Brian Gongol: January 2011 Archives

Three things you should know before using an online message board:

1. Use your own name, or use a pseudonym, but always behave as though everyone knows your real name. Sure, you may think you're safe behind a made-up name like MisterPlow or JessesGirl1998, but if people want to figure out who you are, it's not difficult. The people who control the website have access to server logs that give away quite a lot about who you are, including what websites you visited just before arriving at theirs. And if you think other people can't deduce who you are by your writing style or by the things you say, then you aren't aware of the power of just a little bit of research. Services like are built upon the premise that the patterns in written language can be recognized by a computer. If someone has enough reason to try to figure out who you are, they can.

2. If you think something you've written is smart or worth saving, copy and save it for yourself.  You never know when the message board you're using will have a database failure, change ownership, or otherwise fall apart. People can literally be hit by cars or have freak accidents, and if those people are managing your message board, then it could easily disappear overnight.

3. Don't feed trolls. (See our recent encounter with a YouTube commenter who's clearly just a plant for the Chinese government.) "Trolls" are people who search for hot-button issues to turn from mountains into molehills, usually for personal benefit or political gain. There's no use fighting with a troll on the Internet; just learn when to walk away.

4. Use language that you won't be ashamed for your grandma, your daughter, or an HR representative to read. First of all, you're putting it on the Internet anyway, and if it's language that you'd be embarrassed to encounter in day-to-day life, then you shouldn't be polluting the Internet with it yourself. But more directly to your own well-being, it's important to note that you are never as anonymous on the Internet as you think you are, and if someone cracks your identity (see rule #1 above), then you could find yourself making some sorry excuses to friends, family, and employers for things you said long ago.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Brian Gongol in January 2011.

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