Doctor Science Knows

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Outing publius

The National Review's Ed Whelan, scumbucket, outed one of the Obsidian Wings bloggers.


Humans, why must you FAIL so hard?

I find the objections to pseudonymous blogging from flagrant pseuds hilarious, and will only address them by pointing and laughing.

I have encountered a number of people who use only RL names online and are uncomfortable with people who use pseuds, but this attitude is baffling to me. Pseuds have an extremely long history for fiction writers and political writers, and I see no reason the "nom de net" shouldn't be accepted seemlessly in those fields.

More generally, objecting to pseuds puts you on the losing side of a generation gap. As my children grew up and started going online, I carefully instructed them in the construction of suitable pseuds and in basic techniques of internet compartmentization. For young people in general and women in particular, pseudonymity online is a matter of basic security. Objecting to it marks you as a clueless fogey, or at least as highly privileged.

In another decade, it's possible that the "presumption of online pseud protection" will become a legal principle, as it already is within the "old-growth" parts of the Internet. I do not think we're there yet, and I don't think any suit by publius would have a legal leg to stand on.


Thanks for the explanation, Slart. I now see what you mean.

I continue to be baffled by the number of people referring to "anonymous bloggers" -- especially while using a pseudonym (LOLZ). *No-one* here is blogging anonymously, we are mostly using *pseudonyms*, which is (a) completely different and (b) part of a very, very old tradition in both politics and fiction.

Here's what an actual experiment in anonymous blogging looked like [details redacted]: a group of several hundred people with a common interest formed a community in which *every member* had admin privileges. Both posts and comments were unsigned and IP addresses were unlogged, so there was no way to connect comments and posts to each other.

I was told that the advantage was:
Because it is detached from our named selves, it allows for fluidity of identity, I think. I can be the person leaving an idiotic comment and the person chiming in against them, and then also someone taking up that comment and rehashing it further in the discussion, all while still supporting an environment where everyone is instantly comfortable with each other.
In the event, as might have been predicted, one member of the community got angry and used hir admin privileges to delete *everything*, and there was much unhappiness. What was truly surprising was that this took *3 years* (a generation in Internet time), so it probably qualified as a remarkably successful experiment.

The point of this story is to make it perfectly clear that we in the political blogosphere are *not* talking about anonymous blogging.

I will assume that anyone who persistently uses the term "anonymous" to describe pseudonymity is part of the problem. That is, people like *you* are the reason fiction and politics have a long tradition of pseuds, of which the nom de net is just the most recent version.

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2 Comments:

  • My decision to publish openly was made with a full appreciation of the risks involved. My line of work didn't preclude having an online life, but I thought it prudent to adopt privacy habits RE: my home address, phone, etc., that are expensive and time-consuming. Not everyone can do that; not everyone is so lucky. Now that he's been outed, I'd advise Publius to buy a copy of "How To Be Invisible" and adapt his lifestyle to protect himself and his family.

    By Blogger Matt Osborne, at 4:12 PM  

  • Matt:

    Not everyone can do that; not everyone is so lucky

    I think a more worthwhile discussion would be of methods that will work even if everyone uses them. Blogging and invisibility should not just be for the favored few.

    By Blogger Doctor Science, at 7:25 AM  

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