Pseudonymous blogging at Science Blogs is over.

August 18, 2011

I have just been informed that ScienceBlogs will no longer be hosting anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers. In case you are interested, despite extensive communication from many of us as to why we blog under pseudonyms, I have not been given any rationale or reason for this move. Particularly, no rationale or reason that responds to the many valid points raised by the pseudonymous folks.
This is, as they say, not unexpected. It is pretty clear that when corporate flacks ask you for your opinion in response to their reflexive stance they are not in fact going to be influenced. So I do hope none of my colleagues are surprised by this. Disappointed, as am I, but not surprised.
I am not certain when the drop-dead date will occur but you will no doubt be able to find me blogging elsewhere.

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42 Responses to “Pseudonymous blogging at Science Blogs is over.”

  1. biobabbler Says:

    I realize it’s entirely different, but it’s starting to smell like McCarthyism. I hope it doesn’t go all fear-spiral-viral on us. yeesh.
    And what, pray tell, about The Lone Ranger?!?
    HE was a HERO. And unknown. The Unknown Ranger.
    Of course, he’s also fictional, but not being a history major, that’s all I could come up with at the moment. =)
    I just found, and will now happily redirect to follow, you.
    hmph!

    Like


  2. Is this new ruling or policy by ScienceBlogs management publicly available? I’d like to know their rationale.
    This comes in the middle of the Real Names furore over at Google and Facebook (look for hashtags #nymwars and #realnames). Apologists for the big informopolies say “it’s their choice how they enforce naming conventions in their services, so what”? But it would be insidious if the Real Names meme has now been expressed in places like ScienceBlogs.
    Stephen Wilson
    Lockstep Consulting, Sydney.

    Like

  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    Is this new ruling or policy by ScienceBlogs management publicly available?
    To be clear, this is coming from the new owners of ScienceBlogs, National Geographic. You may recall reference from PZ Myers and Ed Brayton to their “standards and practices” as established by the big yellow magazine over the years. The nutshell is that they are old media, this is what they do and they have no intention of listening to any of the reasons people have. Or, more accurately, they do not see those reasons as justifying keeping pseuds on board.
    Look, this new regime was willing to lose Pharyngula and Brayton to keep the language on the up and up and the attacks on Dumbasses and various PZ targets within bounds. They were most assuredly not after *any* of the actual content of Sb when they made their deal. The only thing else of value is…the domain name. That’s what they were after, the brand. Period.
    Nb- this is all my interpretation and opinion. Not official language from any company flackage.

    Like

  4. D. C. Sessions Says:

    Well, that simplifies life. All of my remaining SB blogs are pseudonymous and it’s a pretty safe bet where most if not all of them will land.
    Simplification. Perhaps blogrolls do fit under Einstein’s simplicity rubric.

    Like

  5. Coturnix Says:

    “The only thing else of value is…the domain name. That’s what they were after, the brand.”
    Yes. This. But whenever I give this answer when asked why NatGeo bought Sb, people do not believe me, ask for “more”. There is no “more”…

    Like

  6. Epi Prof Says:

    The rational response is to change your legal name to Drug Monkey.

    Like

  7. becca Says:

    yep, those Old Media types, they just don’t like Psudeonyms… http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9780792238768-0

    Like

  8. D. C. Sessions Says:

    Good point, Becca. I’ve always wondered what would have happened to literature if Publius, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, etc. had used pseudonyms. Our lives would be so much poorer today.

    Like

  9. Arikia Says:

    Just when I thought there were no more nails to nail in the ScienceBlogs.com coffin. Unfortunate that the one thing Seed is thorough in is its self-destruction.

    Like


  10. Haha!
    I’ll bet it’s all down to Orac complaining that other bloggers were hiding behind anonymity, thinking they can get away with not deleting Jacob’s comments!

    Like

  11. P Smith Says:

    I think the issue at hand isn’t nicknames, but registration. Hit and run posters of spam, hate speech and other crap are a big problem on unregistered forums such as Science Blogs. I have no problem with registration, and would rather deal with that than obnoxious trolls.
    Anyway, websites are as much private property as one’s backyard barbeque. If you’re a guest, you can be asked to leave if you wear out your welcome, or not allowed in uninvited.
    If, however, it really is “No pseudonyms”, there’s an easy way around that: Create a pseudonym that looks like a real name. Any website that starts demanding ID scans and home numbers will quickly realize it’s not going to work or be prohibitively expensive to run.
    .

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  12. Greg Laden Says:

    It should be made clear that the policy is about bloggers, not commenters. Pseudonymous bloggers are being asked to uncloak or depart. That’s highly objectionable. But commenting with a pseudonym in comment threads as a reader of the blog is not the issue.
    With respect to commenting, there is talk of putting in a system different from now that would allow more control over who bloggers get to disallow, but it has nothing to do with requiring people to use their names when commenting.
    I can see already that the difference between blogging and commenting is going to muddle this discussion (it already has elsewhere).

    Like

  13. Cuttlefish Says:

    I hate pseudonymous bloggers.

    Like

  14. bill Says:

    Pseudonymous blogging at Science Blogs is over
    FTFY.

    Like


  15. These fucken geofuckes are a bunch of fucken douchebagge motherfuckers. And BTW, I was asserting that they wanted nothing more than the domain name a *long* fucken time ago. What I’d be interested to know is how much fucken hondo they ponied up for it. A couple hundred thousand dollars?

    Like

  16. El Picador Says:

    Nah, probably 5 magic beans and a webtech to be named later…

    Like

  17. Gary Walker Says:

    If it smells like McCarthyism, it is. This is sad. Truly sad.

    Like

  18. Bob O`Bob Says:

    Amazing. Just freaking amazing.
    I’ve been a little too busy for about a month to keep up with Sb, due in part to being active in #nymwars on Google+ (where I gave in and joined as Bob O’Brien), and now rather than progress there, I see the BS here.
    Un-freaking-believable

    Like

  19. Tsu Dho Nimh Says:

    WTF?
    They know who the checks for ad views are paid to. Isn’t that enough?
    signed;
    Anonymous Coward
    PS: I know Drug Monkey’s real name. neener neener.

    Like

  20. DK Says:

    What morons. I truly believe they don’t even realize that this is going to kill the brand they paid some good $$$ for.

    Like

  21. csrster Says:

    Well that’s that for ScienceBlogs, I guess, although things have been going downhill fast since at least the pepsipocalypse. Sigh. I look forward to following you, Orac, and all the rest somewhere else.

    Like

  22. Julian Frost Says:

    I mainly read Orac (I know his real name btw), you, and Isis.
    NatGeo just let rip at their feet with a Vulcan.

    Like

  23. yogi-one Says:

    The explanation for the policy is easy: it makes it easier to identify librul, America-hatin’ eggheads who make our heads swim with actual documentation and research to back up their ideas.

    Like


  24. bonjour a toute et a tous, je vous souhaite une bonne et agréable journée

    Like

  25. Shava Nerad Says:

    It really is just an issue of natural selection eventually isn’t it? Old media will drive off the nyms, and the nyms are the center of the ferment of innovative (risky) ideas.
    On the one side we have all of the traditionally peer reviewed gated communities. Different niche.
    But we’re moving into another era, and the 21st C extra-academic scientific blogging noosphere isn’t going to be fostered in MSM.
    Things move faster than the speed of print here. We aren’t on the same mission.

    Like

  26. David/Abel Says:

    @Arikia #9:
    Unfortunate that the one thing Seed is thorough in is its self-destruction.
    FTMFW!
    I have a question since my readership has good overlap with that of DM: was there any difference in my own writing when I was a pseud here vs. a real name at C&EN or PLoS? The ignorance displayed by NatGeo management is simply stunning.
    Hell, even stodgy outlets like Scientific American and the American Chemical Society continue to cultivate excellent science writers who post under pseudonyms.
    My only regret in leaving SB is not continuing to take their filthy lucre from my legacy traffic at Terra Sig here. Then again, paying for the internet connection myself gives me great piece of mind.
    See ya at Scientopia, my dear brother!

    Like

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Obviously I misread and misunderstood the point the first time. Whoops. At least I didn’t say something stupid or insult someone.
    I’m of two minds about bloggers being anonymous. If you have a high public profile in academia, away from the blogs, I really don’t see why someone would need to be anonymous. Then again, there may be valid reasons such as fear of terrorism (e.g. a pro-choice advocate worried about fundy christians with guns).
    The biggest problem with bloggers and other writers on the internet has nothing to do with their names being visible. The problem is cowards who hide from accoutability, who post opinions, lies and diatribes intended to incite hatred or violence and make themselves inaccessible to reply to. If such garbage can be posted without any means of response or means of reporting the writer, then yes, anonymity is a problem. Blowhards and morons Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Lou Dobbs may not be anonymous, but there certainly make themselves impossible to reply to and hide from anyone who disagrees with them. Such idiots are able to peddle falsehoods to wide audiences and there is little chance of a retraction or apology ever being given no matter how deserved it is.
    That is NOT true of “Drug Monkey” nor people like PZ Myers, Greg Laden, etc. If you or I find an error in a post by him/her and writes in response to it, you will get an answer or a correction. Those who write on science blogs are willing to listen to and are unafraid of feedback, of being shown to be wrong.
    Demanding that bloggers out themselves or be silenced isn’t about preventing error or ensuring accountability. Forcing bloggers to out themselves is to make them targets or to silence them. Those who hold true but unpopular positions will voluntarilty silence themselves, it’s censorship through intimidation. Just ask Joe Darby.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Darby
    .

    Like

  28. DW Says:

    Well, that’s a shame because I will no longer be reading scienceblogs as a result.

    Like

  29. Anonymous Says:

    If they’re selling the blog domain to keep Seed magazine alive, I wonder why they bother. I have subscribed twice and have received one (1) physical copy of the magazine.

    Like

  30. mariah Says:

    I use a pseudonym because I do government work and have first-hand knowledge on the witch-hunts and censoring that the bureaucrats launch on us. So I write about that and I write about how industry is dictating what science is acceptable and bring it to the attention of others. If people knew who I was I’d probably lose my job as well as lose my ability to work with some of the industry folks (who agree with me–they’re whistle-blowers too–but for the sake of their job they can’t be associated with a pariah).
    So since 1992 I’ve had an alternate persona and I’ve added to that persona online. Google that persona and you’ll find grey literature, social media like Facebook complete with pictures, attendance at meetings (not necessarily worked related but things I’m interested in anyway), a constructed history including schools and education and a list of music bands, movies that I like (don’t like ’em actually).
    Considering what I’ve managed to bring to light over the past decade and a half and how I’ve embarrassed our agency into retracting their tentacles (not as much as I’d like), I fully support anyone who would want to blog anonymously.
    And no, I haven’t used my alternate persona name.
    O/T Comrade PhysioProf…I don’t understand your message. If you, like, you know, use profanity, like, all the, you know, time, it, seems, to me, to be, like, you lose some, impact, right?…,of your statement, and it isn’t, like, excess profanity has any, you know, shock value, since, we’re, you know, not in the 70s and 80s anymore, and really, gratuitous profanity, is like, you know, using words like “like”, “right” and “you know” excessively, right, and the message may be lost in the medium, and if the medium is the message I’m afraid it went right over my head. Sorry…maybe I’m not clever enough to appreciate what it is you’re doing, and I should drop on by your site to figure out what your message is.
    Incidentally, best effective use of profanity I’ve seen this month is Al Gore’s rant about denialists.

    Like


  31. Sorry…maybe I’m not clever enough to appreciate what it is you’re doing, and I should drop on by your site to figure out what your message is.

    Indeed. You are clearly too fucken obtuse to figure out what I’m doing.

    Like

  32. PerrottiSanchez Says:

    Total kaha-rahp! But i will follow you and your wisdom to the end of the earth, Drug. Kinda creepy isn’t it…

    Like

  33. Mac Says:

    “National Geographic offered the opportunity to stay if we were willing to deidentify with our pseudonyms and write under our given names”
    What is a ‘given’ name?
    Would ‘Bill Gates’ be refused because ‘Bill’ isn’t his given name?
    Would ‘J.K Rowling’ be refused because ‘J.K’ isn’t her given name – her name is actually ‘Jo Murray’ ?
    Pope John Paul ? That wasn’t his ‘given’ name. He chose it himself.
    King George? Sorry – your first name is actually Albert.
    Heck – some of National Geographic’s own renowned experts are clearly using not using their given names.
    Don’t believe me?
    http://www.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/experts/200/detail
    Would anyone know who he was if he was listed there as Edwin?
    That’s just the same as here.
    Buzz has a following under his non-given name ‘Buzz’.
    Drug Monkey has a following under his non-given name ‘Drug Monkey’.
    Both names are equally useful and equally ludicrous.
    Either National Geographic thinks both are acceptable or neither.

    Like

  34. Raptor Says:

    This type of stuff, imo, tends to become an attack on women, even if this wasn’t the intent of the people in charge. This exact same thing happened on World of Warcraft, and the women in the community had a huge uprising because it was them who would become the victims. I had a friend who went “what’s the big deal?” until I explained to him that I once had a stalker who would have loved nothing more than to have my real name so he could track me down in real life (I got lucky, he doesn’t know where I am in that game)… and I wasn’t alone in this story. Other women threatened to leave the game for saftey reasons. For reasons of not liking being asked ‘post a picture’ or ‘can I date you’. And Blizzard had the same stupid reasoning as I’ve seen others post here, that people should be accoutable for what they post. Sorry, that’s not a reason. Take VenomFangX, for example. Someone using a fake name, but he’s known by it. And he suffers the consequences for his stupid, no different than if he used his real name. Real names force people to reveal one major thing about themselves that is other wise possible to hide.. if they are male or female, and that sort of thing is dangerous to women.

    Like


  35. I’m sorry to read about this DM. You have great insights into topics that concern many of us. What about writing for NIH? You could do a great point counter point with Rock talk.

    Like

  36. DrugMonkey Says:

    That notion is quite hilarious. Not gonna happen though. It is miracle enough that any NIH blogs exist!

    Like


  37. I guess you’re right. NIH is a bit more “Not Interested in Humor” than “New Idea Hilarity.”

    Like

  38. Acleron Says:

    What are the names of the people who are promoting this so-called openness?

    Like

  39. kae Says:

    Perhaps NG wants to get rid of the people who are most interesting in the blog who have inside information and so shape the blog into what they want a science blog to be….

    Like

  40. James Sweet Says:

    Bizarre. Frankly, I wasn’t too surprised or offended by NG wanting to reign in PZ and Brayton — it doesn’t fit in with their brand at all. That’s fine, not every company has to be every thing. The compromise position of having separate blogs at FTB and SB is a little weird, but ultimately makes a lot of sense for all parties, I think.
    But no pseudonyms? I frankly don’t get it. I don’t understand how pseudonymous blogging would interfere with NG’s brand image. And they’ve got to know this is going to cost them a whole bunch of blogs. Half-losing the flagship blog (Pharyngula) was bad but recoverable, I think, and they did it for reasons that make sense to me. Losing a dozen more blogs is extra bad, and the reason is incomprehensible to me.

    Like

  41. Jason Loxton Says:

    Hmmm… This is a complicated one. I have worked in skeptical activism for about 14 years, and certainly understand the desire to distance oneself both from the genuine physical dangers that can–in rare instances–come from exposing cranks, the risk of litigation, and just the day to day pain in the ass-ness of harassment. I also teach evolution at the college level, so I have some familiarity with the fury that can be directed at science educators. And, of course, there’s the advantage of getting “insider perspectives” from people working in science fields or industries where a corporate or institutional official narrative exists.
    All that said though, as a scientist and concerned citizen, I really do like to know where the opinions I read are coming from, especially in controversial science. The use of either given names or generally used nick names (the “‘Buzz Aldrin is a pseudonym!” argument misses the point: whether given or not, the question is whether a used name directs to an individual’s full “paper trail”, i.e., their general educational, occupational, political, and familial history–“Buzz’s” clearly does) allows one to check credentials, check publication history, conflicts of interest, etc. This is important information when attempting to judge the quality of information and opinion. As a general rule, I will trade some candidness for the assurances that come with a track-able history. (Where anonymous sources are under high risk of harm, my preferred solution is qualification/conflict of interest checking by a qualified, respected third party, as occurs in major news organizations or with research NGOs, like Human Rights Watch.)
    Still, I see the other side on this one.

    Like

  42. Jason Loxton Says:

    An interesting thing just happened that is relevant to my comment above, so I thought I would follow up: A Facebook friend just posted about a scheduled self-esteem weekly workshop series that was being organized for the students at her kids’ public school. A quick background check of the speaker revealed that she is actually this person: http://www.yvonnebrooksministries.com/
    That ability to check people out is the advantage of real names.
    This is my first time on this blog, and although it seems great (I have no doubt it actually is), I have no idea what else could be going on behind the scenes, and no easy way to find out. I hit a dead end at the pseudonym.

    Like


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