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February 24, 2005

Anonymous blogging?

When we were designing Warwick Blogs, we considered the possibility of allowing anonymous blogs, that is, blogs where the name of the author was not revealed. At that time, we decided against it because the possibilities for abuse seemed scary, and we didn't see a huge argument in favour of anonymous writing. Recently, though, a couple of suggestions have been put forward for cases where it might be useful:-

  1. Authors who want to write about something very personal – illness, emotional issues, sexuality and so on – but don't want to be personally identifiable.

  2. Authors who would like to try creative writing – fiction, poetry, etc. – but are self-conscious about their work and fear being criticised or mocked in a way that would be worse and more irrevocable if their actual identity was involved.

Both those seem plausible to me. But of course it remains challenging to decide whether they justify the introduction of anonymous blogs, and if they were to be introduced, how they would be made available. Should anyone who wants to be anonymous be allowed to be? Or should it be a special-case situation where somebody has to decide whether each case seems appropriate (and if so who, and how?)?

And of course, this wouldn't be complete anonymity because there would always be some readers – the people who approved the blog in the first place – who would know who the author really was. You'd have to have that, because you'd need a way to manage abuses of the system.

It's tricky. I'd be interested in feedback on whether there are many users who would value anonymity and for what purposes.

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