I've talked about a number of these issues before, but since Abel and PalMD are having some conversations (here, here, here, here, here, and here) in preparation for their session at ScienceOnline09, and since I've experienced the blogosphere on both sides of the pseudonymous line, I thought I'd pipe up.
Some good reasons (from the top of my head) to blog under a pseudonym:
- Your workplace frowns on blogging (even if you are not blogging about work at all) and you want to stay employed.
- You are a student whose advisor will equate your blogging with time not spent doing research (even though you only sacrifice the time you would otherwise have spent sleeping, eating, exercising, or otherwise attending to your physical or mental well-being to write the blog).
- You're about to go on the job market and you have no idea whether prospective employers will view blogging favorably or unfavorably.
- You are trying to get a promotion/tenure and you have no idea how the committees that will be deciding whether to promote/tenure you view blogging.
- The subject matter about which you blog is something utterly distinct from your professional identity -- and you'd like to keep it that way.*
- The subject matter about which you're blogging (say, your political or religious beliefs, your sexual identity, your body image, your substance dependance) is something you're still working through -- and you'd rather not have all the people you interact with in your day-to-day life barge in on the safe pseudonymous space in which you're trying to work it through.
- You want to be judged on the basis of what you have to say, not on the basis of who people think you are from your identifying details.
- Blogging about what you blog about under your own name might significantly reduce your safety. (This might include doing research with animals, providing reproductive health care services, even just blogging about events in the region where you live if there's a creep stalking you.)
There are certainly ways to violate trust while blogging under a pseudonym, but people blogging under their real names can break trust with their readers, too. Trust is a tricky issue, on both the giving and receiving side.
There's no guarantee if you're blogging under a pseudonym that your real-life identity will stay secret. Technology makes the leg-work to out someone do-able (and sometimes bloggers themselves provide all too many of the necessary clues). However, I doubt that being outed is inevitable.
Of more concern to me are instances where, on the basis of a handful of clues, someone outs the wrong person as a pseudonymous blogger. If the misidentified person is asked to stand to account for what the pseudonymous blogger has written, that's not so good. If the misidentified person is harassed, that's even worse.
*For example, I work very hard to keep my views about politics, religion, and who should win Project Runway out of my teaching-interactions. Because I blog under my own name (which means my students can find my blog quite easily), I try to stay clear of these topics in my blogging. If I were still blogging under a 'nym, I wouldn't have to.