In the interests of fair exposure, I’m going to link back to Scott’s response to my response to his comments on my thoughts about manufactured scarcity, although I’m going to have to leave a more thorough response for another day as I have much to digest and process on other issues today. In the meantime, I’m just going to make two small points. When he says:
People in modern China (or even in a future America where the government has been granted broad control of its citizens) may have a valid desire to maintain anonymity online that is clearly more important than my annoyance with spam. (Capital letters my own)
This was in fact my initial point – that one can’t strip anonymity from the net without destroying much of its power for the disenfranchised. Hence when we’re assembling our micro-community structures online, we work to build a way of interacting that celebrates as much of the power of the web while simultaneously working to stop some uses of that power that could cause that community to collapse in upon itself completely. The nature of the web, web programmers and free software / open source projects (and indeed the market itself) means that there will probably not soon be a monopoly on community technology that stops people simply choosing another form of software to declare their home if the one they are in fails to meet their needs. That is probably the best place to resolve this debate – in net citizens’ interactions with, choices between (and accomplishments enabled by) various types of community software.
I don’t see how Tom’s example system could prevent a user from sitting at a single computer all day creating identities and then passing those identities around to other computers — assuming it can even prevent a computer from doing the same.
Again – it wouldn’t at all. But in my initial rough gestural example, the logging-in process would be time-consuming – which would mean that very specific speed bumps would be placed between new identity creation and new identity posting. This could radically slow down the amount of new users that someone could effectively maintain per computer. It’s a question again of difficulty – you do not have to make something impossible in order to stop it happening – you simply have to make something not worth the energy, time or money that you’d have to invest. That’s how public key cryptography works – not by making it impossible to break the code, but by making it take impossibly large amounts of time…