To blog anonymously or not to blog anonymously?
That is the question.
Early into my foray into the world of edublogging I reflected on the question: Should student teachers blog? Obviously since I’m still here typing away nearly six months after that post I’ve decided that blogging is a worthwhile activity. In order to protect myself from the pitfalls I mentioned in my initial post, I came up with a set of guidelines to help guide decision-making process on this blog.
One issue that I haven’t discussed any great detail is my decision to blog anonymously.
Right now I’m blogging semi-anonymously. I say that because there’s a number of people who know the name and face of the person who writes this blog and there are a smaller group of people who just know the name of the person. However the people who are ‘in the know’ are mostly from people who know/have met me in real life. I went this route after discussing writing a blog with discussing blogging with an official from my university where we talked through how to avoid some of the pitfalls of blogging and to think over the issue of anonymity which really came down to what the purpose of the blog was.
Initially this blog was a stash of information for both myself and whoever else might stumble upon it. For my own purposes, the blog was meant to serve as a reminder of my journey from wannabe to a ‘real’ teacher and keep my friends informed about my studies rather than a way to make connections. The shadow of anonymity has provided coverage when it comes to addressing both personal and professional topics. I could be free to make mistakes without worrying about the future implications of what the mistakes might be. However this coverage has also come at a cost, namely the ability to make relationships with readers and twitter followers. Most of the online teacher community have not gone down the pseudonym route, they are blogging/tweeting with real names and more often than not, real faces. Meanwhile, I’m well covered up under a pseudonym which is the digital equivalent walking into a party with a paper bag over your head.
However there are offline relationships to consider. Student teachers are in an interesting position because not only are managing relationship between themselves and their institution but also between themselves and the schools where they are completing their placements. Going the anonymous route largely puts risk management into the ‘too hard’ basket insofar as the only risk you manage is maintaining anonymity even if maintaining the anonymity can be hard work at times. New Zealand is a small place and judging from my previous forays in communities where pseudonyms are the norm I’ve had lurkers who know me from ‘real life’ guess my handle just from my writing style.
There’s also the finding employment post-graduation question to answer. I figure that anyone looking to employ me in a school is highly likely to google my name and check social networking sites such as facebook and twitter. My name is a really common name, in fact there’s a principal in my city who shares my name, but I have a reasonable large digital footprint myself.
Since going on online in 1997 I’ve been involved in newsnet groups, bulletin boards, facebook and twitter. I’ve personally blogged since 2003 in a variety of forms: blogs with small audiences like this, bigger group blogs and a few guest posts on a US-based mega blog. There’s also some old media lurking about in the form newspaper articles, radio and tv interviews and media releases lurking out there from a previous lifetime if people want to go waaaay back into my past. My point is not toot my own horn, more that I’ve been managing my digital footprint since my teenage years.
However there’s a risk of being ‘out’ as a blogger could be that a potential employer might think “arghhh a blogger!” based on an inaccurate perception of the internet community as, in the words of our deputy Prime Minister, the “sweaty t-shirt brigade” and not bother to look at the learning going on here. But the flip side is that potential employers who would be impressed by the blog don’t see the person behind the pseudonym. Perhaps worrying about something lurking in a corner of the internet from 10+ years ago the answer is to showcase the good stuff I’m doing now.
So my questions are:
Do you prefer to read blogs written by identifiable authors. If so why?
For blog writers what route did you take on the anonymous route and what influenced your decision?