Marriage Equality – Weighing on the argument.

First, a little preface to this mini-rant. A friend is engaged to his boyfriend, and is living in Queensland. For those who do not know Queensland over-turned a rather progressive ruling for Australia when it decided to not allow same-sex couples a civil union (not quite a marriage, but close) but, rather, allow them to register their relationship, and then endangered their right to surrogate assistance. Now, all I have been seeing amid all of this, is the very loud religious overtones shining through. However, I am able to cut through this and see the issue for what it is. I think parties on both sides of the fight need to see this for what it is: A fight for civil rights, not religious ones. I hold my own belief system and sexuality. I do not understand why I should be forced to adhere to another person’s belief teachings or have one relationship model elevated to a higher status than mine simply because it is their model of choice. As a friend commented once:
‘…if you dont [sic] want to love Jesus, then don’t. If you don’t want to marry a man, then don’t! But how can you tell someone else they can’t because you think so?
‘It’s basically like me going up to you and saying “I don’t think it’s right to cross your legs when you sit down, because of the personal beliefs I hold. Therefore, you are not allowed to do it!”‘
I know this is a rather hot topic for some, but please if you comment bear in mind the feelings of others.

 

ImageMarriage equality is NOT a religious issue. I’m sorry, but it really isn’t. We had an institute of marriage well before the Church came along. Various cultures had their own ideas on what constituted marriage, and allowed people to freely enter into what would have been recognised as a marriage in this day and age. There was little stigma regarding differing approaches to marriage as well, with one type of marriage only being observed for thirteen moons, with the particulars being revisited and discussed amongst the married parties at that point to see if they wanted to continue or dissolve the union.
Going even further back, the ancient Egyptians had secular and sacred marriages, both of which were held in the same level of respect as one another. The secular marriage had a few more legal assurances to both parties (in particular, that the female was assured of leaving the union upon dissolution with exactly what she entered it, plus half of whatever the pair accrued).
The native Americans had their own traditions, different for each tribe.
I could go on to describe each tradition across the world. In all of these cases, though it may have been something of an anomaly, same sex couples were recognised. They held the same level of respected union as opposite-sex couples, were afforded the same level of legal or community assistance, and were not necessarily barred from the union of marriage unless there were other circumstances in the way (children from a previous union, disputes of property ownership, etc).
What we see now is a world-wide community wherein a religious order has become so heavily integrated into the political system that people find it hard to separate one from the other. Our societal compass has become so heavily directed by the moral teachings of one group of people that there is no room in some people’s minds to any other kind of system.
For those who say marriage is a sacred institute, I could not agree more. Marriage is, indeed, a sacred thing. Love is the highest sacred calling we humans have.
Jesus preached love for our fellow man. Not love until it makes us feel strange, not conditional love, but love across the board, without borders and selfless.
In all of native, or nature-worshipping traditions, love for the world and one another was the over-riding premise to morality.
In Islam, love of Allah and one another is what drives morality.
How then, can we see not allowing two people, regardless of their sexuality or displayed gender (because don’t get me started on non-binary gender in this issue), share and commit to love as following our moral compass?

 

Want to know more about this issue? These are some links for the Marriage Equality argument in Australia. Not in Australia? Please feel free to post your own links in the comments below. On the other side of the argument, please feel free to discuss this issue as well. A well-rounded discussion involves two sides, and I would appreciate your side of the discussion. Do keep things civil though, please.

Australia Marriage Equality

Equal Love

Parliament Information on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012

Surcharge for Debit or Credit Cards? Why?!

With the world becoming increasingly automated and payments online becoming the norm, the option to pay bills without the use of a credit card or a debit card is becoming harder and harder. At least, if you want to maintain control over exactly when your bills are being paid out of your account.

Sure, you can set up direct deposits, if you know you’ll always have the right amount of money in your account when the company decides to ask for it. With so many more people living hand to mouth these days, that is becoming harder for some people. Also, given that some of the charges for keeping a credit card are increasing, having one of those and then having your salary paid into that account is harder as well. It seems, at least amongst younger people, that a debit card and a savings accounts are the only mean of paying bills that they have.

Why then do some companies still insist on having a surcharge on payments made via credit card or debit card?! Is it really that much more work for them to process the payment? Do they get charged for such payments at their end? How can they justify these extra charges?

I tried to find the Australian charges for retailers on credit card and debit card payments and came up with nothing. Which is unfortunate, because I think consumers would really like to know what is involved in a retailer accepting such payments. I know I for one would like to know whether an online business is screwing me over. If they only get charged x percentage of the transaction to accommodate that method of payment, why are they charging me three or four times that amount? I think everyone would benefit from a more transparent economic system… Well, except the major banks and credit companies… But surely they get enough as it is?

Oh dear, I think my “socialist” roots re showing again, better go and cover up that red.

FaceBook Beaten Into Submission.

We grumble about it. At each layout change or move of a button, we complain ad nauseum.

So why on earth do we still use FaceBook, if we hate it so much?

For one thing, it has such a large portion of our immediate population attached to it, that in order to know what is going on socially, we need to be on FB. How many times have you heard of an event that invites really only went out on the darn site?

Secondly, in this time-poor world we need all relevant social data in one place so as to minimise time spent trawling for details. It also gives us a nice one-stop-shop for “catching up” with friends in a minimalistic way. Little to no actual applied effort means we can feel good about ourselves for having sent a message to that friend just to see how they are.

However, those constant changes are really annoying. Just as you get used to where one thing is, it gets moved. And what is with all the privacy setting changes? I personally thought that if we made our settings one way, the site we made them on shouldn’t be able to just change them, or if they did, they should have to let us know…? Clearly not, as such information is generally passed on via friend connections.

I have been using an add-on called Social Fixer for a good few months now, to help me manage all the curfuffle that FaceBook seems set on including in my life. I am logged into FaceBook for the better part of most days, so it stands to reason that I make it as easy to use as possible.  It’s free to use, and darned easy. It is not, however, supported for Internet Explorer, though if you’re a real computer user, this shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s face it, no one who has a say about how their computer is run, and knows what a real web browser can do for them, uses IE.

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Lifehacker got a hold of Social Fixer and called it “… [an] essentially a panacea for the most common Facebook problems…” so it has to be good, right? Reading the rest of the LifeHacker article also gives you a fair few good ideas on how to simplify your FaceBook presence. Consider adopting frequent “friend” culls. Do you really know all of the people on that list? Also, check the apps you’ve given access to your account. do you still use all of them? If not, cull!

Just as a side-note, personally I think FaceBook only has a few more years left in it before the “next big thing” in social media comes along and steals its thunder. It will go the way of MySpace before too long, so don’t invest too much in it (monetarily or otherwise), and start thinking about slowly adopting a “removal” process to your data. Download those pics, notes, significant details or anything else you think you might miss if FB were to go belly up. You will find the move to the next big thing easier, and less frustrating. Also, it never hurts to have less of yourself on a site that refuses to acknowledge privacy as a real thing that shouldn’t be changeable unless by the end user.

Fallout: Lanius Cast Details

I honestly cannot wait to see this project up and off the ground. Never before has a fan film been so close to me and so close to my heart. Just last month I presented a paper about the Browncoats fight for more content after the “hiatus” of Firefly was called by Fox. This is just another case of the fans wanting more, only this time they’re in a position to do something about it themselves!

Things I Like: Fallout.

Okay, so you may have guessed I am something of a geek. I like things that are a little … “different” from the “ordinary” girly likes. Don’t get me wrong. I like high heels, makeup and stupid restrictive clothing as much as the next goth girl who is into that stuff, but I also like nerf wars, getting grass and leaves in my hair from combat rolls, wearing combat boots and jump suit and sniping players from a distance.

To this end, the Fallout games suit my sensibilities perfectly. I can sit at home in my pretty pretty clothes and make believe that I’m roaming the nuclear wastelands in naught but what I have scavenged from radioactive mutants and Jet-heads. I love it!

ImageI love that there are so many ways to work through a problem. Sometimes it calls for sheer brute force, sometimes thinking outside the box. I love that the world that Bethesda created is so immersive. It has to be one of the most addictive and crazily involving game worlds around. Now, I like other games. I’m also into FPSs (First Person Shooters), RPGs (Role Playing Games) and RTS (Real Time Strategy), but I can’t help but feel that the Fallout series has really encapsulated all that each of these other gaming types has to offer and rolled it into one beautiful package.

If you’ve never tried them, take a look. Start at the beginning, and play a bit of each, keeping in mind the context in which they were released. I don’t normally like using wikipedia as a reference (thank you Uni for that) but this one is pretty well written and accurate. So, get yourself a Geiger Counter and get out there!

Now, like any good past time, there are people who will take the initial ideas presented and make something out of it. We call these people fans, and we love them, bless their cotton socks. Yes, I’m including myself in this group. I own some Nuka Cola caps (stockpiling them for when the nuclear bomb goes off. I may also be working on a post-apocalyptic cosplay costume, but that’s just between you and me (yes, I’ll probably document it here). There is, however, a dearth of information out there on how to make your own props and costuming items.

Most coveted among these is the Pipboy3000. It is the item, during the games, which shows the player stats and journal items, and also allows for Stimpack and other item use. If you were clever enough to buy a limited edition of the Fallout3 game, you got a clock radio that many lucky sods have then turned into a pipboy for their own use. Now, I saw one on ebay, but it was insanely priced (over a grand!), so there went that idea. Also, given that I have much smaller arms and wrists than the average pipboy user, it would just look stupid if I were to try and make it work. Instead, I will be making one from scratch. Yes… That’s right. I have traded one kind of insanity for another.

This will require me teaching myself electronics, fibreglass molding and other techniques. Thank goodness I have people around me who know what they’re doing. I hope, at some point in the not-too-distant future to have my very own Pipgirl3000. 🙂

In other fan-made Fallout-ness, there is the Nuka Break short video series. These are up on youtube and, just quietly, they also show you how a lot of the props were made here… I love it for its simplicity in story line. One character is simply looking for all the Nuka Cola left.I’m sure there’s other stuff that happens, but that is the basic premise; one guys looking for a drink, misadventure follows. The main character is from outside the original storyline of the games, but is definitely believable.

AND…

*drum roll please*

I am super super super super excited about this latest project, set to send shock-waves through the Fallout community. Fallout: Lanius is a fan-film set for production in little ole Perth, Western Australia. If you remember form last entry, I was talking about crowd-sourcing? Well, these guys will be employing that method for obtaining … whatever it is they need. Extras and the sort I imagine. Watch this space.

Fallout: Lanius follows a character from the 2010 release Fallout: New Vegas, Legate Lanius. I have to say, when I saw the stand at Supanova, my little fangirl heart missed a beat and I may have gotten a little teary. This will be a not-for-profit endeavour and I CAN’T WAIT!!! They also have a Facebook page you can keep up to date via. They have gathered interest in such far-flung reaches of the world as Spain, Croatia, Russia, Japan and France. It would seem I am not alone in my enthusiasm.

So why do fans make stuff? Isn’t the original material enough? Well, imagine you like a sporting team and that team only plays three games a year. You’d want to enjoy more of that team playing, right? So what do you do? Play office fantasy sports? Seems legit. Get involved in lengthy debates with your friends about “what if your tam were to meet this team under these conditions? Who would win?” Well, it’s that kind of “what if” that gets fans making their own projects. Sometimes the original story lines don’t cover all the side stories that arise. Why is that character like that? Where did that thing come from? What would happen if these guys met each other? It’s those sorts of questions that get played around with during fan projects and, if done properly, can actually turn out really well.

So, you’ve checked out the games, and you’ve thought about the Fallout world. Want to get more involved? WATCH THIS SPACE!

Crowd-Sourcing – Why It’s The New Way To Get Things Done.

In case you’ve been living under a rock this past decade, there’s this New Thing called “crowd-sourcing” and it’s here to take over how we thought things got done.

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With the world having been so heavily driven by “what’s in it for me” and the Next Big Thing, we sometimes forgot that there were still small groups working on projects that deserved just as much attention as the over-publicised ones. The only reason we didn’t hear about them so much was because the companies who had invested so much money into these projects were seeking the best Return on Investment (ROI: it’s a real thing) and this drove the producers to flood the market with merchandise and marketing to drive us all insane. So what about the little guys? What about the people sitting at home on their computer making their “small time” film, music project, art work, etc etc etc? Where do these guys fit in?

This crowd-sourcing idea is by no means new. Not really. It has just become the latest tool for small groups to get big things done. Basically, it works like this:

Step One: Make people aware of your project.

Step Two: Make sure your project “has legs”.

Step Three: Publicise that you’re looking for extras, crew, make-up artists, costumers, etc etc etc.

Step Four: Get Things Done.

These days there are many platforms for hosting and tracking your crowd sourcing, but why would you want to do it? Why would you want to trust your project to potential no bodies? Wouldn’t you rather just pay people to do good work? Well, the answer is simple. Not always.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a group of fans, gathering to organise … let’s say … a fan film, based on some kind of awesomeness you all enjoy. You probably don’t have a budget or, if you do, it’s not the blank check the guys from the Matrix had. You still need camera crew, lighting, sound, make-up artists, costumes, sets, locations, logistics, catering, electrical, post-production. Depending on what kind of a film you’re intending to make, you may also need special effects make-up, special effects in post-production, greensmen, pyrotechnics, animal wranglers… Oh, and you’ll probably want some actors too.

Ordinarily a movie budget may run into billions of dollars. At the very least, it’ll be millions. If you can fundraise that much for your fan film, power to you! Let the rest of us know how you’ve done it. Write a book on it and profit from your knowledge! For the rest of us mere mortals, crowd-sourcing it is!

You advertise, generally for the positions not requiring so much technical knowledge. Things like extras, or logistics. You will have, generally, already asked friends and family and friends of friends to the nth degree, for the crew and lead actors. Crowd-sourcing is most usually utilised to fill in the gaps. Going hand in hand with crowd-sourcing is crowd-funding but that, boys and girls, is a story for another day.

So why? Why bother?

Well, you’re a fan of product x, right? You want to make a film that amounts to a side-story. Why wouldn’t you also want other fans in on the action. I mean, ultimately they’re the ones who are going to be buying, downloading or otherwise using your product, so why not get them involved? They know, better than any other Joe Bloggs off the street, what is required in their costuming and, nine times out of ten, will provide their own outfits and make up, saving you money and time: two Very Precious Things.

Interested in seeing what out there has been crowd-sourced? Take a look at a couple of sites:

http://www.crowdsourcing.org/

http://www.crowdsourcing.com/

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

The final article is a good piece on other applications for crowd-sourcing.

Conventions: a guide for attendees and convenors alike.Part Two.

This one’s mostly for the conveners.

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It’s really not difficult.

Let the people who are donating their time to you know where and when they are supposed to be ahead of schedule. And I’m not talking about three days before they are supposed to be there. A week at the very latest. A week allows for them to make sure they are free, make sure everyone knows where they will be and why they will not be available for anything else. It also gives you enough time to make sure you have all the volunteers you want/need and that they are allocated to the areas you need them.

If you are supplying meals for them, please let them know. If you are not, please let them know. Again, ahead of schedule. It saves them from lining up and spending stupid amounts of money on terrible food which essentially amounts to them paying to work for you.

I get that it is difficult to reward excellent work in any meaningful kind of way, so please understand that we rally do appreciate a “thank you so much” or “you did an awesome job” when you see it. It really does make us feel as though our good work has been notice and is helping.

We get tired and cranky and petulant as much as a paid employee, without the added bonus of there being a pot of gold at the end of the monochromatic rainbow. Please, forgive us our snappiness as we try to forgive those who snap against us.

Thank you for the extra few minutes of break or sleep in in the morning. It is one way, without giving us money that you can show us you appreciate us.

But really, please do something about the coffee… 🙂

Conventions: a guide for attendees and convenors alike.Part One.

This particular guide is more directed to those in affiliation with the more “geek” convention, rather than academic or otherwise. It is, in no way, designed to be complete, but is just some simple guidelines I have put together in my years of attending such events.

 

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Cosplayers:

Please be aware that sometimes your costume will cause people to stop and stare. If this is the case, smile. Pose for photos. Be gracious. You do not simply don an outfit for the sake of simply wearing something different. You wear it for the attention, the kudos or maybe just for someone to notice that you’ve put in a lot of work. To that end, don’t look sour if that wig is causing your head to feel like it’s in a vice. Don’t frown in the ten mile high shoes you’re having to wear in order to be in proportion with your team members are causing your feet to scream in ancient Armenian. Smile. Be nice to the people appreciating the work.

General Attendees:

We will all “bump” into people we know. It happens. The geek community in ven the largest of cities is still insular enough that the odd “stop and chat” opportunity will arise. HOWEVER, do not do this in the exact centre of the general thoroughfare. People are trying to get past. Be nice, move to the side, away from the stall trying to make a buck or two from your captive audiences of the convention.

If you are waiting for someone who happens to be standing in a line for an autograph, kindly do so away from the line. You are making the line manager’s job harder by making it impossible to gauge who is in and out of the line. Also, Don’t stand in between the line and the actual place of signature. It too is in the way.

Along these lines, if you happen to be wanting an autograph from a celebrity, kindly use those things in your head called eyes and see if there is a line for such things. If there is not then, and only then, may you simply stand where you like. If you fail to notice the line and someone wearing a lanyard, wearing an event tshirt or carrying a clipboard asks you to go and join the line, kindly don’t roll your eyes, sigh, moan and bitch and complain. Pick up your bags and go and join on the end of the line, regardless of how long you spent “just standing there”. It’s not our fault the line was difficult to see, or you could not use your eyes. Not our fault at all, we’re just trying to make it fair for all. No, you will not be given preferential treatment for being older. The kids paid just as much to get into the event as you did, sometimes more, having to pay off their parents for lifts and advances on allowance, so they have just as much right to be treated with fairness as you.

Please observe the general niceties of social conduct. Don’t yell. It’s annoying. Especially when you may think you’re playing the most high-pressure hand of “go fish” because the fate of the world depends upon it, while everyone around you is simply wishing you would shut the hell up.

I know it’s crowded. I know there’s lots of people. Please, for the love of all that is dear and sacred to you, do not feel that give you the right to stand within my personal space if I do not know you with little to no care for having done so. An apology can be as simple as an “I’m sorry” mumbled when you bump into me because the sour cosplayer in her incredibly itchy and hot wig has shuffled past. I’m not expecting a written apology resplendent with platitudes. Just acknowledge that you are in my personal space, and that you will do all you can to leave it when you have enough space.

Food vendors:

I get that you have a captive audience and that your rent is insane. This should not make you feel that it is okay to charge a bajillion dollars for a small cup of crap you want to nominate as “coffee”. Yes, I am something of a coffee aficionado, but I can accept that what you have to offer may not be as good as what I can get at home. It is like that with many things. What I do take offense to is the fact that what you serve to me has little to no taste, is scalding hot, seems to have all caffeine burned out of it and is full of sludge. To pay a small fortune for such a disappointing “drink” is just adding insult to injury.

Another one for the cosplayers:

Please please please learn to style your wigs. Simply buying a wig and plonking it on your head is not enough, especially if your character does not really style their hair the same way. Cosplay’s beauty is in the little details. Please, don’t bring disgrace to the art form.

For those dragged along:

We get it. You didn’t want to come along. You think it’s a waste of time. We understand. No, really, you may think we don’t but we do. We geeks think the same when we are dragged along to something we don’t particularly find interesting. We would ask, if you didn’t want to come why did you, but that is a rant for another time. Suffice to say, you are here, presumably to show support or try to understand why it is someone close to you is into all this … “stuff”… Get over yourself. You are not better than all these people. In fact, I am sure you have interest that makes your partner/friend/family member yawn. We all do. It’s called support so just deal with it or don’t come along.

 

That wraps up part one of this particular guide. Part two to follow soon.

What is the cost of knowledge?

I ought to be university work. Instead, I am blogging, but it’s related so it’s okay, right?

This article came across my feed a few days ago.

Angry Librarians is not just the name of a game from the AppStore. It is a reality of the changing face of value and it is growing. Academics, students, librarians and experts in their fields are all starting the join the cause that is seeing academic publication companies on the receiving end of the flak.

They are protesting the cost of access to academic journals. These subscriptions, which can cost some univeristy libraries up to US$10M per year, give students and academics alike access to articles which some say should be available for cheaper online, or free. In the past there have been “…good intentions and utopian schemes…” says Robert Darton (Director of the Library at Harvard University) but now it seems we are back int he grasp of a profiteering racket driven by publication houses. The protestors are saying that now we have the means, why do we not use the technology to make knowledge accessible to all of humanity?

This is not just an isolated protest either. We are not looking at just one field of study, or just the major universities and academic safehouses. We are looking at a world wide protest. It seems to this blogger, at least, that people are fed up all over the place, with how we have become so complacent as to how “value” is perceived.

When research libraries have reached the point where they can’t afford their yearly subscriptions and feel they have no choice but to dig in their heels and protest, then we know something is wrong. When the research library spearheading this campaign happens to be a university with the reputation of being the wealthiest in the world, then we know something is really wrong.

The thing is, these publications have a decent amount of something called “prestige” behind them. Now, I’m not an expert on what prestige actually is, but I gather it is rather like your Klout score or the number of followers you have on Twitter. Sure, it may mean something to someone somewhere, but it is an arbitrary valuation of your reach in the world. Prestige supposedly means that if you are published in these journals, you are cooler than people in your field who are not. It’s essentially a popularity contest and a means of ranking academics by knowledge quotient. I’m not saying that I completely dismiss the idea. I mean, it’s definitely cooler to be published in The Amazing Journal of Coolness Studies That Only Really Really Really Cool People Can Be Published In, than in Women’s Weekly, but if people have to pay stupid amounts to read your article, then how is your knowledge going to help the world?

So, this has been something of a deviation from my usual blog style, but I think it’s a very important issue that bears more looking into. If you want to know more, you can read about it here, the online petition and boycott site.

Being a Parent Does Not Give Us Carte Blanche.

It’s strange, but it’s true. Just because we aided in the creation on another person (because, let’s face it, complex carbon chemistry had a lot to do with it too), does not mean we always get to take part in actions which will taint the potential of that person in the future.

We do it all the time. That is part of parenting. By teaching our children good table manners, we are ensuring they will not be embarrassed with a multiple course table setting, and will not be shunned for eating with their mouth open. By making sure they say “please” and “thank you”, we are ensuring a positive reaction to their general manners in the future. We do everything we can, or should be doing so, to ensure they have the best possible chance at making good impressions in their adult lives.

Why then, do some of us seem so intent on ruining all that good work by plastering baby pictures all across the internet and web? Potentially embarrassing photos, pictures that may not paint them in a positive pictures, photographs that will stay around in digital format online forever.

Forever.

That’s a very long time indeed. We seem to forget that once published online, the images and words we think are transitory reflections of moments in our lives have far reaching ramifications into the echoes of the future. They may not get picked up by search engine bots some time down the line, but they can always be found. Always.

I happened to read this article this morning, while attempting to wake up. I will grant, it took me a couple of goes. It is written from the perspective of a parent writing to the future version of their child regarding the ways they have reduced their potentially damaging digital identity production through online gloating. Not publishing photographs online of your children is not “just” a safety step against potential abuse, but it is also a conscious decision to allow your child to grow into the person they want to be, allowing them to become who they think they are.

As parents, we work on building their self-esteem, making sure they don’t bow down to peer-pressure, don’t feel they have to be the same as every one else, and try to combat the lack of desire (sometimes) to outshine their contemporaries. Why then, do so many of us feel that documenting our children’s lives online for all and sundry to see it alright? Surely it is counter-productive, and counter-intuitive? What might be the fall-out of a prospective employer seeing your teenaged child in something entirely unfashionable, if they are applying for a job in fashion in their twenties? It’s a somewhat shallow and superficial example, but if that is what your child is aiming for, who are you to ruin that opportunity?

Your facebook photo album is not a digital version of the photo album you pull out when your child’s dates come over for the first time. It is not a personal account of your child’s formative years. It is a very public domain which, even with the closest of “security” settings, can be viewed by pretty much anyone.

I have taken steps to ensure I do not damage my child(ren)’s potential digital identity. Despite her now being in double digits, and me leading a very “connected” lifestyle, I can count the pictures I have published of her online on my fingers. I ask that people ask me before they put up pictures of her on facebook or the like. I do not call her by name, and ask that others do the same. This was never to “save” her from potential child molesters. It was, first and foremost, because I was very aware of my actions potentially impinging on the future identity, on and off line, of others. You will find that any partners I may have rarely get referred to by name. This is a further step to not have my actions reflect on their built identity.

I think it boils down to the single directive by which I think all should conduct themselves:

You do not have the right to have any of your actions damage anyone else.

Simple as that.