On pseudonyms and blogging

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 23-05-2010-05-2008


Seven years ago I signed onto this pre-Scoop newfangled site called Daily Kos. I was already pissed off at the 2000 election results, and even more pissed off at the Iraq War and the credulousness of the media in accepting the excuses Bush was coming up with in terms of why we were going to war there.

Democrats were demoralized and we were wandering the wilderness. I was a proud Democrat from Connecticut, in the days when Joe Lieberman wasn’t the embarrassment he is now, and I wanted a place to rant that I hoped would be more effective than yelling at my television. Since all politics is local, and I didn’t claim on the ground experience in other parts of the country, I signed on as DemFromCT. It stuck, and that’s what I have been ever since.

In those days, you could sign in as anything you wanted and your account wasn’t fixed to one name. On occasion, my son would sign on as KidFromCT and ask for help with his math homework (it takes a village) and thus did communities grow…

Flash forward to 2010. Each year I put up around 500 posts here (and many more comments), and I’ve also co-founded Flu Wiki and posted at the forum there and at other web sites. That flu effort has gotten me invited to work with two cabinet secretaries (Mike Leavitt and Kathleen Sebelius) and with the CDC (as well as various state and local agencies) on communication issues for pandemic planning despite keeping my DemFromCT moniker all these years. My name has been on our about page for around three years, but the feds found me through my demfromct email  (judging from comments written here and elsewhere, hardly anyone uses that page.) I’ve done media panels with journalists and with pollsters and pundits. But we’ve been in a sort of equilibrium whereby the persona and body of work by DemfromCT is searchable and slightly separate from my every day work, but getting blurrier every day (for example, I’m here as DemFromCT, there as myself – but I’m only there because of here.)

Although library information science folks have always been split on the issue of pseudonyms and the web (this link is from 2005), the recent retirement of my friends and colleagues the reveres at my favorite public health blog Effect Measure brought the question home with this post: Blog matters: who is “revere”?:

If you want evidence of our expertise, there is quite a lot of it available. On the old site over at Blogger there are 1170 blog posts going back to the end of November, 2004. We moved here to Scienceblogs.com on June 9, 2006 and here you can find an additional 2381 posts (not counting this one). Among the comments here (we lost the comments on the Blogger site) you can find us weighing in on many among the 36,985 published so far (more by the time you read this). Are we accurate reporters of the science we talk about? You can judge for yourself, but I can tell you honestly we have had many nice emails from fellow scientists whose work we have taken the time to explain.

I can attest to a robust email correspondence from people whose work we have covered in Abbreviated Pundit and elsewhere. But because I was intrigued by revere’s insistence on psudonymity to the end, I thought it would be fun to get the opinion and experience of some of my friends and colleagues, all of whom I have met in real life.

What follows are brief interviews with accomplished writers Mark Blumenthal/Mystery Pollster ( pollster.com , National Journal ), Meteor Blades (Daily Kos), Kagro X (Daily Kos, Congress Matters), digby (Hullabaloo) and Marcy Wheeler/emptywheel (emptywheel at Firedoglake) on the topic of pseudonyms and their own experience and decision-making on choosing to out themselves, more or less, on line. All of my distinguished and talented interviewees were asked the same basic questions: what made you decide to use your real name, and are you sorry or satisfied that you did? Extra questions I threw in are [bracketed].

Added: a response from revere.

My thanks to all who participated.

Interviews below the fold.

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