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When Writing, How Anonymous Can You Be, Really?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the go-ask-your-ghostwriter dept.

Privacy 184

An anonymous reader writes "Do you still think your online writing is, basically, anonymous? Think again! Research has it people put much of their personal traits into their writing, and computers may just be able to pick them up. That's at least what a recently announced competition on author identification (Given a document, who wrote it?) and author profiling (Given a document, what are its author's age and gender?) wants to find out. Alas, re-using other people's writing is no solution either; there's also a competition on plagiarism detection (Given a document, is it an original?). Wanna revisit your recent rants?"

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Yes, we know (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42308967)

As previously reported [slashdot.org] on Slashdot. Now, please identify me. Here's a hint: I have a 5 digit UID.

Re:Yes, we know (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42308985)

I got this one. You sir are Anonymous Coward, with UID 00666. Now, what prize do I get for this?

Re:Yes, we know (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309091)

Why are you replying to yourself?

Wait. Why am I replying to myself again?

Re:Yes, we know (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309157)

Warning: Infinite Loop. {Author} Identified: {Unidentified Author}.

Re:Yes, we know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310345)

1 Infinite Loop

That's pretty easy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42308983)

Most people would just use something like Tor (or Tor and another VPN/proxy service). If they wanted to be absolutely sure, they could probably host their own hidden Tor Bridge somewhere and connect to it via VPN (or even with Tor itself, depending on level of paranoia).

Re:That's pretty easy (1, Interesting)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | about 2 years ago | (#42309161)

Your exact version of chrome combined with the exact version of various plugins you used (flash, pdf readers, add blcokers etc) can all be reported to the server and when combined they lead to a lot of bits of entropy. Tor won't help you get around that.

Re:That's pretty easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309213)

Actually, Tor comes prepackaged with a browser with privacy settings enabled by default. The server shouldn't be able to differentiate you from any other user of the stock Tor bundle.

Re:That's pretty easy (4, Insightful)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 2 years ago | (#42309291)

Actually, Tor comes prepackaged with a browser with privacy settings enabled by default. The server shouldn't be able to differentiate you from any other user of the stock Tor bundle.

That's for the TOR bundle if used as they recommend, but the article is about identifying authors by what they write, them not about idintifying by technical means. On Slashdot not RTFA could be used as an identifying metric but on the other hand it's a rather wide net.

Re:That's pretty easy (4, Interesting)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#42309499)

I have Dupytren Contacture. It foreshortens the tendon on my ring fingers of both hands. The result is that when I typing fast I make common repeatable mistakes in typing as well as common typographical errors due to muscle memory. The use of certain vocabulary fixes who you are to those who may be watching, illuminating social exposure, education or intelligence. There are simply so many ways to measure the content a person generates. In a world that growing abhors common anonymity, but reserves that right only for those with the wealth and power to build high walls, we need to ask whether or not we are willing to limit our self expression to remain quietly safe.

I for one would rather be known as a trouble maker, than not known at all for what it is that I feel moved to say.

Give me liberty or give me death is still the moral high ground.

Re:That's pretty easy (2)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 2 years ago | (#42309599)

>

I for one would rather be known as a trouble maker, than not known at all for what it is that I feel moved to say.

Have to agree with you there, however I imagine there are people out there for whom this style of tool would be a terrifying prospect, depends where you stand I guess.

Re:That's pretty easy (3, Interesting)

Omestes (471991) | about 2 years ago | (#42310247)

n a world that growing abhors common anonymity...

I'm not even sure of this anymore. I'm beginning to think the death of anonymity is inevitable due to nothing but technology; ubiquitous networking, computing power, and near infinite storage. Even without the government, and unregulated corporate behaviors (how else do you stop data farming?), the ability would still be there, and someone would harness it.

I'm not supporting killing the ability to be anonymous, or supporting the actions of people who would exploit it. I just think that it is going to get increasingly hard to maintain it. Soon we'll see anonymity like we see encryption, not a concrete, perfect, thing, but a matter of degrees. There will be no true anoniminity, but only how much time and resources it would take to unmask people. This, probably, is already true. A determined person, with expensive resources, could probably find almost anyone.

Hell, a couple months ago I got curious about a childhood friend, someone I haven't seen or talked to in over 20 years. It took about 15 minutes of half-hearted idle searching before I figured out where he lived, how much his house cost, and when he bought it (including a recent Google map of it, and a builders layout, where he worked, his rough income, the car he drives, his wife's name, where her parents live, that his mother recently died, and his father is in a retirement home, etc... I gave up after 15 minutes because I got a bit creeped out. I'm not a PI, I didn't buy any tools for this, I only used Google. I can't even imagine what I would have found if I spent more time, and effort, and money on it.

Re:That's pretty easy (4, Interesting)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#42309181)

Most people would just use something like Tor (or Tor and another VPN/proxy service).

Erm... the transport doesn't matter if you're analyzing message composition.

Wasn't this part of what that Barr guy was doing to try to figure out who members of Anonymous were? I think I read recently that he turned out to be right about the one that ran to Canada.

Re:That's pretty easy (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309563)

Most people would just use something like Tor (or Tor and another VPN/proxy service).

Erm... the transport doesn't matter if you're analyzing message composition.

Right, it's not about the identity - it's about matching different pieces of text as written by the same author

Once the texts are matched, your identity is compromised as long as ONE of the texts is coming from a known identified source (email, etc.)

Re:That's pretty easy (4, Informative)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#42309635)

Yep - that was part of Barr's stock in trade. He compared posts made by anon members in various venues, then traced some of those members to identify them. An IRC server was critical to Barr's process, as I recall. Or, more accurately, the IRC server was critical in this particular instance, as it maintained logs that some of the other servers did not.

No -- he got the guy's name from WHOIS (5, Informative)

TheSeatOfMyPants (2645007) | about 2 years ago | (#42310297)

The only thing that Barr did correctly was look up WHOIS info on the People's Liberation Front's website after an Anonymous guy claimed to be "Supreme Commander" of the PLF... When Barr confronted him, the guy claimed it was a joke, so Barr pointed to an innocent man [salon.com] instead. (Ars Tech article on the 'correct' Commander X [arstechnica.com] .) Otherwise, Barr's tactics -- including analyzing what the people wrote -- gave him completely wrong answers [salon.com] .

Re:That's pretty easy (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#42309617)

Traceability, ie, masking your IP address, has almost nothing to do with the article. Just damned near nothing.

You can find a few dozens of my posts here on slashdot. You might browse to another site, where someone has posted, using my identification. Based on my thought processes, my writing style, my use of punctuation, etc, you can COMPARE the documents, and decide with a pretty high probability that either, A: I am the same author or B: I am not the same Runaway1956 that posted that other document.

The title is a little misleading, as I might post thousands of posts online, and remain anonymous. It's likely that the more posts I make, the less anonymous I become, but anonymity isn't really the issue addressed in TFA.

Re:That's pretty easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309909)

Scenario:
Repressed journalist uses Tor to write blog on evil dictator.
Evil dictator can read blog, but owner is anonymous.
Evil dictator puts text into identification machine.
Identification machine spits out a name of a journalist in his country (doesn't even matter if its the right one.)
Journalist is tortured and dies in squalid prison conditions.

RTFA (1)

Omestes (471991) | about 2 years ago | (#42310175)

Which is pointless if your actual writing can give you away. No amount of Tor/VPN or whatever, will do anything useful if your actual writing itself can lead back to you. If I use every anonymity trick in the book, the gig is still up the second I say "Hi, I'm Bob Smith, of 6424 N. 22nd Street, Akron OH".

Sure, you could make a magical anonymous internet, but it defeats the purpose of trying to disseminate whatever your writing to an audience, unless your only going for a very small, select audience of people using the same scheme. And even then, if others could access it, you still might not be anonymous.

Guess who I am! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42308995)

>throw machine at 4chan
>"Identify!"
>all posters sound the same
>machine concludes all posters are part of a highly advanced AI
>machine becomes depressed that it will never create anything wonderful like the spaghetti threads or /mlp/
>kills itself
>mfw

Based on the above, who am I?

Re:Guess who I am! (2)

Sasayaki (1096761) | about 2 years ago | (#42309021)

Moot? Is that you?

Re:Guess who I am! (2)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#42309509)

No its his third cousin "Inane".

Re:Guess who I am! (2, Informative)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 years ago | (#42309203)

>Based on the above, who am I?
Anonymous

Re:Guess who I am! (2)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#42309253)

>mfw

Based on the above, who am I?

I'm guessing a retard who doesn't understand that this abbreviation means "my face when".

Re:Guess who I am! (1)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 years ago | (#42309263)

Maybe he don't have a face?

Re:Guess who I am! (1)

Genda (560240) | about 2 years ago | (#42309513)

Are you suggesting this poor soul has a butt at both ends?

Re:Guess who I am! (2)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 2 years ago | (#42309557)

Are you suggesting this poor soul has a butt at both ends?

Yeah, like that's a rare condition in the world today.

Re:Guess who I am! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309951)

Based on the above, who am I?

I know who you are not: APK. No mention of a Hosts file anywhere in your post (let alone in every sentence).

Uh huh... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309029)

Like facial recognition.... I am sure this works wonderfully when it only has 10 or 20 exemplars to compare against, but it fails miserably as it scales up. Good luck conclusively identifying an author when there are over a million profiles to potentially match with.

Re:Uh huh... (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#42309075)

Like facial recognition.... I am sure this works wonderfully when it only has 10 or 20 exemplars to compare against, but it fails miserably as it scales up. Good luck conclusively identifying an author when there are over a million profiles to potentially match with.

Or like fingerprints that start giving off larger number of false-positives when compared against a large enough database of entries.

Consider this: they don't have to conclusively identify the original author. It will be good enough to find someone with similar writing (i.e. also a subversive) and charge them instead of the original perpetrator. And good luck proving that you didn't write that

Mmmm, a national database of writing samples collected from everyone in school... that sounds like fun.

Re:Uh huh... (2)

russotto (537200) | about 2 years ago | (#42309355)

Mmmm, a national database of writing samples collected from everyone in school... that sounds like fun.

I never thought not doing my homework would pay off so well :-).

There's definitely going to be false positives. I've seen other people's writing that was nearly word-for-word identical with my own, and there's no way they saw mine (nor I theirs) before writing it.

Re:Uh huh... (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#42309729)

The larger the sample of a person's writings, the more accurate this thing will become, of course. The nature of the writings will also influence the accuracy. In school, even an essay is going to be very similar to other people's essays, as they are unlikely to contain a lot of original thought. Everyone is doing their best to feed the teacher the responses that they believe the teacher wants to be fed.

Now, if your ex girlfriend were to give these researchers everything that you ever wrote to her, there would likely be more original work, giving more insight into your mental processes, than your homework ever contained.

Even more revealing, would be any discourses that you have ever written on politics or philosophy. With those, you would be revealing one hell of a lot about your mind, and how it works. Given a hundred pages of such musings and ramblings, you would be pegged pretty accurately, and a genuine researcher wouldn't mistake anyone else for you.

Re:Uh huh... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310325)

Well put.

As a test, I just looked through my own posts on slashdot and selected a four word string I use pretty often that seemed somewhat unique, but not obviously so.

I combined that string (in quotes) with site:slashdot.org on Google. At least two of the results returned in the first page were me, made over the course of the last few weeks.

Now of course there are others that used that in their posts, but had someone picked that string from something I posted AC they'd know there was a good chance it was me. And they'd have my real name, website, etc.

Re:Uh huh... (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about 2 years ago | (#42309493)

Consider this: they don't have to conclusively identify the original author. It will be good enough to find someone with similar writing (i.e. also a subversive) and charge them instead of the original perpetrator

I doubt a major news network, would ever just blindly claim the wrong person did it.

that's not how it works (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#42309497)

they use the analysis to identify a small range of who to watch to find certain confirmation they have the right guy

law enforcement tools are not limited only to 100% certain ones. the fuzzy ones are used to narrow down a list of targets, where law enforcement's limited manpower can be better spent to find certain confirmation

It will be good enough to find someone with similar writing (i.e. also a subversive) and charge them instead of the original perpetrator. And good luck proving that you didn't write that

if you live in a country with good law enforcement, this is hollywood fantasy and/ or paranoid schizophrenia, not reality. you want to actually catch the actual perp because you actually want to prevent crimes

Re:Uh huh... (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42309089)

The profiling competition only bins into 10s / 20s / 30s which seems extremely lame. Can't they at least try Myers Briggs category or something? Maybe that would be too patented/copyrighted....

Wake me when they make something monetizable (OK the categorize tool reports: highly educated, technically oriented, 30s, raised in the midwest, ultra low TV viewing quotient, classical education literature coeff extremely high, also a high sci fi reading coeff, verbal indications of extreme physical attractiveness ... mush that up against the user DB and ... oh I see that's VLM (69642) trying to post as AC)

Re:Uh huh... (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42309129)

... it fails miserably as it scales up.

Text recognition was good enough to identify Ted Kaczynski [wikipedia.org] . One thing that helped in Ted's case was that they had a lot of text. His manifesto was 35,000 words.

Re:Uh huh... (2)

Kjella (173770) | about 2 years ago | (#42309387)

Quoting from that WP page:

which led to his brother and his wife recognizing Kaczynski's style of writing and beliefs from the manifesto

It's a whole different thing to recognize a person's beliefs - if possibly in a more extreme form - than what they've written on an entirely different subject. Quite possibly they recognized specific examples, theories, arguments or conclusions he had used as well. I'd wager this was 99% content and 1% style which really clinched that it wasn't some other crazy nut bag with the same ideas. I recently ran into one online that had some rather unique conspiracy theories, if they started showing up anywhere else it'd 99.99% sure be the same guy. He could write a whole book and I wouldn't recognize him on writing style alone though.

Re:Uh huh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309259)

You may be able to at least geolocate based on certain turns of phrase

Re:Uh huh... (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#42309661)

It is comparatively easy to establish that Author A did NOT write a particular document, than to prove conclusively that he DID write that document. In the latter case, you can establish that he probably wrote it, with a high confidence level in your findings, but it's not conclusive proof. It probably is proof enough to get a warrant to examine his computer(s), in an attempt to get that conclusive proof.

Can it beat Google? (4, Insightful)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#42309039)

Google thinks I'm a 20 year old male. I'm in my early thirties and a gal. I think visiting Slashdot so much throws off its algorithm, as does all the video game sites I hang out at. You'd think the searches for things like "gel nails" might tip them off, but it's probably further confused by my lack of visits to Pinterest.

I'd be interested to see if this program can do any better at analyzing my writing than Google does analyzing my search history.

Re:Can it beat Google? (4, Funny)

monkeyhybrid (1677192) | about 2 years ago | (#42309073)

Thank you for updating your age and gender details in our databases.

Yours sincerely,
Google.

Re:Can it beat Google? (2)

Kergan (780543) | about 2 years ago | (#42309103)

I second that. According to Google, I'm an old, obese dude in desperate needs for new abs and viagra. Go figure.

Re:Can it beat Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309211)

I second that. According to Google, I'm an old, obese dude in desperate needs for new abs and viagra. Go figure.

Being female doesn't mean you're not in the market for viagra.

Re:Can it beat Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310121)

Seems that Google has my account mixed up with yours. I'm that old fat obese man though I do not need viagra,yet.

Re:Can it beat Google? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309105)

Google thinks I'm a 20 year old male. I'm in my early thirties and a gal. I think visiting Slashdot so much throws off its algorithm, as does all the video game sites I hang out at.

I think you misunderstand the purpose of the algorithm. A writing sample is, of course, insufficient to detect your age and gender precisely.

There is a good chance that your writing style matches that expected of a male in their twenties, in which case the algorithm had done well. You may be a gal, but your interests and behavior is perhaps more similar to that of a male in their twenties, and for the purposes of predicting what to sell you or what to expect from you, that's actually more accurate than your actual stats.

Re:Can it beat Google? (1)

pla (258480) | about 2 years ago | (#42309555)

Why did you post as AC? You have the single most insightful comment yet!

No one interested in this tech cares what reproductive hardware you have - They care what you'll buy, simple as that.

Kudos for the good call!

Re:Can it beat Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310111)

I can't speak for that AC, but maybe it's for the same reason I post as AC: I don't possess a Slashdot account. I don't need one. My opinions stand on their own merits.

Re:Can it beat Google? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309117)

Since this is Slashdot, I'm betting you actually are a 20 year old male.

Re:Can it beat Google? (2)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#42309167)

See, that's where the Google algorithm programmers got lazy. They assume that too.

Re:Can it beat Google? (3, Funny)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#42309339)

You'd think the searches for things like "gel nails" might tip them off

Nah, just makes it think you're emo.

Re:Can it beat Google? (2)

pla (258480) | about 2 years ago | (#42309543)

I think visiting Slashdot so much throws off its algorithm, as does all the video game sites I hang out at.

Back in my youth, a friend consciously chose a handwriting style specifically to throw off so-called "handwriting" analysts. Of course, he chose to incorporate all the worst traits possible, meaning anyone looking at a sample of his writing would either immediately get the joke, or would back away slowly in fear for their life.

Funny to think that in the modern world, "handwriting" has become an all-but-deprecated "legacy" skill, but I did take a lesson from his example - I use an entirely synthetic online writing style, right down to an artificial regional dialect (though oddly, not the one I try for - automated profilers such as the summary links usually describe me as midwestern for reasons I don't quite know - Though still badly wrong, so, no harm done).

Re:Can it beat Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310445)

I did this as well with my handwriting` though mixed good and evil traits throughout my writing characteristics... its been loads of laughs over the years` including getting security clearances and gun licenses and professional screening before etc,,, keep poisoning the wells of the enemy's surveillance databases... we shall remain free and bring them down

Re:Can it beat Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310185)

I had a similar problem with Google showing me womens fitness sites and stuff like that. I'm a 27 year old male who is in to weight training. Google also shows me ads for womens clothing, probably because I clicked on an American Apparel ad once.

astroturfers (1, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42309053)

This would have been a lot more fun about two months ago to detect paid political astroturfers.

The ultimate AI-ish application would be an astroturfer plugin for chrome probably called "AstroturfBlock". So the site is a "tech" site, the contents are pure politics, and the text analysis system indicates an unemployed liberal arts degree holder... Go ahead and block it.

Re:astroturfers (3, Insightful)

sco08y (615665) | about 2 years ago | (#42309247)

This would have been a lot more fun about two months ago to detect paid political astroturfers.

The ultimate AI-ish application would be an astroturfer plugin for chrome probably called "AstroturfBlock". So the site is a "tech" site, the contents are pure politics, and the text analysis system indicates an unemployed liberal arts degree holder... Go ahead and block it.

How is it going to detect whether people were paid to write something?

Re:astroturfers (2)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#42309579)

The ultimate AI-ish application would be an astroturfer plugin for chrome probably called "AstroturfBlock".

How is it going to detect whether people were paid to write something?

You also need a blacklist database of known astroturfers (well, their writing samples, you don't need their identity) for this system to work

Re:astroturfers (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#42309745)

There are usually key words they are paid to promote in their writings, for search purposes.

Why do you think I post on Slashdot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309081)

That way I can muddy the waters by creating extraneous sets of data that can't be ruled out.

This should prove... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309093)

Once and forall, IP is bullshit, because you can easily use a computer to forge all peoples un-original derivative work that is really just a result of their environement, upbringing and brainwashing.

P.S. This rant was written in a different style and with better spelling and grammer then most of my other AC rants.

I just don't try to be anonymous in writing (4, Interesting)

acroyear (5882) | about 2 years ago | (#42309097)

One example are the company performance surveys, that are supposed to be anonymous. I cant answer questions like 'how do you think the company leadership is doing' without effectively giving away who I am - my opinion is based on my position, and thus is easily inferred.

Re:I just don't try to be anonymous in writing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309305)

Also, writing style evolves. Sometimes quite dramatically.
I read quite a bit and that's the trend I see, even for experienced writers, the style changes quite a lot in a series from the first book to the last.

Re:I just don't try to be anonymous in writing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309353)

"my opinion is based on my position, and thus is easily inferred"

Since you're one of only about three people in the world who actually knows what the word "inferred" means, they've got you pegged right there.

Re:I just don't try to be anonymous in writing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310467)

and you and I are the other 2

Re:I just don't try to be anonymous in writing (1)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#42309531)

I cant answer questions like 'how do you think the company leadership is doing' without effectively giving away who I am - my opinion is based on my position, and thus is easily inferred.

You _could_ try talking to people in different positions (and write from their perspective) to solve that problem :)

It could be that one of your underlings is already writing responses tailored to look like it is written by someone in your position in hierarchy.

Anonymous surveys are easily gamed.

Re:I just don't try to be anonymous in writing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309859)

> how do you think the company leadership is doing

"Really shitty"

Authors can use these tools too. (4, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | about 2 years ago | (#42309131)

Of course, authors can use these tools too, and then iteratively change their texts until they cannot be correctly identified or profiled.

Just like spammers can check whether their e-mails ends up in spam filters before sending them.

It will be a never-ending cat and mouse game.

Re:Authors can use these tools too. (1)

aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) | about 2 years ago | (#42310149)

The only "authors" who would benefit from this would be undercover agents and trolls. What would be the point of mutating the way you write so that you can no longer be identified or linked as the author of what you wrote before?

An example to make my point clear. Suppose you're an Islamic fundamentalist ranting about US cultural imperialism. Using the tools you gradually change what you write, under a sequence of aliases, until soon you have the online opinions of a Neocon!

It would have been easier if you simply wrote less and didn't take strong opinions on everything under the sun.

Betteridge strikes again (2, Funny)

complete loony (663508) | about 2 years ago | (#42309133)

When Writing, How Anonymous Can You Be, Really?

No.

Re:Betteridge strikes again (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about 2 years ago | (#42309147)

When Writing, How Anonymous Can You Be, Really?

No.

No? As an answer to that rhetorical question? Answering "No" doesn't make any sense at all; did you read the question?

Re:Betteridge strikes again (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about 2 years ago | (#42309177)

I just had a sudden thought. A brainwave!

I am going to start writing articles with headlines like "What is the average height of giraffes?" Answer: No. "How much do you plan to eat of the holidays?" Answer: No

I shall be rich!

Re:Betteridge strikes again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309225)

I can hear Consuela say it..

Re:Betteridge strikes again (1)

sco08y (615665) | about 2 years ago | (#42309311)

I just had a sudden thought. A brainwave!

I am going to start writing articles with headlines like "What is the average height of giraffes?" Answer: No. "How much do you plan to eat of the holidays?" Answer: No

I shall be rich!

Can't wait for the German edition. "Should I vear lederhosen or bundhosen? NEIN! Vill ve invade Russia or Poland? NEIN! Do you prefer Strauss or Wagner? NEIN!"

Re:Betteridge strikes again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309559)

When Writing, How Anonymous Can You Be, Really?

No.

No? As an answer to that rhetorical question? Answering "No" doesn't make any sense at all; did you read the question?

Betteridge joke.

Woosh?

Re:Betteridge strikes again (3, Informative)

complete loony (663508) | about 2 years ago | (#42310147)

Betteridge's_law_of_headlines [wikipedia.org]

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no

Whoosh.

Re:Betteridge strikes again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309677)

You wooshed several people replying and two moderators. Well done sir.

Who am I? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309151)

well?

Re:Who am I? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309251)

You're Ike. I can tell by the lower case "w". How the hell are ya?

How long until we have obfuscation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309155)

It wouldn't be that hard to write a script that would randomly swap your words with ones from a thesaurus run through Berkeley's FrameNet [berkeley.edu] so it makes sense. Boom, statistically impossible to detect the same author.

Additionally, with a little more effort you could alter your sentence length and swap prepositional phrases around with some pattern-matching algorithms.

timothy, stop posting you fucking faggot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309185)

n/t

PS: Your posts are shit.

Re:timothy, stop posting you fucking faggot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309605)

Mod up

Not only writing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309221)

I can tell a girl's age based on her trim.

Re:Not only writing (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 2 years ago | (#42309585)

I can tell a girl's age based on her trim.

Do they change cant or pitch as they age?

C'nsidr'n haw speshal ma ria'n is.. (1)

kawabago (551139) | about 2 years ago | (#42309233)

prbly ez to id me.

Re:C'nsidr'n haw speshal ma ria'n is.. (1)

game kid (805301) | about 2 years ago | (#42309977)

Took me a while to figure out if that was just bad spelling or a chant to Cthulhu.

Very useful (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309261)

Can we use this technology to have all the people who answer the following question in this way arrested?

"Is a or b true?"

"Yes."

Cast as wide of a net as possible, please. I'll take a high proportion of false positives in order to get the people who think this joke is funny off the street.

why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309285)

I wanna know who why the lucky stiff is

So the author of Hamlet can finally be identified? (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 2 years ago | (#42309369)

I bet it's Shakspeare.

Re:So the author of Hamlet can finally be identifi (3, Funny)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about 2 years ago | (#42309595)

Kevin Bacon.

Re:So the author of Hamlet can finally be identifi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309871)

I'm not sure if that was a lame attempt at a joke or if you meant Francis Bacon.

which way do you want it? (1)

swell (195815) | about 2 years ago | (#42309399)

As a professional writer, I wish to be less anonymous. Hello, New Yorker?

As one of billions who are exposed, I doubt that I will attract any attention regardless of this technology. Perhaps they will figure out who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, but surely they will devote fewer resources to the rest of us.

Very Anonymous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309437)

Because nobody would bother to go that far to find out who said anything that I say anonymously. If I was really worried about someone figuring out it was me I'd be a lot more careful.

We all do it, so why not an algorithm? (4, Interesting)

Spottywot (1910658) | about 2 years ago | (#42309469)

We can all (I hope) recognise authors quotes whom we have some familiarity even if we haven't read the passage in question before. Terry Pratchet quotes for instance stand out a mile, Frank Herbert can be identified by the fact that he'll use the word 'subtle' at least twice a paragraph. Even here on /. certain posters styles identify them without having to read their UID, Girlintraining is an example (for me at least), hell I can spot her posts purely based on the responses to her posts for gods sake.

With the privacy arms race going on right now on the internet, identifying people based on what they write *and* their style, is not only the magic bullet for Big Brother, but quite acheivable given a big enough sample,

Anonymity In The Digital Age... (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about 2 years ago | (#42309475)

The problem with anonymity is that we have become addicted to digital..well..everything. Once you have the data in a digital format it is merely a matter of algorithms, storage, and computational power to pretty much wring whatever you want out of the data. I was a loud mouth Libertarian for quite a few years.. I ranted and threw in my 2 cents at a lot of places online.. then things like the att closet data capture and facebook image recognition started popping up and the writing on the digital wall was pretty much done. I expect nothing I do digitally not to be intercepted, databased, scanned, weighted saved for future use. Imho the only real option for any privacy is not to make it digital in any way including cell phones, land lines, or any other type mass communication.. but thats just me and my tinfoil hat..

It is very hard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309597)

It is truely hard to be truely anonymous online. It can still be done, but you have to be an expert at it, and not mess up at all.
\
Hint, even if you go to a cyber cafe, Starbucks, or sit in a hotel parking lot, odds are you have an electronic device (or your car) that connect and ping home, or at least is logged some place.

Wanna revisit your recent rants? (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#42309879)

Timothy's put-downs have been getting a lot of undeserved attention recently. For starters, I don't care what others say about Timothy. He's still nasty, two-faced, and he intends to dig a grave in which to bury liberty and freedom. Now stay with me a moment here; I am making a point. Specifically, if my own experience has taught me anything, it's that he thinks that he's a tribune of the oppressed. However, his endeavors are so lewd that they are easily taken up and assimilated by spiteful, fork-tongued authoritarians, whose intellectual level corresponds to the material offered. On the other hand, I admit I have a tendency to become a bit insensitive whenever I rebuke Timothy for trying to lay all of society open to the predations of organized criminality. While I am desirous of mending this tiny personality flaw, Timothy has made it known that he fully intends to emphasize the negative in our lives instead of accentuating the positive. If those words don't scare you, nothing will. If they are not a clear warning, I don't know what could be. Let me conclude by saying that we who want to deal summarily with unscrupulous snobs will not rest until we do.

Re:Wanna revisit your recent rants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42310145)

lol wut?

Freedom of speech (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about 2 years ago | (#42309905)

are only afforded by the rich, connected and well-armed. For the others, be careful what you say, anywhere.

Nobody Cares Enough To Find Me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42309957)

Nobody cares enough to identify me by my writings.

Isn't most of what we say pure vanity anyhow?

Left a Bad Trail (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 years ago | (#42310091)

Wanna revisit your recent rants?"

Oh shit!.....I mean, oh darn!

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