Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Names Don’t Matter, Accountability Does

Riffing on what Arthur has said, I’ll take a slightly different exception to Mike Rothman’s rant on anonymity.

Kathy Sierra’s been treated pretty shabbily. The problem isn’t anonymity, it’s a lack of accountability. These people are behaving unacceptably, and we don’t know who they are. However, there are cases where people have acted in similarly inappropriate ways, and the salient point is actually the opposite of anonymity — celebrity. If an anonymous person said that a Supreme Court justice should be poisoned, ha ha, that’s just a joke, they might get their IP address tracked down and then get a good talking-to. It seems possible that the very people defending the celebrity I refuse to name might feel differently if it were an anonymous person and a different Justice.

I’m really not in the mood to compare and contrast all of this with cartoonists and mullahs, slurs on a civilization that lived where you live now, insults upon a national leader, videos about political candidates, and so on. They’re all about when inappropriate speech is so inappropriate that it’s not just talk it’s action. I’ll just say again that Kathy Sierra has been treated shabbily, and I will smile when just desserts is handed to the perps. I know that Rothman’s outburst is just an eye-rolling stupid thing said in the heat of righteous anger.

However, I’m going to part company with Arthur, because I’m not writing anonymously. I’m writing under a pseudonym and there’s a load of difference. One of the major differences is, in fact, accountability. You, Gentle Reader, have some impression of me by now, and if I say something stupid, that will get mixed into your opinion.

A pseudonym is merely a mask. Several people have figured out from an ill-timed writing of mine that I am actually Steve Jobs. No one seemed to bite my hints about the Presidency. The point, anyway, is that acting and speaking in a way that is connected and accountable is often a good thing, anonymity or pseudonymity is if anything just a means to then end, which is separation, not a lack of accountability. The Cigarette-Smoking Man was anonymous, but we all knew who he was, and his actions also had their consequences.