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Transparency vs. Anonymity

Namesake.com released an infographic that was brilliantly designed.  It's informative, addresses a hotly contested issue, has plenty of high value keywords, some statistics and - the biggest reason for getting mentioned here - is wrong.

Their Transparency vs. Anonymity infographic provides the following two rationales:

For Transparency, Mark Zuckerberg says:
You have one identity... Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.
For Anonymity, Moot says:
The cost of failure is really high when you're contributing as yourself.
What the...?  No.  Here, let me contradict the statements of experts and billion-dollar company founders with anecdotes from a nobody.

On Transparency

I fall solidly into the Transparency camp.  The only reason I don't come up on the front page when you search for me on Google is because another David Blume used SEO practices.

But don't lump me in with Mark Zuckerberg.  I have dozens of identities.  I'm a coder, a rock climber, a father, a husband, a son, a video game player, a web surfer, a comic book reader, an artist, an employee, etc.  Online, each of those facets of my life belong to different domains.  There's no reason those online identities need to be the same one.  Some of them are, but only because I want to be discoverable.  I've chosen that my username from some domains is the same at some others.
 
Regarding content creation: Sure, I want credit for the stuff I've made, but I'd be just as happy no matter how the money lands into my wallet, or how the comments and "likes" pile up on my webpage, "anonymous" ID or not.  I've chosen to groom/maintain my identities, and I like seeing which ones garner favor with like-minded individuals, whether they're anonymous or not.
 
Being transparent is mostly about being discoverable for me.

On Anonymity

OK.  So Moot says anonymity is useful because "the cost of failure is really high when you're contributing as yourself."  What the what?  That's like the least important reason to be anonymous.  Let's look at where the content creators are: Mobile phone apps, youtube, deviantart, flickr, nanowrimo, etsy, the internet.  I really don't think their big concern is that one of their apps or illustrations being unpopular is going to hurt their real-life identity.
 
It hurts anyway when your peers don't appreciate what you've put your heart into.  That's regardless of which identity you've chosen for them to see.  How often do you choose to abandon your identity because something you contributed under it failed?  Sure, it happens, but it's gotta be super rare.  Usually, we just learn from these failures under the same identity and move on.  It's too much of a bother to create a new identity because of one bad contribution and to try and re-friend those who you liked under the old identity.
 
No, the best reason for anonymity is to avoid unwanted contact from creeps.  I'm transparent, so I'm at a risk if the terrible eye of Anonymous turns my way.  (I love you, Anonymous.  You're the best. <3)  But then again, my online identity is pretty benign, and I'm an old guy.  Not really a prime target for predators.

But, I haven't allowed my children to choose transparency yet.  They don't know the costs, and their online skin isn't thick yet.  Their online gaming IDs are anonymous, and that's mostly because of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Dickwad Theory.
 
Being anonymous is mostly about avoiding unwanted attention from tracking to your other identities.

It sure isn't because "the cost of failure of your contributions is really high."
 
Under the bridge, I'm a troll.  Out here, I'm somebody else.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
sjonsvenson
May. 19th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
I struggle a bit with transparency.
I tend to stick to the same identity on most places cause I don't split up well. I don't have many variations and the once I have run over into each other to much.
dblume
May. 19th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
It's a real trade-off, to be sure. It's actually a little easier to be transparent, and not worry about having other identities "discovered". Otherwise...

I have a friend who had to make a tough decision: Should he expose his long-time online username to a work colleague (so they can play XBox games online) and risk that guy learning too much about him, or does he have to keep the barrier up and not "friend" the colleague, even though this other work friend would be totally fun to play games with?
paradox_puree
May. 20th, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
I find it completely unsurprising that a probably-straight white cisgender male like Mark Zuckerberg thinks that it is completely appropriate to be fully transparent with a single online identity all the time. Of course he feels that way... he's at the top of the social food chain!

But for those of us that *don't* fit society's definition of "normal" (People of color, LGBT folks, women)... Well now... we get to deal with frequent harassment and attacks from the creeps you mentioned.

For us, the choice of complete transparency as suggested by Zuckerberg is a choice that demands that we subject ourselves to harassment and attacks.

But hey... At least we have folks like Zuckerberg telling us how we lack integrity for choosing to avoid suffering near constant harassment and discrimination in some small areas of our lives.

So yeah. Complete agreement with you here on the point of being anonymous.

Edited at 2011-05-20 06:49 am (UTC)
dblume
May. 20th, 2011 07:21 am (UTC)
I know, right? It's just an infographic, but it killed me that it didn't go there. (OK, Moot's quote probably did, (it was broad enough) but they made it sound more like a content creator thing.)

It really didn't do justice to the choice of transparency vs. anonymity. And even then there are two types of anonymity. There's the idea of single-use disposable IDs, like mailinator accounts. Then there's the idea of persistent usernames that one would use to develop another persona. (Which was what I was talking about.) The only difference there is that one might be attached to the latter, and as such, may behave differenty.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )