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Saturday, October 21st, 2006, 11:24 am

Life on UseNet and ‘Web-based’ Knowledge?

THE way knowledge is shared among and between people keeps changing–or put positively–evolving . Take for example stories and personal journals that are released under a Creative Commons (e.g. Attrib-NonCommerical-No Derivs 2.5) license. These come to show that content becomes a very ‘fluid’ thing where information is increasingly reused to improve existing knowledgebases. But it goes beyond that.

Many people are openly sharing information about themselves. They make it searchable online. Keywords and unique identifiers definitely help as well. Indexing makes streams of written consciousness easier to locate. Passively perhaps, I am among people who can organise personal data owing to searching technologies in a vast pool of informational context–the World Wide Web. I did not choose the path of anonymity. It was either a wise or a dumb choice, depending on who’s to judge. By collecting and piecing together over 20,000 UseNet posts of mine (a screenshot of my newsreader is shown on the right hand side), one could reproduce some of my life’s history and, potentially, highlight more controversial opinions, too.

There are less flattering pieces of information of the Web, including the defamation of one’s name and dignity. Sadly, there are some people who take advantage of indexing. The best method of evading nasty consequences is never to engage in conversations with those who shoot from the lip. Hopefully it becomes reciprocal, as in “if you want to discard my messages, then just killfile me”. In other cases, however, the coronation of stupidity takes over logic. Sick-minded (and often anonymous) people carry on with inane one-liners and personal attacks. Yesterday I confroned a Digg stalker. Yes, there is some crazy stalker on Digg who is a sworn Microsoft fan that systematically mods my comments down.

All in all, despite a little bit of negative publicity, I am fairly pleased with what I have contributed over the Web. I guess that every valuable thing with a noble cause, however benign, must have a cost.

As a side note and an off-topic discussion, I recently began using Google Groups. The local newsgroups server has been problems-ridden for a week, so I haven’t much choice. Here’s an observation: in Google Groups’ beta, I am rather surprised to find that Google makes ad revenue out of UseNet. It even appends “Copyright 2006 Google” to pages although the content is in fact contributed by various people without any connection to Google. A well-deserved reward for their service (UseNet gateway)? Probably. But the mind still boggles.

Personally, I only keep copies of messages and threads in which I am involved, whereas Google does this at a far larger scale. It also digs archives that are published without people’s awareness and consent. This leaves a few fuming non-anonymised posters from the nineties and eighties. One of them, for example, has demonstrated loudly and caused disruption to the Webmasters newsgroup. Constant harassment and floods carries on for a few months before cessation. My feelings remain mixed as far as Google’s involvement in public forums is concerned.

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