I was on a panel yesterday with a bunch of other folks about the future of newspapers, and inevitably the subject of blogs came up. As usual in these discussions, anonymity got its heaping helping of abuse. I tried to make the point (although I wasn't very articulate) that anonymity and pseudonymity are entirely different beasts. I doubt it had the slightest effect.
But M-M-M-My Pomona is my bully pulpit, so I'll develop the point here, particularly in light of Anonymous's feeling that conversation was getting out of hand the other day.
I'll defend the value of real anonymous posting (or commenting). There's nothing unethical about people who really, truly want to remain a disembodied voice, drifting in from nowhere, speaking their piece, and vanishing again. They're not very persuasive, but that's their choice.
That's true for commenting, anyway. The fact is, it's pretty darn hard to post anonymously. Once you've made two or three blog posts, you start building a persona, and readers start engaging with that persona, forming opinions about it, imagining the human being behind it. And what's true for a multiple-authored blog like this one is doubly true if you start your own; sooner or later, you'll have to refer to yourself by some name, and then all hopes of anonymity are gone. Your persona has a name.
The take-away point here, I think, is that when we participate in an online community, we stake the reputations of our personas. Opponents of so-called anonymous blogging huff and puff about accountability, but all bloggers risk the good opinion of others when they post, regardless of the name they do it under.
The only form of accountability that pseudonymous bloggers avoid is the kind that allows irate jerks to accost them at their homes or offices -- the kind that encourages retribution in an unrelated sphere. If I'm bloviating on the web, I'm happy to put my web-cred on the line, but don't be calling my boss and trying to get me fired for something I said online (unless, of course, I've dooced myself). What happens online should stay online.
Meanwhile, to stand up and speak at City Council or one of the commission meetings, you have to announce your full address on local tv, essentially. I don't mind doing it myself, but I do wonder whether that's advisable. It just takes one contentious issue and one intempterate dirtbag to create a situation. It would probably be wiser to keep the house number on the speaker slip but not on the microphone.