Paul Resnick paper withstands the “Test of Time” to win new award

“The Social Cost of Cheap Pseudonyms, “ a paper authored by Paul Resnick, Michael D. Cohen Professor of Information at the University of Michigan, and Eric J. Friedman of Rutgers University, and published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy in the summer of 2001 has been selected as the first recipient of the Association for Computer Machinery’s SIGecom Test of Time Award.

This honor recognizes an influential paper published between ten and twenty-five years ago that has had significant impact on research or applications that exemplify the interplay of economics and computation. 

In the paper, the authors examined the negative impact of people being able to easily adopt false identities on the Internet. Unfavorable impacts included a lack of trust of newcomers in online forums or auctions, since people can easily change identities in order to shed a negative reputation.

As the researchers noted, due to the anonymous nature of the Internet, no one knows that “yesterday you were a dog and today you should be in the doghouse.” They proposed various solutions to this problem, such as having anonymous online identities vouched for by an intermediary, charging for name changes or giving people the option to commit to one identifier for a lifetime.

The nomination noted that "one feature of the work that helps explain why it has withstood the test of time is that Friedman and Resnick start by identifying a critical problem facing a wide (and seemingly endlessly growing) range of real-world systems, and then abstract it into a strong formal model from which they can derive provably correct results.

“They also accomplish something else for an enduring paper: the results they obtain are not only correct, but are sufficiently general and useful that others want to and are able to build on them (both in further scholarly work and in practice). … The analysis is elegant, and as an added bonus is presented in a straightforward, easy to follow manner."
“We are thrilled to be able to honor this seminal paper whose central insight is as relevant and powerful today as ever,” said the committee in announcing the award.

SIGecom is the e-commerce special interest group of the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM).  The award committee was comprised of Joan Feigenbaum, Yale University; David Pennock, Microsoft Research (Chair); and Yoav Shoham, Stanford University.

The award will be conferred at the ACM Conference on Economics and Computation, taking place June 15-19, 2015 in Portland, Oregon ( The Test of Time award will be presented as the final event of the conference on Friday, June 19.

Posted on June 16, 2015