Monday, April 16, 2007

Bloggers anonymous anyone ?

I’m p****d off over this Kathy Sierra thing for a lot of reasons.

i) People who perpetrate such nastiness from behind a veil of anonymity are scumbags.

ii) Other mortals who take advantage of anonymity, have had to suffer the wrath of the self righteous and occasionally self serving blog community many of whom see no benefit in anonymity.

iii) The result has been a code of conduct for the blogsphere. This upsets me for two reasons: Firstly the code is unworkable but more worryingly the code represents an attempt to regulate instead of educate. This bothers me because I would have hoped for something more from the online community. A philosophy of freedom seems to have served the online community well, why give it up now?

iv) I don’t like being called a coward on account of the behaviour of others.

So why 81stcolumn ?

I have been 81stcolumn pretty much for as long as I have been on-line. The tag refers specifically to the extra column that appeared on old 80cloumn VDU’s. You only saw this column if the line was full of text and you couldn’t program it (I don’t think). It also laterally refers to 80 column programming cards – when a program appeared not to work for any obvious reason we used to talk about a stray bit in the 81stcolumn. Not surprisingly I was trying to create an air of mystery and grandness. After all, to know what the 81stcolumn is would be to indicate that you have been in computing for quite a while… trying to be a smart arse.

When I decided to attempt blogging I thought long and hard about whether it was reasonable to keep this ID up. I decided I would for several reasons;

I would like to keep my job and politics as far apart as possible. A large part of my job involves communicating with others. In these situations I have to appear to be capable of unconditional and non-judgemental acts. Consequently I didn’t want to have to discuss my politics in these situations or let my politics interfere with how others saw me. I just plain wouldn’t be able to work as effectively.

At the time when I made the decision there was some doubt as to whether I would be re-employed in my current role. Lack of employment would have meant having to leave my wife and my home. SWMBO probably puts up with enough as it is. At the same time I badly wanted to blow the whistle on what I saw as unethical and dare I say bullying practices at work. I hinted at some of this in this blog at the time. The process itself was helpful to me and kept me in my job long enough that I might be able to do something good in the future. I certainly stopped me form threatening to assault my bosses. I eventually made my point clear to my bosses later and that point to my surprise was well relieved and acted on. I honestly believe that my anonymous blogging was helpful at the time. Which brings me rather neatly to my next points.

The idea of blogging anonymously has served the world quite well when gaining a snapshot of life in Iran, China and elsewhere. I am not saying that I am in any way as valuable as these folks. What I am saying is that sometimes the protection of anonymity is of value.

To underline this point whenever I have been “me” on-line it has caused me to question whether I should bother to be involved on line at all. The first time was in a school discussion board where the MSM picked up my name as someone who had been in contact with a known kiddie fiddler. No the guy had never touched me and no I did not want to discuss this further, an unpleasant surprise never the less. On a subsequent occasion, I was phoned and berated verbally by an anonymous contributor to another board, who had tracked me to my workplace to continue a disagreement he felt was unresolved on line. In both cases this would not have been possible had I used my pseudonym.

As someone who has been run-over, searched repeatedly, chased and beaten up for openly expressing my views face to face in public I see no reason to acknowledge an argument to do with my courage (or lack thereof) on-line. Maybe I’m just tired of being the one that gets flagged to be searched in airline checks etc. I know I grew tired of listening to a lot of unhappy people and getting the same government; then seeing a much smaller group of people at protests that had more verbal than material support. I think it most unfair to make presumptions of cowardice, based purely on the failings of others. It shows a complete lack of imagination to think that all anonymous users are “abusers by proxy” or “nastiness waiting to pounce”. I won’t buy into the macho call-you-out b******t as a response. A good read of my blog would identify me fairly accurately anyway.

I have offered to identify myself at my favourite discussion board over at PA. I am still trying to find a balance between the comfort of anonymity and blogging it real. Being scolded from a soapbox is unlikely to help. Besides I'm chronically self conscious in the presence of so many people on discussion boards who are clearly better informed and smarter than me…….

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