Maine’s blogging community has no room for anonymous comments

It may not be well known to the rest of the country, but here in Maine, we have a reputation for sticking together and helping our fellow citizens out. It troubles me, then, to see a fellow resident- and web developer- apparently harassing another Maine web developer.

I’m talking here about Rob Landry, owner of the Portland-based Pemaquid Communications, and his recent comments to and about Lance Dutson, the Maine blogger who just two weeks ago faced a multi-million-dollar lawsuit from Maine Office of Tourism contractor Warren Kremer Paino.

While Rob is certainly entitled to his opinion, I’m sure he’d agree there are more respectful and intelligent ways of expressing differing viewpoints- ways that do not involve leaving anonymous comments about a fellow Maine web developer across different blogs.

I believe that habit is wrong on a couple of levels. First, it’s professionally inappropriate to go around trashing another Maine web developer by hiding behind anonymous comments. Secondly, it’s in poor taste- and bad citizenship- as a commenter to intentionally muddy your identity. Obviously, it begs the questions: why hide behind a pseudonymn when making comments? Are you unable to support your own arguments? Or jealous of a fellow web professional? I’m not suggesting these are Rob’s motives- rather, I’m making the point that we can’t be sure, since he’s establishing a track record of obscuring his actions to the point of suspicion.

Maybe we should give Rob a pass. After all, by his own admission, he’s a newcomer to the whole world of blogging. I know because back in March, Rob emailed me asking for advice on what blogs are and how to set one up.

Now, I notice that he’s running what appears to be his own blog called foresider and located at http://foresider.com. Though his name appears in the registration info for the domain name, he’s curiously absent from any credit on the website. Rob has even gone so far as to intentionally mischaracterize his relationship to foresider.com, claiming that it’s a blog that he “advertises on.” While that is technically true- a link to his company, Pemaquid Communications appears on the blog- that would of course be an entirely disingenuous statement if he were also to own and publish the blog.

In the interest of fairness I emailed Rob asking for his take on both his questionable comments and his anonymous blog. Sadly, while Rob thanked me for the opportunity to comment, he nonetheless chose to continue his evasive maneuvers.

When I asked him why he left anonymous comments, he replied that he “Didn’t really think much of it,” so we’re in agreement there. Next he stated that he “wanted to add a comment that linked to the Foresider rather than Pemaquid Communications.” But of course, a comment’s link can point to anywhere- a commenter’s name is something entirely different. Again, he’s either woefully unfamiliar of common behavior standards online, or he’s intentionally ducking.

When I asked Rob why Foresider.com is an anonymous blog, he replied that he “[didn’t] understand the question.” He asked me to “elaborate”, so I wrote him a follow-up email and attempted to re-phrase my already direct questions in a more explicit manner. While he replied to my initial email within 12 hours, he has yet to reply to my follow-up. It’s been two days and counting, and given his record to date, I can’t say I expect a clear reply.

Rob, if you were to ask me for further advice, I’d let you know that anonymous blogging without a damn good reason is generally frowned upon in the blogosphere. If you have something to hide, by all means, hide it. I know of a couple of bloggers in Nepal who blogged anonymously for months to avoid imprisonment and murder. Their country’s radio and television lines had all been downed by the government, so in their case anonymity became essential to survival. You can understand then how it frustrates me to observe anonymity used for cowardly purposes.

So if you’re just trying to lay low, you might want to recognize that lurking both in comment sections, and on your very own blog, are two things that don’t exactly place you on the shortlist for the blogosphere citizen of the year award. And they certainly aren’t tactics that will foster a community among the ranks of the few, but growing, community of bloggers in Maine.

5 Replies to “Maine’s blogging community has no room for anonymous comments”

  1. […] Well Jason Clarke has a great post on this today, and he does a fantastic job explaining why people like Landry and Mark Wrenn are toxic in the blogging community. This problem isn’t just a Maine one- Mark Glaser at MediaShift posted recently about some folks in the telecom industry who may have been paying people to post pseudonymous comments about the Net Neutrality debate, giving the false idea that there was some grass-roots groundswell of opposition to the concept. […]

  2. I think this problem has been going on since before there were blogs. I used to be active in a number of online discussion forums where some people assumed multiple identities so they could have their monikers gang up in the name-calling game. They even signed in on chat sessions as multiple IDs!

    As you say, Jason, there are good reasons to publish pseudonymous or anonymous writing, online or otherwise, and Rob’s reasons don’t seem to fall into any of them. I don’t even mind if broadcast news/talk personalities like Ric Tyler (not his real name, btw) resort to “stage names” just for the sake of their own privacy and to repel stalkers. But at least you don’t hear him later in the day on another station, calling himself Fred, and saying what a genius that Ric Tyler is.

    Peace,

    Tor (a nickname, not a pseudonym or stagename)

  3. Uh, oh, looks like I’ve gotten under someone’s skin ;-) I think someone should get out from behind his keyboard, go enjoy the sunshine and lighten up.

    ‘Tis I, Rob Landry, The Foresider, Evil Phantom Menace to the ethos of the blogosphere! If Jason Clarke really believes in the blogger’s ethic, he will post this comment to his harangue. My guess is that he won’t be man enough to do it; he just likes to criticize anyone who does the same to his blogger buds.

    Here’s a question – what’s the true identity of Publius? You could say he was an anonymous poster.

    Clarke’s entitled to his opinion, of course. That doesn’t mean he’s right. That’s one of the big problems w/blogs. Someone’s opinion, whether or not based in fact, can cloud perception.

    Many of Clarke’s suppositions are just that. Saying things like “…apparently harassing…”, “…intentionally muddying identity…”, “…trashing…”, “…track record of obscuring his actions…” are opinions which to the uninitiated could generate guilt-by-association-to-adjectives.

    And Clarke’s just out and out wrong when he states that I emailed him asking for advice on what blogs are and how to set one up – and I defy him to back up his claim (yes, I sent him an email). I also challenge Jason to post the entire transcript of the Q&A we had earlier this week.

    I’ve posted some comments as Rob Landry; I’ve also posted comments as the Foresider, which is me. I may also have posted a message somewhere, sometime as Spiderman.

    As a matter of fact, I have a login identity on Blogspot as Foresider so it’s usually just easier to log in under that moniker.

    People should take another look at anonymous postings and whether that in and of itself poses some grave evil. Clarke is making some pretty wild assumptions about my motivations. Jealousy? Puh-lease!

    It’s the message that’s important (or unimportant, as the case may be).

    Clarke probably would have wanted Batman to fight crime as Bruce Wayne – sheesh!

    Lots of folks have written lots of notable words under pen names. Can anyone tell me the real names of writers Richard Bachman, George Orwell, Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss? You’re right, those are easy ones.

    So, what about our friend Publius?

    He was James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, writing the Federalist Papers.

    Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

    Signed,

    – The Foresider
    p.s. I’m flattered to be a part of the story. PLease read The Foresider – and please support our advertisers.

  4. Rob-
    You’re not being criticized for the use of monikers.
    You are being criticized for trying to create the idea that other people support your points, by using multiple identities.
    I don’t think it would take much for folks to give you a break if you would just show some understanding of the concept. You keep digging yourself a bigger hole by trying to divert the argument into whether or not you use your real name. It’s the dishonesty of trying to bolster your own argument that is troubling to us.
    The lame thing is, any of us would be glad to help you promote your blog, if you would just go about it in a decent way. Saying Jason ‘isn’t man enough’ just makes you look like an unrepentant ass.
    That’s my opinion anyway, and as you say, I have a right to my opinion.

  5. Great post, Jason. It’s like you’re psychic or something – look! Bloggers are coming together!

    This is a great compliment to your post about your own online identity. There’s a ton of psychology to back up the effects of pseudonymity; as you wonderfully stated, it does have its purposes, but in the large majority of cases it’s just used as an easy out to trash someone. In most cases, a signed comment is ten times as valuable as an anonymous one in my opinion.

    p.s. I live about a half a mile from Richard Bachman.

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