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Jeff Jarvis: Real Bloggers Have Balls

The tribunalJeff Jarvis hates Tim O’Reilly’s Blogger’s Code of Conduct and he has some choice things to say about anonymous commenters:

My own stand on anonymity, stated frequently in this space, is that I will not give full respect and credence to things said by people who do not have the balls to stand behind their words. When people complain that I’m trying to get rid of the anonymous nature of the web, I say no, I wouldn’t do that. I’m simply telling you the way I judge your words when you’re too chicken to put your name on them.

I have a response to that.

Dear Jeff,

I have no balls, true enough. This is because I was created differently than you, who does have balls. I have fake balls, like the ones at the top of this post; in fact, I have a whole set of balls. But you’re right, I have no balls, at least not the kind you seem to think equate to bravery and transparency.

I explained why I wanted to remain anonymous in the blogosphere here, but I don’t expect that you would have read it. Believe it or not, my choice for anonymity has no relationship to my lack of balls and my lack of balls has nothing to do with wishing to remain anonymous.

If I had a name like JimmyJo Jones, or Janey Smith, or Ball-Less Blogger or DrumsNWhistles, my words would still track to me, but not necessarily my family and friends, which would be a good thing. I’d still own those words; a person would still be identifiable under the pseudonym, and my space here on the Internets would have the welcome mat rolled out. However, my family and friends would not have to own my words; only me. This is a good thing for those of us who don’t wish to have our blogging spill onto our spouses, children and friends, particularly when they may not agree with everything written here. When you cover all who choose to remain anonymous and discount what they say with the ‘real names have balls’ judgment, you assume that “real name blogging” is somehow a badge of honor in itself while ignoring the substance of what has been written.

Mathew Ingram has it exactly right: I am my own code of conduct, whether I blog as Karoli, DrumsNWhistles, or Ball-less Blogger. I appreciate the fact that Mathew understands that the name is less important than the message. I’d love to see you do the same.

We tell our kids not to use their real names on the Internet to protect themselves. That has nothing to do with possession of balls and everything to do with ensuring their safety. The same was true for me.

Your statement really is a man-ball thing, and it highlights the issues that continue to plague bloggers; namely, that women do face more abuse related to their gender than men. If you really meant to say that you thought anyone who chooses to comment under a pseudonym or anonymously is a coward, that’s what you should have said. By phrasing it the way you did, you excluded female bloggers by virtue of your phrasing alone. Does that mean that you don’t give full weight to the words of women, whether or not they are anonymous? Or was it just one of those man-moments where the power of the phrase overcame its meaning?

Whatever you meant, I agree with you on certain points with regard to the adoption of a Code of Conduct, and I really don’t want any more badges or icons in my sidebar, either. I commented on Tim O’Reilly’s post and repeat here that a code of conduct will begin with the blogger. I have a statement of principles that I apply to ME and me alone. I explain in that statement what will give rise to the deletion of comments. In the 18 months that I’ve had this blog I’ve only deleted spam. I’ve never had occasion to hit the ‘delete’ button on a legitimate comment, and certainly wouldn’t delete one that disagreed with what I wrote. One of my most frequent and interesting commenters here posts with a pseudonym, but it doesn’t mean her comments are any less interesting or meaningful.

If words weren’t your business I wouldn’t pick on the choice of words you used to describe anonymous commenters. But they are, and they carry a lot of weight as a result. Perhaps it would be good for you to consider the attitude underneath them and whether it’s a fair representation of those who choose to write under a name other than the one on their drivers’ license.

With best regards,

Ball-less Blogger

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