Disclosure of interests

Discussion in 'General Topics' started by Devil's Advocate, Sep 25, 2006.

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  1. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    Do you think it is a good idea for people who are associated with certain security products to declare it , in their sig? I don't mean just the developers.

    ~ snipped examples using actual member names ~ LWM

    It gets somewhat murky though, in some cases, people claiming to be part of the unofficial team, betatesters (closed), or how about people getting free use of software just by reviewing it or reporting bugs? etc.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2006
  2. Pieter_Arntz

    Pieter_Arntz Spyware Veteran

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    I'm sure that if people want to be associated with a certain product, they will mention it.

    Do you think it would be a similar matter of good manners if someone would ask that people using multiple nicknames would mention that in their sig?

    Regards,

    Metallica
     
  3. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    >I'm sure that if people want to be associated with a certain product, they will mention it.

    What I mean is don't you think people have the right to know when they are talking to people who are pretty much the ~snip product name~ team? Or the ~snip product name~ team?


    >Do you think it would be a similar matter of good manners if someone would ask that people using multiple nicknames would mention that in their sig?

    What does this have to do with anything?
     
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  4. LowWaterMark

    LowWaterMark Administrator

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    I've removed the specific examples you used because it's not fair to put actual members on the spot by discussing them and their associations in such a thread. We ought to be able to discuss it in general terms.

    It should be good enough to point out that on this forum (like most others) there are members that are actual product vendors, employees of product companies, resellers of products, and volunteers who participate with vendors at various levels (i.e. moderators on their forums, beta testers, users of complementary versions of products, etc.), yet there is no policy here that forces those members to declare their associations publicly.

    This question has actually come up before, and there may be a thread or two in the public forums with a side dialog mentioning just this thing. I've also had private inquiries on this topic a few times.

    My response has been that while on the surface it may sound like a reasonable idea, there are a few problems with it. First, it's impractical. Enforcement would not be possible. We have no way to confirm most people's associations, so compliance would have to be voluntary. Those who are already honest with their associations, (or at least not hiding that they have some association), might comply with such a policy although many wouldn't for privacy reasons.

    Those who don't publicize an association because they simply don't think it's anyone else's business, (most of whom never push the product they are associated with anyway), would have a very legitimate privacy concern regarding having a forced title or signature put into their profiles. Many of them wouldn't participate here if such a policy was put in place.

    For those who are hiding their associations for some illicit purpose (such as spammers, astroturfers, etc.), well they're not likely to step up and admit they have a relationship with a vendor or product just because of a policy, so there's nothing gained there.

    Another problem I have with making this a policy is that some people would think because the policy exists, that "everyone with an association" has been identified by forum management. So, what happens one day when someone without a declared relationship is suddenly "found out" to be a vendor, reseller or whatever? The members might feel justified to complain that the forum management didn't "protect them" by having determined previously that the person had such an association. Frankly, that isn't our role and there's no way I'd take on that responsibility since I'd have no way to know who's associated with whom.

    Given the privacy concerns of those members involved, especially those who participate in a fair, unbiased and honest way regardless of their associations, and the fact that we could never reliably enforce such a policy, this really isn't something we'd ever consider doing here.
     
  5. Pieter_Arntz

    Pieter_Arntz Spyware Veteran

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    I thought this was a matter of "knowing who you are dealing with" on your end.
    Just trying to give you an idea how that might complicate matters.

    But LWM explained that much more eloquently. :)

    Regards,

    Pieter
     
  6. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    LWM

    The vibe I'm getting from you (and I might be mistaken) is that if one were a developer of a security product that was relevant to the topic and hand and started posting on this forum it would be okay not to disclosure one's interest because of Privacy issues? Is that the stand of WSF?

    Eg when discussing say the effects of free firewalls on paid firewalls, leave out the fact that one was actually working or associated with a paid firewall company? Don't you think people have the right to know where you are coming from?

    I'm not saying you should start investigating every single poster here and subject them to intense background checks, but stating it as policy or at least a strongly worded recommendations will do wonders I think.

    Particularly since I think many members here are open and above board and as such a slight reminder will suffice. It's more for the newcomers really, than the long time posters who pretty much know who represents which products.

    Personally i think the whole enforcement argument is spurious...Even in the real world, enforcement is never 100%, yet laws exist.

    That's an interesting argument. Has anyone indicated to you this would happen? Personally I think while there is some room for discussion about exactly what types of associations and with what types of organisations and companies are relevant for disclosure (consulting companies, running a malwar cleaning service??), this isn't a reason to reject disclosure totally.

    At the minimum I would think if one was associated (say official positions) with security products that are heavily discussed here , some disclosure should be mandatory, regardless of whether one was in the marketing department or not.

    Certainly though if one started answering questions, giving info on the product itself disclosure would become mandatory. wouldn't you appreciate knowing that the info you were getting was from a source with a vested interest?

    I think you are seeing it as Wilders going all out and investigating everyone and getting 100% certainity that everything is disclosed, while I'm seeing it as more of a reminder, or a guideline.
     
  7. Inspector Clouseau

    Inspector Clouseau AV Expert

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    No, they don't!
    Not every company is "open minded" and sees it as a favor when employees (or similar people) posting "on behalf" of the company and not everyone is in a position that he can just grant this permission to himself. If someone has a company tag in his footer then his replies/posts becoming a officially statement! Just think about the fact how many trouble this could produce for posters which are working for a security company, trying to help here and lets assume they would write something "to quick" without thinking twice. This could heavily affect the company reputation.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2006
  8. MikeNash

    MikeNash Security Expert

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    What happens if you're on probation at a new job?

    Hi! I work for Tall Emu... :D

    3 months later...

    Actually, I don't.

    That could be a fairly embarassing situation for all concerned, and surely if a member followed that practice then there would be all sorts of comments and questions about it.... has that person really left, why did he leave, did he get fired, etc...

    Inspector Clouseau also raises an interesting point - and from an employers perspective, I've certainly been burned before by both technical and marketing types making commitments to customers (or potential customers) before that they really shouldn't have done without consultation.

    If I hired a new guy and wanted him to help out on here, does that make him a Tall Emu representative? What if he's posting his own opinions as well? What if he was already a member ?

    So, as much as I would love to have my "Official representative of" tag under my name, seems there are very good reasons why it's not going to happen and it's up to the good citizens of this board to keep any astro-turfers honest :)


    Disclosure: Yes, I actually do work for Tall Emu. Really. :D
     
  9. Inspector Clouseau

    Inspector Clouseau AV Expert

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    I don't believe you :p
     
  10. Blackspear

    Blackspear Global Moderator

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    Well I like astro-turfers, really I do (just as much as I like lawyers, car salesmen, sharks, croc's) :blink: ;) :D
     
  11. Peter2150

    Peter2150 Global Moderator

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    I think Inspector Clouseau and Mike Nash hit the nail on the head. One only has to look at the fury caused by a StarForce employee, posting something that was his opinion in the StarForce forum. Ouch. Besides if you read the posts you can tell after a while. Wilders has the balance right.

    Pete
     
  12. LowWaterMark

    LowWaterMark Administrator

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    You started the topic very broadly when you specifically said that you didn't mean just the developers, but also included unofficial team members, beta testers, and those who get a free copy of software for reviewing or bug reporting. You asked if it was a good idea that they should have to declare their associations, so my reply was written to cover that broad range of possible associations.

    If we're going to narrow this to apply to people who are "...associated (say official positions) with security products that are heavily discussed here..." then there are still issues with making a policy like you're suggesting. Inspector Clouseau's point is one of them and has actually occurred here. We've had people post to answer questions about software who were employees of the software company itself, but, they weren't allowed to post that. Their companies didn't want them speaking on their behalf in any official manner, which included signing their posts with the company name or their positions. But, they were allowed to participate unofficially as any normal person would. Forced declaration of their associations could have prevented those answers from being posted.

    However, if we reduce this even further to just employees who are allowed to represent their companies if they choose to, which is not a very large group, I still don't see the benefit to making declaration mandatory for them. Most of the people in that category are already voluntarily revealing their associations, while those with ill intent (i.e. spammers, astroturfers, and so on), are not going to declare anything just because of the existence of such a policy.

    There's just nothing to be gained by making this an official policy. It would force the "good guys" to wear labels and to be singled out. It could stop some of them from posting here altogether, but it won't prevent even a single "bad guy" from doing something misleading.
     
  13. Devinco

    Devinco Registered Member

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    I've heard of shills and trolls, but not organized astroturfing.
    For those who aren't familiar with the term astroturfing, it is a type of modern propaganda that is besieging honest information in many forms of mass media, including this forum at rare times.
    Fortunately, we have vigilant moderators and administrators to counter the onslaught of malcontents.

    If there was no privacy at all and everyone else would be able to know who you are online, then there would be little freedom or free speech. People would be watchful of every word they write for fear of repercussions.
    Astroturfers would be plain to see, but the price would not be worth it.

    If people start asking questions: What is this person saying? Why are they saying it? The meanings and motives will be more clear.
    And if people are not afraid to have individual ideas, then astroturfing can be kept in check.

    I know, wishful thinking, but every person can start right now by questioning the things, people, and events around them. It is up to each of us.
     
  14. Escalader

    Escalader Registered Member

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    Devinco et al:

    The idea of being transparent in declaring one's affilation is not in and of iteslf a bad idea for policy. But I agree in a pubic forum where we all (most) travel under our own nom de plumes it is obviously impractical to enforce.

    Bye the bye, one doesn't enforce policy you have procedures in place to maximize adherance to policy. Like bad language in the forum.

    Laws are inforced by the police and this is a forum, open for those interested to share questions ideas, experiences. I don't want to be "policed" here.

    If you disagree with my comments on secuity issues I want to know not have them declared biased because you work for company X!

    If I read your post and have my doubts about bias, then I can easily look at all your posts and decide there is a tilt to them and then add you to my empty ignore list. Like buying anything, in this world anyway it is buyer beware. The same is true of posts. Double check them, it just makes sense.

    I for one don't care about your affiliation. If you claim great things for your product, I don't have to accept them at face value! I double and triple check everything in the world of security and so should we all.

    In my City there is a law against spitting in the street, unless you did that on a police officer it is NEVER enforced and can't be. But I will avoid that person in future.

    My appologies for the long rant.

    PS I agree with everything Devinco said ( as usual)
     
  15. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    Okay what can i say?

    If all of you don't care, then so be it. I hope this thread doesn't mean making wilders open season for astro-turfers.... :)

    I kind of expected some debate on what types of interests should be declared but now It seems even developers can choose not to disclosure their position when advertising their own product!
     
  16. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    Because i expected no argument at all on that matter, but it seems I was wrong...

    In other words you are saying developers can choose not to disclose their interest when advertising their own products? What is the world coming to? *shakes head*.
     
  17. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    I don't want too either, but I think it might be a good thing.

    I would like to know if you start singing the praises of X and bashing Y, that you worked for X and Y was a rival.

    Here's the problem, unless you are a long time poster, you won't ever get the chance to detect such bias, since such experience comes with time.

    Also you need some skill and knowledge to detect bias.

    For example I notice people associated with products aren't obviously totally unobjective but whenever there is a 50-50 call where you can argue for either side, they invariably argue for the side that favours their product. Or they leave out weaknesses of their products (unless someone called them on it, in which case they will try their best to defend... will be fixed next time etc) while harping on the weaknesses of rival products.

    You need to be at least some what experienced to see what I mean if you are a total noob, everything sounds right to you... :)

    Newcomers here are espically vulnerable, many are just out of their first infection espiode, so they are eager to follow whatever advise they hear.

    X : I'm thinking of installing firewall A, what do you think?

    Y : No, A has problems with 1 ,2 ,3 ,4 (all true)

    X : So which one should I use?

    Y : Use B.

    And the guy runs off to use B. Not that B sucks or anything, but I think Y would be a lot less trusting if he knew Y worked for company producing B.

    Well good to know. But knowing the possible interests that might be swaying him is useful don't you think?

    What city is that?

    Laws work not because there is 100% enforcement but there is *some*
    enforcement. If the rate of enforcement is high enough (and the penalties high enough) or equalvently the perception of these two factors are high enough, it is reasonable to expect people to obey the law.
     
  18. Paranoid2000

    Paranoid2000 Registered Member

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    Well such bias isn't just present in developers or employees but in many users also. Indeed anyone with experience of product X is likely to be biased for or against, based on their experience of it on their system (and this may well be specific to their system only - e.g. a specific software conflict). On the other hand, it is only people with experience of product X who can give any expert advice.

    So ultimately, aside from the obvious situation of developers and company employees, bias and expertise have to be considered as two sides of the same coin. The quality of advice comes down to the poster giving it, and that is something that forum moderators here cannot realistically be expected to police.
     
  19. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    That's true , we are talking about 'fans'. Those not everyone who uses a product will definitely have such blind faith. Those we can't really 'catch'.


    I'm not asking the moderators to police opinion, which is clearly impossible, but I don't think it's that unreasonable to expect a policy where members disclose relevant interests.

    You are right it won't catch all biases (the fans for example), but that doesn't mean it is totally useless.

    Personally I don't see what harm it can do, I mean some of the reasons given are pretty ridiculous like the guy being shamed when he leaves the job and has to explain why... ~snipped specific example of member name - snap~

    The privacy issues which of course have to be considered of course but disclosure is always a trade off. Everyone seems to be concerned only for the developer, the employee and no one seems to care about the user, particularly the new comers.

    ~snipped specific example of member name - snap

    :)

    ~Snipped Comment -- as per LWM's edit comment above~ dog
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 30, 2006
  20. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    You seriously think this is a good reason? If that's the case, in real life, no one will ever give out business cards, after all there will come a time when one won't work for that company and others will wonder why.... etc

    This one is interesting but it doesn't quite apply to you and developers of many products who came here to post explictly to support the product. And most of you aren't members before hand either,

    ~Snipped Comment -- as per LWM's edit comment above~ dog ... maybe some of the AV guys (though I would think on some level they definitely have some clearance) , but off hand, I can't think of any employee of a security product who posts here as a hobby, you expect to have many of these people?

    I suppose You could have some janitor or accountant at some big Antivirus company XYZ, but has an interest in comp security and posts here as Devil's advocate?? That would be amusing indeed.

    In fact my observation is that guys who are picked up from this forum in some semi-official capability are *proud* to show off their connections. That's where you get all the signatures about betatesters... Which is a good thing.

    The funny thing is I'm getting objections from people who have official solid positions. and have more right than anyone to put such connections in their sigs:)

    ~snipped~

    ~snipped~
     
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  21. snapdragin

    snapdragin Administrator

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    Devil's Advocate, you were asked not to use specific member's names for your 'examples', nor are we going to be allowing questions to force any member here to answer. This thread will not be turned into a discussion about specific members, period!

    If we cannot have a general discussion here without using specific members or product name as examples, then we won't be having a discussion on this topic at all, and this thread will be closed.

    We'll ask once again, keep the discussion in general terms without using specific names and products as examples.
     
  22. mercurie

    mercurie A Friendly Creature

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    In reading LWM post 12. There is a lot of logical unwritten, so to speak, Forum policy. That can be done by good forum moderation/Admin work.

    The key is if you are not careful you might reduce the numbers of members who can offer help in resolving issues and offering helpful suggestions to problems both detailed and general. Particularlly due to a companies policy involving speak for yourself but not the company. Let's not in the interest of disclosure damage the boards ability to help both visitors and members who come here looking for some real world answers. That is what makes Wilders forum a good place to come to.

    I hope I did not miss the point of the original question. :doubt:
     
  23. Disciple

    Disciple Registered Member

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    It is unreasonable to expect a policy when the admin's have stated there reasons for not having such a policy, get over it. I think this has gone on long enough and we are getting to the point where this graphic is beginning to be representative.

    http://img448.imageshack.us/img448/9030/beatingadeadhorse4uv.jpg

    Maybe it's time to close this thread.
     
  24. Firecat

    Firecat Registered Member

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    Just as a clarification, in case my member name was mentioned anywhere, the NOD32-AV link on my signature does not mean that I am affiliated with them. It is merely a sort of tribute to NOD32-AV for granting me the student license my local distributor did not.

    It is a good enough idea for people to be assosciated with a certain product, no harm in the same. Any pretender will be easily identified simply because he or she would not be familiar with the way the company works. Most beta testers mention freely enough that they are beta testers. Some may have some ties within the company but that does not mean they get a special tag, at best they are reporters getting exclusive scoop.

    Overall I don't really see a problem. Or maybe my young brain is not old enough to understand the importance of this issue.
     
  25. Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate Registered Member

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    Dear snapdragon, I think you are being slightly unreasonable here. I agree that my inital post shouldn't have mentioned names. But in this case The members in question opened the doors to discussion by starting the discussion on why they don't want an official tag.

    If I'm not allowed to reply to them, what is the point of this discussion?

    Or should the discussion be 100% hypothetical on some imaginary employeee who will be hurt when he leaves the company?

    Well in that case, you should edit out posts of Mike Nash among others.

    But okay, no more. I don't know why I'm surprised at the reaction of the people here, I shouldn't be. This forum has always being geared more towards protecting the interests of the commercial vendors than newbies anyway.

    All that talk about injurying the pride of some employee who later leaves... that is apparently more important than anything.
     
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