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LUC DEVROYE


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Anonymity and aliases [Luc Devroye]

[A personal opinion.] The internet is a strange beast---for the first time in history, people all over the world can lead multiple lives under a collection of aliases and identities. In principle, that should be a good thing, and surely, it is a reality we will have to learn to live with. Except...

Blogs on news sites, and many of the early type design blogs, are and were battle grounds that showed the ugly side of many posters, the vast majority of whom are using aliases. The sudden opportunity to express opinions to everyone has been misused and abused. On the positive side, the anonymity permits the masses at the bottom of the pile to have a voice and to deliver to those atop atop the same pile a healthy dose of reality pills. They can also insult each other, but what is the point of that, really? The leaders and power brokers can ill afford an alias---imagine the consequences when the alias is uncovered---, and so are largely quiet in the public brawl.

In the type design world, we find with some exceptions a similar world. The top of the pile does not use an alias. The top takes responsibility for its actions and published opinions. [There a few exceptions though...] But I cannot understand why the newcomers, the upstart foundries and designers, are so convinced that they can build up a business and a reputation on the basis of an adopted name. I can see the CV now---from 1992 until 1997, Cougar71 worked at Design-by-night, and then became art director and chief type designer at MammaMia. For some reason, Cougar71 did not make it to Adobe, and her designs did not win at the last TDC competition. I wonder why. But why do I care? It's a struggle to climb the ladder in the world, so this is yet another mechanism to detect weaknesses.

It becomes a problem when Cougar71 or TRikki_D email me with a font question---I receive about 20 of those each day. What has happened is that the internet has actually changed the perception of an entire generation---it can live and function under the assumed names. To them, it is perfectly acceptable to operate in this manner. And what are we to do with fonts designed by these people? Are we wading into a new legal morass? The next couple of decades will surely have a few surprises for all of us.

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Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html