While it’s fine and good to leave a comment where neither you nor an anonymous blogger know one another, what happens when you do know the anonymous blogger and it’s clear that they want to remain anonymous? This post tries to engage with this question, and focuses on the challenges that I experience when I want to post on an ‘anonymous’ blog where I know who is doing the blogging – it attends to the contextual privacy questions that race through my head before I post. As part of this, I want to think through how a set of norms might be established to address my own questions/worries, and means of communicating this with visitors.
I’ve been blogging in various forms for a long time now – about a decade (!) – and in every blog I’ve ever had I use my name. This has been done, in part, because when I write under my name I’m far more accountable than when I write under an alias (or, at least I think this is the case). This said, I recognize that my stance to is slightly different than that of many bloggers out there – many avoid closely associating their published content with their names, and often for exceedingly good reasons. Sometimes a blogger wants to just vent, and doesn’t want to deal with related social challenges that arise as people know that Tommy is angry. Others do so for personal safety reasons (angry/dangerous ex-spouses), some for career reasons (not permitted to blog/worried about effects of blogging for future job prospects), some to avoid ‘-ist’ related comments (sexist, racist, ageist, etc.).
I’m in the middle of a massive reading streak for my comprehensive exams, but I’m trying to sneak in some personal reading at the same time. The first book in that ‘extra’ reading is Anderson’s “The Long Tail”, which focuses on the effect that shifting to digital systems has for economic scarcities, producers, aggregators, and consumers.
The key insight that Anderson brings to the table is this: with the birth of digital retail and communication systems, customers can find niche goods that appeal to their personal interests and tastes, rather than exclusively focusing on goods that retailers expect will be hits. This means that customers can follow the ‘long tail’, or the line of niche goods that are individually less and less likely to sell in a mass retail environment.
There are several ‘drivers’ of the long tail:
- There are far more niche goods than ‘hits’ (massively popular works), and more and more niche goods are being produced with the falling costs of production and distribution in various fields.
- Filters are more and more effective, which means that consumers can find niches they are interested in.
- There are so many niche items that, collectively, they can comprise a market rivaling hits.
- Without distribution bottlenecks, the ‘true’ elongated tail of the present Western economic reality is made apparent.
People are doing more and more online. They use Flickr to upload and share their pictures, they blog using Blogger and Livejournal, and chat using AOL systems. In addition to doing more online, the more they do, the more passwords they (tend) to have to know. They also have to create a discrete user profile for each new environment. With OpenID, those hassles could be over!
What is OpenID
OpenID is an open source community project that is intended to act as a centralised user-space. It is describes as:
a lightweight method of identifying individuals that uses the same technology framework that is used to identify web sites … It eliminates the need for multiple usernames across different websites, simplifying your online experience. You get to choose the OpenID Provider that best meets your needs and most importantly that you trust. At the same time, your OpenID can stay with you, no matter which Provider you move to. And best of all, the OpenID technology is not proprietary and is completely free.(Source)
In essence, users will be able to carry their profiles and data with them, regardless of the service or content providers that they turn to. the major upshot, for consumers, is that it should mitigate some difficulties and hassles related to online lock-in. At the same time, it means that the different communities and spaces a person participates in will have access to that centralised knowledge basin, from which increasingly complex and rigorous digital portfolios can be developed.