Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Acknowledging anonymous blog comments

Twice times now I have gotten an anonymous comment on this blog that I may want to use in either a paper or my (never-ending) web-monograph on VDW stuff. They are
  1. Anonymous posted a combinatorial proof of a summation. See comment 6.
  2. Former VDW ugrad posted that the exact bound of polyvdw(x2,3)=29. See comment 11. I asked the obvious people, and they all deny they posted it.
If I use these proofs then I will reference the blog link (how long these links last?) and also give the full proof. I would also like to acknowledge the people who came up with those proofs. How to do this
I would like to thank Anonymous ....
and
I would like to thank Former VDW ugrad...
do not seem like I am really giving them credit. So, what to do? I make the following request:
If you are one of the two people above please email me who you are and which entry you posted.
Will this work? There are two concerns.
  1. That nobody will respond.
  2. That too many people will respond. How do they verify who they are?
Will this be a bigger problem in the future? If so then future textbooks may have
P vs NP was resolved by kittykat17.

15 comments:

  1. Doesn't seem too different from the following that is quite common in papers I read, "We wish to thank our two anonymous referees for constructive criticism". If people want more credit, then perhaps they'd use their real names when providing the comments...

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  2. "I would like to thank an anonymous commenter on my blog [URL]..."

    Have you tried tracing the IP addresses?

    Will this be a bigger problem in the future? If so then future textbooks may have P vs NP was resolved by kittykat17.

    What problem? I, for one, welcome the day when I can teach "kittykat17's Theorem" in my classes and argue with copy-editors that the first k should NOT be capitalized, dammit.

    How is kittykat17 any different from N. Bourbaki?

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  3. Ask the blogger team to provide a way for logged in anonymous posters to reveal their identity later.

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  4. Have you tried tracing the IP addresses?

    This helps narrow it down, but beware of reading too much into it. I've posted comments from colleagues' offices while traveling, and at least one of my visitors posted a blog comment from my workstation. In that case, what is worse, I accidentally discovered his "secret" alias because of autocompletion on the username field in firefox.

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  5. Lance and I both respect privacy to much to even try
    to find out who any anonymous is. I am hoping they come forward of their own accord.

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  6. Former VDW undergrad2:54 PM, August 19, 2008

    You clearly didn't ask the sufficiently obvious person, since I was the one who originally presented the QVDW(3)=29 result to you. Although, to be fair, I think I explained it better this time. I intend on stepping forward if you don't figure out who I am, but for now I'm leaving my identity as a puzzle.

    Also, I agree with jeffe; if someone wanted to have their result known as kittykat17's Theorem, I would be more than happy to oblige.

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  7. My guess is that former vdw undergrad is Lance.

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  8. I am the anonymous who showed the combinatorial inequality you refer to.

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  9. I tend to agree with comment 1 and the first part of comment 2. And you don't have to name the theorem; most theorems have no names anyway.

    Now the difficulty is if someone decided to come forward and claim credit at this stage, how do you verify their claim? If you can't know for sure, I guess you'd have to stick with "anonymous commenter."

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  10. Or you could name a theorem in a general/descriptive way, like "mean-value theorem" or "Chinese remainder theorem."

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  11. I'm the anonymous commenter who posted the combinatorial proof. Jeffe's suggested wording sounds fine to me, and if I cared about credit I wouldn't have posted it anonymously.

    Even if I wanted to reveal my identity, there's no graceful way to do it. Aside from the issue of whether I am truly the same commenter, I wouldn't want to look so eager for credit.

    How is kittykat17 any different from N. Bourbaki?

    That case is not really so different, but one can imagine pseudonyms that would be frivolous or offensive enough to seem out of place in an academic paper. It's tricky trying to figure out where to draw the line. If somebody makes a good faith effort to establish a reputation under a reasonable pseudonym, then that should be respected. Citing a contribution as anonymous, without mentioning the pseudonym, is harmful not only to the contributor but also to third parties who might like to know.

    On the other hand, nobody can make the world refer to them by their choice of name. (Consider the case of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince.)

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  12. An anonymous should consider that his/her posting enters the public domain given the impossibility of attributing it to a particular author. In that sense, an anonymous poster is implicitly requesting not to be attributed the authorship of the ideas in his/her posts.

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  13. To 11, who wrote:

    Even if I wanted to reveal my identity, there's no graceful way to do it. Aside from the issue of whether I am truly the same commenter, I wouldn't want to look so eager for credit.

    What's wrong with getting credit, especially when the person writing the paper wants to give it to you? Unless you think it is an utterly trivial observation, in which case no credit of any kind should be necessary in the first place.

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  14. What's wrong with getting credit, especially when the person writing the paper wants to give it to you? Unless you think it is an utterly trivial observation, in which case no credit of any kind should be necessary in the first place.

    Same commenter again. I think I phrased that poorly. Nothing's wrong with getting credit. I just meant that I'd feel awkward if people thought "Well, he was fine with being anonymous on the blog, but now that this might get mentioned in an actual research paper, he wants to stake out credit for his comment." I don't like the idea of retroactively asking for credit upon discovering that someone cares about the comment more than I had anticipated.

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  15. A cool biplane video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrKYB3N7KgY

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