Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pseudoblogging versus Open Blogging

The title is not meant to imply that pseudonymous blogging is a bad thing - I just really liked saying pseudoblogging - say it, it's fun!!!

Pseudonymous blogging has certain advantages, as well as a few disadvantages - or at least perceived disadvantages. Zuska poses an interesting question:

To re-enter the workforce, I'll be a position of supplication, and any
potential employer can Google my name and see what I've been up to.
Will I then be sorry about being so outspoken?

When I first started meandering through the blogosphere, I commented and eventually began my own blog using a pseudonym. I felt that I really needed to ensure that what I wrote about online, would not cause me problems professionally. But I was working in home repair, remodeling and some new construction. Even though I was going into business for myself, I was getting set to move to Portland and really wasn't terribly concerned about the impact it might have on potential clients who google me. I started blogging in my own name and found that any impact it might have on my ability to get work was virtually non-existant. I had a few potential clients who disagreed with me, but to whom I came highly recommended - certainly not enough of a problem to decide not to hire me. One potential client chose not to use me because of my views - something I learned from the friend who had recommended me. And there were several of my clients who actually felt better about hiring me after reading some of the things I wrote - it is Portland, OR after all.

Then things went badly and I ended up where I am now - moving in a very different direction and being a little more concerned about the things I say. I can't depend on existing with people who appreciate who and what I am. I am a student who will be trying to enter a highly competitive grad and postgrad environment. I have some good ideas and a decent mind, but so do a lot of folks - I imagine that many of them either haven't led the sort of life I have, or at the least don't write about it publicly. I imagine that many of them have also managed to avoid writing about their views on controversial issues. I am not ashamed of who I am or what I believe, nor do I regret writing as freely as I have - indeed I would prefer to be free to write about issues I have avoided. But I am increasingly aware that I will be competing with people who have not been so open about themselves.

But what about the flipside of blogging openly? There are certainly problems with blogging anonymously - or at least there would seem to be. The most obvious problem being the issue of speaking authoritatively about topics from which the pseudonymous blogger has the background to do so. How can others trust that the pseudonymous blogger is actually an authority on a particular topic? Oh wait, they can. And the way they can is actually rather superior to showing their actual name with a bunch of fancy letters after - all they have to do is show it in the content of their writing. Beats the hell out of their real name with letters on, because rather than being judged by what they have done, they are judged by what they say. Another problem is rather insidious. Most people who blog under a pseudonym do so for reasons that are rather important to them - quite often for professional reasons. The problem is that the anonymity that they crave, for whatever reason, isn't perfect. People can and sometimes do, find out the actual identities of bloggers who are trying to remain anonymous. Sometimes they are outed with rather dire consequences.

But there is also an advantage to blogging openly, in the rather open fashion I engage in. I am not going to be held hostage to my past - no one can use it against me, gossip about me and distort who I am. It's pretty much all out there and I will never have to worry about someone digging up dirt about me. Nor do I have to worry much about working for or with people who would have a problem with who and what I am. There is no reason they can't find out what they need to know before an awkward situation arises. And that is a comfort to someone like me, moving towards a highly competitive educational paradigm - while being rather less than competitive by nature. As concerned as I occasionally get about having thrown out so much about me, that concern is tempered by the advantage of that potential disadvantage.

1 comment:

Jason Thibeault said...

I thought long and hard before opening a blog under my own name. After seeing PJ at Groklaw get stalked by Maureen O'Gara (who was intent on exposing her as an IBM operative or something), I was about 99% convinced I would never do it. Then when the time was right to buy a domain name (which, as an uber-geek, was practically a requirement), I realized I'd have to register under my name anyway. So I decided to test the waters with innocuous posts about stuff, then started reading blogs like Pharyngula and Greg Laden's blog, where they discussed openly and passionately about their fields and beliefs, and felt, well, a little less scared about the whole thing. I still studiously avoid any mention of my place of employ, and though I'm sure people could still piece it together, I hope I've insulated myself from any charges from the powers that be at work that might come from my blog life. But I won't know until the shit hits the proverbial fan, so there you go.