Poll: Would you “out” an anonymous/psuedonymous blogger? 6

UPDATE: Interesting, so far it is 8:1 that you would not reveal the bloggers identity.

I mentioned in my previous post another blog that is occasionally featured in some higher ed sites called “Confessions of a Community College Dean.” The author is referred to as “Dean Dad” and provides this description of the blog:

In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990’s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care. Comments are welcome. Comments for general readership can be posted directly after the blog entry. For private comments, I can be reached at deandad at gmail dot com. The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of commenters), and not those of my (unnamed) employer.

In his post of April 3, 2008 he commented upon another blog post regarding anonymity versus pseudonymity. I have followed his blog for quite some time and have occasionally posted my comments. On more than one occasion I have been stunned by the sorts of personnel issues that he “openly” discusses in the blog. The names are changed, but if one knew who he was or his institution I believe it would be very easy to discern who the subjects of his posts were. (See this post, “Moral Dilemma,” for example.) I believe this to be extremely unprofessional, to say the least, but DD seems to feel that pseudonymity offers him enough protection that he can be open in this manner.

On the most recent story my brother The Professor commented that his “pseudonymous” identity is not as secure as he might think. This made me ask

…what if DD was “outed”? DD, would you continue to blog? Would you be embarrassed or concerned about what you have said on this blog? And how strong would the vitriol be for the one who revealed the identity of DD?

What do you think? If you knew someone’s identity and particularly if you believed them to be operating in a marginal manner, would you reveal their identity? How would you vote?


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6 thoughts on “Poll: Would you “out” an anonymous/psuedonymous blogger?

  • Looney

    Well, as one in the pseudonymity class, I have a number of thoughts:

    First, there are many reasons for keeping anonymity when blogging, given we have relationships with many others. We have more freedom here in the US, but supposing I happen to have a relationship with someone in North Korea, and then I happen to slip up and/or someone puts together pieces from various things I have written. Certainly I won’t stop someone who is targeting me. On the other hand, I might give a little more protection against those who might be scouring the net at random looking for things that might connect the dots to a missionary operating out of Obscuristan where they perhaps eat missionaries. OK, that was too extreme, but there are other legitimate reasons for making things a little difficult, although I tend to think that people who are in professions like pastors, teachers and professors have the least reason for using pseudonyms. If your already in the business of making your ideas public, then why do you need a pseudonym?

    That being said, I think you are right that we have an obligation not to use the blog to discuss those we personally know while using a pseudonym. The particular post you link to goes further in that it seems to have some potential legal consequences that shouldn’t be posted all over the net in any form. If sometime in the future things go awry between one party or another, the lawyers will find the post quickly and there will be a heavy price to pay. Which brings up another issue: If you will be directly discussing your occupation on your blog, then the pseudonym is the wrong way to go.

    Besides this, I communicate with many who use pseudonyms and it would probably take at least a court order to get me to out anyone. Are there other things that I should take into consideration?

  • Chris Brady Post author

    Thanks Looney. A lot of very good arguments in there and I am sure there are other things to consider as well. In case my post wasn’t clear, I am genuinely unsure of how I would answer the poll (so far it stands at 2 “no” and 1 “yes”) and I have not yet answered it.

    Needless to say (but I will say it anyway, why do we have such a phrase if it is always followed by the thing that was needless to have been said?), the circumstances might well alter one’s vote. In this case I would lean towards outing him because I find his conduct coming very close to objectionable. Not his views mind you, but his (verbal) actions in discussing these matters in a public forum in this way. I don’t think they belong in such a public forum, but if he wants to bring it out in the public then he should do so openly. And so on…

    Any other thoughts on this?

  • Looney

    In this particular case, if I knew who it was, the proper outing method would probably be to contact the school trustees or the legal office. The people with responsibility over him should have the first opportunity to take action, rather than some sort of public chain posting. It would probably be best to warn him on his blog beforehand of the unethical nature of the posts – and how it would be viewed by others. Just for curiosity, has anyone challenged him on the propriety of his posts?

    I have seen a lot of crazy things over the years, so caution is always critical. What are the chances that the wrong dean gets outed? There are a lot of community colleges in this country. Or even a double pseudonym, where the person actually blogging isn’t really the dean? Once outed, expect things to get much more complicated! Keep in mind 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.

    Having said that, the entire subject of whistle blowing and outing is very complicated. 25 years ago, I wish there was some experienced Christian to give me some wise counsel. Unfortunately, I might not have listened.

  • Chris Brady Post author

    “Just for curiosity, has anyone challenged him on the propriety of his posts?” Actually the two-year old post that I linked to contains my own questioning of his methods here. It is a very long thread there but interesting to read if one has the time to kill.

  • Richard Wright

    Well Chris I find that blog quite interesting and thought provoking. I did kill rather a lot of time on that two year old post/thread. Could you summarize other things Dean Dad does you find objectionable – besides the aforelisted (ha! I invent a word!) example? (Not disagreeing with you one bit. Just… not knowing what you mean.)

  • Chris Brady Post author

    Rick – Over the years DD has said similar things, speaking rather directly and derisively about colleagues and superiors from a position of pseudonymity. I find it very unprofessional and is not the way that I would behave, but I am not trying to build a case against him. Rather his site and the post first referenced along with my brother’s comment made me wonder aloud whether I would “out” a blogger and if so under what circumstances.