Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Your secret blogging identity

Photo courtesy of Jessica
On the internet, as the New Yorker cartoon famously noted, no one knows you are a dog.

Anonymity, and pseudonymity, have been features (or bugs) of online life since the internet's inception.

Google is moving away from that model towards one where a single account, under your real name, manages Blogger and all of your Google services. Update: Google has dropped this idea.

There are some very good arguments for that approach. No more anonymous internet trolling, at least on Google+, and some clever new ways to promote and publicize your online projects (such as your blog) with you as the hub.

But for many of us, managing our online identity is nuanced and compartmentalized by design. Adopting the new model means surrendering our freedom to be creative.

You don't have to be a whistleblower or a democracy activist in a totalitarian country to value the power to choose how you appear to others online. It's normal to walk in multiple worlds, personal, civic, and professional, and to want to keep some boundaries.

Privacy = Freedom
Do you really want prospective employers or clients to know about your awesome beer blog? Is it helpful to your social life if your Game of Thrones fan fiction is front and center?

Would you be as creative as you are in all your projects if your boss and your dates and your mom were looking over your shoulder? Would you be as free to take risks and try new things?

Or might you practice a little self censorship?

Of course the answer to all of those questions (but the last) might be yes. But if it's no instead, that's not being furtive or gutless or wrong. That's your choice, because you know best what is best for you.

Wikimedia image
Fortunately on Blogger you still have that choice. You don't have to join Google+ but if you do you can have other plain-vanilla Google accounts and associate your blog or blogs with the accounts you want.

Blogger comes with a profile gadget that you can take, leave, or modify. You can remove all your fingerprints from your blog if you choose.

In practice it may be good enough for many of us to just obscure the connections between your online identities, rather than erase them completely. But it's still up to you.

Update: In response to arguments like mine above, Google reversed its "real names" policy for Google+ in 2014.

In a post on Google+, the company explained,

When we launched Google+ over three years ago, we had a lot of restrictions on what name you could use on your profile. This helped create a community made up of real people, but it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names.



  1. Unfortunately, I see Blogger coming to a point in the not so far future, that will require everyone to use a Google+ account..and we'll either have to get really good at fooling the Google+ system into thinking fake names are real names or we will have to move our freedom to another platform. -Mishka

    1. @Mishka, what a grim vision! But it does feel that way sometimes.

      Whatever the future may bring, however, there is still considerable room for choice and privacy today. Even within Google+ it's possible to blog anonymously, if you know how.

      The one thing you can't finessw is the way that Google+ commenting on blogs shuts out comments from everyone else. If that ever becomes mandatory for Blogger it will damage the whole blogging platform.

      Let's hope that day never comes!

    2. I use Blogger to provide a website for my choir and for a mother-and-baby group. These are both projects which I want to be able to hand over to someone else, 100%, when I stop doing these volunteer roles. Forcing me to keep things like logo-pictures for club blogs (which is what these are for) in my personal account rather than a "group" account which I can just give to someone else would be crazy.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Oops and sorry Unfortunately I deleted this comment by accident! The thrust of which was that for the time being she was going to keep her Google+ and blogging accounts separate, the better to control her online identity.

      I am very sorry lose it. It was clear and thoughtful.

      Ironically I am working on a blog post about all the things you can do on Blogger accidentally that can't be undone. Well, I've got another one.