Another minor blog skirmish has erupted over a perennial issue in the blogosphere: the wickedness of anonymous commenters/bloggers/whatever. I’m going to sort of take the side of Greg Laden.
I despise anonymous commenters. It’s pretty much a sure sign that anything the person is going to say is worthless noise if they aren’t willing to sign a name to it.
That said, though, I consider a consistent pseudonym to be a name. I’ve gotten to know lots of people on the web via their chosen pseudonym, and that pseudonym acquires its own authority on the merits of the writing behind it. You don’t need to reveal your full, legal name to be known on the web — it’s good enough to have a handle so we can recognize you. Note that of the 17 Molly award winners here, 10 are using pseudonyms, and that’s just fine.
There are some people who use their own names who are effectively anonymous, and I’ve been getting lots of email from them this week (I may post some of them later — most are short and angry). If your name is Tom Smith, and you send me a one-shot email that is littered with expletives, I’ve never heard of you before and you certainly haven’t explained your position well. You are effectively anonymous. I don’t regard your contributions at all highly.
I also have to comment on something from Drugmonkey. Note, first of all, that “Drugmonkey” is a pseudonym for a person who has a nice consistent voice on the web — I have a clear picture of who “Drugmonkey” is from his writing, which may or may not align well with the person, but that doesn’t matter. And usually I enjoy what he writes, but not this bit.
A final comment on the special SuperDuperz occupational hazard of the teaching college professor. Now, I love you all, really I do. And I once aspired to be one of y’all. Heck, I may eventually be one of you. For full disclosure I’ll further admit that I spent a considerable number of my formative years in rather close proximity to one of you. Here’s the thing. Your whole professional life is predicated on you as the Authority. In the classroom, you have all the knowledge and the students have relatively little. They are explicitly seeking you out for your authority. Even within most “teaching departments” you are the sole expert in not just a narrow area but in several subfields, are you not? And…c’mon, ‘fess up. It goes to your head after awhile doesn’t it? And even more pernicious…do you teach at a small college in the middle of nowhere? Plopped down amongst the local rubes? So you are more worldly and informed on many topics than most of your neighbors? Which makes you…an authoritah? On oh-so-many things?
Well, it’s nice that he aspired to be one of us, but he clearly didn’t make the cut, and I can guess why. His assumptions are faulty. In my classroom, I’m an authority only by accident of birth — I’ve got a thirty year head start on my students. However, my whole goal is to get these students to start questioning and challenging me, and finding out new stuff that I didn’t know before. I even like it when the creationists in class start raising objections. If Drugmonkey thinks a college classroom is a place where the best teaching is done by imposing his views on a roomful of students, he’s not going to make it to that exalted position of The Teaching College Professor, because he won’t be teaching.