This is a bit strange rant, but it’s a pretty crucial one.
I wish to state, for the record, that I completely support anonymity and pseudonyms on the web. I’ve only disabled anonymous commenting on these blogs because so few people comment here and I get tons of comment spam, but I have absolutely no problem with people logging on as made-up, personas or leaving comments on another blogs using weird names of their own designs.
To reiterate: I don’t want to keep much of your personal information around. I don’t care about the operating systems you run, because I just sorta hope the people see the awesomeness of GNU/Linux. I don’t care which browsers you run, because people should design for standards, not browsers, and if it works on Firefox and doesn’t need any weird hacks, then it’s probably good enough. (People who still run IE 6 deserve everything they get. Sorry.) I don’t care what your ISP is or what your IP addy is, unless you’re a spammer, and if you are, you get unceremoniously blocked. I don’t care about your connection speed. Everyone’s always too slow, anyway.
Now, I’m only saying this because there’s one thing you need to know: If you make information about yourself available on this site, I make my best attempt to make sure that only bits you specifically want to disclose end up being publicly visible. Or getting publicly debated about.
I’m saying this because I’ve seen people really crank up the creepiness meter. Site owners should take a stand that declares what stuff is appropriate on the site and what’s not, but it’s altogether different matter to remind people that the site keeps a surprising amount of information at hand and that the site owners are willing to put such information to frivolous use.
One of the great abusers of this information was Conservapedia. Conservapedia admins frequently use CheckUser to get IP ranges where the offending users reside, and disclosed the IP block’s owner. And, of course, “offending user” usually meant “people who disagree with them for various reasons”. Or, to use their terminology, “liberals”. (Do note that these terms are only political on the very surfacest of terms. The site seems to concern itself much more on who agrees with Andy Schlafly and who doesn’t.)
People who you disagree with are not unpersons who don’t have rights. They’re people.
I can’t really link to Conservapedia to show examples, because they’ve blocked me. My crime? Visiting the site, probably. I’ve never had an account there. Following the recent DDOS attacks, they’ve just decided to blackhole the entire bloody country. And rest of this corner of the world. Almost nobody can access the site.
Another example, one that hasn’t done any harm to me yet? (I’m only pointing this out because the person has shown some clue in the past, but there are some, ahem, obvious deficiencies.) This one is a bit creepy. At first, it looks fairly normal - ho hum, anime sculptures, blogstuff, nothing weird, really - until you notice the “Artist Rights/Webmaster Tools/Tech Security” section. “Enforce your copyright”. “Do a WHOIS on any website or IP address”. “Block your website’s enemies at the IP level”. “Using
.htaccess files to ban unwanted users”. My emphasis.
This got me some flashbacks from one of my favourite books. In the first three days, the mediaeval Inquisitors just kept the prisoner in cell. In the third day they showed the prisoners the torture devices. Just showed them - nothing more, for now…
OK, that may be a bit dramatic analogy. But it does remind me of one interesting principle to keep in mind: one way or other, people are capable of doing horrible things to each other, just as they’re capable of doing incredibly good things to each other. (Not being really Christian, I don’t know what this concept really should be called, because the Christian term for this - “total depravity” - is so often misunderstood.) Some may feel safer hanging around with people who keep that capability for nastiness fresh in memory and ready to use, in “well, at least they’re honest about evilness” kind of way. Others, on the other hand, may feel safer hanging around with people whose capability to do evil is so atrophied that they need to take pains to refresh them - people who don’t want to constantly remind themselves that they can use force.
So yes, I can do
.htaccess stuff too. You just don’t hear about that, because that’s the last resort. I won’t try to remind the random visitors that I have the power to block them by IP. I block spammers at worst, because spammers don’t care if they’re blocked - they go spam elsewhere. I don’t keep links to Apache documentation for .htaccess in my front page. I can take a look at apache.org.
You’re not being bullied here. Be safe. I try my darnest not to be evil.