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The Anonymous Monk user is deeply ingrained in PerlMonks culture and unlikely ever to be gotten rid of. This monastery is run by the hegemony of monks for whom privacy and anonymity are very important, and who like and want the Anonymous Monk user. There's nothing wrong with this. It's not surprising at all that the values of Perl hackers are aligned with those of computer hacker culture in general. I have no inclination to want to change the minds of the majority of monks for whom the Anonymous Monk user is an important feature of PerlMonks, nor do I want to debate the issue. The debate would be boring and pointless, and I'd lose it.

There are only two problems with the Anonymous Monk user that, to me, are a little annoying. The first is the obvious one that I made in the Chatterbox the other day and that PopeFelix quotes in his opening post:  "… you can't distinguish one Anonymous Monk from another Anonymous Monk in any given thread. You can't have a reasoned argument with someone when that someone is an amorphous blob that can't be differentiated from other instances of the same amorphous blob." I think other monks share my annoyance with this aspect of the Anonymous Monk user. I don't lose sleep over it. I'm not going to march on the capitol to protest it. It's just a small gripe I have with the PerlMonks forums, that's all.

The other minor problem with the Anonymous Monk user is its name. To me, the word "anonymous" is loaded and ambiguous. All users on PerlMonks are as anonymous as they choose to be, and most of them choose to be totally anonymous. I have no idea who you are, atcroft, educated_foo, erix, hdb, LanX, marto, PopeFelix, ruzam, sundialsvc4 and taint. Oh, I may know your first name because you sign your posts with it. I may even know what city you live in because you've included this information about yourself in your profile. But you're still anonymous to me. And I'm anonymous, too. All you can surmise about my real identity from what's on PerlMonks is that I'm a Perl programmer in Tempe, Arizona named Jim. I'm still anonymous because you don't know which Perl programmer in Tempe, Arizona named Jim I am.

I realize that, to many other monks here, the word "anonymous" applies not just to one's real-world, legal, what's-on-one's-passport identity, but also to one's virtual PerlMonks identity. I understand the argument that, to many monks, anonymity means absolutely no identity whatsoever, either real or fake. I get it, I do. But I nonetheless believe that the name of the amorphous, non-specific, unidentified user on PerlMonks sucks because it has the loaded word "anonymous" in it. Again, I won't debate the topic with you. Yawn! If you disagree with me, then I agree in advance to disagree with you, too.

So, at last, here are my recommended changes to the implementation of the Anonymous Monk user on PerlMonks:

  • Change its name to something else. Guest and Visitor are both short and sweet, but they're admittedly not very inspired or even accurate. Wanderer is short enough, and it fits the whimsical conceit of a monastery. (For the purpose of this recommendation, I'll use Wanderer as the new name, but with the understanding that someone with more creative juices than I've got will inevitably think of a much better name.)
  • To post When posting to a thread in a forum, Wanderer must may enter a charm—a secret, magic word that he makes up himself. A charm is similar to a password, but it's localized to the current thread. There's no restriction on the minimum length of the charm or on what characters are in it. It's entirely up to Wanderer to decide what to use.
  • Wanderer's post is then attributed to the individual possessor of the charm; for example, Wanderer 01, Wanderer 02, etc. For fun, instead of using numbers, we could use fictional, medieval names drawn from a large database of infrequently-repeated names; for example, Wanderer Brom, Wanderer Fendrel, Wanderer Tristan, Wanderer Isolde, etc.
  • When Wanderer posts a subsequent node to the same thread, he uses the same charm as before so the same attribution is repeated; for example, Wanderer Brom again.
  • Wanderer's participation in the attribution scheme is voluntary and opt-in. His only burden is that he must type something for a charm each time he posts as an unregistered user, even if it's just a single character. If he chooses to continue to be identified as Wanderer Brom throughout the discussion thread, he can. It's entirely up to him. He holds the key:  the secret charm. If Wanderer chooses to be utterly amorphous, even within the current thread, he can simply not enter a charm. In this case, the attribution will be just Wanderer alone.
  • If the user wants his own, self-determined name, he knows where to get one.

I'll gladly discuss my recommendation with you, which is an idea I just made up as I went along tonight. If you want to bludgeon me over the head for the stupidity of my premises for making it, go ahead, but I won't engage with you or defend my recommendation. Take it or leave it. It's just a simple suggestion about a feature of PerlMonks that isn't really that important to me.

Jim

UPDATE:  I just checked the availability of the name Wanderer. Alas, there's an existing PerlMonks user named wanderer. He or she created an account in April 2006, posted an inquiry, got his or her answer, and has never returned to PerlMonks since then (at least not using the wanderer account). So then I checked the availability of the name Monk. There's a user with the name monk, too. Her or she created an account in July 2000, participated in a handful of threads in that same month, and has never posted anything since then. He or she last logged on in 2009. Happily, the name Brother is available:  there is no user named Brother on PerlMonks. Brother fits the monastic theme perfectly and nicely implies a generic, non-designated member of the monastery. It's fraternal and friendly-sounding, which encourages general civility and being nice to each other.

For those who insist on maintaining the exact same level of absolute "anonymity" (i.e., amorphousness) that is currently afforded by the Anonymous Monk user, the simple name Brother could be used by any unregistered poster who chooses not to opt into the attribution scheme. The use of just Brother versus Brother Foo could be chosen by simply not entering a charm (a secret word). I realize this represents a change to the plan I proposed above. As I said, I'm making this scheme up as I go along. ☺ (I made edits above.)

ANOTHER UPDATE:  The name Brother isn't gender-neutral. ☹ And the name Sister is taken by yet another only-used-once account, sister. So I give up trying to pick the perfect new name. But my recommendations stand:  rename Anonymous Monk to something else and enable the opt-in capability for unregistered users to differentiate the attribution of their own posts from the posts of other unregistered users within an individual discussion thread.


In reply to Re: Assigning unique identifiers within a discussion thread to each distinct anonymous commenter by Jim
in thread Assigning unique identifiers within a discussion thread to each distinct anonymous commenter by PopeFelix

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