SOURCE Boston 2012 kicked off this afternoon with a keynote from Akamai's Josh Corman and Jericho (Brian Martin) of Attrition.org. The topic was something the two have written extensively about in recent months: The possible directions Anonymous could take in the future.
I've written a lot about Anonymous in this blog. I've mostly been critical of its brand of hacktivism because of the innocent bystanders who get hurt as part of the various campaigns along the way. I've also acknowledged that the public and private sector are partly to blame for these groups coming into existence. What I've liked about the Corman-Martin project is that it's about taking what is there, admitting it's not going anywhere and digging into how it could be made to benefit the greater good. Jericho said this afternoon that the goal is to start a dialogue about Anonymous, since it is "here to stay in one form or another." Reflecting the future theme, the talk was called "Anonymous 20/20: The Beginning Is Near."
Corman said it's important to look not necessarily at the Anonymous headline of the day, but at what the larger phenomenon of hacktivism will mean for our children.
Jericho compared Anonymous to Christianity: There are those who want to help their fellow man, and then there's the Westboro Baptist Church variety of Christians, known for it's extreme stance against homosexuality. In other words, there are those who want to do good, and those who head down a less tolerant path many see as harmful. "Anonymous as they are is a crude blunt weapon that does a lot of damage," Jericho said. "One way or another they will evolve and get better. We'd rather offer a framework" for how that evolution can benefit the greater good.
One of the more interesting points, made by Corman, is that there's a risk of certain groups and activities being mislabeled as actions of Anonymous. There are a lot of pretenders out there, and he doesn't want that confusion to boil into something like McCarthyism. In this scenario, instead of a 1950s-style communist witch hunt, lawmakers and others would start going after innocents doing honest work in the security industry, accusing them of being members of Anonymous and engaging in attacks sponsored by sinister regimes. Avoiding that is just another reason to influence Anonymous for the better, they said.
So where do we go from here? Instead of trying to give you a bite-sized summary of their SOURCE talk (summaries never really tell us much), I direct you to the full "Building a Better Anonymous" series, which is chock full of potential scenarios going forward. Here are the installments released so far:
1) Introduction & Approach: A brief introduction to this article series and AnonymousFact vs Fiction: Figuring out the fact versus fiction of Anonymous.How We Got it All Wrong: How the media and professionals got it wrong.How Anonymous Has Failed in Theory & Practice: Anonymous, as they are today, and various shortcomings.Building a Better Anonymous: Improvement ideas for Anonymous, or the next group like them.