It's easy to be a holy man on a mountain top, and it's even easier to be critical hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. I'll have more faith in your opinion when you stop hiding behind Bayman, The Doc and Kamel. At least Anonymous Coward had the integrity to advertise himself honestly.Arguments about pseudonymity/anonymity are as old as the internet and often boil down to accusations of cowardice or questioning credibility. Ironically, they often come from likewise pseudonymed writers or people who think revealing an untraceable first and last name (or in the case of the above commenter, first initial) amounts to any difference from a fake name.
First of all, using a pseudonym is not the same as being anonymous. Dr. Crazy at Reassigned Time has a nice discussion of this. A pseudonym is an alternate, online identity. How 'alternate' is entirely up to the user. For me, Kamel the Bayblabber isn't really that different from Kamel in RealLife(tm). I suspect someone like PhysioProf holds the same opinions on and off the blogosphere (including, unsurprisingly, an opinion on anonymous blogging), but the language used to express them differs (I don't know PhysioProf though, so I could be completely wrong). Others are probably even more radically different online than off. Anonymous is different. Anonymous is no identity.
I don't have any problem with either approach. I've always considered that the nice thing about anonymous argument is that the argument can stand on its own merit and not get bogged down in who's saying it. It doesn't matter if I'm a corporate shill, a doctor, a professor, or just a grad student with a computer and an opinion as long as the arguments make sense. In fact, as someone who blogs with a pseudonym, I may even have to work harder to establish credibility rather than relying on credentials.
There are any number of reasons why one would choose not to reveal their identities on their blog or in comments, many of which are legitimate. Some bloggers, like FemaleScienceProfessor, do it for safety. There are hateful people who will threaten or attack you for your argument or even for who you are. She writes:
Every week I reject (delete) a number of obscene and/or threatening comments that are sent to me via this blog. [...] Do I only get these comments because I am anonymous? I don't believe that. And why would I want these sick people to know exactly who I am, where I live, where my daughter goes to school?It may not be misogynists you're trying to avoid, but racists, people who don't like your political views, who don't like it if you do animal research, etc.
Some people use a pseudonym for privacy reasons. Some people are very protective of their personal information and don't want it readily available for anyone who wants it, or don't want their email flooded or phone calls about things they write. Others do it for security. Perhaps a science grad student doesn't want political views to hurt future job prospects, or a tenure track prof has similar worries. Maybe, if you blog about personal experiences, you want to protect the identities of other players involved. The reasons to take on a pseudonym are personal, and I don't think need to be justified to anybody else.
There is a downside. Some people will just focus on the anonymity of a blogger rather than engage the actual arguments being made. Like the comment I mentioned at the outset, it can be a distraction. Or it could cost you some respect, or you might not get taken seriously at all.
A recent article in the Chronicle's Careers section doesn't address blogging directly, but tries to take take on anonymity in writing but with no real point. Using 3 recent examples of pseudonymous writers from the same publication, the author - rather than focusing on the problems of blogging with a pseudonym (the article, after all, is titled 'The Dangers of Anonymity') - chooses to attack possible justifications for taking on a fake name instead. In this medium, no justification is required. Nevertheless, the 3 writers he called out responded with their reasons anyway.
What do people think? Do you pay more attention if you know the name of the writer? Do bloggers need to justify their pseudonymity?