Friday, January 20, 2012
Who Are You?
If you're a Syrian dissident in Homs writing a blog about the uprising there, I can see why you might want to be anonymous. But if you're a guy in Indiana writing about what whiskeys you like, why all the secrecy?
When I check out a new whiskey blog, I invariably want to know something about the person or persons writing it. I look for an 'about' tab, or something similar. Sometimes they are obvious, sometimes the information is there but you have to dig for it. Often there is nothing, no biography, no statement of purpose beyond "I started this blog to write about things I like to write about."
So many people are writing whiskey blogs these days, I need some criteria for deciding which ones to follow. Sure, one can judge the writing quality, and I will discard something if it's poorly written. (Life's too short.) But in a crowded field, shouldn't you do something to try to stand out? What's your point of view? Your raison d'être?
If you've decided to write anonymously, tell me why.
Does all this casual anonymity bother anyone else? Assuming you like this blog, would you like it just as well if you had no idea who writes it? Would you like it better? Especially if the blogger offers opinions, and reviews are the mainstay of most other whiskey blogs, I want to know the writer's qualifications. Is that weird? Or are qualifications also passe?
From the earliest days of the internet, people have used handles. When bandwidth was dear, a unique handle was better than a full name as a way to distinguish people with similar names from each other. It wasn't necessarily about anonymity. In many cases, the community was small and the participants all knew each other through other channels.
On bulletin boards, you see the same names often enough that you get to know them as individuals even if you don't know anything tangible about them. You learn who usually has something worthwhile to say and who doesn't. You can do the same thing with blogs, I suppose.
Writing anonymously is almost unheard of in old media, except in the case of news reporting. The Economist, which I love, is rare in that no writer is ever credited. Even commentators use aliases, house names whose bearers can change without notice. You're supposed to accept the credibility of the institution itself. Okay, fine, but The Economist is 169 years old. "Sippy Likes Whiskey" is not.
Isn't there something to be said for signing your name to your ideas? Claiming them? Being willing to defend them? Don't you tend to take yourself more seriously when you have some exposure? Does anonymity make people more likely to behave irresponsibly?
Anonymity on the web seems so much the rule that people don't even think about it. I wish they would. That's all I'm saying.