Tuesday, 23 June 2009

A Nony Mouse

Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)Image via Wikipedia

Whenever I get an anonymous comment on the blog, my heart does a little sinking thing.

Anonymity is the Internet’s great gift and at the same time its burden. It allows people the freedom to be who they truly are, to shake off the bounds of convention and propriety that tie down our everyday lives. It lets people share opinions they otherwise could not voice, speaking freely about their employers, their relationships or their governments. It lets people confess and share, unburden themselves and shout joy without having to worry about reactions, restrictions or repercussions.

It also lets people be mean, shitty and petty without ever having to worry about having to face their victims. It makes people into cowards.

I made the conscious decision to blog and express my own opinions under my own name (I think the only person to do so in the UAE at the time, but I’m sure I’ll be corrected on that one!). That’s something I’ve always done – as a journalist and as a commentator, columnist and contributor to TV, print and radio. I might be wrong, I might be a gob, I may well be a complete arse, but at least I’m out there taking it on the chin in public.

People that don’t have the strength of character to express their negative opinion or unpleasant reaction in the same way do irritate me. If I can be a brave boy, so can you.

Rarely have I seen anonymous comments on blogs justified by a reasonable fear for personal safety – more frequently they’re driven by vested interest. A distressing number of people representing companies still comment anonymously on blogs thinking that they can’t be ‘found out’. That is not the case – I’ve said this lots before – people who host websites, including blogs, can gain access to an amazing degree of highly granular information on visitors who are almost invariably traceable through their IP.

It’s not always about vested interest, of course. Sometimes anonymous comments are just from people who can’t be bothered to do the log-in thing. And sometimes they’re from people who are setting out to crap in someone else’s cornflakes but who don’t have the guts to do so in person. This last is the one that gives me the sinking feeling – a little slice of snarky nastiness dumped into someone else’s life by a person that doesn’t have the guts to do so openly.

Which is why I never bother taking up the conversation with anonymice. Just thought I’d get that out of the system, folks...

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the real nick said...

Nonsense. Play the ball, not the man!

It doesn't matter WHO says what as long as it has some merit. As long as one does not post under his/her real name it doesn't matter whether one posts under an alias or anonymously. What's the difference between anonymous and 'the real nick' after all: That I logged on.

As you say, everybody can be traced, but I bet that my local sponsor won't and neither will many others. But just in case, therefore, I stick to my anonymity because I sometimes say, ehm, sensitive, things which I believe in but I'd rather not be held against me in business life out there, considering the restrictions on personal freedoms and medieval laws we have here.

I am not finished yet.

The difference between you and many other bloggers is, Alexander, that you are a self-promotiung media w.. ehm, wizzard, "putting yourself out there" (a lot) to serendipitously drum up business - and you do that rather well - whilst I comment as a private individual whose work should not mix with my or others' personal opinions.

Anonymous said...

I know you said you won't converse with people under the name 'anonymous' but I would point out that in the UAE there are extra-special circumstances.

For a start, many employment contracts here explicitly say that you may under no circumstances post a comment or blog from work premises. I’m not sure how rigorously this clause is enforced but given the nature of visas in the UAE, few people are prepared to test this. As for blogging outside of company time, it’s also worth bearing in mind that companies remain sensitive to any expression of opinion by their staff out of the (perhaps unfounded) fear that it will either damage the company’s reputation or worse, upset the government.

For instance, I may choose to post a comment in response to your blog posts on Modhesh, agreeing with the irritatingness of the little bugger. An uncharitable employer may see this post, see my name and perhaps then equate criticism of Modhesh with criticism of DSS which in turn is then a criticism of the Dubai government. This could therefore put me in a difficult position.

I’m not saying this actually happens. But there is a reasonable degree of fear among those of us who would like to freely express their opinions but are not convinced that the legal or political structures within the UAE will allow them to do so without fear of arbitrary and unfair consequences. I speak as a colleague of someone whose blog, unrelated to their job, led to them being given the option of having a blog or having employment. Actually in fairness, this is not a UAE specific problem, but I would argue that people here are less protected than they would be in say, the US.

Anonymous posts really come in three kinds – ones that outright slander, ones that are just there to insult, and ones that contain thought out opinions to stimulate discussion but for potentially very good reasons the poster doesn’t necessarily want those opinions publically ascribed to them. I’ll let you be the judge of what type this anonymous post comes under.

Media Junkie said...

the vitriol pisses me off - they are cowards.

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

As "the real nick" has taken the trouble to get an id http://www.blogger.com/profile/09299456569511629114 I see no harm.

It is those "anonymous" folks who whine, abuse, accuse, rant, then run away, so when they look at themselves in the mirror, they realise they should seek one on one therapy, yet they never will!

alexander... said...

Anonymous, I concur and sympathise and perhaps should have been clearer in my post.

It's the vitriolic, unpleasant and often personal anonymous stuff that I (and MJ, obviously!) find cowardly.

BTW, Nick is just contrary. That's not vitriol.

Nick, this blog ain't about drumming up business. It's me playing around. The other media wh... wizzard stuff is a fair cop, though. :)

Keefieboy said...

For once, I find myself agreeing with TRN. When I lived and blogged in Dubai, I was always acutely aware of the shit that it could get me into, although, like Nick, I was never a nony mouse, but used an invented persona to hide behind (not that I imagined for a nanosecond that the authorities couldn't trace me if they wanted to).

samuraisam said...

Anonymous is just the same as having an account with no real name attached to it.

probably 4/5 anonymous comments are quite useless, the 1/5 make it worth it though. By deactivating anon commenting it usually leads to less comments in general as everyone is too 'proper' to put down that asshole comment that usually starts discussions. Also anonymous commenting enables people who do not have a blogger account or do not have the patience to set one up to leave a comment (this is a very good point for when you write about, say a journalist or a businessman and they want to leave a personal reply but cant be bothered to set up an account)

I choose to be anonymous because it means that my blogging activities are my blogging activities. If I feel like not blogging any more for any reason I can stop. And that'd be the end of it. If you blog under your name and you stop it will forever be attached to you (scientific fact), every job you apply for will have some blog you wrote in the late 90's pop up.

Phillipa said...

um....I left an anonymous comment on Paris Hilton, but only because I ticked the wrong box.

It was I, Phillipa

Dubai Jazz said...

Posting as an anonymous or under a nickname isn't the same thing; a good PI could easily 'out' me, for example, by reading through my blog and building up a profile using the information I'm putting out there. It hinges on how much info you're disclosing under your nickname, but no matter how tiny are they, there's still a difference.

There's also the matter of consistency, you can't judge an anonymous by his history of commentary because, well, he has none. While a person under a nickname would have to draw up some sort of 'personality'. With consistent opinions and commentary, otherwise few will take him/her seriously.

alexander... said...

I'm with DJ on this one.

If you're Nick, for instance, you have a 'personality' and an online track record. You also have a blog where I can come and share some abuse with you in return for the stuff you spread around yourself.

Same for Sam et al. You got 'identities' - whether I've met you or not in the flesh, you have an online reputation.

You are, to some degree, responsible and your comments are weighted by the respect afforded you by 'the community'. That's not really what I meant when I moaned about anonymice...

Jen Gerson said...

I have a little mouse on GIAD, too. I draw the line at misogyny, which is what most male mice tend to resort to when dealing with women.

Very sad. Fortunately, these people tend to get rather repetitive which makes it easier to filter.

Graeme Baker said...

I used my own name. I was explicitly told by my employer that it was my blog or my job.

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