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5 August, 2010

Content with a shallow identity

Khoi Vinh wishes he'd invented the Tumblr micro-blogging service, not least because he'd change a couple of key aspects.  However, I'm rather glad he didn't (dunno why; I haven't even looked at Tumblr, never mind used it), as I disagree quite strongly with his main objection.

Tumblr discourages identity. Or, to be more specific, it promotes shallow identity. Moreso than other blogging systems like WordPress or ExpressionEngine, Tumblr blogs frequently offer only scant few details about their authors. I canít recall how many Tumblr sites Iíve visited where it wasnít clear who was behind the posts, what their background was, or what their intent was. Many of these sites are artful, well designed and are actually quite engaging, but I guess Iím old fashioned in that I like to know whoís behind them.

Everyone praises the power of anonymity that the Internet makes possible, and Iím firmly in that camp. At the same time, I prefer it when people use their real identities. It just makes for a better experience. When you post or contribute anything online and you use your real name, and you provide authentic details about your station in life or your passions, it works as a multiplier of the value of your contribution – and for the richness of the network, too.

I really, really disagree. I don't accept that a 'real' name adds any authenticity, or that a pseudonym inherently detracts from what is actually said.

So far as I'm concerned, the Ministry is about the content. Only the content. There's no 'About Me' page. This isn't an oversight, and I don't have the vaguest intention of adding one. If you're interested in what I write, great. If you're interested in me, well, tough.
Sorry if that inadvertently seems aggressive, but it's important to me: I'm making certain opinions available, but not myself. If my "intent" is unclear from the text of the blog posts, that may be an inadequacy of my writing, but if it isnít clear "who is behind the posts", that's entirely deliberate.

It's probably a topic for a different posting, but I also dislike the collectivist assumption that one publishes to 'contribute', as if to some meta-conversation or community corpus. **** "the network" – I write for myself, and for you, the individual reader.

Thatís what was so compelling, I think, about the first few waves of blogs. By and large, they werenít just venues for the publication of content. They also served as outposts for your identity, a representation of who you were on the World Wide Web.
Partly, but with emphasis on that final clause: an expression of who I am online, almost entirely independent of the offline 'me'. Remember, the person writing this isn't entirely the one you'd meet in the street, even at the moment of writing, and that's a snapshot of who I was online. Particularly following the life changes encountered over the past nine months, I'm increasingly disinclined to defend everything the, for example, 2006 'me' said.


I agree with you here.
I've lost count of the number of times I've searched for some geographic point of interest or natural feature around Lancaster and something interesting on your blog, or one of your photos has turned up.

I have no idea who you are, nor do I want to know; it's nice to know that your content is being put up for whatever reasons except personal glory.

Posted by Tom at September 1, 2010 10:37 AM
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