Internet identities and online anonymity have dominated the thinking in the last few days.
On Monday, I caught wind of a furore over at the Ship of Fools where a vicar has been accused variously of (allegedly) running several different online identities, using those identities to give his offline self rave reviews in the Mystery Worshipper project and then lying to his congregation by subsequently printing those false reviews in the parish rag. Of course, all this is just alleged and not proven, but if true, it makes for an interesting episcopal pastoral situation and a clergyman obviously looking for attention and approval.
It has drawn all sorts of attention amongst the blogs I regularly read. We’ve had Tiffer’s reflections on anonymity through Maggi Dawn’s identity crisis and Dave Walker’s helpful tips on Online anonymity to the venerable Ruth Gledhill’s attention as well. (Dave Walker also has a useful set of other links about the story).
Dave Walker is right to point out that online anonymity really isn’t very anonymous for long if someone is so inclined to dig and work out who you are. When this very blog was ‘anonymous’, fellow blogger and Ridleian Simon Heron discovered me in about five minutes flat. I doubt he was the only one.
Indeed, such issues raised their head for me several moons ago when I became one of those Dave W mentions who received a kindly email from him. When I was still in the employ of the National Church Institutions and blogging anonymously, one of my postings on a previous abortive attempt at a blog (while funny) may have caused problems for me. I saw Dave’s sense and it was removed.
The other side of the coin when it comes to online identity/anonymity and those that write online is of course those that read. From a very different angle, respected Internet and usability guru Jakob Nielsen writes about how in most online systems, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.
I think there is possibly one regular contributor to the comments here in my own little corner of cyberspace and maybe two or three others who say hi now and again. Not quite 1% and 9% but I suppose the big question is are there 50 to 100 others “lurking”? The web statistics would indicate the site is receiving about 70 odd visits a day but, of course, web statistics are never to be trusted what with Google and the other search engines continually re-crawling looking for updates.
If you aren’t a Google robot and are quietly lurking, now is your chance to say hi. No harm, no foul – just give us a bit of love! Even if no-one says hi and Google are my biggest friend, it seems to me that taking a little bit of confidence and approval from my web stats is a bit better than inventing my own reviews.