Saturday, April 21, 2007

Anonymity - Trust Through Writings

Something interesting has happened to me over the last couple of years. I have been trusting people I have never met.

I suppose many have witnessed or taken part of this as blogs, forums and other means of interacting with people across the globe have become more and more easy to acquire and use.

Here is an example. As we were planning our vacation to the Florida Keys (more on that later) I was able to schedule a day of sport fishing thanks to my wonderful wife (more on that later, too). From many email exchanges I knew that Jonathan, the Zeus of ChicagoBoyz lived in the area. I invited him along. I had never met him until last Wednesday. The only contact I had with him was talking about our blogs, shooting, and a few other topics via email.

As an intersting sidenote, he reported the same type of thing goes on with him and that just last week he had met a frequent commenter from his blog.

Another example. As those who read this blog regularly know, I recently purchased two K-31 rifles that I will be restoring this summer. I needed some authentic muzzle caps and some other items to complete my restoration. Through message boards and forums about the K-31 I was referred to a man in Switzerland who deals in surplus items such as these. I sent this person $175 via PayPal for a bunch of stuff. Again, I have never met the guy and assume he works out of his house. But the forums and message boards unanimously say that this person is honest and only deals in the highest quality materials.

Here is yet another example. Last year I was invited by Astro into his football pool, for no real reason other than he likes this blog and assumed I was a straight shooter from my writings. We had no email contact until that point.

I find this sort of thing strange in a good kind of way. Just a few years ago I would have never have given a stranger of any sort the time of day. Now, if I feel the person is trustworthy through their writings, as Astro trusted me last year, I feel emboldened enough to invite that person fishing with me.

I am not the type of person that would want to spend a half of a day with someone who will bend my ear with bullshit. For me to take these types of steps of inviting persons I have never met fishing or sending anonymous persons money I have to really trust them. I guess I am more trusting of blogs, emails and bulletin boards/forums than verbal referrals.


It is this "trust through writings" that I have been thinking about this last week while I was on vacation. Perhaps after a while of reading someones posts, thoughts and writings you get a feel for that person. Maybe their blogs are a form of autobiography that gives an insight to them. I find this change in myself fascinating and would be interested if any of our regular readers have any thoughts about this.


annie said...

Blogging is an incredibly intimate act for the writer, as well as the reader. You *do* get to know people on a very deep level through blog interaction. I feel closer to a blogger in the South West than I do to some "real live people" that I see quite often. It's an avenue to really get to know someone's heart in this fast paced "computer world".

Jack Diederich said...

I'll half agee with Annie and half disagree. You don't get to know people well through blogs (especially because blogs tend to be single topic oriented) but you can spot the nutters over time. I had a boss who said all performance metrics should be three months long. The reason being that people can't keep up a facade for three months - if they are flakes it would show. The reason it is /only/ three months is that three months is at the limit of how long you can keep someone motivated before they think they are being jerked around (corollary: annual reviews are, at best, not harmful).

Three months of not saying anything crazy may sound like a low standard but think of your casual aquantances. Would you take your second cousin's new boyfriend out on the boat? probably. The effort a Chicagoboyz author would have to expend to gain your trust is much, much higher than a guy who met your cousin at a bar.

If the test is for "bad times" the cost of a false negative ("bad times were had") is high. In the case of bloggers the cost of a false positive is low - you either don't invite someone you are unsure about or say "no thanks" to an email. In the case of family the cost of false positives is much higher in the form of ruffled feathers. In defence of family they have probably done pre-screning before the request is made.

Dan from Madison said...

Good comment Jack, thanks for chiming in.

annie said...

I'll give you the "three month" clause. Although, I think the "getting to know someone" part falls under the comments section (because it's more interactive). I suppose I might be a bit biased because the blogger I've referred to is one that I've read/commented/had discussions with for the better part of three years.