As the Internet becomes the place for all kinds of transactions, from buying shoes to overthrowing despots, an increasingly vital debate is emerging over how people represent and reveal themselves on the Web sites they visit. One side envisions a system in which you use a sort of digital passport, bearing your real name and issued by a company like Facebook, to travel across the Internet. Another side believes in the right to don different hats — and sometimes masks — so you can consume and express what you want, without fear of offline repercussions.
The argument over pseudonyms — known online as the “nym wars” — goes to the heart of how the Internet might be organized in the future. Major Internet companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have a valuable stake in this debate — and, in some cases, vastly different corporate philosophies on the issue that signal their own ambitions.
A while ago, I read this article, called “What is a Blog Post?” which includes a taxonomy of types and their associated criticisms.
Since then, I’ve heard or been part of at least five conversations about the Lounge which included the following statements by various people about a number of topics. One person (who shall remain nameless because I have not asked his permission to name him) asked if there’d ever been discussion about splitting the Lounge up into a kind of business version and an alternate site for experimentation and more personal kinds of posts. A few people in different conversations have said that they don’t read it as often anymore for various reasons (though none, have mentioned the previously proposed “fear of authorities”). The most common complaint in the last few months, made with vigor in a few cases, is the reader dislike/disdain for anonymous/pseudonymous posts and comments.
Accordingly, and since I think the “policy” of the Lounge should reflect the ethos of people in it, I’d like to open up the question of anonymity and pseudonymity.
For the record, personally, I am and have been 100% in favor of people signing their comments and their posts. I set the site up to allow for anonymous comments, though, because I didn’t feel that my own preference was reason to preclude others from theirs (and because I expected that having the option to comment anonymously would make people more likely to comment). The same reasoning applied to the pseudonyms, and frankly, I thought that everyone would know everyone before long anyway.
I would say that, even after the discussions I’ve had this week, that’s how I would (still) vote. I am open to being persuaded and/or outvoted on the matter, though.
I would prefer discussion, but I’ve added a poll, too.
I await your thoughts (and promise not to mock anyone who comments anonymously).
UPDATE: I’d been saving these for something, but I figure no time like the present, since they address the topic: