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The Education Forum

Authentification of Members

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I have a suggestion.

At present, authentication of the purported identity of members and new applicants is matter for the moderators (I presume that’s John Simkin and Andy Walker, but there may be more folk involved?)

With such a large membership, I suspect it is a near impossible for the moderators to authenticate each member and applicant to a standard that meets their own satisfaction – let alone the satisfaction of other members. There must be an element of guesswork involved – and giving applicants the benefit of the doubt. In short, while I believe that most members of the forum are who they say they are, I doubt that some are genuine.

I do NOT seek to criticize the moderators or the forum itself. Under present arrangements, this forum is already a space for enlightened discussion about important issues (along with considerable dross). Kudos to those who have made it happen! However, I believe improvements may also be possible.

I propose two categories of membership: authenticated and not authenticated. While both categories would enjoy equal posting rights, readers would be able to see whether members have been authenticated and not authenticated – and on what basis.

Under this proposal, authentication remains the responsibility of the moderators and/or their delegated helpers). The only difference would be that the means of authentication in each case would also be explicit where real authentification has occured - or not, as the case may be.

For instance if John or Andy have personally met a member of the forum, matched their face in the flesh with their avatar and conversed over basic claims made in that member’s bio, they may feel able to authenticate that member without further ado. If they had approached a known personality to join the forum (or been approached by such a person), authentication would also be a simple matter.

Unauthenticated members would not be disadvantaged in posting rights – and this proposal would not exclude membership to anyone who, for whatever reason, prefers anonymity - or has yet to satisfy the moderators’ standards for authentication. On this forum, I value the contribution of a few members whose actual identity I doubt, or whose bios I suspect are misleading. I don’t seek to silence “whispers” from insiders who cannot, for whatever reason, reveal their true identity.

The difference my proposal would make is that it would be more difficult for some members to masquerade behind fake personas. Readers would be aware how and by whom authentication of each member occurred. Truly unauthenticated participants would be identified as such.

This is really a proposal for better quality information about all members – akin to nutritional information on food packaging. People remain free to buy food wherever they like and in whatever form. But those that buy branded food products are entitled to some measure of factual information about what’s inside.

I acknowledge it would make some additional work for our already overworked moderators. Nevertheless, I make the suggestion in the belief that it would improve what is already a very interesting forum.

A final note, just to be clear. I'm not proposing authentication to imply that moderators vouch for the views and bona fides of each authenticated member. Authentication, as I propose it, would be something much more specific - and mean simply that the moderator has reasonable grounds to believe that the identity of a member is that of a real-life person.

The CIA - and any other "intelligence" agency or "interest group" that keeps an eye on proceedings here - would be able to have members in both categories. ;) Honest independent spirits would also be found in both. Authentication should not imply moral superiority of any kind. It simply means that clearer standards of evidence are applied to the issue of members' identity

Edited by Sid Walker
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I understand the aim of your proposal, Sid, but I wonder how 'wieldy' it would be. I happen to have met both John and Andy personally in Gothenburg, but it was only by a sort of chance. We did actually have a chance to do more than exchange greetings … but not a great deal more than that. I'm not all that certain how much more authentic I became in the moderators' eyes after we met than I was before, in other words.

I run into this sort of problem in my work as a distance teacher on wholly Web-based courses. How do you know that the student whose work you're marking is the same person as the one who gets the ultimate grades? One day we may have on-line IDs which are secure and personal, but we're not there yet. However, in any situation where there's interaction on a personal level and over a period of time, it's quite difficult for someone to be consistently false. (On courses you notice immediately if there's a sudden change in the way someone expresses themselves, for example, rather on the lines of the impossibility of faking large numbers of figures in false book-keeping - when we human beings fake, we still do it in ways which show.)

The other consideration is what the consequence of misrepresentation would be. With this forum, I feel that the reactions and responses of other members are a better safeguard against falsity than a system of 'grading' membership.

However, I may be wrong … !

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However, I may be wrong … !

No you are right!

Sid Walker's proposal sounds time consuming and unecessary. The only possible "benefit" would be that more new members could get posting quicker.

We may sometimes get it wrong in terms of authenticating someone's identity but I'd rather run that risk than have what effectively would amount to open registration.

When I started this forum registration was open and rather predictably we regularly got hijacked by some quite unpleasant groups registering en masse.

The criteria for forum membership is that the proposed member should be in some way involved in education - perhaps we should enforce that with a little more rigour?

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There are a number here who seem never to have had any formal (or informal) education or academic discipline, let alone be involved in it from the teaching end.....most of them also tend to be here only to obstruct and denegrade. I would both wonder how they originally got here and how they manage to remain.....

...also sadly, some of the better persons invited to the Forum soon loose interest because of the childish, irrelevant postings and nastyness of those alluded to above....

The Forum has value, but its potential is greatly diluted and debilitated by these persons, some of whom I believe have this as their prime goal IMO.

Please use the report facility when you believe this is occurring and either John or I willl judge each case on its merits.

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