Sunday, August 21, 2005

Anonymity

The recent discussion on anonymous comments at Joyful Noise got me to thinking. I haven't blogged long enough to know much about blogging rules and protocol, but I have learned a little bit about anonymity in the paper-and-ink writing/publishing world:

As I understand it, writing pseudonymously or anonymously is acceptable if:
--You are sitting on great political secrets (remember Primary Colors?)
--You churn out six romances a year for Harlequin, and they don’t want your name oversaturating the market
--You are a Saudi princess who could be killed for telling your story*
--You are writing a painful personal story and don’t want to hurt the real people involved.

Pen names are much more common with fiction than with non-fiction. In general, authors are expected to stand behind what they write by using their real names. This means being willing to take the criticism as well as the praise.

I think the "by Sister Lou" or "by a concerned brother" bylines in certain Sunday school papers are really tacky.

And commenting anonymously on blogs somehow brings out the worst in people. Using a pseudonym doesn't seem to have quite the same effect--probably because names, even if they're pen names, develop a reputation.

*Even then, you run into trouble with authenticity. Some of you may have read Princess by Jean Sasson, supposedly the true as-told-to of a Saudi princess. That and Sasson's subsequent books have been clouded with controversy. A woman my sis has connections with, from Kuwait, says she wrote a book once upon a time, and sent it to a publisher in NYC. It was rejected. A few years later, she was reading Princess and realized that big chunks of the narrative had been lifted right out of her manuscript. There was a big hullaballoo about that and maybe a lawsuit, but Jean Sasson is still churning out the books that she insists are true and authentic, but people who are In The Know about the Middle East view them skeptically.

Quote of the Day:
"I could kill a deer and seriously wound a cow."
--Amy’s friend Carrie, while the two of them were out camping, the bushes started rustling, and Carrie grabbed a hatchet

38 comments:

  1. I can see some of where you're coming from (esp. on the "concerned brother" comment), and have had some experience with fairly vile people hiding behind pseudonyms online. As you can see, though, I use an online "nym" myself. The great "scare stories" that we used to hear of a huge database of personal data in a vault in Belgium, or whatever, are really fairly laughable now; with a bit of online digging, it's fairly simple for anyone to compile a relatively extensive dossier on most people. As one example, a couple of years ago I was able to avoid an investment "opportunity" (and ultimately see its termination by the state securities commission) after a Web search for the name of one of the principals revealed his and several other of his corporate officers' association with an MLM organization whose founder headed to Mexico a while ago to avoid punishment for running a tax-fraud scheme.

    In the case of the "investment opportunity", the use of information from the Web led to a good result (from my perspective, at least). However, the free availability and permanence of any information published on the Web lead me to conclude that, as much as possible, I'll try to keep my online identity separate from my physical one. If I end up in foreign missions, a Web presence in my "real-life" name would make it easy for a government hostile to Christianity to research me. Even in more mundane circumstances, I feel no need to give any potentially hostile or adversarial party access to more information than is necessary.

    So...whether it's right or wrong, this is why I blog pseudonymously. It doesn't really match any of the justifications for anonymity or pseudonymity that you enumerated, but I do consider it sufficient reason to maintain my separation between "real" and "electronic" life.

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  2. Guess who Dorcas?!! Have a great week!!!

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  3. Ha ha! Why do I have the feeling that you, anon., are one of my many teenagers? First guess: Matt. Shall I keep indulging you or shall I be a tough mom and block the anons completely?

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  4. I hope we don't wake up to find someone has collated and published our blogs, and made a million off them!

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  5. atthecrux has a good grasp of the issue. I think that most of you really know me or could find out quick enough. I initially started with the pseudonym because I did not want the whole world to really know ME, but to point others to Christ, maybe I am wrong, but I did not want to just write a personal blog. However, with the pseudonym associated with a blog contact is possible with the author. Might not be perfect, but I prefer it to spreading my name all over the blogosphere.

    The problem for me is that I didn't realize that I would be commenting all over the blogosphere as I have, but the identity is established and I think that I will keep it.

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  6. Ha!!!!!Sorry Dorcas, this is not one of your teen-agers!! Just had to bug you a little!!LOL!!

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  7. Just so you know..that anonymous person was me!!!

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  8. ARLENE! I tell you, with friends like these...

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  9. hmm you arent allowing anon's anymore. Do you think that will cut down on your comments at all?

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  10. And to think I was accused of being a trouble maker!!!!:) Arlene seems to cause plenty herself and she was never mentioned in the Life is Rough post!!!!!:)See I am angelic--I didn't post anon just to pester!!:)

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  11. Yeah, Susie, I decided if I'm going to fuss about anons I need to be consistent and block them from my site...at least for a while. I'll capitulate if no one shows up. AG, PLEASE FIND A WAY TO KEEP COMMENTING.
    Yeah, Sharon, I ought to go see a psychiatrist to see why I keep picking such dangerous friends. Arlene fooled me good that time. Grrrrr.

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  12. Trust me Sharon...I have not seen a halo around your head yet!! So forget the angelic bit.HA-HA!!!!!!!!

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  13. Yes Arlene is the sly one--at least I do it right in front of you!!!!!:)Ya gotta admit--we add such spice to your life though!!!And I will continue to say how angelic I am!!!:)

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  14. I have no one to expose right now.

    But doesn't blocking anons somehow reek of control, or of being threatened, or of being patriarchal, or going by extra-Biblical rules and regulations?

    ;)

    Block away, ma'am!

    :D

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  15. all you have to do is set up a blogger account and with any name and just not fill in the rest of the information and you are still anonymous just with pseudoname instead of being "anonymous"

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  16. My use of the name Mrs darling, taken from the Peter Pan story, began as a safety issue too. A man that worked for Portland State became so threatening my husband and I were afraid he was actually going to look us up and do harm. I had people writing to me and telling me to get off the internet because of his threats. I did just that. I shut everything down. IN the meantime two Oregon politicains did some background research on the fellow and told me he appeared quite safe. I began blogging again under a psuedonym.

    Bravo for you! Shutting down the annons sends a message that if they cant bak up what they say with a name then dont speak at all! It's cowardly.

    I dont have anons blocked. I choose to leave it open and then delete what they have to say. That too sends a message loud and clear!

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