Proof

A question for the smart people out there.  As you know ‘Tom Reynolds’ is just the name I write under.  Lets say I meet someone in the street – how do I prove that I write this blog?  Domain registry is one idea, but I’m not sure that it works in all cases.

I’m having an idea tickling around in my head while working on the book, something about how my blog is my identity…

UPDATE: Ok, I don't think I was clear – Let me explain what I'm thinking.

I'm thinking about blogs and digital identity. While not relevant in my line of business, there are people out there who want to improve their career, one way of doing this is by blogging. Imagine a situation where you can say to a potential employee “Hey, take a look at my blog, you'll see the sort of writer/person I am”. I know a couple of people who got their jobs via blogging.

Now imagine me on IRC (or other chatrooms/IM clients). Someone asks me who I am – I'd like to point them to my blog and they can make their own mind up. Sure, my blog isn't me but it can give you a rough idea of what I'm about.

Your blog can be an important part of your 'worth' in the reputation economy of the social internet.

But… How can I prove (on IRC, or to a prospective employer) that I'm the person writing my blog. And what is to stop me from saying that I'm the real writer of an anonymous blog. I could always post a specific thing – but if I'm talking to more than one person, then my blog would turn into a series of rather strange posts.

So…is there a way to concretely link this blog to my identity.

It's just what I'm thinking about at present, no particular reasoning behind it – it's just the way my head works sometimes…

37 thoughts on “Proof”

  1. On IRC it's easy, point them to your “contact me” page, and invite them to contact you, and you can reply to the email, or answer their IM or skype call or whatever. It's a fairly safe assumption to make that you are the only person capable of modifying these web pages.In person, if you have “blog cards” or somesuch, then print a secret URL on them, only available on the card. Print on the card somehting like “the secret word is 'cyrrhosis'” or something more pleasant, and leave a page on the URL explaining that this page is to help people verify your identity, and the the secret word is 'cyrrhosis'. Alternatively, just write a blurb on that page and say “The 8th word of the second paragraph is..”. You may need to print this on the back of the card, though.

    As a rule, people tend ot take me at face value when I say I'm Moof, though this is because they tend to know me from IRC.

  2. Post a photo or describe something like a tattoo or scar or something you have (one that's in an easily-visible place).To prove it to employers etc it's easy enough to say email the address given on the site and I will email back a confirmation or something.

  3. why on earth would you want or need to prove it to a random person on the street?and aren't there photos of you up somewhere in the archive?

    if it's while on a call, you could always prove it thus: “Here in my hand is the oxygen/drug/equipment that will make you/your friend/relative better. I AM TOM REYNOLDS. Say it… Say it! SAY IT &*$^&!!!”

    *led away by nurses*

  4. Like batsgirl, I'm not sure I understand the question. Your blog identity is only one of your identities – we all have lots (e.g. for you: ambulanceperson, son, brother, friend, colleague etc etc). If telling someone you write the blog isn't enough to make them believe it, surely that's their problem.

  5. Setting aside why you would want to (it's to pick up girl's isn't it?)You could have a published PGP key, which is also on your blog card. This of course is not immediate, people would need to email you against and get a response.

    In fact getting something immediate would be difficult. You could have a hidden photo page bookmarked on your mobile perhaps. Of course how do we know it's a true likeness, or it wasn't hacked up there?

    In fact, how do I know the person who took my blood pressure at that blogger dinner and ate at our table wasn't some mad imposter?

    Uh-oh.

  6. I suppose that, given time, you could mention the proof needed on a future post (or agree some sort of code – a stray x or something). That whole PGP/GPG malarky sounds good too, but I have no idea what they're talking about…

  7. To the above commentors, I think he provided a perfectly good reason — “…a prospective employer.”If it's for this reason specifically, you could host your CV in a password-protected directory on the same server as your blog, and provide this info on a business card. That's all very elaborate, and I don't know if it would work if you're hosted at a site like blogware. The key idea above is more definitive.

  8. Incidentally, Tom, why do you write under a pseudonym? Your employers know that you're doing it, we all know what you look like and where you work, and you're hardly covert in a brightly coloured, fast noisy car / truck! I think you've even published your mobile number on here before.Given that you're so easily identified, why hide your identity? Not that it really matters, just curious.

    Cheers, keep up the good work,

    Steve.

  9. Habit – and more people know me as Reynolds than as my real name.When I started writing the idea was to be confidential and anonymous. Then it all kind of fell through.

    But, to my bloggy friends my name is Tom, and they feel weird if they try to call me Brian. So I keep writing under the name, as it's part of the 'brand'. That and I'm just used to being called Tom, as it's a name I'd used for other things before I started writing.

    *shudder* – I just used 'brand' to describe myself – shoot me now…

  10. How does anyone prove who they really are? I'm Jonathon's mom, The excel queen, Randy's wife. All of which people learn through time. To the new people, I'm often Penney, which I have the misfortune of having as my last name instead of a first name.For those passing like ships in the night, well, you'll just have to trust me.

  11. that made me wonder…when your book is publish will you be using your pseudonym or your real name, pseudonym seems the obvious choice but I for one would get such a kick out of seeing my name on the cover of a book..could you resist?

  12. if it helps, I've met several of my boyfriends online, and it's not unknown to me to be curled up naked enjoying an intimate moment and hearing my partner whispering the name “Batsgirl” rather than “Mary”.You know the internet has taken over your life when…

  13. I checked your 'contact me' page and notice you have an email address and a mobile phone number published, as well as your IRC details. I'd think that's enough to prove who you are to anyone that's interested. They email you, you reply. If they have doubts after that, it's their own problem.It's interesting to consider whether or not someone could claim someone else's blog as their own. If I was applying for a writing job I could hand out the web address for someone's blog who's a far better writer than me and how would the employer know? I guess it would be up to the employer to have the initiative to test it in some way.

  14. My real name will be in the book (in the introduction), for exactly the reasons you mention. But the big name on the front will be Tom Reynolds.Consider it an incentive to buy the book – the chance to learn my real name.

  15. You know who you are.From a professional job point of view, at interview, they will know who you are by cv etc, etc, and your details are on here anyway, and, at the end of the day, we could all be living lies and under aliases which, in the main we're not!

    Glenda

    ps: why do we have to do the comment verification thing, coz of my boz-eyes, it's not always easy to see and I have to get my magnifying glass out … arrrgh

  16. Actually your real name & family name is already visible kind of somewhere on your website. I won't reveal your little secret, though.

  17. Bingo… you have your mobile phone number published on the site. Stand next to them, get them to call the mobile number on the website, when it rings, answer! Or show them the caller ID or something.

  18. PGP has the obvious problem that few people know what it is, although it is the standard manner in which to verify digital identity. (And does a nice bit of cryptography at that) Of course, the instant someone is able to factorise large number instantaneously the whole system goes down the drain.For the benifit of those who don't know.

    PGP is a method of encryption which uses two keys. One key is called the public key, and can be used to encrypt but not decrypt things, whereas the other is the private key which can decrypt. The private key is kept secret, and consists of two very large prime numbers, whereas the public key is the product of those prime numbers and can be distribute freely. While it may seem easy to find the private key when given the public key it isn't, and although its possible it takes an exceedingly long time, as the only real way to go about it is by trial and error. (The numbers are large enough that my the time this has happened no one will care what the original message said anyway.)

    Yet how does this relate to proving identity? You see, the clever thing is that it can work in the opposite direction as well. It Tom were to encrypt the message 'I am Tom I am' using his PRIVATE key, then the PUBLIC key can be used to decrypt it. And the only way Tom can generate that message is if he had his private key.

    Now I've simplified things slightly, as in reality the keys aren't used to encrypt the message but rather a second key, which in turn encrypts the mesage. This is as encryting with the public key is very slow for long messages, and so it is used to encrypt a shorter random encryption key, which in turn encrypts the message.

  19. Many a famous writer did rit under a pseudonym, your aluminium name be good for a while, enjoy it, it becomes yer altered ego, so that thee can escape from the maddening crowd so that yee can sit and have ye olde eggy on toast without someone asking for thee autograph for granny, then if they do, thee then can say, ” neigh, that not be me, I'm Wordsmithy, every one has a double somewhere', so veddy sorry” .

  20. Comment verification is so a computer program can't read those letters/numbers and post “comments” to the blog advertising all kinds of junk.If it helps, I often get it wrong too.

  21. Yeah, I think he's really a Brian. And he's cute too.Off Topic: As simple people are amused by simple things, I must admit I'm rather enjoying this indentation within indentation within indentation withinindentation within… *dizzy meow*

  22. WHOA!! Back up the bus. Your real name is Brian?When did I miss that little snippet?

    Anyhoo.. as others have said. You list your mobile number on your site. phone that. bingo it's you.

    But I do like the business card idea…

    Mind you this is from someone who removed a photo of himself to stop people recognising me about a week before my mug and URL were printed in a national newspaper… ho hum.

    Still waiting on my fame and fortune though!!

  23. Well I saw pics of you here and I can remember having you called to me in Stratford once a couple of months agoBack then I didn't know who you were (and I didn't care either), though, nor was I reading this blog

    So..

    Besides I think you didn't tell me any name:)

  24. I first met this guy* online as Tom Reynolds, in an IRC channel he used to frequent before he started writing a book and bein' all famous & stuff. After some months of getting to know each other, we ponied up real names, and I asked him which he preferred to be called, Tom or Brian.In typical guy-fashion, and even more typically him-fashion, he said he didn't care.

    So I called him Tom for the most part, and “Mr. Reynolds” when being a smartass. (Which is rare. Honest.)

    Then he'd sign the occasional email “Brian”…what was a girl to think? Which one was I supposed to use?

    So I solved it by addressing him with all three of his names, all the time. (I'd like to be able to shorten it to his initials, which, though they sound nice together, have some unfortunate connotations in the States**.)

    My next solution is going to be to address him as his even sekrit-er identity: Studmuffin***.

    * I now have no idea how to refer to him here!

    ** This is sort of a clue, but likely one that no one will ever get. HA!

    *** I write this from within my safety buffer of several thousand miles.

  25. After reading your post, it reminded me of a CEO IT presentation at the OSCON2005. I saw it a couple of months ago relating to digital identity. Its probably not going to answer your question on how to go about verifying you to your blog, but its worth a look:http://identity20.com/media/OSCON2005/

    Besides, the presentation itself is pretty interesting and funny.

    Love your blog by the way, its one of my daily must reads. Keep up the good work!

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