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How the “Clap Sisters” Online Burn Book Highlights the Problem with Anonymity Online

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Image of laptop with fire burning from being over-used

Editor’s note: I was shocked when I stumbled on a post about an anonymous group who started a site that is basically an online “burn book.” I reached out to Brittany to tell the story here on the NMX blog, and I’m so excited she agreed! Since then, the Twitter account for the group has been shut down. There’s been speculation of who was being this group and denial of involvement. If you haven’t heard about this group, take a gander at what Brittany has to say about it – and leave your comments about this blog drama at the end!

If you’re a blogger or even just a reader of blogs, you might have noticed that the whole dynamic of blogging has rapidly started to shift. These shifts have been especially noticeable within the last few weeks. It’s turning into a popularity contest, and we’re not talking page views here. Bloggers are bashing one another about silly things like what they’re hair looks like. We have full-on Twitter wars going on about subjects like copying each other’s ideas (it’s the Internet your ideas will probably be copied here and there, as they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.) What has really turned the blog world upside down are two e-mails that have been sent out this past week.

The first e-mail, from an anonymous group calling themselves “The Clap Sisters” the e-mail was announcing a new website launch for April 13th. This website is dedicated to being anonymous and leaking gossip about fellow bloggers. Their email promises,

“When our site is launched, you’ll have the opportunity to anonymously submit your dirty, juicy clap with us.”

It then goes on to a link to a Google document where you can submit your gossip about your fellow bloggers. An example they give of the gossip they’re looking for:

“Kennedy is a former coke addict that’s been to rehab 3 different times. She always plays up the good girl image, but my best friend was her live in nurse.”

As you can imagine, this started a major uproar in the blogging community. A second e-mail surfaced 2 days later. This new e-mail from a group called “Bloggers Anonymous” who state,

“There are those out there who would love to make each and every one of us feel like we’re nothing. But that is NOT what blogging is about! It is about building each other up, celebrating who we are, and sharing our story.”

That sounds fabulous, it does, but that’s not really what blogging is about either, is it? I think if you blogged just to get a pat on the back about something, you’re blogging for all the wrong reasons. Blogger Anonymous is now creating a countering anonymous site also debuting on April 13th, where you can submit anonymous entries to build a bloggers self-esteem up. Judging by the fact that their official Facebook page only has 23 likes (at the time of writing this post), I believe everyone else feels the same way about this site: It won’t work. It’s just going to backfire.

So, which of these new blogging sites is the one that we should support? Neither.

Both sites are anonymous, which is just altogether bad. When anyone posts on these sites, people are going to start feeling left out if they’re not mentioned. When bloggers start feeling the animosity of being left out they’re more likely to bash bloggers on the gossip site.

What we have to do is leave the anonymity behind completely. If you appreciate someone’s blog, tell them! You can even tell your readers. Ask your blog friends to guest post, tweet about that blog you like, or post a link on your Facebook wall. Just find a way to tell them that isn’t hidden behind smoke and mirrors. If you really have something bad to say about another blogger, maybe you can talk to them about it if it’s constructive criticism, and if you really have to say something bad about their color scheme or logo, vent to a friend over coffee. Ok, yes, talking behind someone’s back is bad, but it’s so much better than posting it on the internet where it can’t be deleted, where everyone will know, and where feelings will inevitably be crushed.

When we decide to start a blog we have to welcome criticism, we have to understand that not everyone will care about your posts, and that not everyone on the internet will play fair. Am I a little bummed that someone obnoxiously posted about one of my recipes being fattening, maybe. Did I let it ruin my day, heck no! Laugh it off, and just keep going with your day. For every crappy comment you may receive on a blog post, I’m sure you have at least 10 great compliments somewhere on your blog.

And for the record, that recipe was super fattening, just like all my recipes. I live in the state of cheese, beer, and all things deep fried. It happens.

Editor’s note: Here’s what some other tweeters have said about The Clap Sisters:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you get an invite to join either of these anonymous groups? What do you think of anonymity on the Internet? Leave a comment below!

Does Anonymous Blogging Make Sense?

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Last week on Twitter, one of the awesome bloggers I follow, Annabel Candy, asked an interesting question:

@GetintheHotSpot: Why do some bloggers want to be anonymous?

I felt strongly enough about the subject to answer, but as usual, I find it hard to say everything I have to say in just 140 characters, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it!

The Ugly Side of Anonymous

I did want to mention, before I start, that I think there is an ugly side to anonymous blogging. I’ve seen people use a persona or remain anonymous in order to trick the reader or attack someone with no consequences, and that is never a good thing. In fact, I’m working on a follow-up post about the ethics behind using a persona online, but that’s a debate for another day. In this post, I just want to talk about being anonymous from a pure business standpoint, as well as from a personal needs standpoint.

What Would Possess Someone to Blog Anonymously?

I’m sure Annabel received a number of answers to the initial question she posed, because I can think of a number of reasons why someone might want to stay anonymous or use a persona of some sort. There include:

  • If the topic is risque or controversial in some way, it could cause you to lose a job or lose followers at a different blog.
  • Journaling can be good for the soul, but you don’t always want people you know in real life to know your innermost thoughts.
  • An anonymous online diary can help you get feedback when you have a problem while protecting the identities of others involved who may not want their personal drama spewed all over the web.
  • Blogging anonymously can help you separate a new blog from another unrelated blog you write or used to write, so readers don’t get confused.
  • If you’ve made mistakes in the past in some way, blogging anonymously helps you have a fresh start among your peers.
  • It can be a confidence boost to not have to put your name to something you write, which is perfect for shy bloggers.
  • Blogging anonymously can provide a sense of mystery, something that could work for some niches.
  • If you blog anonymously, you have more control over identity protection, which is important for some people.
  • Bloggers who are well known celebrities (both Hollywood style and e-celebrities in their field) can avoid Internet trolls who are only there to be a pain, not to read the content.
  • If you have a number of blogs set up for affiliate sales purposes alone, it could be better to write posts anonymously rather than confuse people who search your name and see that you have tons of sites promoting everything from video games to diapers.

I’m sure you might be able to come up with some more reasons. Suffice to say, there are some really good reasons to consider blogging anonymously. But does it make sense?

True Anonymous Blogger versus A Persona

When I say “anonymous,” there are actually two different kinds of bloggers that I believe fall into this category. First, you have the truly anonymous folks, people who upload posts as “admin” or under a generic name like “Bob” with no author profile whatsoever. But there’s also another type of anonymous – the blogger who uses a persona. Writing under a pen name, this kind of blogger is anonymous in the respect that they don’t make their true identity public, but they do have a personality on their site, and that personality can be branded just like your real name/image can be branded.

The problem is “admin” is that you can’t really connect with readers. When you don’t have a personality, it’s hard to build your traffic. Sure, you can rely on search engine traffic, but for most bloggers, that’s not going to work (the exception is a blog set up purely for affiliate purposes, where you don’t really care about repeat traffic). As soon as you start injecting some personality into your blog, you begin creating a persona. So in my mind, it makes sense to at least give yourself a name and bio. Essentially, run your blog as though you were using your own name,

But Does It Work?

The proof is always in the puddin’. If you want to run an anonymous blog just for the sake of having somewhere to write, go for it. But can you actually make money this way?

Yes. Yes, you can.

A little-known fact about me is that I actually have a blog where I write anonymously. I use a pen name (rather than blogging under “admin”), and have been writing there since 2007. And it does fairly well. I started the blog without any plans to monetize (I’ve actually turned down ads), but even with little to no effort, the blog makes about $200 per month, plus I get about $1000 in review products for the blog every year. Is that going to pay my rent? Nope. But that’s with no effort. Recently, I decided that it was time to really consider making money for this blog, so I put a plan into motion to turn this anonymous blog into a business. Will it be able to pay my rent then? Time will tell, but I think so.

And here’s the kicker – this past month, a publishing house approached me, asking me to submit something for them to consider. Fully knowing that my name isn’t actually what I say it is on the site (I’m very upfront about the fact that it’s a persona), they’re interested in publishing a book written by me. (/proud bragging)

Will my true identity be revealed someday? Maybe. A few people do know my site and pen name, and someone who really knew what they were doing might be able to figure it out, since I’m not the most technologically-savvy person. I think that’s something you have to be at peace with if you want to have an anonymous blog. If you’re afraid that you’ll be “found out,” you probably shouldn’t be blogging anonymously. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

The point is, I honestly believe that an anonymous blog can make just as much money as any other blog out there if you have a good idea. Anonymous blogging isn’t for everyone, but this isn’t something you should discount on the basis that some people don’t think it will work. If you think it might be a good idea for your niche, try it. Only you can determine whether or not it is the right thing for your blog.

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