MySpace Murder Foiled

I’m sure this is going to get a lot of coverage: MySpace Murder Plot Foiled – September 14, 2006

And I’m not going to bang on about it too much, but it reminds me of a conversation that I’ve had with a few people recently about online privacy and identity.

Sophie has mentioned to me a couple of times that I don’t credit her in my blog, and it’s true, but for good reason. Not because I’m trying to be a blog-swinger and attract chicks who read geeky blogs. Or because I’m trying to pretend that everything I write about is mine, mine, all mine. But because I don’t think that it’s right to ‘put’ someone online who doesn’t exist there already. I have no qualms about mentioning bloggers, or people who are active participants in online communities, or even people who are relatively googleable. But I’d never want to be responsible for ‘creating’ someone online. Even relatively anonymous Flickr postings can lead to all kinds of strange happenings.

The MySpace hit is just an extreme example of what happens when you get spotted in the wrong places online.

The one time when I have posted about someone who didn’t really have an online presence is when I blogged about my friend Olly who sadly passed away, I had a strange feeling that there would be people who knew he was tragically ill but may not have heard of his death. And sure enough there were a significant number of Google searches for his name that lead people here, resulting in a fair few emails from friends and acquaintances. Receiving those mails and dealing with them felt like an incredible responsibility and made me even more aware of the power of talking about people online.

Online Community Motivations and Reputations

Faris left this rather good link about motivations for contributing to online communities to in the comments. I’m not going to summarise it here. But there’s a couple of thoughts I had about how this might change in the future…
It’s interesting to think how this might all change once our digital identities are no longer tied to individual sites or reputation systems. So if I turn up at a new community with my Amazon Top 100 reviewer badge and 3 gold Ebay stars (not that I have either of those things), would it make me more or less attractive to the people who are there. I guess it all depends on whether it’s a community that respects those ‘tribal’ badges.

And what happens if I get found out as having been a member of a ‘rival’ community in the past. Or, if in my wayward youth, I was badly behaved in a community and got chucked out of somewhere. Online ASBOs anyone…

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if motivations and behaviours are motivated in certain ways, once those motivations extend outside of a ‘local’ online space, and become ‘global’ then the whole game changes. And I reckon that once various pieces of online ID become joined-up it’s going to get pretty tricky to erase unwanted parts of your history. It’s not like in the offline world where only a few people have access to your ‘files’, most of the things you’ve said and done in a public online space are stored indefinitely for all to see.

Which reminds me of a great presentation I watched a while ago – Dick Hardt from Sxip talking about Identity 2.0. Great content and great style.