Doctor Science Knows

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pseuds vs anons

At Rod Dreher's:

I second Ruth's emphasis on the crucial difference between anonymity and pseudonymity. I am frankly astonished by how many bloggers -- especially though by no means only on the right -- cannot seem to recognize that they are two different things. I find the number of anonymous/pseudonymous commenters who say they'd never read a pseudonymous blogger *hilarious*.

I've put up a description of actual anonymous blogging here. No such thing is occurring in the political blogosphere, so I cannot fathom why you-all don't seem to be able to keep your terms straight.

no one else is under any moral or ethical obligation to respect that pseudonymity.

It is standard netiquette -- good online manners -- to not "out" people's pseuds. One reason for this is because pseuds are the default online. Categories of people who would be prudent to use pseuds include:

1. women

2. anyone under 25

3. anyone working as a teacher who is not a tenured college professor

4. anyone who doesn't always agree with their boss

5. anyone who doesn't always agree with their clients or customers

6. anyone who doesn't always agree with their mother or father

7. anyone who is not straight

8. anyone who is divorced

9. anyone who wants to blog about personal issues

In other words, *most people*.

Saying that people "should" blog under their RL name or that it's "best" to do so is tantamount to saying, only powerful men have the right to discuss things.

Even if there were no other good reasons to respect pseuds, there's a good conservative reason: respect is the community standard. That's why so many bloggers on both right and left have joined in condemning Whelan -- so that everyone knows that there *is* a community standard.

At The Volokh conspiracy:

Count me among those befuddled by the apparent widespread confusion between "pseudonymity" and "anonymity". I am extra-befuddled by Mr. Volokh's conflation of the two, given Jonathan Alter's post here yesterday discussing their crucial differences. As he said, A pseudonym operates like a brand name, and the value of the brand is, at least in part, a function of how the pseudonymous blogger acts over time.

Actual anonymous blogging is extremely rare -- I describe one example here, mostly to illustrate how nothing current in the political blogosphere qualifies. Why, then, are so many people who are otherwise careful with language saying publius was blogging "anonymously"?

At Riehl World View:

Riehl, I am baffled by your conflation of "anonymous" and "pseudonymous", a confusion that appears to be widespread. Do you honestly not see that they are not the same thing? You aren't anonymous at all, you have a consistent pseud, just as the Federalist Papers' "publius" or "George Eliot" or "Mark Twain" did. The fact that it may be tricky to get from "Riehl" to your physical address doesn't prevent you from accumulating a reputation and building up "trust networks" with other people.

I've posted about what actual anonymous blogging looks like here:[]. What you (and publius, and most of your commenters) are doing is not what I'd call anonymous at all -- what makes you say it is?

I see now that I was confused -- "Dan Riehl" is not a pseud, but a RL name. My question remains, though: why are you referring to "pseudonymous" as "anonymous"? Do you truly think they are the same thing?

I see no practical difference in this and most cases in which a blogger chooses to remain anonymous by using a pseud

A pseud is neither anonymous nor Anonymous
so I actually don't know what you mean by "remain anonymous by using a pseud".

Pseuds are social identities that can gather reputation and trust. Anyone who has to detach from a pseud has to lose the trust and reputation that identity has collected. When I say this is "not anonymity" I'm not just arguing semantics, I'm saying they function in different ways.

I believe blogging under one's real name is best
-- from this it follows that the "best" blogging is that which is detached and impersonal. Blogging about one's child-rearing experiences, for instance, by your standards cannot be the "best" blogging, because it is usually unwise to blog about one's children under a real name.

At The American Scene:

I’m asking this all over, because I am baffled. You seem to be using “anonymous” to mean “pseudonymous”, though they are two very different things, especially online. The link in my sig is to a post I made about what (rare) truly anonymous blogging looks like. What we are talking about is *pseudonymity*, a consistent internet identity. Do you not know the
difference, or do you not think it matters — and if so, why not?

If we were to do a complete cost/benefit analysis of the effects of pseudonymous blogging over the past decade, I have no doubt that the result has been mostly negative (the blogosphere would be a more civil place without it).

What is certainly true is that many, many fewer people would be able to blog or comment if they always had to use their RL names. As Tony rightly pointed out above, most women (for instance) would be imprudent to do so. For the majority of people (who are mostly *not* financially and personally secure men, accountable to no-one) blogging under one's RL name would be a dangerous luxury -- your standard would make a desert and call it peace.

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