Nebulous

Vox Hunt: All By MyselfSchrödinger’s Cat is one of my favorite thought experiments. I tend not to think of things and black-and-white or not even in shades of gray but as simultaneously both. Well, I used to call things as having shades of gray until I realized that was wrong. I sometimes still make that error. The better I understand quantum mechanics, the more I feel that it explains everything. Order and chaos are twin underpinnings of reality.

Am I black or white? Really, I am simultaneously both. Maybe struggling with identity plays a role in enjoying the cognitive dissonance of the world around me. People want me to choose when that is a false dichotomy.

Kind of like what makes particle versus wave experiments so cool is how small tweaks change the results. Pretty much all of existence operates this way. The right small tweaks can have giant changes in behavior that are amazing to watch. This is what makes science so much fun. Carefully control your inputs and watch the outputs come out of left field.

How we look at something is often the most important factor in observing the universe around us.

Evoking the Mulatto

Ran across this video series on “Exploring black mixed identity in the 21st Century.” More than just discussing the offensiveness of mulatto, they discuss the doting on whiteness, family, and symbology.

One part I keep coming back to ties to where I’ve seen some stuff online on people who rail against calling yourself mixed. In their minds, if you have any black, then you are black period. In most of those comments, there is no explanation of how that person is coming into the conversation. She says:

I’m not pushing forward: I’m mixed. I’m mixed. I’m mixed.

I’m black.

I find myself tempted at times to rail back against it. I’m mixed. They are black. And that’s OK.

We all have a variety stories that shaped who we are and how we perceive ourselves and the world. Mine are not theirs. Theirs are not mine.

From my own personal experience I cannot really say I am either white or black. Mixed feels more appropriate. So, I guess I will continue to push forward: I’m mixed.

TED Talk: Identity in the 21st Century

Two major recurring political issues in the United States are related, I think, to issues of mixing cultures. There is an instinct to trust those like us more implicitly and consider those who do not look or act like us as bad. Coming to trust people as members of our “tribe” can reverse this instinct. That process means overcoming the instinct. We have to ignore the distaste of the instinct and get to know people.

Easier said than done. But people do.

Immigration as an issue is not unique to today. The same lame objections about the personal qualities of Hispanics were labeled against Italians, Irish, and others. They seem to completely fall in line with this distaste of the foreign tribe. Over time as almost all people started coming to trust the foreigners it disappeared. A different group became the “bad” one.

The objection to LGBTs, I think, falls into the same category. Melanin content, cheek bones, or height make for easier identification for inclusion or exclusion than behavior preference. The social conscience has only tracked this for a few decades. I expect a few more will be required for enough people to include them in the “tribe” and the issue to disappear.

In the mean time, I liked Bryad’s description in the video below of perceiving our instincts, understanding them as wrong, and holding the discipline to get past them to a better place.

If the video below does not work, then try TEDxEducationCity (2012) – Byrad Yyelland – Identity in the 21st Century

Stalking Students

On the BLKBRD-L email list is a discussion about proving students are cheating. Any time the topic comes up, someone says a human in a room is the only way to be sure. Naturally, someone else responds with the latest and greatest technology to detect cheating.

In this case, Acxiom offers identity verification:

By matching a student’s directory information (name, address, phone) to our database, we match the student to our database. The student then must answer questions to verify their identity, which may include name, address and date of birth.


The institution never releases directory information so there are no Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations.

However, to complete the course work the student is forced to hand over the information to Acxiom, an unknown and potentially untrusted party. Why should students trust Acxiom when institutions cannot be trusted?

Due to the decentralized nature of IT departments, higher education leads all industries in numbers data breach events. Acxiom’s verification capabilities were designed so that student and instructor privacy is a critical feature of our solution. Institutions never receive the data Acxiom uses in this process. They are simply made aware of the pass/fail rates.

In other words, high education institutions cannot be trusted to handle this information. No reason was provided as to why Acxiom can be better trusted. Guess the people reading this would never check to see whether Acxiom has also had data breaches.

This Electronic Freedom Foundation response to Acxiom’s claims their method is more secure was interesting:

True facts about your life are, by definition, pre-compromised. If the bio question is about something already in the consumer file, arguably the best kind of question is about something that is highly unlikely to be in one’s consumer file and even useless commercially–like my pet’s name.

Answering these kinds of questions feels like more of violation of than a preservation of privacy.

Fall in Love With Cyberbullying

Kentucky’s Bill HB775 would require those operating web sites or blogs or message boards in the state to enforce a policy to collect legal names, postal addresses, and email addresses to use the service. The legal name would, of course, be posted on the web site. Should the poster cross someone else, then the operators have to hand over to the victim the identity of the poster. First offense at not having the poster’s identity is $500 ($1,000 each thereafter).

A policy to collect the information doesn’t mean the users of the web site must actually provide the information. Though it seems like this law is pointless unless it means the web site must force users to provide the information.

Any universities running a system like Blackboard Learning System Vista or CE editions (possibly others) probably would need to disable anonymous postings in the discussion board. The legal name of the poster would need to be visible. So, the system could not use nicknames the person would be addressed by in a face to face setting.

Universities typically have major difficulty getting students to correctly maintain their postal addresses. This is why many are turning to direct deposit of excess checks and email. This way the school avoids mail returns on thousands of addresses.

Tale of Defeating the Crazy Woman

Babies are fascinated by me. When the two of us are in a room, they often find me the most interesting thing in the room. Usually, it is mutual.

So, a mutual friend of a friend, Mojan has a fantastic blog. The past year or so has been about being pregnant and most recently figuring out how to be a parent for the first time. Well, a crazy woman set up a ‘blog” which hotlinks images from Mojan’s blog and falsely represents the child in the photos. Ick. I offered to help with this identity theft issue.

Once upon a time, I was annoyed with people taking images from my last employer’s web site. Since I was the campus web designer, I created an image which said, “All your image are belong to VSU.” Also, as the web server administrator, I figured out how to defeat hotlinking with .htaccess by using mod_rewrite to give them my annoyance rather than their content. For the next couple days I watched the perpetrators try and figure out what was wrong. The hate mail I got was fantastic! I recommended Mojan do the same. When she agreed, I went researching to do what I did once upon a time. This is the .htaccess file I recommended she try.

# Basics
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On

# Condition is true for any host other yours
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?mojansami\.com/ [nc]

# What to change gif, jpg, png to which target. In this case does not exist.
RewriteRule .*\.(gif|jpg|png)$ http://mojansami.com/images/stolenpic.jpg [nc]

My directions were not all that specific. So the next thing I know, her site is sporting an Internal Server Error. *headdesk* She used Dreamweaver to create the .htaccess file and upload it to her site. She reported the file she uploaded disappeared. Eventually, it did occur to me to look for the error.log and see what it said. The log complained about DOCTYPE in the .htaccess file in the home directory. A file which did not show in the FTP listing. So, replacing the bad .htaccess file with a blank one fixed the Internal Server Error.

The .htaccess file in the right place, of course, resolved the issue with the crazy woman hotlinking.

Nothing can fix the pain of another person committing identity theft against you or your loved ones. I really hope Mojan doesn’t become discouraged and abandon blogging entirely. Between moderation and authentication she might find a better balance.

Do you have any stories of online identity theft?

Separated at Birth

I wondered how often this happens. Turns out it has at least once.

Twins who were separated at birth got married without realizing they were brother and sister….

“Everyone has a right to knowledge about their lineage, genealogy andidentity. And if they don’t, then it will lead to cases of incest,”[Lord David] Alton.
Twins unwittingly got married in Britain

Technorati Tags: ineage, ,

Few Care What Google Says About Them

Yeah, I keep writing about identity management. [1][2].

Few Internet users say they Google themselves regularly – about three-quarters of self-searchers say they have done so only once or twice. Study: Googling Oneself Is More Popular

People admit to having looked themselves up once or twice, but few people regularly monitor themselves. I guess its not like one’s credit report?

Of course, calling it a vanity search would keep people from looking themselves up online. Few want to be considered vain, right?

Social Marketing

Normally, I consider John Dvorak a crotchety old-timer who doesn’t get human-computer interaction due to his myopic self-centered view. (His use isn’t usually my use, so he gripes seem inapplicable.) Finally, he got one right… almost. In his most recent blog post… er… opinion article, he described people using social networks as “marketing” themselves. Actually, the phrasing is identity management. People use these online tools to appear better than who they really are. Well… Duh. I’ve always thought I should use technology, especially social networking tools, to control what others think about me.

Back in the old days, as a Webmaster, I discovered the friend of a friend of a friend had a LiveJournal (one of the first social network sites, predating even Friendster) blog where she posted a bit of her art work from her classes. I’m not a freelancer, so I gave her some of the freelance web design leads which she turned into experience to help her get a real graphic design job. Rands might just be understanding getting a job is a potential use of Twitter. Given employers Google their job candidates, why not? I am sure there are many reasons for why one should strive to maintain a positive image for those taking the initiative to check.

The technology is new, but the purpose is as old as natural selection. We all wish to succeed. Stone tools allowed my distant ancestors to accomplish monotonous tasks faster than others and attract more advantageous mates. Maybe social networks are the modern stone tools?

Who Are You?

I’m so vain…. I probably think this post is about me….

Probably only people who do vanity searches notice this, but there are spiders pulling names off web sites. They link the names to companies, blogs, and other web content. Supposedly, these sites allow online reputation control. Rather than you claiming your identity as others in this market, they list you in their database with the hopes you claim it.

See, you probably have accounts on several web sites. The idea is to both aggregate the accounts and prove ownership. If your name is John Smith, then you probably are getting confused with other John Smiths. You’ll provide where you work, contact info, which sites belong to you. The site will provide a feed showing your activity in each of these.

My name is pretty unique. If you saw my full name on a site, then would you doubt that its me. Okay, let’s forget the guy who masqueraded with my name a few years ago. Lots of people say I have the best names. He took it too far. By contrast, there are others with my first name who pop up higher in Google. So, you’d need the whole thing. I notice people arrive at this site by putting that name in search engines, so I am pretty sure it works. Naturally, all the sites where I wish to stay under the radar don’t have my name on them.
🙂

See… I knew I’d make this post about me.

Am I the only one who remembers fascination with the Deep Web (aka Invisible Web)? The idea of these online reputation services, I think, is to bring positive content up in rankings up to the more shallow areas. Trick is, the users need to be aware of what is and is not positive. Linking your name to your Facebook (used to be Deep Web but less and less of late) profile and giving the world access to pictures of you passed out drunk probably isn’t positive online reputation control.