May 19th, 2011

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.