazy enough to cross the line and exploit their knowledge of the poster's identity to harass them in real life.

Before the Internet it would've been a lot more difficult to read all these dissenting opinions/discussions but also harder for a person to commit harassment. My entire point is that the Internet is a double edged sword (But im sure we all know that already). That said, the pros do outweigh the cons :).


The donations have kept coming in, as have Bitcoin donations. If you're one of the ones who sent me bitcoin, why don't you ring me up at gwern@gwern.net - what did you like so much that you were willing to donate?


I personally like your writings (over a lot of other blog articles) for the same reason I liked Nate Silver's writings over the punditry offered by WSJ op-eds and whatnot. You substantiate your claims with good math and statistics, and transparent methodologies.


I see, thanks.


Though it seems like most people here are commenting on your gwern.net articles, I'd like to say that I really enjoy the links you post on your google+ feed -- it has a higher signal to noise ratio than any other information stream I've found on the internet (including HN).

Though I also because I'm


How do I find these? I don't see any Google+ links on gwern.net.


It's at the bottom of each page: "Still bored? Then try my Google+ news feed." Which links to https://plus.google.com/103530621949492999968/posts


Your articles stand out due to their information density.


You are asking, gwern, a question about what people like about your writings. My answer, I hope, will be taken as a friendly suggestion about how to make your writings even better and more likeable. One area of research interest you and I share is the nature of human intelligence and what might be possible to do to improve human intelligence at the individual level. Having read extensively about this issue since 1993 (arguably since 1989, when I began extensive research on early childhood education), I been collecting bibliographies of the best sources on this topic for a long time.

When I started editing Wikipedia as a registered Wikipedian a few years ago, I soon discovered that many articles there on related topics are compiled in complete ignorance of the best sources on those topics. To do something about that, I have been compiling a bibliography in Wikipedia user space on IQ and human intelligence,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:WeijiBaikeBianji/Intellige...

and I encourage you to look there for recommendations of up-to-date reliable secondary sources. (I am updating that bibliography as I do more research, so there may be new entries added there fairly soon.) It would be interesting to see what new paths your writings will take after more digestion of the previous literature on our shared topic of interest.

Another friendly comment is that many of your readers are glad to see your statistical approach to some of the issues you write about. I too like well writings that apply statistical analysis to data once they are gathered. I like even better writings that apply statistics to examine whether data are adequate to the task of answering the question posed by a researcher, as statistics is the science of data,

http://statland.org/MyPapers/MAAFIXED.PDF

and what I have found out by participating in the University of Minnesota's journal club in behavior genetics with leading researchers on that subject is that many findings on human behavior now need to be reexamined as statistically astute psychology researchers reexamine the quality of data in old studies. Being aware of issues of validity of inference

http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/6hb3k0nz

and how researchers can fool themselves

http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.pdf

is even more important than applying statistical manipulations to a data set after the data set is gathered. In their best use, statistics can help show which data sets need to be reexamined to make sure that a study inference is really warranted by data.

http://www.p-curve.com/


> and I encourage you to look there for recommendations of up-to-date reliable secondary sources. (I am updating that bibliography as I do more research, so there may be new entries added there fairly soon.) It would be interesting to see what new paths your writings will take after more digestion of the previous literature on our shared topic of interest.

I already know of that page, actually. I have been compiling citations for a while on 3 topics I'd like to write more about (the relationship of IQ & Big Five Conscientiousness, practical real-world correlates of IQ, and the net economic value of IQ points on the margin) and found a link to it. I don't think any of the entries proved helpful because I'm looking at such niche topics that I generally have to go to the original papers just to start.

> I like even better writings that apply statistics to examine whether data are adequate to the task of answering the question posed by a researcher, as statistics is the science of data,

A topic of considerably interest to myself, as well: I compile my own thoughts in http://www.gwern.net/DNB%20FAQ#flaws-in-mainstream-science-a... but I'll take a look at your links.

> many findings on human behavior now need to be reexamined as statistically astute psychology researchers reexamine the quality of data in old studies.

True enough, but there's a lot of limits to this sort of thing: GIGO. For many psych studies, I think the same thing I do in arguments about the genetics of IQ: "why are we still arguing over this? there is no more meat on these bones. We know how to resolve these questions, we have the technology (to either replicate the experiments or look directly at the genetics), so why can't we just do it‽"


> You are asking, gwern, a question about what people like about your writings.

tokenadult, do you have an Ed.D or Ph.D in Education? Or maybe something related to Social Work?

Did you know that this communication style, which you use rather consistently in your HN posts, and which is prevalent in the education community, is poorly-received rather outside that community?

Not saying your style is wrong, just that is extremely grating outside the Ed world. It sits in the uncanny valley of faux-familiarity, and as such it breeds mistrust.


gwern himself answered it in the original thread, but it was marked dead (probably because of linking to certain sites set off HN's spam filters).


Someone fixed that; here it is:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5659278


I met Gwern once or twice at a Less Wrong meetup. I don't think he particularly stood out from the other folks there.


To be fair, the one OB-NYC meetup I attended wasn't that great so I didn't have much to say. (Being hearing-impaired hardly helps either.)


It wasn't supposed to be a negative statement. ;) Though I see how it could be taken that way.

FWIW you did seem to have it a bit more together than some of the folks there. And you are clearly more productive than a lot of Less Wrongers. All I meant in my last comment was that you didn't seem like an international figure of mystery or anything.


Good thing you clarified that, because the only way I could see to take the previous comment was negative (just a heads up).


Can someone explain what this is about?


For those not in the know & looking for context:

Gwern is a popular analyst of the Silk Road, the infamous anonymous marketplace on the Tor network.

http://www.gwern.net/Silk%20Road

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road_(marketplace)


who is gwern?


Someone who writes interesting things (often with a lot of statistical analysis) on http://www.gwern.net and Less Wrong.


I have visited Gwern's site a number of times, mainly regarding the anime "Death Note" discussions. I wish I was a few more years further along in my business plan and had the means to offer a consulting gig to him or her. Gwern would keep us honest and weird and brilliant.


A DNS WHOIS lookup reports who registered gwern.net. Isn't that who he is?


I would be shocked if most WHOIS data was legitimate. I myself have made up various people to play host to my domains.


For most popular TLDs, that is a breach of terms and may get your domain name terminated at any point. It seems like it would be better to just use the registrar's privacy service for this.


I realise, but the "privacy" services tend give up people's details upon casual request. It makes them absolutely worthless.


While true, are you aware of that ever actually happening?


I really really hope that discussion about revenue is not seen as grounds to cancel those accounts.

I understand that Google is very touchy about people talking about ad revenue.


I originally provided a CSV export of my AdSense history but then it was pointed out to me by an acquaintance that the ToS strictly forbids it; it does permit talking about 'aggregates', IIRC, so hopefully there won't be any problems.

(Another acquaintance then pointed out to me that I am apparently a Famous Person now and lots of Googlers read Hacker News, so I always have the option of getting real customer service that way... which doesn't make me too happy - you shouldn't have to be that rare geek who frequents one particular niche site to get problems with Google fixed!)


How did gwern gain fame around here?


He (or she?) has had a couple essays rise to the top of HN. In my memory, one this week about predicting Google product shutdowns, and one a while back about determining whether a leaked film script was legitimate.


I believe besides those two, my Silk Road essay ( http://www.gwern.net/Silk%20Road ) hit the front page sometime in the past year.


you are... a person somehow associated with singinst that I met with Jasen a while back? Your writing was interesting enough that I noticed your SN after, which is something like a compliment... otherwise, this pastee is 404ing for me so...


pastee doesn't work here (hk), I guess time out?


I'm such a Gwern fangirl. Pics or it didn't happen!




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