[Air-L] on the Wayback Machine (was public/private [part 1 of 2])

Conor Schaefer conor.schaefer at gmail.com
Tue Aug 14 09:25:41 PDT 2007

I think that a better analogy for an unlisted website "in the wild" 
would be a broadsheet posted to a tree deep in the woods, with no signs 
pointing to it, and it doesn't exist on any maps. Of course, once 
someone /does /find it by walking around at random (or by systematically 
trying to cover all ground in the forest), its location can easily be 
placed on any map (i.e. linked to).

I'm going to further say that I believe the woods to be on national park 
land, so that anyone can freely traverse them. I understand this will 
complicate the analogy for some people on this list, but I had to state 
my opinion entirely.

Lois Ann Scheidt wrote:
> Now beyond that, I would argue that from a research perspective the 
> blog was still open to study, if it can be found.  I say that because 
> the best terrestrial analogy I can think of to your thought experiment 
> is someone who posted a broadsheet on a pole but with a cover over the 
> broadsheet...lots of things could pull that cover off...the wind, rain, 
> or a passing person who didn't like the color of the cover.  In short, 
> a person who would go to that much trouble to hide in plan sight...well 
> it's still plan sight.
In response to what's written below, this is my favorite part of your 
lengthy post. This is a very compelling angle; it's showing that the 
scale is changing so quickly in this field from what social scientists 
have traditionally been exposed to! In an online ethnography I did, I 
kept the true names (true aliases?) of members I came across, because so 
often the names themselves were the subject of conversation and were 
absolutely crucial to the handling of identity among the group. I could 
not obfuscate the names and retain and semblance of validity in the 
conclusions I drew from observing this behavior.

> Some years ago, I wrote a classroom paper that discussed why I don't 
> pseudonymize my subjects in my chatroom research.  The simple reason is 
> that there is no way I could come up with nicknames that would cover 
> the participants and not potentially deflect on to another chatroom 
> user.  I'm good but I'm not THAT good.
> So if I did pseudonymize I might protect my participants but in that 
> one-in-a-billion case where someone was in harm's way from something I 
> did...I might well have created the situation rather then hidden it.  
> I'll let you "what if'ers" out there run that one through the filters.
> Lois
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