Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear Anonymous, I Don't Trust You

I'm still out of pocket and I'm continuing this week's series on blogging. One of the things Michael Hyatt said in his presentation is that openness and transparency builds trust. I want to take that in a different direction than he did.

A few weeks ago, I read a blog, made a few comments about some things I didn’t think the blogger had considered when she crafted her blog and moved on. I meant no harm by the words, but the blogger didn’t see it that way and became upset. I hoped to smooth the ruffled feathers, but I didn’t want to add insult to injury by posting another comment to the blog post. I checked her profile. I checked her web site. I couldn’t find a way to contact her anywhere. Many people on the web are afraid of letting people know enough about them to even send an e-mail message saying, “sorry about the misunderstanding.”

In the comments of many blogs we see Anonymous comments and profile photos of dogs, inanimate objects and children. We also see profile names that aren’t the person’s real name. People are hiding. Last year, I posted about The Advantages of Small Publishers. One Anonymous posted a comment disagreeing with me. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. That’s how we learn, but I believe the biggest problem with the Internet is the anonymity it provides. Can you imagine how many pornographic sites would go out of business if people could check to see if their spouses were using it? SPAM would drop to zero if every e-mail had to be linked to a valid physical address. Comments on blogs would be better thought out [Someone give me the word I’m looking for here.] if people had to stand behind their words.

The truth is that we don’t trust people who speak from the shadows. Perhaps they speak the truth or perhaps not. I think of John Hancock, knowing that signing the document could lead to his death, he signed the Declaration of Independence with a signature bigger than all the rest. If we want our words to mean something, we must remove the mask and sign our names so that people will know that we stand behind what we say.

Prove me wrong. What are some good reasons for the Internet to be anonymous?

Tomorrow: Word Count and Reader Attention Span