August 17, 2002
A Touchy Subject

I've been avoiding this subject, but now I feel that the time has come to say something.

I am referring to the ongoing debate regarding pseudonymous/anonymous bloggers. USS Clueless kicked off the whole debate, while others have responded: Instapundit, Dr. Weevil, Cut on the Bias, Live From the WTC, Shadow of the Hegemon, Silflay Hraka, Protein Wisdom, Asparagirl, Pundit Ex Machina, Moxie, Media Minded, The Last Page, and Unbillable Hours all have posts on the subject. There are a few others as well, but I'm sure you will be able to find links through the above references.

What was the deciding factor for me was the decision for "Edward Boyd" to throw in the towel on Zonitics, rather than continue to post pseudonymously, or to reveal his identity. (Those who post on Blogspot can conceal their identity much easier than those who post on a domain they own, due to registration issues). For him, it boiled down to a credibility/conflict of interest issue; he felt that he gave up too much credibility to post under an assumed name, yet could not in good conscience attach his name to his posts. Perhaps his job would be jeopardized; I cannot say. While I did not have a link to his blog, I read it on an occasional basis, and enjoyed it. The fact that he didn't use his real name was not relevant to me, and I doubt that it made much of a difference to others. He will be missed, especially as the election cycle heats up. Arizona picked up two congressional seats due to reapportionment, and he was the only blogger of which I am aware that was covering politics in his state. I would have enjoyed reading what he had to say, regardless of the name attached to the posts.

I am in a different position. While my occasional (muted) criticisms of the current administration could get me in trouble, I don't think it will be much of an issue. I'd rather not find out that I am wrong, however, hence the pseudonym. My two immediate supervisors (and many of my co-workers) are aware of (and have read) what I post, so there is no embarassment about my views. I don't really have a credibility gap; I very seldom post anything that relates to the military, and when I do, it is mostly from a "Joe Squid" view, rather than one that implies authority or special knowledge. That is due to the fact that my job is to fix electronics, not formulate policy or tactics. I doubt that most of my regular readers come looking for military policy review or strategy briefings.

While I don't post my name anywhere on my site, I am hardly anonymous. Anyone who has received an e-mail from me knows my first name, and there are at least a dozen bloggers who know my full name (tip jar hits, or the occasional e-mail from my primary account, which has my name attached to it). I'm not in the same class as "Eric A. Blair" over at WarBoogerBlotch, who has no qualms about posting someone else's whois info, while maintaining a wall of secrecy around himself. I also answer my e-mails, usually within 48 hours. If you send an e-mail to me with a question, you WILL receive a reply. I'm pseudonymous, not anonymous or unreachable.

My views would be the same if I were an accountant in Topeka or an architect in Fort Lauderdale, rather than a sailor in Oak Harbor, WA. They would not change if I posted under my real name, an obvious pseudonym (such as "Timekeeper"), or one that sounds plausible ("Joseph Harris", to pull one out of thin air). If you feel that my views are less believable or carry less weight because my name is not attached to each post, that is your right. If you have an obsessive need to know who I am, do a search on ICANN. My name will probably mean nothing to you. A google search on my name will reveal that I play SimCity, that I posted something to Transterrestrial Musings, and that I once fact-checked Susanna Cornett on a minor error. I'm not the writer, nor the mining company executive, nor the West Viriginia high school track star (to specify three people who share my name). I'm just a guy who has a lot to say, and a lot of it revolves around politics. I don't claim to be an expert.

posted on August 17, 2002 05:55 PM


I am fairly vague about exactly what I do for a living, and for whom, but this is because I am constantly railing about the level of ineptitude that persists at higher levels of the corporate (I almost typed "coprophagic", which surely proves something) hierarchy. I did inform my immediate supervisor that I was doing such material, and I wasn't going to name names, but I wasn't going to cut any slack either, and so far there have been no actual complaints; in fact, some of the more clueful staffers have been delighted by my derision.

Beyond that, though, I'm fairly comfortable using the name the parental units hung on me, and it probably doesn't hurt that it's an extremely common name.

posted by CGHill on August 17, 2002 08:37 PM

First off, thank you for nailing my mistake in my post and your going the extra mile in emailing me the heads up.

It's very much appreciated.

Second: Your post on pseudonimity vs. "real" names nails it on the head. I cannot find one single comma in there with which I disagree.

Third: I'm sorry I hadn't noticed you yet. The error is now corrected. You write a killer blog!

posted by Mr. Misha on August 17, 2002 10:33 PM

Coprophagic—Are you referring to Silflay Hraka? (big grin @ bigwig)

If not for the job I currently hold, I'd have no fear of attaching my real name to my posts. One of the things that I find most interesting is that the "old computer culture" frowned upon real names (think back to the days of Bulletin boards, when handles were de rigueur), and contrast that with today's insistence on presenting a photo ID at the door. I'm not terribly reactionary, but sometimes I miss the old days (if one considers 10 years ago to be the old days).

Mr. Misha—thanks for the kind words (here, and on your blog). As for the fact-check, don't mention it. We anti-idiotarians have to watch out for each other. (smile)

posted by Timekeeper on August 18, 2002 09:24 AM

I ran a conference on FidoNet (aka "Fight-O-Net") in the late 80s and early 90s, and it was about evenly mixed between real names and names that might have been real for somebody at one time or another; as far as I was concerned, if your sysop approved of your nomenclature, it was fine with me.

I wasn't thinking of Silflay Hraka, but it does fit, doesn't it?

posted by CGHill on August 18, 2002 04:51 PM

You know, you're right. Now that I think of it, many FIDO discussions were with real names attached (I was once moderately active in the Fido "Amiga" group, which was the largest group on FidoNet at the time). However, local BBSes usually had handles, even if you had to use a real name in the FIDO discussion groups. I was thinking more of the chaos of the local BBS than the organized chaos of FidoNet. (Net202, anyone?)

posted by Timekeeper on August 18, 2002 05:48 PM

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