Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Blogging: Constructive Vs. Drive-by Anonymity

Yesterday I posted Tom Johnson's 20 Principles for usability.  In that post I mentioned my prejudice against anonymous commenting and posting.  Beth brought to my attention circumstances in which people need to maintain a level of anonymity.  Good point.

This discussion is also happening at much more exulted levels.  A couple of days ago (4/8/07) Tim O'Reilly lit up the blogosphere with a post on the need for a blogging "code of conduct."  In addition to being picked up by the NY Times, it stayed at the top of Techmeme all day as everyone mobbed O'Reilly.  Today O'Reilly posted a "Lessons learned so far" article outlining and clarifying the bulk of the feedback received thus far.  One of those "lessons" is about anonymity.  Their is a distinction to be made between "constructive anonymity" and "drive-by anonymity."  The former is used to protect while the later is used to assault.

Constructive Anonymity vs. Drive-by Anonymity

According to O'Reilly's post:

Another place where we clearly erred in the first draft is in the suggestion that anonymity should be forbidden, as there are most certainly contexts where anonymity is incredibly valuable. (Some that come to mind include whistleblowing, political dissent, or even general discussion where someone might not want to confuse their personal opinions of those of an organization to which they belong. As one commenter remarked, it might even be useful for a shy person to whom anonymity gives a bit of courage.)

This is only one small part of this larger discussion, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

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Beth said...

Thanks, Jeff!

I got inspired by your earlier post to add tags to my blog so early this morning I pulled every one of my old posts and assigned it a category. Thanks for the motivation!

Jeff said...

Great! Now if I could only remember to do it myself :)

Beth said...

You could group your posts by the kind of widget or software it describes, in a way that people like me could understand :-)

Have you considered doing a post on web cams and how non-geekish grandparents can set up something to see their grandkids by phone online once a week? A lot of people who don't normally read your blog would love such a post (I would e-mail it to people who have grandkids etc)

Jeff said...

Beth, that's a great suggestion. I'll keep that in mind and seen what I can come up with. Thanks!