Tobold's Blog
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Virtual identity theft

How many of you are going to make a goblin character in World of Warcraft and name him "Gevlon"? I'm pretty sure that if I make an armory search a month after Cataclysm releases, I'll find dozens of goblins named Gevlon. And that'll be just one of many forms of virtual identity theft the blogger Gevlon is suffering from. There is even somebody who calls himself "Gevion", but with a capital "i", because then in many fonts GevIon looks a lot like Gevlon, who leaves comments on Gevlon's and other blogs, trying to fool people. And of course if there is ever a large trend towards impersonating Gevlon, I might even have a claim to have started it.

Stealing somebody's virtual identity is easy. Many blogs and forums have no identity verification at all, thus posting as Dr. Richard Bartle, Raph Koster, Lum the Mad, Tobold, Gevlon, or whoever else is extremely easy. Writing an at least marginally believable parody of somebody is a bit harder, but in most cases a crude parody will suffice, especially if the target is known for specific strong opinions. If you wrote "WoW is shit, play Darkfall instead!" on a dozen WoW blogs, sign it with Syncaine, and add the hyperlink that gives the real Syncaine a share of Darkfall's profits, many people would believe that it was really him who posted that. Or the other way round, you could post a "Darkfall is dreck, play WoW instead!" post on the Aventurine forums, with a link to my blog which would be likely to result in lots of angry trolls trying to post here (that is what comment moderation is for).

Given that this is impossible to prevent, the question is whether it really matters. I find virtual identities a fascinating subject, because I think that people tend to trust them too much. Which then leads to things like the Ferarro debacle. Personally I think that it is sad if your interest in what I write depends on your beliefs of who I am, because I'd love for my opinions and writings to talk for themselves. But I'm well aware that this can't be helped, because our brains apparently aren't wired like that. They can't process an opinion without taking into account who said it. Thus the interest in virtual identity theft, because you can either enforce or ridicule a point of view by ascribing it to somebody else.

My advice to Gevlon: Turn on comment moderation, which will completely shut out fake Gevion from your comment section. It also makes your overzealous deletion of comments that disagree with you or point out your mistakes less obvious. You can't prevent fake Gevion from posting elsewhere, but do you really care? I'd advise my readers to not automatically believe anything supposedly written by me that doesn't appear on my own blog.
Ah, the benefits of obscurity: no one tries to impersonate me and my name is never taken.
Turning on comment moderation before posting would remove not just the dumb trolls, but those too who honestly believe their nonsense. Hoping that enough people will see the "truth" they post and give me awesome blog material.

Most of the educated socials don't write stuff like "love is the solution", simply because they are educated. I NEED the trolls, just not the dumb ones.

BTW when gevion trolled Markco on my blog it was priceless. Markco has proved once more that he is the bigger man with his mature response.

And I don't want to hide the evidence of my troll and mistake-deleting policy. I'm not ashamed of it. I find it completely normal to change my opinion if others proved it wrong. After the opinion (and accordingly the post) changed, the correction is no longer needed.
Akismet is an auto comment spam moderation tool. I read alot of problogger blogs, and they swear by it. I don't know all the details on how it works, but if my blog ever starts getting unwanted spam it is the first place I am going.

It is free to any blogger who makes less than $500 a month off their blog.
Does this mean you're not an attractive young woman who works for the CIA and helps Blizzard playtest?

Just got my first fake comment by this GevIon. Very annoying and easy to miss. But I deleted it as soon as I noticed. I know there isn't much you can do about those fake identities and I guess it's one of those things that come with a certain level of e-fame. But still. It bugs me and I'll use my delete button whenever I can. I want the real Gevlon to hang around in my inn, not a faked one.
Did you noticed how easy was to make people believe they were talking to the real Gevlon? And there were a lot of them (Gevlon deleted all the conversations in the comments but believe me, they existed).

That leads to a lot of questions mas one point remains: it's just as easier to be social as it is to pretend to be anti-social.

I appreciate your work. Mr. Tobold. Keep it up.
I agree that it is incredibly easy to be fooled by virtual identity and yet having an identity is still important. I know almost nothing about your private life but having followed your blog for a few years I know a great deal about your views on games and gaming. That puts a context on everything you write and greatly adds value to your blog for me.

The funny thing is I was almost convinced by your "I am Gevlon" prank. I think you have more in common with Gevlon than you realise. Your politics may differ greatly but I suspect that personality wise you are not all that far apart.

(originally posted in wrong place. apologies T)
When bliz adds Gevlon as an npc, it will eliminate the possibility of creating a character with that name - for all realms.

And there will be quite a lot of goblin npcs added in the Cataclysm.
I don't know about Blogger, but Wordpress provides the IP address of every comment, which makes identifying people easy, and (from my experience) heavy-handed moderation unnecessary. I think WP also does a good job of putting comments in the moderation section automatically if it's from an IP address you or others have tagged as spam.

But overall, it's a little sad to be concerned that someone is going to 'steal' your name and use it for their own character in an MMO, or pretend they are you on some blog. I mean MMO gaming and blogging are nerdy enough, you can't do anything but feel sorry for people who can't do anything but impersonate some blogger. If pretending you are SynCaine for a blog comment or MMO character makes you happy, you probably need whatever happiness you can find in your life.
When bliz adds Gevlon as an npc, it will eliminate the possibility of creating a character with that name - for all realms. And there will be quite a lot of goblin npcs added in the Cataclysm.

I actually would be somewhat annoyed if Blizzard added a Gevlon NPC to World of Warcraft before they added a Tobold NPC. Foolish pride, I know.
Adding a Gevlon NPC would be a serious punch in Gevlon's world. Just imagine all the socials clicking the NPC and hearing things like "Stop with the clicking ape-subroutine" or "Don't make money and socialize". Hilarious.

And, you know, when someone's ideas get to the point of being ridiculous and repetitive when can feel sorry for that guy or make fun of him. Or do nothing, yes. And a lot of other things.

I find impersonating Gevlon very easy and also very funny. He's a caricature.
"I actually would be somewhat annoyed if Blizzard added a Gevlon NPC to World of Warcraft before they added a Tobold NPC. Foolish pride, I know."

I guess we better not come round for a few days if it winds up being Marcko!
Given the speed that Gevlon deletes any posts that disagrees with him, the only way a "Gevion" troll could post there is if Gevlon wants him to. The comments undergo stronger "moderation" than most blogs.
Gevlon's identity matters to me for only 2 reasons:

1. He comes from a former Soviet block country which went from a clear socialist state to a clear capitalist state. This tends to make his economic analysis very black and white, he does not deal well with balance or middle ground.

2. His own responses to comments tend to draw my attention to other specific commenters when I do not have the time/willpower/interest in the topic to read them all. From this perspective, Gevion can serve this function more or less as well.
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