March 02, 2005

Pseudonyms considered harmful

I'm short on time again, so this will be short and off-topic.

You may have noticed that I use my real name online for most purposes, from my email address to the address of this blog. A lot of people prefer to use a pseudonym for their activity online; sometimes a single favourite, but often a different one for every activity.

One reason given for this is the desire for anonymity. People, for whatever reason, sometimes fear that their behaviour in one context (e.g. what they write on their blog) will hurt their reputation in another context (e.g. at work). Occasionally this is even true. I, on the other hand, prefer to keep myself honest by putting my own name on everything I do. This prevents conflicts of interest between different parts of my life from going undealt-with for too long, insures that I'm polite at all times (as opposed to, e.g., obnoxious anonymous online gamers), and has the added benefit of ensuring that I get credit for all the things I do.

Another reason given for using pseudonyms is the desire to avoid identity theft. In my opinion, the larger a footprint you leave in terms of identity, the harder it will be for someone to steal it all. Identity thieves like to get the social security numbers of infants that died 30 years ago precisely because there isn't any other information about those people hanging around to contradict the thief's claims. Similarly, if someone steals an account on a forum that uses a real name, so that the original can easily be contacted, the thief is much more likely to be noticed and caught than if a once off pseudonym was used.

2 Comments:

At March 02, 2005, Anonymous mike smith. what? why would i lie? make fun of my bland name, huh? said...

interesting article...
as i fliped through some blogs, i noticed yours, and your one of the first to actually have a brain.

nonetheless, i degress

although you have a few points, im afraid that the extra "sense" of security, as you mentioned, is more of the reason for the common man's pseudonyms. much like a placebo pill, a pseudonym gives a sense of protection, sometimes invulnerability, that makes people use them. experienced computer-users (for lack of a better word) know however, that a hell bent hacker could probably do whatever they want to yours and my home PCs, so we can accept the fact that psuedonyms are kinda...useless.

ironically yours,

 
At March 02, 2005, Blogger Fraxas said...

Good points, as always, Jeremy.

There are, however, several good reasons to write pseudonymously -- after all, a lot of investigative journalism is possible because of "anonymous sources", and in the interweb superhighway world of wired blogosphere self-publishing, we are our own sources. Anonymity and pseduonymity, used wisely, are powerful tools.

I don't think I've said anything on my blog yet that'd get me fired. But on the off-chance that I do, I want someone to have to work that extra little bit harder to report it to the place I work for; it's just one more barrier to that.

Besides, I have enough invested in the Fraxas brand that I have no desire to ruin it with bad posts. Or something.

 

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