Thursday, 7 April 2005

To Pseud, or Not to Pseud

Barbara Branden raises the question here of whether posting anonymously or with a pseudonym is a good thing. "I've been annoyed by some people hiding their identities while most of us are open and honest about who we are and what we think."

So is "taking authorial responsibility for your post... a basic courtesy" as she maintains? As blogs take over the world, such courtesies will undoubtedly become more an more important things to define.

Feel free to discuss here (where discussion rages), or of course here. :-)

For my part I agree with Barbara, and with Robert Bidinotto who argues here, "What have they got to hide?" What indeed?


  1. Anonymity is one of the good things about the internet. One is not 'obliged' to disclose anything - I pay for my bandwidth and don't owe anyone anything. NZ is a small place and such disclosure could have repercussions for family, employment etc. Someone once threatened to kill me over comments on a NZ forum a couple of years ago. Conflating pseudonyms and dishonesty is rather bizarre IMO.
    PS I like your blog too and have blogrolled you under NZ blogs.

  2. It's true that the internet is a dangerous place. A few years back I fielded threats from a bunch of Nazi nutters who sent me my address and told me to expect a visit. (I never saw them - I always wondered if they got lost?)

    The fact remains though that one is inclined to take an argument more seriously if you know that the person who makes it is prepared to stand four-square behind it.

    Is that not true?

  3. And thank you for your compliment, Ms Freudian Slippers. May I point out that your slippers are showing? :-)

  4. What is identity?

    I'm Malach. A large number of people, from weblogs, from IRC, from various discussion places around the internet know me as such. By any definition, Malach is a pseudonym, but it identifies who I am to more on-line people than my real name does. Given that my real name is shared with a large (and possibly bankrupt?) Australian wine maker, a young man who was prosecuted for 'hacking' Telecom, a Professor of Linguistics at Berkeley, and an american stock brokerage firm, it's reasonable to argue that my chosen pseudonym would cause less confusion than my real name.

    I don't imagine it's overly hard to find out my real name, with a combination of domain records and google, and it's not something I go to great efforts to hide - however, I also don't go to any efforts to deliberately disclose it.

    I remain who I am, no matter which name you know me by, and I don't feel that the value of my contribution to any conversation is lessened by the fact that my family and (material-world) friends and aquaintances know me by one name, and people online know me by another. (The fact that a number know me as both probably says something negative about my social circle, but I can live with that.)


  5. That last comment was very true. Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of IT can trace you. I think the use of a pseudonym makes your argument no less valid.Those who do are being rather pretentious and precious IMO. PS Don't expect any direct post linkage from the NZ blogosphere PC, except from maybe the lovely Phil Sage

    If they think you are any threat to their traffic they will blackball you good and hard, like they did me. Which makes my success all the sweeter.

  6. I choose to be "real" in some forums, in others I do not. I find no less value in communicating with those who choose to pseud.

    btw I was glad to see directions to this establishment posted over at SOLO. I suspect it will become one of my favorite watering holes.

  7. PC,

    I see your point re standing behind your comments.

    But the converse applies: anonymous posters are choosing to make comments that have to stand on their own, instead of trying to bolster up weak comments by invoking the magic of authorial authority.

    Also I think that Malach's point is important: 'pseudonymous' and 'anonymous' aren't the same. Malach is Malach not some nameless anonymous poster. I've been Icehawk when on-line for almost 15 years, and like Malach it's not that hard to find out my legal name if you really care to.

    Of course, there is a _different_ issue which is how you tell that someone else claiming to be Icehawk (or Malach) is the one-and-only. But that's just as true for John Newnham.

    Freudian Slippers, I can't imagine the inhabitants of the NZ blogosphere agreeing on anything more substantial that the world being round(ish. So I'm surpised that you think they are organised enough to blackball someone.

    The NZ political blogs I've read appear to be surprisingly collegial: it was Idiot from NoRightTurn who pointed me this way, and his politics are far different from PCs.


  8. Looking at the comments on the SoloHQ site, one would have to hope Lindsay was being ironic when he said "in an ideal world I'd ban such cowards outright"? Otherwise, jeyasus...

    I don't usually approve of people who blog anonymously. Usually they do this just to take very cheap shots. I can understand where the activity could lead to losing one's job. I'm lucky to have an understanding employer in that regard.

    But while one might not approve of people who don't have the nominal courage of their convictions, surely they should be free to say what they want... and you should be free to ignore them.

    Even better, you should do what I did, and expose the scumbags, like I did with the author of radionzbias. Git.

  9. I agree with Malach, especially the points about taking on a particular identity.

    An aside: I know some-one who created an identity, used it for many years and eventually changed his name by deed poll to his identity.

  10. Yeah, I agree with the point many of you have made that anonymous is different to pseudonymous. As Malach says, a pseudonym can become a handle by which one is known on the net as effectively as if it was a real name. True enough.

    And I don't think I'm suggesting really suggesting dishonesty from either anom or pseud posters as Freudian Slippers suggests here, or that one is obliged to reveal oneself as she says at

    I guess i'm really wondering why pseudonyms have become the default position for most postings, and with that I have to say I'm still not sure that ~all~ posters who post under them have honest intentions. But of present company of course I'm happy to say I have no doubts at all. :-)

    And good to hear from you again DC. I'm sure you're aware of Lindsay's enormous talent for irony, but it's usually Americans who don't get irony, not NZers. ;-) I don't think either of us really think he was serious about banning them. If anonymous vitriol is being hurled, as you say it's usually very easy to ignore.

  11. FS - i'm certainly not in on any black-balling of you by nz political bloggers - in fact i'm keen as beans to add any new chicks who are blogging kiwi pols, even the ones from the right like yourself.

    DC - being a person of moderate intelligent i can work out who you are, however the use of initials is just as obscuring as the use of a psuedonym surely? ;-)

  12. I don't think there is a one answer fits all to this question.

    Sometimes it is useful and helpful to know the identity of a blogger. But equally I don't think No Right Turn's quality of argument is harmed by the fact very few people know who he is.

    As Malach points out, a consistent online identity can be more useful than using your real name.

    And there are often very good reasons, be they employment or safety, where some bloggers do not want their name revealed.

    So overall it does not matter a lot to me. However the one thing which does annoy me is when people who are anonymous, use the fact I am publicly identified, as a weapon against me.


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