A couple of weeks ago, Bayblab blog requested that I join a discussion on their site regarding pseudonymous blogging. It was obvious to me given the reputation of Bayblab that this was likely an ingenuous request, but I went ahead and joined the discussion anyway.

In the course of that discussion, the question of an individual’s credentials being important came up. Very quickly, the anonymous blogger known as “Anonymous Coward” suggested that I was in favor of the idea of “appeal to authority,” which was a misrepresentation of my position. I actually wrote a reply to this in the comments section of that web site, but something went wrong and the comment disappeared (it was not moderated out of existence, the thing that went wrong may have been on my end). I did not bother re-writing the comment, and just left that discussion as it was.

Now, DrugMonkey, who is one of my fellow Sciblings, has written a post on the issue of argument from authority in which she inappropriately quote mines my statements in a rather obnoxious way, and the Bayblab bloggers are now giddily jumping up and down pointing their readers to the fray.

Well, I thought I’d take a moment to explain my position on pseudonymous blogging, and to clarify what I think about credibility and authority.

These issues are closely connected. I’m not going to respond in detail to specific comments by DrugMonkey or Bayblab, because it is my view that these folks are playing a game in which I am not interested in engaging. But the issues of pseudonymous blogging and “appeal to authority” are real and worth talking about.

Let me begin by stating as clearly as possible, so that even a moron could understand (should any morons be reading this) the following:

1) I do not care if bloggers blog without identifying themselves. I understand why someone would do this, I support the practice, and any assumption or assertion suggesting that my position on this is otherwise is incorrect. Indeed, some of my best friends are pseudonymous bloggers.

2) “Argument from authority” does not trump argument from evidence or independent argument from logic. I do not advocate appeal to authority. I do, however, put stock in ability, experience, training, and knowledge.

Pseudonymous blogging can be justified … there are reasons to do it. I’m not interested in laying out these reasons here, partly because they are very diverse. Let the individual pseudonymous bloggers explain their own reasons (many do).

However, it is also true that even here on the blogosphere we are humans, and cultural beings, with ways of interacting, transmitting and understanding meaning, and relating socially, that involve identity. This is the subject of a great deal of research and writing in the social sciences and humanities, and I need not lay it all out here. You can understand this from your own personal experience. It is very easy for a person to form a very strong negative opinion based on some set of information of another person that they do not know personally, but for most normal people, the same information is not parsed in as negative and damning a manner in reference to someone who is already known and respected, such as a friend or relative. We treat individuals we know personally differently than individuals we have never met. This applies to forming relationships as well as moderating conflict. An extreme and somewhat artificial, but useful, manifestation of this is what we think about people we have come to know well vs. “the government” or a corporation. These latter entities re not people, of course, but our relationships with them may have a similar form as our relationship with individual fellow humans. But the nameless faceless entities (institutions, etc.) do not get the same treatment as real individuals.

Based on the nature of interaction between people, one could predict that within a given sphere (such as the blogosphere) interactions with individuals whom one has met and gotten to know may be different from interactions with individuals whom one has not met (but who are identified). Interactions with individuals whom one has not met and who hide their identity (and do not even have human-like names) may be even more different.

This is certainly something that can be observed just in relation to some of the various debates and discussions that have happened on the blogosphere. For instance, Chris Mooney and I have had rather vitriolic debates on the blogosphere and in person. But we’ve also cooperated on a number of things, including Science Debate 2008 and the reporting of hurricane Sidr last year. I think that our ability to fight and get along (and go back and forth) comes in part from the fact that we see each other as identifiable individuals, and have met and had beers together, and so on. Yes, we could probably go back and forth in this manner if either one of us was pseudonymous, but we are also human beings and part of our relationship derives from the framework (!?!?) or our real, human, relationship.

My view is this: If a bloggers chooses to be pseudonymous, then they are creating a situation in which some, possibly many, of the normal, day to day ways in which the socially and culturally complex members of our species usually interact are taken out of play. For a blogger who is pseudonymous, as per my own observation, a disagreement with another blogger can sometimes be more easily turned into a relentless attack, rather than an argument or a discussion, because part of this normal modality of interaction is removed from the picture. It is not so much that individuals are hiding behind their pseudonymous lack of identity. Rather it is that anonymity gives some individuals license to maintain a level of aggression that most people would not maintain for very long.

I have been verbally attacked, sometimes for good reason (well, twice for good reason, once not) out of the blue (i.e., I didn’t start it) by three scienceblogs.com bloggers. All three were what I would consider pretty good examples of bad behavior. A blogger did not like something I wrote and made very nasty remarks on my site. In two cases, the blogger was identifiable … had a name, I could tell who this person was, etc. In those two cases, it turns out that the issue was settled fairly calmly, and in one of those cases, over the weeks following the event, that particular blogger and I were actually engaged in some important but rather private conversations that required a great deal of mutual trust. That could never have happened with a pseudonymous blogger.

In the third case, the blogger was pseudonymous. Not only pseudonymous, but a character with a limited range of personality traits. There was never a reconciliation on the blogosphere. There probably never will be. I have no negative intentions towards this individual. But in any future case where there might be an opportunity to work together on something, or have a serious conversation about something, my feeling is that this character can take a hike. Remember, this character is a false persona, created for the purpose of making a certain impact in the blogosphere, not a human being that I can deal with on any level other than as that very persona. This is a critical point, please don’t miss it: This pseudonymous blogger can be like a character in a movie or play, not a person. This individual has created a way of being that is very one dimensional and intentionally obnoxious. Why would I ever interact with this character if I did not have to? This would be distinct from a pseudonymous blogger who used a fake on line name but was just a person hiding his or her identity, where the humanity of the person shows through.

Some years ago I wrote a series of articles using a pseudonym. I will not go into the reasons why I did that here, but trust me, they are not very interesting. The character I created to do this writing was very gonzo, radically liberal politically but very PJ O’Rourke in style. Funny, edgy, obnoxious, terse, a little mean. If someone ever wrote a letter to the editor of the publication my character wrote for saying “this guy is an obnoxious twit, why don’t you fire him” I would not have responded with loathing or despondency. Jimmy (that was his first name) was not a person, but rather, a persona. I did not expect Jimmy to be treated like a person.

And now, we come to the key point regarding pseudonymous blogging: If you are a pseudonymous blogger, depending on how you do it, you should expect to be treated a little differently, sometimes much differently, than a “real” person might be, under certain circumstances. When this happens, don’t whine about it. Deal.

Now on to the “authority” bit. My argument over at Bayblab may have been more clear if that has been the topic of discussion, or if my final comment, the one that disappeared, had not disappeared.

If you read Drug Monkey’s post, you’ll see that she actually makes the argument for me, although she concludes that I am guilty of supporting the appeal to authority “logic.” There are a lot of processes in science … thinking processes … that involve experience, skill, expertise, training, and so on. Credentials can be faked, or just overblown, or bullshit. Authority in the sense of position can be gained for all sorts of bad reasons. The words “credentials” and “authority” thus cannot be used alone to characterize any aspect of an argument or a person making the argument. However, real knowledge and experience matters.

When it comes down to drawing conclusions in a scientific area, the evidence and the models used to interpret the evidence matter most. But we do not walk around all day writing the perfect text for the “Encyclopedia of Truth: Final Edition.” Rather, we interact, converse, exchange ideas and conjectures, and so on. A couple of months ago, John West gave a talk at the University of Minnesota in which he argued that Darwinism was inextricably linked to the origin and spread of eugenics. To a person who knows nothing, the argument might have been very solid. He had lots of facts, and tied them together in a coherent argument, and so on. After his argument, Mark Borrello, historian of science at the University of Minnesota had a few moments to stand up and refute West’s argument. He did so very effectively.

However, West had much more time, and many more resources (it was his talk, after all) and Borrello had only a few minutes, never had much time to prepare his response, and so on. But one got the sense during this entire talk that a) West was representing an anti-Darwinian organization (the Discovery Institute) and Borrello was a learned scholar of Darwin. It is quite possible that the plain facts and the specifics of the argument would go in favor of West, but the difference in their perspectives and thus potential bias, and the differences in their expertise, would make any reasonable individual who entered that lecture hall with no opinion or specific knowledge of the matter leave wondering if, in fact, John West was full of shit.

This hypothetical lecture attendee is not being asked to compile the entry on Darwin and Eugenics for the Encyclopedia of Everything: Final Edition. That would not be possible given this limited exposure to the relevant information. But the idea that this attendee would leave suspicious of West’s argument, and thinking “hey, that Borrello guy, he’s pretty smart … thinks quick on his feet and obviously knows what he’s talking about” is not a bad thing. Such an outcome speaks to the complexity of humans and how we interact and communicate. This is a nuance, and an important reality, that seems to be lost on some of the pseudonymous bloggers.

In conclusion, I am distrustful of, and often (but not always) dislike … as entities … pseudonymous bloggers who take on an aggressive or obnoxious persona, annoy people, then cry “no ad hominem attacks!” when someone tells them to piss off. If you are such a blogger: Piss off. Your arguments that the things you are saying are intrinsically good, or even brilliant, do not impress me. Those arguments may be true, but you are not likely to be head and shoulders above all others. You are one fish in a sea of many fish, but the other fish don’t stink. Your wisdom does not overcome your distasteful presentation.

The original thread at bayblab is here.

Drugmonkey’s post is here.

UPDATE: See Also This … PZ Myers’ Pseudonymity ≠ anonymity

UPDATE: Moran: I Prefer People Who Sign their Names to Comments and Blogs

Comments

  1. #1 Virgil Samms
    April 17, 2008

    Let me begin by stating as clearly as possible, so that even a moron could understand (should any morons be reading this)

    Thank you, I appreciate it. I am in favor of pseudonimity. Other fish in the sea don’t stink, but when they wash up on the beach and sit there for a few days, then it’s a different story.

  2. #2 Propter Doc
    April 17, 2008

    This is interesting. For the first time someone(you) has managed to pin down the difference between a pseud blogger and a real name blogger. The lack of specific social interactions associated with a name is precisely it. Personally I’ve been trying to put my finger on ‘what was different’ for sometime. I too dislike pseud bloggers who are obviously adopting a hostile or extremely controversial persona and making attacks. In some cases I am reminded that people with extreme views permit me the luxury of the reasonable middle ground, in other cases I too wish they’d just piss off. I struggle with being a pseud blogger at the moment because I’d like to do more with blogging as a form of communication that I can’t do whilst pseudonymous. Whether that is because I want my blog to have more perceived authority because of my real life identity, or whether it is just because I’m sick of trying to hide who I am, I’m not sure. I suspect it is more the latter because pseud blogging and maintaining the persona created can be very tiring.

    Sorry for the long comment but great post.

  3. #3 factician
    April 17, 2008

    I write pseudonymously because it allows me to write about things that I otherwise wouldn’t. Writing about my observations of people in my lab is easier when they (and I) are anonymous. If folks knew who I was, the subjects that I write about would also be identified.

    I hope that my writing about my personal experiences has some generalizable qualities to it, but I don’t want to annoy the folks I work with. (That, and since I’m a post-doc, I’d like to some day get employed. I think my writing could impair my ability to land a job if I wrote under my own name).

    But I agree with you, anonymity allows people to be more vicious, and be more dehumanizing. I recognize it in others, and I recognize it in myself. And so I try to behave well. And sometimes, I’m successful…

  4. #5 Larry Moran
    April 17, 2008

    Greg, I pretty much agree with everything you say here. I don’t like debating with people who hide their identity.

  5. #6 R N B
    April 17, 2008

    I don’t often comment with just a “well said” but I’ll say it anyway. While I think that I understand and sympathise with those who have to remain anonymous, I like the analogy that you used for them as “characters” like those in plays or films – yes they often have interesting opinions, sometimes real insight, but I don’t think it’s really possible to debate with them.

    ( my name’s on my site :)

  6. #7 Elizabeth
    April 17, 2008

    Brilliant. Thanks for taking down those annoying bitches.

  7. #8 oldcola
    April 17, 2008

    Greg,
    come on, you made me feel guilty because I use my nickname for blogging.
    40 yo nickname, I just can’t drop it.

    Often signing as Oldcola a.k.a. Antoine Vekris :-)

    Now, do you feel better ?

  8. #9 Spaulding
    April 17, 2008

    But what about Batman and the Lone Ranger?

  9. #10 Kamel
    April 17, 2008

    Greg,
    I’m sorry that you thought my request for comment was insincere. I’m not sure what you think my motives were – if it was to pick a fight, I probably wouldn’t have done it privately via email, and if it was to generate traffic I wouldn’t have suggested a post on your own blog. My request was in response to a comment you left on a post by PhysioProf about anonymity. Anonymity in blogging is something my co-bloggers and I have discussed before, but a circle-jerk of anonymous bloggers talking about the benefits or perils of anonymity can only go so far (particularly since there are risks and responsibilites that some anonymous bloggers fail to understand or address, as you put it). Since you clearly have opinions on the matter – and a perspective that differs from our own – I asked you to comment precisely so we *could* better understand the risks and responsibilities and how pseudonymous blogging differs from the alternative. It was a sincere request. The rest of the bloggers at Bayblab were not aware of it at the time. Nobody is giddily jumping up and down, and it’s unfortunate that one of your comments was lost (we don’t moderate or delete comments other than obvious spam, so I don’t know what happened there). You can choose to believe that or not, and I hope you can take my comments at face value and in the spirit of having a discussion.

    Regarding the meat of your post, you raise some interesting points about the nature of social interactions. I hadn’t considered how important a name might be in humanizing a conversation. However, I don’t think a faceless corporation is analogous to a faceless blogger and I don’t think that pseudonymous bloggers are as unrelatable as you might suggest, but I don’t deny that they get treated differently. Perhaps a better real world analogy would be a telemarketer. Telemarketers are anonymous and there are many people who won’t hesitate to simply hang up on, or be otherwise rude to, a telemarketer/phone pollster/etc. If somebody comes to the door, on the other hand, they become a real person (even if they don’t have a name) and the likelihood of door-slamming or rudeness is diminished. I don’t think a telemarketer simply identifying themselves by name would have the same effect. My point is that I agree that developing a personal relationship affects interactions both on and offline, but I’m not convinced simply revealing one’s identity has a major effect on this – at least not an effect larger than reading and identifying with blog writing. You made a joke in one of the various threads discussing anonymity issues (I can’t remember which one) that Greg Laden was really a persona you made up, but you’re really someone else entirely. I think there’s a point to be made here as well: To the average person who randomly stumbles across your blog you ARE anonymous. Until they read your ‘about me’ or a few of your posts, they have no idea who Greg Laden is. It’s what you say and do that people identify with, not your name. I’m not aware of the research you mention, so this is purely my own opinion.

    (As an aside, we at the Bayblab may have additional issues. For example, there are 4 of us who are quite active in blogging there – as well as 1 or 2 other less frequent contributors. This means there are at least 4 voices, not always in agreement, under one banner and this could hinder readers from personally relating to us, and move us closer to your ‘faceless corporation’ idea. Also because there are 4 of us, it may often seem like ganging up on people if we all respond to the same comment.)

  10. #11 Dr. Free-Ride
    April 17, 2008
  11. #12 the real cmf
    April 17, 2008

    Greg: I would like to see a post about this–>”Pseudonymous blogging can be justified … there are reasons to do it.” and a post about pseudonymous commenting as well.

    I read that post over at PhysioProf, and commented that indeed, despite her seemingly anti censorship stance, she does dump stuff into her qeue, and/or delete ( unless some of my comments have also been victims of mystery vaporization).

    Great example of Mooney: you guys do seem to work well together, in contrast to some other more offensive types who haven’t worked so well within his framework…

  12. #13 Greg Laden
    April 17, 2008

    CMF: You know that I do not have a problem with pseudonymous posting or commenting. In fact, I don’t even have a problem with someone deciding to be an asshole. I just get terribly annoyed when someone makes up a persona what is clearly meant to be an asshole then gets all whiny about it when someone says “Oh, hey, your a fucking asshole”

    There is another angle on this as well: What do I do as a non-anonymous blogger. … are there things that I can’t blog about, but that I could blog about if I was anonymous? It turns out that the answer may be different than one would think. Details at 11.

  13. #14 Greg Laden
    April 17, 2008

    Kamel, thanks for clarifying your position on your request for me to join the conversation, of course I completely accept your description.

    On the rest of it: I am growing rather weary of the mind reading trick. I am not saying that anonymity in blogging is the same exact thing as being a nameless faceless corporation. The device of an analogy or metaphor is one in which a point is made more clear by using a less nuanced or a starker example. That is what I was doing.

    Yes, you are right, that anonymous people can be treated differently. I agree with you completely on this. But let me add a dimension, which is what I’ve bee trying to contribute to this conversation all along:

    A nameless faceless person can be related to, quite well in many cases. Reread the title of my post please, it is not a joke. But a nameless faceless person who is annoying is annoying. When telemarketing was getting worse, many people, myself included, would not hang up on them because we wanted to be polite. Yes, tell them you are not interested, have a nice day, good bye, and even if they are still talking put the receiver down on the cradle (that is how we used to hang up phones) nice and gently. They were anonymous but they were still people. Underpaid college kids or whatever.

    As telemarketing became so bad that many people were getting 11 or 12 calls a day, that became too much and many (myself included) started to simply hang up.

    The anonymity of the person did not change. The obnoxiousness of the situation changed.

    I really do have perfectly good relationships with a number of bloggers and commenters who are anonymous. Anonymity does not bother me at all.

    PhysioProf has created a persona (to take one example, I’m sure he won’t mind) that is an asshole. His persona is aggressive, profane, and so on and so forth. Yet he seems (and I may be wrong about this) insistent that I or others listen to what his arguments are rather than how he presents them.

    Sorry, but while I agree in principle that the argument can stand on its own merit, if you walk up to me and throw the drink in my face while making the argument, I’m going to drag you into the back alley and kick your ass and kind of ignore the argument. Life is too short and too busy to commune with assholes, and I have met very few people (two, to be exact) who have such important things to say that they can get away with being an asshole.

    Do you see my point? Being an asshole begets … guess what .. being treated like an asshole. Why is that so hard for various people in this conversation to understand? Can you help me with that?

    I have not figured out you guys at Bayblab blog. My first inkling that you existed at all was this thing that happened several weeks ago (I’ve actually forgotten the details). My second inkling that you existed was when you said (jokingly) that people who cheated in your contest would be forced to read my blog and nothing else while sitting in PZ Myer’s dungeon. The third inkling that I have that you guys exist is when this conversation happens about anonymous blogging which turns into a rant by DrugMonkey about how Greg Laden advocated appeal to authority.

    If I had the time and interest I might spend it on trying to figure out exactly which one(s) of you nameless faceless shits on and off bayblabblog is worth talking to and which of you is not. But I don’t have the time or energy. There are people on the internet and off the internet that I need to related to, want to spend time with, care for, have productive interactions with. In the competition for my attention, they win, you lose, even if you deserve to win. Sorry.

    So yes, I may well be willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, because the baby (if there even is one in this soupy mire) is playing games.

    The only reason I’m involved in this conversation at all is because I think the issue of identity in this milieu is very interesting. So I’ll probably stay marginally involved in the conversation (and as I say above in my reply to CMF I have a particular point to bring up that may be of interest).

    If you shake my hand, I will embrace you. If you throw a drink in my face, I will pummel you. Stop thinking that your reasoned logical argument about this or that is important enough for me to look past the bullshit. It isn’t. You are not that good.

    (by “You” I don’t mean you. I mean every person on the planet.)

    I also want to reiterate, I hope for a final time, that there is nothing wrong with being anonymous as a commenter or a blogger, in my opinion.

  14. #15 John Hawks
    April 17, 2008

    Well, you’re fighting the good fight. Your last comment made me think of Willy Wonka’s “I shake you warmly by the hand.”

  15. #16 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2008

    John: I can’t believe you got the Wonka Reference! Brilliant!

  16. #17 Kristjan Wager
    April 18, 2008

    Like several others, I am a veteran of numerous internet forums, blogs etc., and Greg is quite correct on the issue of the humanizing aspect of knowing other peoples’ names.

    I used to hang out on a discussion board, where people were often pseudonymous, and it was interesting to observe how peoples’ behavior changed after they got to know each other either through e-mails or through meeting in real life. It’s hard to be an asshole to someone you can identify with in some sense.

  17. #18 Caveat
    April 18, 2008

    I started off hiding my identity (although if you clicked on my profile you got my real name) because I was a bit nervous. I was new to blogging, to hanging out on the ‘net, commenting etc and didn’t know if people would track me down, harass me, hang up in the middle of the night, throw eggs at my house, etc.

    As I say, it was new to me.

    However, as time has passed, I’ve realized that blogging against the government, taking an unpopular (though correct) stance on an issue, criticizing guys who buy ink by the barrel, etc, is really no different from writing letters to the editor (which I’ve done since my teens) or hanging out at the local coffee shop shooting the breeze.

    Besides, it’s all about courage in the end. Standing up.

    Do I have fancy credentials? Not really. Am I a lofty academic? Nope. So, whether I use my real name or not (which I do now), it’s really about whether or not you want to see some evidence, find out what the fuss is about, get the other side which is not available through traditional channels, etc.

    Oh, I use my blog name when commenting in a desperate bid for traffic LOL

    Interesting post, as usual, and something to think about for sure.

  18. #19 the real cmf
    April 18, 2008

    Greg: “You know that I do not have a problem with pseudonymous posting or commenting. In fact, I don’t even have a problem with someone deciding to be an asshole”

    I of all ‘pseudonyms” know that–I just thought it would be good to clarify it for the detract-ers;-) I love the cranks, the trolls, and even some of the so-called legitimate bloggers who post here, most of whom respect and admire your wit, and wisdom–but I especially enjoy the pompous megalomaniacs who think that because they have a degree or two, and their “own blog” that they are scholars, oft mixing plain venom and opinion with hyperbole and passing it off as “da reel nowlij”..

    To whit: “Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple.”

    Most importantly, i read your blog *religiously*, because you tolerate even the assholes–and who can say they aren’t or don’t have one of those?

    But Greg, all of this violence in the blogosphere!!?? Hand shakin’ and asswhuppin at the same time!? Are you engineering a blogospheric violence scandal? Wut, R U a misanthropist?

    Greg, re:Bayblab “If I had the time and interest I might spend it on trying to figure out exactly which one(s) of you nameless faceless shits on and off bayblabblog is worth talking to and which of you is not”

    Maybe you could troll over to some of those homeschool blog klaverns at WordPress, and use the pseduonym ‘anonymous coward fro san fran’? They really really love to try to penetrate the veil of anonymity over their at the klavern–let them do the work for you ;-)

    and, when you said “if there even is one in this soupy mire” did you mean “poopy diaper”?

  19. #20 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2008

    …. Hmmmm.. I like the idea of sock-puppet trolling bayblab blog….

    But seriously, you understand that my violence is metaphorical. And, as you suggest, I really don’t mind trolls and assholes. But I am annoyed for some reason with people who are intentionally harsh because they want to challenge people to accept their arguments in spite of the fact that they are richly packaged in asshole-osity. That is part of a group think that I’ve encountered often in academia and that I don’t accept. The three or four smartest people I know are also among the nicest people I know.

  20. #21 the real BayblOompaLoompa
    April 18, 2008

    Greg: “you understand that my violence is metaphorical”

    Yup, in an absolute empirical sense;-) My joke is aimed at those knee-jerks (just…jerks?) who tend to conflate speech with violence, and wordplay with weaponry…who often forget that words cut both ways;-)

    I was kind of hoping that your critics would see that you are a bit ‘not-like-the-rest’ when it comes to handling criticism, as well as your reactions to speech–which I find are quite unique amongst PC sciborgs, and unique in the world of ‘experts as well’.

    And ditto on the “richly packaged in asshole-osity… That is part of a group think” [ellipses mine].

    It is appalling actually to see the level of juvenile rudeness–no, asshole-osity, that some of the experts package their opinions..er…expertise in. It is your non-self-aggrandizing humility and your ability to separate humor from assHoliness that makes you unique here at sciborgs–and also capable of drinking beers with Mooney after a good round of disagreement;-)

    I always believed that a little nonsense now and then was relished by the wisest of men…If only some of your colleagues there could laugh at the humor of others, instead their own pedant punditry…or their own rude jokes at the expense of others.

  21. #22 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2008

    If you read the comments of DrugMonkey, Physiprof and some (but I think not all) of the Bayblab blog authors, it is abundantly clear that they are not even a tiny bit interested in what I’ve actually said. I don’t believe for a second that DrugMonky actually thinks that I support or justify an “appeal to authority” argument, yet he absolutely explicitly states that I do in the post on his site, for instance. Physiprof is still convinced, I assume, that I have a certain perspective of Linda Buck, which I never claimed and which simply never, ever occurred to me (that her discredited paper is the basis for her Nobel.)

    These bloggers do not care at all about what another person is saying. They are only interested in getting a few key words and imposing their assumptions on others, then going off the handle about it.

    Furthermore, if you look at the style of writing in the comments on their blogs it is very suggesting that a large percentage of the suck ups in their readership are sock puppets. Indeed, drug monkey’s blog is not that widely read, yet there are a fair number of comments. Perhaps if they spent less time writing self congratulatory comments on their own posts they could bother with actually reading the material they critique on other blogs.

    By the way, I would never make such horrible accusations of a person I know, but since they are anonymous I have no problem treating them like scum. Feels good in fact. .. :)

    I don’t feel that most of these bloggers have anything more to add to the discussion of anonymity. I myself have one or two minor things I’d like to say, and I’ll do that soon. But I’m pretty much done with this discussion.

    But, what will be the next big debate? Maybe something about Junk DNA…

  22. #23 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2008

    Your right, it was drug monkey that made the latest accusation. Or someone. I’m really not sure, really don’t care, you’all are pretty much in the same undifferentiated nameless faceless abyss-like category.

    I don’t censor your comments. Why would I bother? That would be like bothering to wipe fly shit off the bottom of my boot. I do not know why movable type puts your comments in the dungeon. It’s probably because to the entire internet, you stink. I imagine there are PHP modules designed to detect you and give you a hard time.

    Stop whining you fucking immature oversensitive moron.

    No soup for you.

  23. #24 Andrew
    April 18, 2008

    Greg: I think the world is very lucky that you do not do the PhysioProf asshole-personality thing. You are too good at it. He can learn a thing or two from you.

  24. #25 Greg Laden
    April 18, 2008

    Andrew: I know. PhysioProf is such a poof. He could learn a thing or two. For my part, I studied with the Soup Nazi and Mamet.

  25. #26 Elizabeth
    April 18, 2008

    Physio, you seem overwrought. Are you better at dishing it out than taking it?

  26. #27 Stephanie Z
    April 18, 2008

    Elizabeth, not really.

  27. #28 juniorprof
    April 19, 2008

    Greg, I was the one that brought up the Buck thing again (not DM or PP). I have no problem with honest mistakes (which I also assume it was) but it took you way too long to correct it clearly even when the error had been pointed out. I continue to be peeved about the whole thing. Either way, the controversy wasn’t really about the retraction per se, it was about the author contribution line which is non-standard for Nature (first time they’ve ever used it to my knowledge).

    I’m also the one that you are accusing of being a sock puppet I suppose. Whatever. DM and PP work hard to give very useful advice on their blog to junior people like myself struggling to make it in the academic biomedical research world. I have no idea who they are but they have consistently given me solid advice that has helped me advance in my career and made me a better grant writer. I also have an understanding of the NIH system that goes far beyond my experience largely due to their useful discussions. I get the impression I am not the only reader/commenter over there that feels the same way.

    I’m anonymous, whale away.

  28. #29 juniorprof
    April 19, 2008

    Greg, I was the one that brought up the Buck thing again (not DM or PP). I have no problem with honest mistakes (which I also assume it was) but it took you way too long to correct it clearly even when the error had been pointed out. I continue to be peeved about the whole thing. Either way, the controversy wasn’t really about the retraction per se, it was about the author contribution line which is non-standard for Nature (first time they’ve ever used it to my knowledge).

    I’m also the one that you are accusing of being a sock puppet I suppose. Whatever. DM and PP work hard to give very useful advice on their blog to junior people like myself struggling to make it in the academic biomedical research world. I have no idea who they are but they have consistently given me solid advice that has helped me advance in my career and made me a better grant writer. I also have an understanding of the NIH system that goes far beyond my experience largely due to their useful discussions. I get the impression I am not the only reader/commenter over there that feels the same way.

    I’m anonymous, whale away.

  29. #30 HI
    April 19, 2008

    Hi Greg,

    I was among the people who pointed out the problem with your Linda Buck piece. I think you made the matter worse by the way you reacted to the comments, which all agreed that your original writing was problematic. (And not all of the comments were from anonymous commenters.)

    There, you showed that (1) you were not willing to listen to criticisms and (2) you would rather attack your critic’s character and credentials than to deal with the points your critic is making. So, you never acknowledged the problem with your original post and called the anonymous commenters trolls. Since I am not a regular reader of your blog, I don’t know how representative of your practice this was, but it didn’t make you look like a very open-minded person.

    I respect you for blogging with your real name and I also agree that people often take advantage of their anonymity on the net, even though I personally choose to be anonymous in most cases. (But you have my e-mail address at work if you care about my identity.) But the mere fact that you are revealing your name doesn’t make you right.

  30. #31 Greg Laden
    April 19, 2008

    HI:

    Thanks for your comments, but this would be a good example of when commenting anonymously helps in terms of covering your ass!!! :)

    … since you are representing the PhysipProf Clique, you should not have a problem if my answer to you is a bit harsh.

    First of all, go fuck yourself. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I don’t really mean that of course.)

    I think you made the matter worse by the way you reacted to the comments

    That is correct, and in fact, I have stated that publicly. But the clique will not likely acknowledge that.

    So, you never acknowledged the problem with your original post and called the anonymous commenters trolls…. I am not a regular reader of your blog,

    I can’t stop you from being wrong about this, but I can point out the contradiction. I have made that acknowledgment. Is it the case that you need to be fed that fact by DrugMonkey or PhysioProf to believe it? You have a view of me, how I do things, what I think, what I like and don’t like that derives from what you have been told to believe by PhysioProf’s clique, which is a shame because it is not correct. I hope that otherwise you are an independent thinking person.

    But the mere fact that you are revealing your name doesn’t make you right.

    That is absolutely correct, and where would that idea come from? Who ever said that? Not me! DrugMonkey has said something that may be taken to mean that I believe this, but that is absurd. You really have drunk the kool-aid. Why? What do you get out of parroting what other say without critical analysis and making yourself look absolutely foolish? Hey, it almost seems like being anonymous gives certain individuals license to say whatever crap they want and have it accepted uncritically! How does that work?

  31. #32 Hank Roberts
    April 19, 2008

    > one fish in a sea of may fish

    One fish, two fish, May fish, June fish?

  32. #33 HI
    April 19, 2008

    Greg wrote:
    “I can’t stop you from being wrong about this, but I can point out the contradiction. I have made that acknowledgment.”

    OK. Here is what you wrote as an Update to the Linda Buck post:
    “I had previously paraphrased some parts of the above article, but my exact wording so annoyed the trolls (one of whom is now banned from my site for trollish behavior above and beyond) that I have reverted to direct quotes only. (See comments below)”

    Here is a comment you wrote:
    “Well, to all my anonymous commenters: There is absolutely nothing inaccurate about my post, and again, it is absolutely clear that I’m simply pointing people to a story, not commenting on it.”

    Maybe I am missing something, as I’m not a native speaker of English (But, hey, it didn’t prevent me from noticing the problem with your original post), but these don’t look like you are acknowledging the problem. You seemed to be saying that you were perfectly right, but you are updating because the commenters annoy you.

    Look. I’m not a friend of PhysioProf, despite your insinuation. I’m not a regular reader of his/her blog, either. (And frankly I don’t see how revealing my real name will prove it one way or the other.) All I think is that (1) I would have had more respect for you if you had acknowledged and corrected your post promptly (2) this piece on pseudonymous blogging would have been more persuasive if you hadn’t used it to deflect a legitimate criticism to your writing.

    I am sure that you are a successful blogger because you have won respect of your readers by your writing, and not by showing off your name and credentials. It’s just that I think you did a terrible job with that particular post.

  33. #34 Greg Laden
    April 19, 2008

    You can tell me again and again that I screwed up that post, and I can agree with you again and again. How many times shall we do that?

    I did not rewrite to clarify the post (not correct … it was not incorrect) promplty because I blew off PhysiProf’s comments because they were obnoxious. I usually don’t pay much attention to the obnoxiousness of comments but that time I did. If someone choses, as does PP, to as as a flaming ass, one must live with the fact that one will be blown off now and then. I was victimized by his asshole-ness. I am not going to accept blame for that under any circumstances.

    In my original post about buck, I said “this research is not necessarily connected to her nobel prize” … Physioprof took that to mean that I was implying that there was a connection. I was not making that implication. I was simply equivocating because I DID NOT KNOW ONE WAY OR THE OTHER because IT WAS NOT THE PURPOSE OF THE POST. The purpose of the post was to point to Buck’s retraction as a GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW SCIENCE IS WONDERFUL.

    But looking back, yes, the way I worded it was not the best way to word it. So I changed it.

    PhysipProf himself has said that perhaps I did not mean to make this implication.

    So, I ask you, which part of “this was a stupid irrelevant all round fuck up that has no philosophical import whatsoever” is not being understood here?????

    And, for the record, this entire dust up is about what I said above, nothing else. This is not about subsequent discussion of Buck’s role in the paper or how academic peer review does or does not work.

    My opinion is that if that paper was a screw up and if Buck really wants to take ultimate credit for it, tossing a lab assistant or graduate student, or whomever it was, into the fire pit was in bad form. This was pointed out by PhysipProf, not me. It is a worthy point of discussion. Am I not allowed to have that opinion?

    I have fully acknowledged and described and acted on the problem that existed. No, I have not acknowledged some version of the problem that is in someone elses imagination or incorrectly implied by the accusations of others. I’m sorry, but I’m not really interested in bending over, thank you very much.

  34. #35 Steve
    April 19, 2008

    /delurking/

    I remember that ‘dust up’ as being completely confusing to me. This was one of Laden’s least important blogs ever, just a news quickie, taken as some kind of an attack on a great scientist, which it very obviously was not. I thought physioprof must be Buck the way he reacted.

    Can’t we all just learn to get along?

  35. #36 strech
    April 19, 2008

    This strikes me as not being about pseudonyms at all, really. Rather, that if someone is more interested in insulting people than actually making any sort of point, then one may as well respond in kind. It’s just that aforesaid type of person is rather frequently using a pseudonym.

  36. #37 Monika Armand
    April 20, 2008

    Very interesting discussion. I made a similar post (08-04-13
    ) Die Welt der Wissenschaftsblogs : Anonyme Wissenschaftsblogs – Was steckt dahinter? about german scienceblogs.
    You see, just only one comment of Florian, a german scienceblogger. He took my attention to your discussion here. In germany the law says that anonymus blogging is not allowed, if you blog in a way, for example making insults against another.How are the rules (law) in USA?

  37. #38 penguindreams
    April 20, 2008

    I’d take a somewhat different emphasis. The thing is, just because someone puts down something that looks like it could be a real name (Robert Grumbine, for instance) doesn’t mean that they are that person, that any such person exists, or, if there is someone by that name, that they’re the one you’re thinking of from it. (There are several people by that name, including a usenet kook of the month. I’m not him. At least I say so …). They could construct a persona behind that name with no more difficulty than behind ‘penguindreams’. Or, more familiarly, ERV vs. Abbie Smith.

    These ‘names’ are just labels. If the writing behind a label is interesting, consistently, then I look for the label next time I visit. If it’s consistently jackassery, I skip it.

    As a pragmatic thing, though, since most of those who want to engage in jackassery take obviously pseudonymous labels, I agree there’s a presumptive bias that way. Also, since people aren’t very creative, the pseudonymous labels tend to be highly unmemorable. The last post here that I see is from ‘Monika Armand’, and before that is ‘strech’. Which lends itself to being remembered?

  38. #39 Greg Laden
    April 20, 2008

    Monika: Interesting. We don’t have a law like that in the US.

  39. #40 Monika Armand
    April 20, 2008

    @ Greg
    Thanks for your answer. Then,what can you do, if a blogger makes heavy insults, or tell wrong things about you?

    In Germany:
    We can report an offense to the police. If there is an insult, the blogger must pay, if he marks his blog not with a real imprint (Full name, Adress, Email). But: if the blogger blogs only anonymus, the question is, if the police is interested, to punish. The german law for the duty of an imprint, is made last year and life will show, if this law gets in practice, when the blogger blogs in a serious way.

  40. #41 juniorprof
    April 20, 2008

    In Germany: We can report an offense to the police. If there is an insult, the blogger must pay, if he marks his blog not with a real imprint (Full name, Adress, Email). But: if the blogger blogs only anonymus, the question is, if the police is interested, to punish. The german law for the duty of an imprint, is made last year and life will show, if this law gets in practice, when the blogger blogs in a serious way

    That’s some seriously messed up ‘ish there. I sure am glad we’ve got the 1st amendment!

  41. #42 Greg Laden
    April 20, 2008

    Monika: In the US one can sue for libel and similar things, and that may involve issuing a legal document that requires the Internet Service Provider to provide information on who is responsible for the blog.

  42. #43 the real cmf
    April 20, 2008

    Greg: “read the comments of DrugMonkey, Physiprof and some (but I think not all) of the Bayblab blog authors, it is abundantly clear that they are not even a tiny bit interested in what I’ve actually said”

    Hey,It’s like they are jousting at ghosts…canibalising nothingness…in desperation for

    to WW whit: “Everything in this room is eatable. Even *I’m* eatable. But that is called cannibalism, my dear children, and is in fact frowned upon in most societies…”

    Except in the sciborg jungle…

    Wow! A guy goes away for a weekend, and look! Blog scandabalism!!–and you actually got the douche didactical physio unhinged??!! Oh, wait, that appears to have happened long ago…

    You are so right about these guys( most sciborgs in general actually) trolling their own blogs and even then getting such weakass responses.

    If anyone knows a thing or two about censorship, it would be me, the falmeproof hazmat wearing CMF–and this is the quote of the century ( century as measured in blogospheric flamewar-time)

    **GREG LADENS IS THE ONLY BLOG IN THE HISTORY OF SCIBLOG WORLD that never ever NEVER EVER censored CMF!!**

    How’s that for proof that these other yaks are didactic (in the primary AND secondary sense of the word) douchedrinkers?

    Take dat ta da bank!

  43. #44 Napoleon Dworkin
    April 20, 2008

    the real: I second that motion.

    Greg Laden is the only censorship proofed author at sciblogs who is smart enough, strong enough, and gosh darn it cool enough to know the difference between valid attempts at humor and quasi-scientific opinions, and to treat his commenters accordingly.

    Nor does he practice the elitist black crafts of quote mining, decontextualizing, a-PZing, feminfisting, or denializing…

    Actual people comment here, as opposed to the oft handled sticky second hand sock-puppets that others regularly use and exchange at sciborgs.

    Who is Physio anyways? Who cares?

  44. #45 sangeeta deogawanka
    April 22, 2008

    Greg,

    Very interesting post. I am with you all the way on this.

    A couple of months ago I was consulting for a website where I raised objections about pseudonymous bloggers.The same was being mis-used for ‘troll posting’ and ‘women-baiting’.

    So I have been following this post very keenly.

    Monika,
    This was something I wasn’t aware of. Very interesting I must say, in these times ….