More Thoughts On Blogging Anonymity

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62 Responses

  1. Linus says:

    Obviously, I am with you, Ken, on the subject (see the bear with the hat). But I tried to read his take dispassionately. And frankly, Mr. Hull's whole first section (and then the jabs he takes the rest of the post) partially makes one of his own points and also turns me off entirely from his argument. Why? Because it's so crudely ad hominem— "if you don't use your own name, you're a pussy. Not a real man, like me." Name calling, really? Your ostensible aim is to improve comments, (and to persuade the already-anonymous) and you start like that? Well, the partial point he makes is that, yeah, people remember who said what, and can adjust the level of credibility they ascribe accordingly, just like I'll remember that Mr. Hull thinks the strongest argument for his position is that the pseudonymous commenter is not as brave as him.

    Plus, if he's bored with what he sees as the inanity of anonymous comments, he can just skip over them, can't he? He has to call all pseudonymous commenters cowards just because the internet (and his own site) is not as interesting to him as he'd like it to be?

  2. TJIC says:

    Kudos on posting the opposing side's arguments.

    I blog under my real name (which is to say, I go by "TJIC" socially, and if you click the link above to get to my blog, the "about" page has my full legal name). A lot of the arguments of the "use your real name" resonate with me.

    OTOH, I own my own company, work for myself, and don't have to support a wife and kids, and don't have to appear before a judge.

    If one or more of those things weren't true, I'm not sure that I'd still blog the same way, or still use my name.

    Seems like a vanilla vs. chocolate issue to me – de gustibus non est dispuntandum.

  3. Hull says:

    Read the post again, Skippy, and the others we've written in last 18 months. Those posts have won over many quality and non-wanker humans. And there are lots of arguments other than "manhood" ones.

    First, anonymous commenters aren't accountable. That's the main problem.

    Second, they trivialize anonymity for people who really need it.

    Third, using a real name does help a writer's credibility–if you are concerned about that kind of thing–and that aids the reader in deciding what to read.

    Fourth, it almost certainly makes you think and write better; that's human nature.

    Finally, the Braveness/Bravado stuff is just to get people's attention–and it seems to hit nerves every time.

    Point: You seem more worried about being called a homo or a wimp than you are concerned about (a) being irresponsible, (b) being unfair or (c) being third-rate. Shame on 'ya.

    PS Lose the bear in the goddamn hat. Totally show tunes. Talk about offensive.

  4. TomH says:

    I do not have enough of a position on this to take a side. I have felt both ways at one time or another.

    However, to add to the argument, I would point out that this country has a tradition of positive anonymous behavior. Thee examples that come to mind are: the Federalist Papers; the Secret Ballot, and; Ender and Valentine Wiggin blogging as 'Locke' and 'Demosthenes.'

  5. TomH says:

    My post and Hull's crossed in teh intrawebs. I still have no position, but I notice that Hull would permit anonymous comments for 'people who need it.' I agree that there are people who need it. I just do not believe that we, here are the ones to decide who those people are.

  6. TomH says:

    Today – I am partly anonymous with a chance of personalization.

  7. linus says:

    Whoa, whoa. I'M the one who's more concerned with name-calling than substantive points? Maybe if you'd included them, as part of a persuasive argument, instead of making an insult-based diatribe. We get it. You are really, really bugged by anonymous comments. But your own comments are not exactly Exhibit 1 for "Named Commenters Raise the Level of Discourse".

    And insinuating that Ken and Patrick are third-rate? Man, that's just ignorant.

  8. SPQR says:

    Two words: Deb Frisch.

  9. matt says:

    im gonna assume that they didnt post the results of the rabies test on kens link an oversight

  10. Windypundit says:

    When Hull's post came out, I tried pointing out that real names aren't much more meaningful on the web than nicknames, handles, or pseudonyms. Fred Phelps and Orly Taitz use their real names everywhere. Are they credible?

    If you signed your posts "Kenneth Arthur Featherstonehaugh III" that wouldn't mean it was your real name. And even if it was your real name, it doesn't tell us anything more about you than "Ken at Popehat" does. In fact, the most informative thing about you is this here website. It tells me a lot about who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for, all of which is far more useful in evaluating your posts than your actual name.

  11. Ken says:

    It's Featherstonehaught, with a silent t.

  12. Base of the Pillar says:

    Yeah, I don't really buy the credibility point. My fairly useless comments would be equally useless if I shared my real name. As Windy put it, no one here really knows me with any depth other than through pseudonym.

    The only value of real names is if (a) I'm particularly boorish or belligerent with the hope that I wouldn't be so if I had to expose my name or (b) if you are trying to piece together my comments across the web, a stalkerish behavior that I doubt any would vocally endorse if using their real name.

    I guess it could theoretically have raised the level of discourse in the Blizzard forums, putting aside more stalkerish results, but I don't think it would ever add much value to the places I've haunted. That is because I use my fingers to type at places that don't resemble the Gamespot forums.

    And no, this post wouldn't have been any better if the Hullster knew my real name. I'd be no less inept.

  13. John A says:

    All I get is that if you always post using your real name, others can then assess your position[s] as a whole. Well, if you always use the same pseudonym it becomes just as effective. I can only suppose he has never heard of "Poor Richard" or other famous pseudonyms. Nor has he considered that using only the "real" name is not necessarily a help – John Smith, anyone?

  14. Hull says:

    Quick and dirty, so excuse any typos: Thanks for the feedback. But the Federalist Papers? The Federalist Papers? And Poor Richard's Almanack ? Oh man. Hamilton, Madison, Jay? Franklin?

    With the exception of maybe Jay (a bit lackluster by comparison, often dildoesque and not a delegate to the 1787 federal convention), I–John Daniel Hull, IV– am personally not in that league. Not close. And I am ambitious and hard-working if nothing else (together with my many flaws). And I am pretty sure none of you nameless wonders are in that league, either.

    Guys, please do some work. Read books on the reasons that "Publius" needed to be invented to cover its 3 writers after the May-September 1787 pow-wow. Hint: It was mainly about (a) very strong and already-famous and warring personalities on issues which had just been discussed in Philly, (b) carrying the State of New York and its then-current Governor Clinton. See maybe "The Great Rehearsal" by Carl Van Doren. Please read something. Wiki and comic books don't count. Again, do some work.

    I do hope you guys are not lawyers unless it's PI or insurance or wills and estates.

    Popehat is a fine blog whether or not I think some if its readers–and to some extent its publisher, who I do like–are fooling themselves about a few things. You anon guys can comment on our blog after you do your homework; in some cases finish your high school or undergraduate degrees; and/or secure non-peasant jobs. But you must use your real names.

    It's not cute, glamorous, traditional or noble anymore, folks. You are not part of anyone's Epic Glorious Meaningful Historic Conversation. Not me, either.

    Anonymity is not a right–just a narrow privilege, and only for those who need or deserve it. Everyone with a pulse and a degree from Ball State doesn't get that privilege.

  15. You really are a prick, Dan. My cleaning lady went to Ball State.

  16. Ken says:

    I don't find your attacks on specific people here persuasive or charming like your blog post, Dan. I don't think you're winning any hearts or minds.

  17. Base of the Pillar says:

    Seems to me that we have the example that shows Blizzard and other hopefuls that real names don't help raise the level of discourse. So without that, why?

  18. matt says:

    so deb frisch can find you easier lol

  19. Ken–Toughen up, sir. Life's short. I gave you both substance and tone. Go back to the post, the comments last year, and the comments here today. Your readers? They provided only the latter–and not too persuasive. High school civics, half- thoughts, and Benzedrine. You needn't defend mediocrity. Look, my "tone" part here is due to the fact your readership seems to be–on this issue at least–embarrassingly but proudly out-to-lunch. These folks, I would wager, are quite young (really thin-skinned) and pseudo-something. Is it Libertarian? I hope not. Includes some of the least-educated "thinkers" I've seen. No wonder they shy away from real names. Are you in the bigs or not, Ken? Your blog, and the Internet, can be a lot better. Aspire for more. Dan

  20. Hull says:

    Ken–Toughen up, sir. Life’s short. I gave you both substance and tone. Go back to the post, the comments last year, and the comments here today. Your readers? They provided only the latter–and not too persuasive. High school civics, half- thoughts, and Benzedrine. You needn’t defend mediocrity. Look, my “tone” part here is due to the fact your readership seems to be–on this issue at least–embarrassingly but proudly out-to-lunch. These folks, I would wager, are quite young (really thin-skinned) and pseudo-something. Is it Libertarian? I hope not. Includes some of the least-educated “thinkers” I’ve seen. No wonder they shy away from real names. Are you in the bigs or not, Ken? Your blog, and the Internet, can be a lot better. Aspire for more. Dan

  21. Hull says:

    PS Apparently, Austria-based fuck-up Holden Oliver agrees. His glitch–you only need mine above.

    But Ken, I must ask re: "attacks specific people"? What people? Just ghosts. Doesn't this no-name, anon, pseudonym, semi-anon, semi-pseudonym stuff all seem silly, pretentious and self-important to you?

  22. Ken says:

    Now THAT'S funny.

  23. Base of the Pillar says:

    Would Alanis call this irony?

  24. Ken says:

    Heh.

    Dan, I don't read your blog enough to know if your use of the Holden Oliver persona is well known already. If it is, and you're trolling about anonymity, I give it a 6 out of 10 for the funny, with bonus points for successfully convincing me you were being serious. If you are being serious, then using the Holden Oliver persona whilst making these arguments about anonymity gets an 9 out of 10 for funny, with bonus points for screwing up the log-ins.

  25. Hull says:

    Holden is real. We've co-blogged for 4 years. He left Palo Alto for Salzburg 4 years ago. Has a grant and a scholarship. Lives in Austria there with wife and bunch of young kids. Used to work for Sacramento Bee and NYT and–and went to law school in his mid-30s. He writes when I'm a sleep. And I have to pay him.

  26. Ken says:

    The literary conceit would work better if you could use an IP anonymizer so you weren't commenting from the same place at the same time. And if a Google search didn't immediately associate "his" name with your email. And if you didn't fuck up when using "him" to troll.

  27. SPQR says:

    Yah, using two identities to troll works best when you can keep your personalities straight …

  28. Scott Jacobs says:

    Aside from a twitter account that would bar me from any elected office if it ever got linked to me directly (my postings about the xbox forums alone contain enough vulgarity – if read all at once – to kill a nun), I blog very much out in the open. I post comments on blogs using my real name, and when I was contributing to The Jury Talks Back, I used my real name. I refused to not "own what I wrote", and if my words would come back to bite me (keep me from getting a job, etc), then so be it – any place that wouldn't hire me for telling the UN to go fuck itself would likely fire me in short order ANYWAYS.

    But that's me. I don't hold a screen name against anyone, and if they don't want to use their real names, I'm fine with that.

    As for Hull sock-puppeting while claiming that those who don't use their real names are a bunch of pussies?

    God Damn Priceless.

  29. Ken says:

    I didn't make that connection. That is, indeed, a heroically foul-mouthed twitter feed.

  30. Grandy says:

    Dan, I don't know what to say to you here. I am not so much concerned with your attempts to paint the Popehatian readership as quite-young, thin skinned, pseudo somethings (a descriptor that is sure to cause more than a few tears around here, this I can guarantee). It's more to do with the very obvious gaffe that occurred when "Holden Oliver" and "Hull" posted the exact same things, down to signing the post "Dan". Was this an attempt at humor? It failed, but we can appreciate the effort.

  31. David says:

    Holden Oliver • Jul 17, 2010 @10:08 pm

    Ken–Toughen up, sir. Life’s short. I gave you both substance and tone. Go back to the post, the comments last year, and the comments here today. Your readers? They provided only the latter–and not too persuasive. High school civics, half- thoughts, and Benzedrine. You needn’t defend mediocrity. Look, my “tone” part here is due to the fact your readership seems to be–on this issue at least–embarrassingly but proudly out-to-lunch. These folks, I would wager, are quite young (really thin-skinned) and pseudo-something. Is it Libertarian? I hope not. Includes some of the least-educated “thinkers” I’ve seen. No wonder they shy away from real names. Are you in the bigs or not, Ken? Your blog, and the Internet, can be a lot better. Aspire for more. Dan

    Classic.

  32. Holden Oliver has convinced me that I was a coward to write under a pseudonym. No more "Patrick" for me. I'll use my real name from now on, consequences be damned.

  33. Charles says:

    The post is over a year old so I didn't comment there but over here I will say this: I can think of no dumber way to encourage a full dialog about the merits of anonymity than by restricting it to the non-anonymous.

    Way to go, Holden.

  34. bw says:

    Ad hominems from anonymity foes never surprises me – since inevitably, their desire to know someone's identity turns out to be motivated at least partially by a desire for personal information on which to hang ad hominems.

    None of his arguments hold water because counterexamples abound. There are thoughtful posts by anonymous writers and verbal diarrhea from people under their own names. Someone who consistently uses the same pseudonym can just as easily build credibility over time.

    Ben Franklin published under several pseudonyms.

  35. laiq says:

    Page eighted on his fourth post. Very impressive.

  36. Hull says:

    You guys will have to do better than that. Stick to principles. Maybe get off your knees? Go to real schools. Get real names. Get real ideas. Read real books. Get better jobs so you don't have to hide from your employers. I'll go tell Holden–and it IS true we agree on almost everything–he's no longer real. He can quits his gigs in Salzburg and a village in the Tyrol.

  37. matt says:

    is it just me or does someone seem to have self esteem issues?

  38. TomH says:

    It is a good thing that I am easily subject to fakery, otherwise I would be hurt. (Oops, Forgot I am supposed to be thin skinned as well)

    BTW can I get the Hull-approved "real books" reading list? I need to clear my shelves. I have a lot of fake books (they take up a surprising amount of
    space despite being fakes).

    PS – Can I change my screen name to A. Hominem? or is that already taken.

  39. Ken says:

    BTW can I get the Hull-approved “real books” reading list?

    Anything by Mark Twain, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, or Richard Bachman.

  40. shg says:

    For better or worse, Holden Oliver is indeed a real person who works for and posts at WAC? I've no clue how the technologically challenged Hull managed to screw up the name (which I note he corrected immediately, even though he signed Dan at the bottom in each instance), but I assure you that it doesn't diminish Holden's responsibility to feed his three children one iota.

  41. You guys will have to do better than that.

    Says you, or says Holden Oliver?

    Stick to principles.

    The principle that says we should use our real names, at all times, on the internet? Or some other principles?

    Maybe get off your knees?

    Context please? Is this a fellatio joke?

    Go to real schools.

    Like Duke University? Speaking of authenticity, did you know that while Duke portrays itself, architecturally, as an old stone Ivy school straight out of New England, or even Olde England, its campus was built in living memory? That the school, which is justly famous for cancer research, sold naming rights to a millionaire whose fortune was founded on a deadly carcinogen?

    Or did you have something else in mind when you referred to "real" schools?

    Get real names.

    A fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun.

    Get real ideas.

    Cogito ergo sum.

    Read real books.

    All legal reporters and no fiction makes Dan a dull boy.

    Get better jobs so you don’t have to hide from your employers.

    But I'm hiding from people like YOU.

    I’ll go tell Holden–and it IS true we agree on almost everything–he’s no longer real. He can quits his gigs in Salzburg and a village in the Tyrol.

    This is what I know about Holden Oliver: He posts from the same IP address that you use, which does not originate in either of the Tyrolean provinces of Austria. He uses an email address registered to your law firm's domain. Your law firm's website does not list an attorney named Holden Oliver. Your law firm does not list an Austrian office. Neither the State Bar of California nor the Pennsylvania Supreme Court practice registry shows an attorney with a name remotely similar to Holden Oliver as admitted to practice.

    Despite your statements that Oliver "worked for" the New York Times and the Sacramento Bee, neither paper shows a Holden Oliver in its archives. While it's certainly possible that Oliver worked for these papers in a non-writing position, such as a janitor, ALL of the evidence for Holden Oliver's existence that I am able to find on the internet ties the name to you, and to your blog What About Clients/What About Paris.

    For instance, see today's Blawg Review at 95 Years, which describes Oliver as your "alter ego," rather than your "co-writer."

  42. Ken says:

    Not to mention this.

    Holden Oliver:
    jdhull @ hullmcguire . com

    Back in the 8th grade or so, back when I was in a shitty school not reading the right books on a path to being a loser without the right job, we had an assembly with a Lincoln impersonator. You know, he gets up there in the character of Lincoln and talks about the civil war and stuff. What I mostly remember was that he was bad at it. Kids were asking questions like "how long have you been dead" and "did it hurt when you got shot in the head", but the guy was increasingly stubborn about staying in character, saying that he was alive and nobody shot him and he had to wrap up comments because he had a theatre date. It was awkward.

  43. For better or worse, Holden Oliver is indeed a real person who works for and posts at WAC?

    Then I hope that Mr. Oliver will accept my apology.

    Even though I'm not certain that Scott Greenfield is a "real" person (never having met him, nor even an actor playing him), I'm willing to take the person I believe to be Scott on faith, for the simple reason that unlike Mr. Oliver's other defender, when Scott visits this site, his comments are uniformly witty, informative, and respectful.

    Good presentation buys a lot of benefit for the doubt.

  44. Hull says:

    Scott Greenfield-Thanks. We do love this attention. But I am a bit shocked.

    Query: Do some of the nameless guys (note: for any defaming ones, I can get their names and I will if I get more time), and have a LOT of time on their hands. Holden said he got Googled out the Wazoo this weekend. And are some even more tech challenged than Boomer me? And no life? Experts on everything who live in caves? Bet you some of guys are miserable.

    Guys, nothing changes the facts. Let's pretend Holden isn't a Stanford law grad, have a pretty wife, 3 kids and Nantucket pedigree, has enough family money than makes even me comfortable, and gets more work done in a day than most of you do in a month. Or he's my fag lover. You have marginal content at this blog because, with exceptions, average age is apparently about 30 (you don't know anything at that age); amazingly unfocused and unambitious passive aggressives read it; the educational quality is Cliff Notes U., and it's a chicken-shit head-up-ass group in general. (Not everyone.) But, again, you guys are young (I am pretty sure about that)–and that does get you off the hook.

    Me? I have many, many flaws. They happen every day. They do not hurt our clients, though. We catch them. And I do hang out with people who are not like me. I don't lie about anything. I don't need, too (I have worked hard so I am pretty rich.) I talk on the phone. I meet with people. I am in good shape, physically. Healthy. Good athlete. A world-class philanderer. I do look great.

    I work at these things. Well-rounded, but flawed. (Holden, too, on all aspects except he's smarter, richer and his weight suffers from home cooking.) My 82 year old Mom in Ohio could kick your asses. Because you won't get off your knees and try different things and people. You surround yourselves with the same "special" people over and over again to make you feel comfortable about yourselves.

    But you can all do better. Meet other people who are not like you at all. Have other conversations. I will try to do better, too. And Holden will, too. He's an elitist schmuck.

    PS Marcus: I like the photo. But you're a straight-up cretin. You need to get a gig. Work with retarded children–rather than Google–on the weekends, maybe?

  45. Ken says:

    Meh. C-. Staying in character doesn't impress me when the character isn't particularly compelling in the first place.

  46. Hull says:

    "Anything by Mark Twain, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, or Richard Bachman."

    PS. Again, Ken–you and I are not in the same league as the above people. We are not Publius. Your readers CERTAINLY are not Publius. And you and I are not Cuban or Iranian dissidents. That's the problem with anon comments. It's a serious thing. You say serious stuff about serious things? Use your name unless you have a strong pass. I think you know what I mean. And I think you agree–you just don't want to offend readers and and friends. You don't have to do in "nicely". Just say it. Get used to offending people. Maybe tell them about the Ned Beatty rule. Aspire. Gotta go.

  47. Again, Ken–you and I are not in the same league as the above people. We are not Publius.

    Ken's point wasn't that anyone here, least of all you, is as talented or as important as Stephen King. It was a joke about your sock puppet alter ego. A joke that seems to have flown over, or perhaps under, your head.

    I'm sure that you'll now regale us with tales of Holden Oliver, who has great wit and humor, is a millionaire, and owns a mansion and a yacht, but a simple "Touche" would have served you better.

  48. Frisbez says:

    I don’t lie about anything. I don’t need, too [sic] (I have worked hard so I am pretty rich.) I talk on the phone. I meet with people. I am in good shape, physically. Healthy. Good athlete. A world-class philanderer. I do look great.

    8.9 on Hot or Not, Ivy League grad, Mensa member, can bench/squat/leg press over 1200 lbs., has had lunch with the secretary of defense, has an MBA from the top school in the country, lives in a Buckhead high rise, drives a Beemer convertible, has been in 14 major motion pictures, was in Jezebel’s Best dressed…

    To me it would appear that Mr. Hull is moonlighting as a slightly less egotistical version of Mr John Fitzgerald Page…

  49. jared says:

    If someone wants to engage in online conversations exclusively among:

    a) people with "real" workplace positions
    b) people who attented "real" formal institutions of higher learning
    c) people of a certain age
    d) people who have done "the" homework
    e) people who sign every correspondence with one's parent-given name

    Well, I guess that's one way of using the internet.

    But when a person starts arguing that the above framework describes the only way, or the best way, to have an interesting, or insightful, or productive, or Legitimate online conversation…that person is, to put it as charitably as possible, signalling a willingness to exclude people based on unreliable secondary indicators.

  50. Patrick never had any credibility with me at all … Marcus Agrippa however, he's da man. Always stuck by me, through thick and thin, even when I married Livia.

  51. SeanD (or is he?) says:

    Wow. Fun ride guys. I've always suspected I was intellectually sub-par (state schools and all) and know now why I enjoy this site so much. I am home. Thanks for sharing Dan!

  52. The Artist Formerly Known as Base of the Pillar says:

    Trolls feed them we should not

  53. Charles says:

    I think what we've learned about Hull is that he is a touchy dude with very, very limited perceptive ability. Thanks, internet!

  54. Ken says:

    No, I think it more likely that Mr. Hull has a sense of humor differing somewhat from ours. Each to his own.

  55. Charles says:

    His last comment looks like it was ghost-written by Tucker Max.

  56. Dan Hull says:

    Guys:

    I apologize for offending so many here. For those who know me, work with me, and are used to the way I write, it would have been understood to be half-screwing with people for fun and half-just my ornery persona. But also to make a point that's very important to me. I have long been a crusader against anonymous posting.

    I think we can do better, make the Conversation better, and reserve anonymity for people (all over the world) who need it–and yes we should all be leaders on that, and not be passive and pass the buck. I sincerely believe that it's a very real problem online.

    But I should have realized that my approach was not the best one. Looking at what has happened, I realize that it's also served to offend pretty much everybody in sight.

    I appreciate what Ken and Patrick have done at Popehat–and that they have gathered a community of enthusiastic friends and supporters. It wasn't my purpose or intent to be offensive. This is a new one. But mea culpa. In short, I'm sorry.

    Dan Hull

  57. Patrick says:

    Apology accepted, Captain Needa. Don't do it again, or at least not here. Because I was going to ban you from further comment at this site, and create a post about what I couldn't be sure wasn't a serious threat of litigation and/or outing against fellow attorneys and bloggers, and search-engine-optimize it for traction, and shop it to a couple of much larger bloggers, both law professors, who've been "outed" from anonymity and are rather attuned to the issue.

    But Scott Greenfield interceded, telling me privately this was a joke that my stegosaurus hindbrain didn't find funny.

    At the very least, we and our little community enjoyed a little game at your colleague Holden Oliver's expense.

    Care to join in?

    In all seriousness, I do accept your apology.

  58. Ken says:

    That's very gracious, Dan.

  59. Dan Hull says:

    Thanks, Patrick and Ken. Good call, Patrick. And onward. And yes SHG and I may share the same brain. Glad for all of us he's a stand-up guy.

  1. July 23, 2010

    [...] RE: Anonymity is cowardice, and cowards aren’t known for their wisdom. July 23, 2010 by Keith Lee Professor Peter Friedman of Case Western Reserve University Law School recently posted an entry under the above heading. Professor Friedman's entry was in response to a bit of back and forth between Dan Hull of What about Clients?/What About Paris? (an international legal blog focusing on client service) and the writers and commentators on Popehat (complaints about law & liberty. Small l Libertarianism) which can be found here. [...]

  2. July 25, 2010

    [...] I apparently touched a nerve the other day when I blogged on this post and the thread of comments following it and expressed my preference for Dan Hull's view that [...]