UPDATE: Thanks to Nathan Rein (see comments) for making me realize that my title is misleading. The discussion started with blogging under anonymity, but my thinking went beyond that into how academics blog. So please, read the following post less as a discussion about anonymity and more a discussion about rigor, reflection, and thoughtfulness in posting.
My brother has extended the ongoing discussion about anonymous and pseudonymous blogging yet again in his recent blog entry.
His conclusion got me thinking that perhaps there is more here than simply academics hiding behind anonymity or pseudonimity. He wrote:
This is leading me to the growing conviction that academics should not blog anonymously. If we truly believe in the dissemination and examination of ideas then we should also be willing to own up to our ideas. There is some risk, but we are living in an age and country2 with tremendous protections. To you believe what you are saying? Then say it clearly and be willing to defend your views in the light of day.
As Chris mentions, as academics we are about the dissemination and examination of ideas. This brings me back to the notion of the “double blind peer review.” The double blind process is in place to ensure that our ideas aren’t accepted, or rejected, out of hand simply by the history of the author, but rather measured by our adherence to rigorous methodologies and that our conclusions are supported by the literature, the data and the proper analysis. Through this “blind review” process we attempt to avoid both the Halo and the Horns effect. (see the great repository of knowledge, Wikipedia) Of course, once accepted for publication, the anonymity is removed, and we are allowed to heap praise, or criticism, on the person(s) who wrote the brilliance/drivel.
Perhaps a greater criticism of academics blogging is that, in addition to the anonymity, we tend to also stop writing as academics. Blogging seems to be a place where writers go to bloviate (to borrow from Bill O’Reilly) but not to provide much in the way of supporting documentation.
When academics blog, we tend to stop conducting and reporting on the review of extant literature. We stop providing supporting citations. (despite the ease with which we can do that in html.) We don’t discuss and defend our methodologies. And worst of all, we get defensive when our (often unsupported) ideas are challenged.
In short–we stop being academics.