Anonymity in the blogosphere
March 27, 2007
Contrary to what some have stated, I believe that anonymity and pseudonymity do not automatically negate an opinion. Granted, you might not know the background or the biases of whoever expresses such opinions, but the validity of their claims should become clearer through further discourse. If someone has compelling or interesting arguments, the discussion should focus on those, rather than on the “personalities” involved.
I’m not sure where I would fall on this spectrum, but I consider myself a semi-pseudonymous blogger. I have a semi-catchy title, as well as the not-so-catchy name. That was a deliberate move on my part. Others have taken all the “cool,” “hip,” and “edgy” names, so it behooved me to use something rather dull as a way to distinguish myself. Nevertheless, clues about my identity remain sprinkled throughout my blog, so anyone who really cares can figure it out. Still, for reasons I outline in an earlier posting, this seems like the best approach for my purposes.
Of late, I have determined that the Annoyed Librarian (AL) is a perfect example of a high-quality blogger who remains pseudonymous (not anonymous). In John Berry’s blog, she has been lumped into one side of a dualistic Weltanschauung. Closer readings of her postings indicate that she gives a great deal of thought to various issues. I may personally disagree with some of AL’s opinions, but they also make me consider more carefully what I believe. Therefore, it seems unfair to dismiss her as “cowardly,” just because she posts pseudonymously. In fact, considering some of the unfair comments made in the aforementioned posting from Berry’s blog (such as #8), it seems little wonder that AL remains pseudonymous.
Unfortunately, some people abuse anonymity/pseudonymity. As many of us already know, Kathy Sierra has received a series of anonymous threats that have forced her to cancel speaking engagements, and to stay confined to her house. Considering the disturbing nature of the postings left by the person(s) making the threats, I hope that someone can bring the offender(s) to justice.
Since anonymous postings can range from the Annoyed Librarian’s carefully-considered opinions to the disturbing threats made by an unidentified coward against another blogger, it seems unfair to look upon all anonymous/pseudonymous comments and postings as beneath contempt. If an anonymous person makes a coherent or nuanced argument for or against something, it seems worthy of response from interested parties… especially if that person wishes to continue the discussion in the same spirit of civility, collegiality, and (one hopes) wit. On the other hand, I can certainly understand a lack of response to trite comments, regardless of the person’s anonymity (or lack thereof). As for making threats, it has no place in any venue, and certainly does not fall under free speech. Whatever side of the various Libraryland debates you’re on, I think we can all agree that immediate action needs to be taken against such thugs.