[Foundation-l] English Wikipedia ethnocentric policy affects other communities

Andrew Gray shimgray at gmail.com
Sun Dec 24 12:46:38 UTC 2006

On 24/12/06, Michael Noda <michael.noda at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 12/23/06, GerardM <gerard.meijssen at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hoi,
> > I am a person. I have a name. You know me by my nick, GerardM, you may have
> > deduced that I am known as Gerard Meijssen. You are not likely to know my
> > full name.
> Indeed.  But, would I really be in a different position if you
> appeared in the recent changes log as GerardM (535367), which is how
> you appear on Slashdot?  Does Slashdot reduce you to *just* a number,
> or are you a name there as well?  To me, GerardM (535367) is as much a
> name as GerardM, because it's the same name.

Or, rather, GerardM is still the same name whatever we stick after it.
(535367) isn't a name; it's an administrative convenience. My name is
Andrew Gray; my name at university was still Andrew Gray, but - for
reasons of administrative convenience, we having four Andrew Grays,
one with the same  middle name and college - some records used the
identifying code d037n8. When I did my second degree, some records
listed me with 0402330 alongside my name. For reasons of personal
convenience, I use a uniform nickname in many online systems - it's
unique to me and unlikely to cause confusion.

None of this was dehumanising, and it never infringed on my privacy.
Per your second remark, we had identity cards too, in the UK, for
fifteen years; we are fighting against having them now (and losing,
damnit). But having a number assigned to you *for administrative
convenience*, used only to help identify you in a computer system, is
not even remotely comparable with requiring you to carry papers and
present them to minor officials on a whim.

We're not talking about making everyone change their name to fit a
bureaucratic mould. We're not talking about increasing security, save
in that by making people comfortable with unfamiliar scripts they're
less likely to react stupidly to seeing them. We're talking about
taking a number *which MediaWiki already uses, internally, to refer to
you* and making it optionally visible in order to aid the use of the
wiki by those who cannot read certain scripts.

(It has wider benefits, too, even with users of the same alphabet - a
screenreader program for the blind, in any language, is much more
likely to render a six-digit number in a memorable manner than it is
to come up with a decent interpretation of a "confusing" word foreign
to it. God knows what average Anglo-American screenreader software
makes of a moderately uncommon form of a Dutch or Turkish name at the
best of times - many of them still think England had a king called
"Henry Viyeiyeiye". Instituting the number would be marvellous *just
to deal with silly signatures on enwp alone*, much less the beneficial
effects on scripts!)

I have a hard time seeing any significant privacy implications. The
only additional information disclosed is roughly how old your account
is - for accounts created since September 2005 we can tell this to the
minute anyway, and there's nothing stopping us arbitrarily randomising
numbers if this goes live.

Gerard, your objections to dehumanising or ethnocentric actions are
clear, but I'm not sure that this proposal is quite what you interpret
it to be; it certainly doesn't seem to deserve quite this strong a

- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk

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