The Art of Anonymous Blogging

Teli Adlam —  May 22, 2007

Your blog can become your prison. Your readers (or your potential readers) become four walls restricting your words for fear of undesirable repercussions.

Though we really shouldn’t, we worry about what other people think about us. We worry that people’s perceptions will change based on something they discover on our blog. We worry about being judged based on our beliefs, our style, or any of a hundred other things that people judge. That fear is what can quickly stifle a blog.

Of course, there are a couple options: stop caring about what other people think or blog anonymously. Believe it or not, many people opt for the latter — it’s easier. However, some of those people aren’t as anonymous as they believe, which leads to an anonymous blog gone horribly wrong. Here’s how you can avoid some of the common pitfalls I’ve come across.

Plan Your Anonymity

Do you want to be obviously anonymous or inconspicuously anonymous?

Okay, you’re probably asking what the difference between the two are, so let me explain. When you’re obviously anonymous, the readers know, without the shadow of a doubt, that you aren’t blogging under your true identity. Being inconspicuously anonymous means that your readers probably think you’re blogging under your true identity.

Usually, the obviously anonymous blogs have an author with a whimsical name, whereas, the inconspicuous blogs use a believable nom de plume.

With the obviously anonymous blog, people are more inclined to take “discovering the blogger’s true identity” as their sole mission in life, however, that’s less likely to happen with an inconspicuously anonymous blog. On the other hand, it’s easy to lose trust with your reader should it be found out that the blogger isn’t who she says she is and the blogger may be taken to task by her readers.

Domain Considerations

Just because you decide to blog anonymously, doesn’t mean you must resign yourself to a service like Blogger or WordPress.com. You can just as easily create an anonymous blog while building equity in your own website, you just need to use a bit more sense when registering the domain.

Use a whois protection service, but don’t rely entirely upon it. There is this thing called a whois history report which reveals the information for the domain’s previous registrants (which may include you). During the registration process, be sure to use alternate contact information. If you’ve decided to go with the inconspicuously anonymous route, make sure that you use your nom de plume and nix the whois protection service to give it another layer or legitimacy.

Above all else, make sure that the contact information you do provide is valid. It needn’t be personally identifiable, a post office box will do, but you do need to be able to receive important correspondence.

Behind the Blog

A blog’s about page tells visitors what to expect while there. Creating an about page for an anonymous blog is a little more delicate because you don’t want to inadvertently give away your identity and you don’t want to leave your readers in the dark.

Being obviously anonymous allows you far more leeway in that respect because people already know that you’re going by a fictitious name. Keeping the illusion of legitimacy where an inconspicuously anonymous blog is concerned requires more creativity; the story needs to be believable while not landing you in the radar of the people you’re blogging about.

Modify Your Stories

There are a wealth of details you can change in a story without losing the essence of it and if you care about remaining anonymous, you probably should take those liberties. By changing the story up, you can throw off those people who you may actually be writing about, thus, minimizing the fallout from anyone discovering your true identity.

If telling the truth without handing yourself over to the lynch mob isn’t your forte, then I’d suggest snagging a copy of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Plus, there are more than a few sections in there that can help you out as a blogger.

KYMS

This is probably the most important rule of anonymous blogging: KYMS.

Keep Your Mouth Shut. You’d be surprised at how many criminals get caught because they can’t keep a secret. I’m not calling you a criminal or anything, just making a point.

If you don’t want anyone to know the identity behind a blog you’re authoring, then don’t tell anyone. It’s that simple.

Sure, there will be times when you’re itching to get your due credit because you’ve been Dugg or managed to single-handedly save the world with a blog entry, but you must fight it.

Avoid Illegal Activities

Common sense, right? One would think, but then again, one has been wrong many times before.

If you blog about doing harm to the President of the United States, then don’t act surprised and scared when the secret service shows up on your doorstep. Same goes for other random illegal activities conducted on a blog. That’s all I’m going to say on that subject.

Plan to be Caught

All good things must eventually come to an end, including the anonymity of a blog. It may not happen tomorrow, or next month, or even next year, but it’s inevitable.

Before you decide to start dishing company secrets or digitally lambasting your friends, consider the fallout that can occur in the event that you were ever caught. (This is called risk assessment.) Go through the events in your mind, feel the pain, the loneliness, and possibly the jail cell, then make peace with all of it.

By knowing what the fallout will look like beforehand, you can prepare to turn it into a reputation bolstering blitz as opposed to total life destruction.

Now, go forth and blog anonymously.

Teli Adlam

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6 responses to The Art of Anonymous Blogging

  1. LOL, nice list. You forgot to mention not to leave comments on other blogs with your real name linked to your anonymous blog.

  2. Wait, that probably goes under the keep your mouth shut, huh?

  3. You’re right, Uri, but I am glad you brought it up and spelled it out. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    ~ Teli

  4. If you are creating an anonymous community driven site, I can’t help feeling it would be best to use a different login on your PC with different settings, maybe an anonymous proxy like TOR, or even a different computer from your primary blogs.

    With all the community widgets and different kinds of tracking these days, even being seen on a strange blog could give the game away.

  5. That should definitely be a given, Andy.

    Also, if you’re a member of those community sites (i.e. MyBlogLog, Bumpzee, etc.) that use cute little avatars to mark your travels over the internet, it’s more than imperative that you clear your cookies before you go cruising the ‘net and commenting with your anonoblog identity. 😉

    ~ Teli

  6. Found this very useful as I want to support my friend through her cancer at some distance and have suggested setting up a passworded blog for her so that her friends and family can get detailed news of her condition rather than tiring her out with long phone calls.

    I dont mind anyone knowing I’m running the blog but she is a fiercely private person and quite rightly doesnt want ghoulish strangers gawping at her distress.

    I think it will be fine w a password, first names only, no contact details and calling it something inocuous like Health Updates so it wont arouse much curiosity if Google picks it up (unlikely).

    On your recommendation I will email her list with rules like dont mention her name, hospital or town but wonder if there anything you can spot that I’ve overlooked before I begin?