In her latest post, Mad Hatter talks about her “coming out” to a colleague as an anonymous blogger. Her post got me thinking about why, about a year and a half ago, when I finally mustered the courage to start blogging myself, I opted not to do it anonymously. In my initial blog, while disclosing my identity, I was nevertheless forced to use a user name different than my own (one of LiveJournal’s, er, “features”). On the other hand, here at my new home I happily use my real life first name.
I do not regret my choice, and I think I enjoy my blogging experience much better this way. I can see why one would feel more comfortable blogging anonymously, as blogging serves different purposes for all of us. Still, I thought I would expound my own reasons for not trying to hide my identity.
Let me make it absolutely clear that I am not in any way criticizing anonymous bloggers (some of my best friends blah blah blah), who have their own perfectly valid reasons for doing what they do. I just wish to articulate here why someone in my position, not needing to remain anonymous and being sufficiently shameless to put himself out there (in the process making a spectacle of his maladroitness with foreign washing machines), may benefit from disclosing his/her identity from the get-go .
1) Anonymity greatly limits what one can talk about, and how.
Anonymity must be protected. That means that great care must be taken not to give away details that may eventually lead to the author’s identification. Besides being probably mildly stressful, to me this is detrimental to the effectiveness of the writing, which necessarily must remain vague, to some extent. Descriptions of situations, people and events about which the blogger feels sufficiently strongly to want to share his/her feelings about them with friends throughout blogosphere, are necessarily incomplete, imprecise, and as a result often not as compelling and credible as they could be.
This seems particularly relevant for those bloggers who like to write about their personal and professional lives. It seems impossible not to resolve this conundrum by giving oneself slowly away, as more and more hints are offered (willingly or inadvertently) in order to render the interaction with other bloggers (which is a crucial part of this entire exercise) more meaningful, both intellectually and personally.
2) Remaining anonymous is essentially impossible
Readers wanting to do so, can find out who the blogger is. They will eventually find out. As mentioned above, inevitably a blogger is going to give some details away, which, when patched together, will allow one with sufficient time (surprisingly little is needed in most cases) to identify the author.
It is important to keep one thing in mind: in the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, there is no malice or ill intent whatsoever on the part of someone trying to find out who is the person who writes those posts. Most readers wish to do so out of mere curiosity, elicited mostly by admiration for someone on whose writings they have come to depend for entertainment, education and possibly inspiration.
And sometimes people simply find out by serendipity. Recently, a friend confessed to me to have pretty much nailed down the identity of a fairly prominent anonymous blogger, simply based on snippets of informations contained in that blogger’s own posts, which my friend reads avidly (no names of places nor people were given, ever, in any of the posts). As we discussed this occurrence, we both agreed that it would have been fairly awkward to run into that person — not sure why, it just feels so.
As for regular commenters (normally fellow bloggers), most of us who blog utilize hit counters, which furnish very accurate information as to, for example, the geographical location of those who read our blogs and comment. Much of that is information which we really did not seek. Most of us simply wish to know how many readers we have, and in what part of the world they are located, again out of mere curiosity — but counters give us IP addresses, with which one could in principle find out a heck of a lot more than that. Obviously, it is information with which we are not going to do absolutely anything, but I wonder how many anonymous bloggers are aware of how exposed they really are .
I know, a book should not be judged by its cover, and if the arguments expounded in a post are sound and effectively presented, they should be taken seriously regardless of where they come from. In principle, that is. In practice, I think most of us like to run our own “background checks” on anyone who expresses a view point, no matter how competent sounding, especially on a scientific subject. Granted, often times the language utilized by the author, the level of reasoning and the realism of the situations described, will lend a post sufficient credence; still, there is something to be said for allowing readers to make their own independent assessment as to what extent the blogger’s opinion on that or that other subject should be regarded as credible and cogent.
 OK, this is driving me crazy: what the heck is the contrary of anonymously ? Onymously ?
 It is in principle possible not to leave a trail behind one’s visit to web site by using services such as anonymizer, but I doubt if many use them. Among other things, often times they make it difficult to comment.