SDMB personal-history tracing

In light of the whole Kaitlin/Number six outing episode, subsequent followup episodes, and the “Who are you–really?” fad, I was wondering about the general practice of searching a Doper’s posting history in order to compile a biography of that Doper, and to check it for veracity.

  1. Is this inherently a bad, or jerkish, thing to do?

  2. If a Doper’s posting history reveals inconsistency of facts, trivial or not, is it legitimate to ask for some sort of reconciliation?

  3. Should this sort of tracing be merely what Dopers should expect, given the registration agreement’s warnings against too much self-revelation?

  4. Even if no factual inconsistencies are found, would many posters’ accumulated histories reveal too much truth about him/her?

By number 4, I mean that facts, harmless in themselves, could reveal potentially damaging information about posters that they’re unaware they’re revealing. For example, yesterday I revealed that I live in a high-rise building. In another post, two years ago, let’s say I revealed the general neighborhood in which I live, and let’s say last year I showed an indepth knowledge of one small part of that neighborhood, and then six months ago I revealed that I live almost exactly equidistant between two subway lines. None of these facts are potentially identifying in themselves, but put them together, and voila–you know exactly which building I live in. It’s easy to use further clues to identify who I am more precisely.

Now, probably (IMO) tracing someone’s posting history for its own sake, and then revealing what you know on the boards, could be mildly jerkish (Look how smart I am, or Look how dumb you are), or it could be between online buddies a kind of amusing game (“Say, aren’t you the guy who said he was trying to gain some weight last year? From what you’re saying now about your current diet, it sounds like you’ve accomplished your goal, so good for you!”), or it could be (in the Pit) an accusation of chicanery and possibly even trolling.

OTOH, it could be seen as a legitimate way to question a poster’s bona-fides (“You say you’ve got extensive experience in the oil business, but here you say your father bankrolled your business, and here you talk about having gone belly-up in three separate businesses, and here you blame yourself for losing a fortune because of your own poor judgment, so why should you be regarded as an authority on business?”)

Before this whole fad gets off the ground, can we explore the philosophical wisdom of such research?

Have to say that unless one had a prior reason to suspect a scam or some other potentially dangerous inconsistency, and thus went looking, that the whole thing sounds uncomfortably close to “stalking” to me. Sure, someone could comb through any of our posts, and for some of us make a pretty good guess at who we are–but why? I’d think that privacy considerations would preclude posting that kind of information “just because”, in the absence of some kind of potentially dangerous activity that could be forestalled by revealing who the poster in question really was. “Poster X says here that he’s happily married, but here he reveals that he attended a DopeFest and had hot sex with many many Dopers, and here he says that he’s currently being treated for AIDS”. I’d think that kind of information should be given to the Adminstration, in private e-mail, and let them deal with it, rather than “outing” the poster in a Pit thread or something.

Ilsa Lund has been on the recieving end of this, as has Phlosphr. This fad has gotten off of the ground. Zoe at least had the courage to do it in person. Aslan of Narnia was doing it for anonymous people who had given him the links, much in the same way Can of Pineapples did it.

I sincerely hope that this doesn’t become the new way of dealing with anger on the board. Trying to expose someone as a liar and get them banned by going through their post history because you are snarked with them is a shyte thing to do.

I know it’s nigh impossible, but I would love to see these anonymous peoples strung up by whatever they have to be strung up by. It’s gutless to dig up dirt and have someone else post it.

(1) Pointing out contradictions in a Doper’s previous postings is not inherently jerkish, but there is a point beyond which it gets creepy and constitutes harassment. If you are attempting to out someone and we tell you to knock it off, do so. Wholesale reposting of anonymous accusations made in other venues is discouraged. If you think another user is up to no good, e-mail a mod or admin.

(2) We expect users to be truthful. However, we reserve disciplinary action in this regard for what we consider matters of importance.

(3) You are responsible for what you post. Be aware that an accumulation of personal detail may make it possible to identify you. Except in extreme cases we will not alter or delete posts about which you are now having second thoughts.

I think it’s gonna be a trend in the next couple of weeks. It’s kind of amusing, if you will-the same people claiming that they’re above all this are going mad trying to “expose” people on a freaking message board? (Yes, I know we’re not “just a message board”, but I think you get my point).

So I say-“bring it on.” If they have such pathetic lives that they’re willing to spend the time and energy to do this, let them. Eventually, they’ll get bored. (and they say I have no life?)

It depends, I would think. I see nothing wrong in researching a user’s posts when (s)he is making a point and you find somewhere that they were making a completely opposite point.

And if it seemed stalkerish, I have absolute faith that I could e-mail the mods and they would look into it and ban the person involved.

So, Ed… you’re Cecil, aren’t you?

Absolutely. The fancy term we use in the information security field for this is “aggregation of data” and in terms of theory and corporate policy, it can be a significant risk.

But, am I worried that someone’s going to comb through my 2500+ postings in the past six years and put all the bits together sufficiently that they could figure out what I look like, where I work and be able to walk up to me on the street and identify me?

While I’m sure that over the years I have referenced my employer by metaphor, and my general geographic region’s in my profile (not to mention my personal website that contains both my name and image!) I’m not worried. If anything, I’d probably be flattered that someone was sufficiently interested in me to go through the trouble.

won’t admit it, won’t believe it, don’t want it

Someone also mentioned that the boards have been unusually slow in the last day or so-perhaps all that extra “searching” is wearing down the servers?

We’re not? Then what are we?

A chronosynclastic infundibulum.

Go to the doctor’s.He’ll give you an ointment for it.

Please also note that anything stated in the ‘Come clean:Who are you really?’ thread is not meant to be true and so pointing out examples from there that disagree with other posts in other threads is not of any all benefit.
Also,because of the thread’s nature,using quotes from it to provide ‘facts’ in other threads about a Doper is not a good idea as the ‘facts’ are themselves not going to be true…

Hah! You’ve given away your true identity. You’re Professor Irwin Corey, aren’t you?

I thought we were an anarcho-syndicalist commune.

In response to our replies to a thread about plastic surgery, someone once searched an old poll thread on the same subject and posted the answer I (among others) had given a year earlier. There were, unsurprisingly, quite a few contradictions. I thought it was kind of funny, although if someone were to follow me around the boards posting old quotes every time I said anything that didn’t agree with my earlier positions, I might get a bit impatient with him/her.

that was so very, very apt.


I thought we were an autonomous collective!

No, we’re a collective consciousness. That, or an infinite number of monkeys.

…or a granfalloon. :wink:

Thanks. I was going for apt.
Much of the time, I’m aptless.