Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More on Renaming

Followup with several items on the use of online pseudonyms.

Mathew Ingram on the Facebook unpleasantness:

As Jon Swift pointed out in his blog post, there are dozens of other Jon Swifts registered with the site, and there are nearly 100 accounts registered under the name Alan Smithee (a famous Hollywood pseudonym).

There are also hundreds of profiles under the name Jesus Christ. Even Britain’s Prince William reportedly has an account under a pseudonym....

Maintaining a certain level of civilized behavior is one thing, but beyond a certain point, trying to control what users do on the site is going to backfire, and Facebook could find itself becoming the Friendster of the new millennium -- a formerly red-hot social network whose members have decided to go elsewhere.

Or have decided not to join in the first place.

But in another realm, the Foothill Cities Blog links to a Peter Scheer commentary:

A Chinese blogger, defying a government censorship decree, publishes information about the crash of a military transport plane. Another blogger, an Egyptian, posts photos of the scarred body of a teenager who was tortured by Egyptian police.

Both bloggers are anonymous.

No one can doubt these speakers’ need to hide their identities....

The right to speak anonymously, at least in the United States, is well established. Regrettably, however, the right is also widely abused....

The promiscuous use of anonymity breeds distrust. Readers react to anonymous online postings with the same skepticism that they have for newspaper articles that rely unnecessarily on unnamed sources. They wonder if the anonymous blogger is a paid shill, or has some other conflict of interest, just as they wonder if a newspaper’s anonymous source is objective or has an ax to grind. And if the use of anonymity is not explained or apparent from the context, readers will question a blogger’s good faith, just as they may wonder whether a newspaper’s anonymous source really exists.

Keeping in mind that Scheer is also referring to pseudonyms, I beg to differ, for a variety of reasons. Most of them I'll explore later (maybe), but let me spend a moment talking about one of them.

As I previously noted, I have been using the online name "Ontario Emperor" since 1998. Because of this, it has become a brand of sorts, and therefore should not be jettisoned lightly.

And if you doubt the importance of brand identity, just think of Ann Landers, Abagail Van Buren, or Robert X. Cringely (either one of them).

And I won't even get into the renaming that goes on in the entertainment industry, from Rock Hudson to Gene Simmons to Marilyn Manson to Bob Hope.

I may explore this later, or I may not. Does it mean I'm hiding under my cloak of (supposed) anonymity if I "irresponsibly" fail to pursue this topic further?

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Jon Swift said...

I think some of your readers might appreciate a link to the piece I worte about my battle with Facebook.

Ontario Emperor said...

They will.

One of my Twitter friends recently encouraged me to join her Facebook group. I replied that, as "Ontario Emperor," Facebook probably wouldn't want me...