Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Workbench: Programming, publishing, politics, and popes
Programming, publishing, politics, and popes

Bloggers Don't Want Anyone to Name Names

Two of the best-known Daily Kos diarists, Redacted and Expunged, are uncomfortable with people knowing their real names.

Redacted discourages the press from identifying him, as he told the Philadelphia Inquirer:

... the 47-year-old blogger who goes by the pen name [Redacted] gave an interview on the condition that I not write what I know about him, because the publicity could hurt his blogging or his job. Let's leave it at this: he works in corporate marketing in the Philadelphia area.

He's also an ex-financial journalist, which he likens to being an ex-cop -- "you never lose your instincts, you never lose the world view. I am privileged to take a certain attitude about the world, which is usually one of bemused contempt. It's a wonderful way to make a living -- if you can find the right organization."

Expunged threatened to quit blogging when named by a political magazine:

A major Right wing site has chosen to support a troll's campaign started at this site to out me.

The writing is on the wall. I will likely be giving up blogging as a result.

Expunged's "you won't have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore" announcement ignores the fact he was outed in other places, presumably with his consent, before the magazine ran his name. He spoke at a technology law conference in 2005 whose organizers identified his job and Kos affiliation, was named on NPR's Morning Edition and has a photo on TPM Cafe that's also on his employer's web site.

He's currently engaged in an effort to put the genie back in the bottle on Wikipedia, which has drawn editors into a page deletion debate that hinges on whether revealing his full name constitutes a personal attack:

The page was used to "out" the subject, connecting his real-life identity with his username on dKos. He had worked to keep his real-life identity separate from his blogging. Once the page was created, being Wikipedia it became highly visible. It was then picked up by NRO. Since he saw it as a threat to his livelihood, he quit blogging. Using a Wikipedia article to "out" someone and threaten their livelihood is clearly an attack.

Redacted hasn't hidden his identity much better than Expunged. He was a long-time reporter at a national newspaper, blogged from Davos in 2004 and writes under an abbreviated form of his name.

I can understand the urge to blog under a pseudonym to protect your privacy and avoid job-related hassles, but when you reach a point where you're fielding speaking offers and press calls, you have to make a choice. You can either bask in the Sally Field "you really like me!" glow of mainstream media coverage, thus inspiring more people to seek your name and background, or turn away the press and do everything in your power to become a less-interesting blogger.

The ability of people to be both famous and attention-repellent has not survived the web, even in the tiny bubble of celebrity currently enjoyed by political bloggers.

Actually, I lied when I said there's a choice. Anything Redacted or Expunged could do at this point to obscure their identities would only make them more interesting.