“Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”

Apparently this old saying goes even stronger in Web 2.0 environments. (By the way, I tried to trace down the origin of this saying, but Uncle Google pointed me to all directions. It is a proverb handed down in Bulgaria, Mexico, Russia, and the US. Come to think of it, Korea has an almost identical one too.)

Earlier this month, there was a long and somewhat heated discussion at the AoIR mailing list regarding somebody called Dr Reid Cornwell. I had never heard of him before, and according to what I gathered, he used to be a ‘troll’ (in the Internet lingo) until he was asked to leave. Here’s a blog post by Alex Halavais, who was one of those taking care of the list at that time, for a more detailed account.

Anyway, the reason why he was brought up as a thread after a few years was that he now seems to have changed his field of action … to Facebook. Again, what I gathered is that he continues to go by his professional status as the founding director of the Center for Internet Research and has so far ‘friended’ many well-known scholars in the field including Henry Jenkins. Having such friends then has given him enough credibility in the eyes of other Internet researchers. In response to the initial poster asking if anyone knew of him, more than one person on the Air-L actually said something like: “Yeah, he’s my FB friend too, although I don’t know him personally.”

As usual with the Air-L, one small incident like this churned out a lot of serious topics like professional ethics, online identity, and trust and reputation in social software. Anyway, these are not what I was going to write about today. Funnily enough, after having followed the intriguing thread, I got a friend request from Dr Cornwell a few days ago. And this was my thought process: ‘Who? I don’t think I recognise this person. Hmmm, but the name does sound familiar. <Check the Inbox.> Oh, THE Dr Cornwell. Hang on a sec. Does this mean I’ve arrived?’ 😉

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