Nature Networks allows use of ‘dreaded’ pseudonyms

I just noticed this today, and I had to do a double- take. Nature Networks is allowing a blogger it blog under a pseudonym. You can see what I’m talking about here.  Grrlscientist, who also writes pseudonymously over at Scienceblogs- now has a second pseudonymously written blog at Nature Network.

Two blogs is 2x the fun, so more power to her- but I’m just puzzled by one teeny tiny little thing. NATURE NETWORKS?! Those folks have a policy of not allowing anonymous or pseudonymous comments- you have to register and log in over there to comment. Uh huh- here is their policy verbatim:

Be yourself

Be honest in representing yourself and your views. Use your real and full name when creating a profile and posting comments.

Ya know- that would be enough, I suppose, but there has been incredibly heated conversation in the comment section of some NN blog posts about the undesirability and dangers of allowing commenting under anything other than real names. Some of the most strident and forceful arguments in favor of making everyone use their real name have come from a selection of Nature Network bloggers themselves.

Can I just quote Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature, made on this otherwise unrelated celebratory post:

In my view I think it’s appropriate for NN to ask people to register before they leave comments. Given the general standard of comments on Science Blogs, or lack of it, pre-registration could act to weed out potential trolls, as well as draw attention to our community guidelines – and, people, guidelines are necessary. Even those who proclaim loudly that guidelines represent the imposition of a white male patriarchy find themselves having to use them (do I smell hypocristy?). If you only want to weight comments by quantity, then by all means pile ’em high – but you’ll sell ’em cheap. Here at NN we go for quality. I like to think that NN is like ScienceBlogs, only for grownups …

So let me get this straight- you can blog under a pseudonym at NN, but they won’t allow commenting that way?

Ummmm. Hypocrisy indeed.

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15 thoughts on “Nature Networks allows use of ‘dreaded’ pseudonyms

  1. What a bunch of ridiculous fucking douchebags. (Except for the editors of Nature and other Nature journals, who are absolutely outstanding editors and magnificent human beings.)

  2. That’s bullshit. There are plenty of people leaving comments signed in as their pseuds over there already.

    They might have a policy. But it’s not really enforced.

  3. I find it annoying when people erroneously equate pseudonymity with anonymity. They are very different things; and I’d argue that a stable pseudonym is as valid in the internet as one’s real name, and is often more distinct and recogniseable. While people can post garbage anonymously, if you have an internet identity attached to a pseudonym (like GrrlScientist does), you treat it just like your real life name in terms of preserving reputation, etc. In fact, for those with a very common name, pseudonyms are even more valuable to preserve in good light.

    Rumour has it that with GrrlScientist’s case, it did take a lot of negotiating with NN to allow her to post under pseudonym. Kudos to them for actually being flexible enough to let go of their dogma at least for one blogger…

  4. They let “GrrlScientist” in and their readers have some confidence the blogger has chops and knows what the hell she is talking about. Put up her real name and we’d be all “Who’s this cheap ass rip-off of GrrlScientist they picked up???!!!???”

    I lurv the toobs….

  5. What El Picador said. As far as I know Grrl is the only pseud over there. And she is one of the least anonymous pseud-avatars in the science blogosphere anyway.

    I agree that on the interchoobs your pseudonym/avatar is as/more valuable than your real name anyway. I guess NN keep trying to take the long view and fucking it up from time-time. It’s a brave new world etc. They don’t want anonymous posts because of trolling and shit but go too far by forcing registration and “real name”. But I know a couple of folks over there who have multiple accounts and have fun (pseudo-trolling?) with them.

    Perhaps if you have an established avatar like drdrA, tideliar, Comrade PP (and antipodean who is see roudn these parts all the time now!), you should be able to use that. One could claim one’s avatar and have the NN staff “validate’ it without losing or compromising anonymity.

    Finally, (phew), Gee had fuck all to do with the rules allowing Grrl to blog there. He’s the paleo editor. He doesn’t work for Nature Network. the hypocrisy lies at the door of NPG, not Gee.

  6. ….and in fact, in support of El Picador, this is from Grrl’s first post at N

    “While I have your eye, I want thank the people at Nature Networks, who have been so kind to me and who changed their rules so I can write a blog here under my pseudonym. I realize that a fair number of people know my real life name at this point, but I am much better known by my pseudonym than by my real life name and really, that’s okay with me!”

  7. Is this really such a big deal? Like several of the NN inhabitants, I have a blog somewhere under a pseudonym. I also have a blog at NN under my real name. They deal with slightly different stuff, and the NN one is a bit more polite and contains less straight-from-the-lip ranting and personal bric-a-brac.

    Re. whether NN have, to paraphrase, “exposed their own hypocrisy” by having a person with an “established online persona” – like Grrlscientist – blogging under their recognisable ‘nym at NN. It is hardly equivalent to allowing total anonymity or even on-the-spot pseudonyms for drive-by commenters. NN do consciously prefer people to be more or less civil and , as tideliar says, don’t allow an anon free-for-all in the comments (presumably) because they don’t want an avalanche of the usual psychotic Interwebz trolling. Is that particularly bad? Can anyone who has waded through the tedium of comment threads at Respectful Insolence, or Aetiology, when they are derailed ad nauseam by Cooler or Happeh or the like, really make a Federal Case out of NN’s choice?

    I can’t figure out whether the avalanche of blog words devoted to flaming NN is:

    (i) because people feel ANY kind of “civility policy” is wrong
    (ii) because people are pissed they can’t use the ‘nyms they have spent time establishing at NN.

    I have SOME sympathy with view (ii), and quite a few of us blogging at NN have argued that, to encourage more commenting, people SHOULD be allowed to comment under pseudonyms. (Yes, that’s right – we have a range of opinions at NN. Who knew?) But apart from “troll deterrence”, there is a line of argument that says pseudonymous commenting CAN already happen, so why make a big song and dance out of it? Has anyone with a well-cultivated ‘nym actually tried registering at NN under their ‘nym recently and been rejected…?

    Finally, and at the risk of triggering an avalanche of swearing, one has a funny feeling that people at Sb, and elsewhere, keep ranting about this across the Web because they get a kick out of finding things to get annoyed about. If (as most people who bitch about NN seem to think) NN has almost no readers and is hence irrelevant, why all the fuss?

  8. Austin-

    It might not feel like a big deal to you- but it does bug me that one can have a stated policy for others, then do whatever the hell you want because you are in charge (not you literally, NN). Yes, that, as a principle just bugs me. If you all think commenting under pseudonyms is OK, then why not just get rid of the policy? I’d feel more welcome over at NN if you didn’t have it.

    Please note that I don’t have a stated policy for commenters- but that commenters on this blog tend to follow my tone. That’s good enough for me. Furthermore, while some people might find the occasional flame war annoying- *sometimes* those exchanges, unproductive as they may seem to you, result in someone thinking twice about what they said, or thinking in a new way about what someone else said. I think those moments can be instructive as well.

    Last time I checked I wasn’t blogging at Sb or NN, so count me as a neutral party.

  9. I can’t figure out whether the avalanche of blog words devoted to flaming NN is:

    (i) because people feel ANY kind of “civility policy” is wrong
    (ii) because people are pissed they can’t use the ‘nyms they have spent time establishing at NN.

    Neither. It’s because it fucking hilarious to mock the shit out of ridiculous douchebags. (That comment does not apply to any editors of any Nature Publishing Group journals, all of whom are absolutely outstanding editors and, even more importantly, magnificent indivduals and paragons of personal virtue.)

  10. Comrade PhysioProf: you’re kind of boring.

    The NN policies on pseudonyms and posting in English are likely both driven by the current libel laws, so they won’t go away anytime soon. And last time I checked, nobody at NN or NPG asked me before they made up or posted or, indeed, waived their policies.

    I like having a blog at NN because of the community we have there. I also know that there is a number of completely non-bloggy people I am reaching with my posts (I am promoting it cautiously in my job, with my real name, in real life, to people of all age groups and status and cultural backgrounds) – people who would never comment, not because they can’t use a pseudonym, but more because commenting on blogs is just not their thing. Occasionally, someone does anyway. My feeling is that, if I had a blog outside of an established network, they would be much less likely to bother reading it.

    But while this setup works for me, I would never assume to tell anyone else how or where they should blog.

    Thank you, that is all.

  11. Thanks for the helpful reply, drdrA

    It might not feel like a big deal to you – but it does bug me that one can have a stated policy for others, then do whatever the hell you want because you are in charge (not you literally, NN). Yes, that, as a principle just bugs me. If you all think commenting under pseudonyms is OK, then why not just get rid of the policy? I’d feel more welcome over at NN if you didn’t have it.

    Fair points. As to allowing pseudonyms – like I said, I personally probably would, but we bloggers at NN don’t actually make the decisions. We can and do tell NN what we think, but as the owner (“publisher”) they ultimately set the rules. And of course, some of the bloggers at NN actually like the rules, too. Like I said, a range of opinions.

    Re. the “pseudonymity averse-ness” of publishers, Steffi is right about the libel twitchiness, I think, WRT both to pseudonyms and to the “English language only” stipulation at NN (a rule which no-one actually takes that seriously, BTW). UK-based learned scientific societies and research charities with online presences are exactly the same, in my experience.

    It is a bit different, I think, for collectives or stables which grew 100% out of the blogosphere, because in those cases people like Seed magazine are simply providing a home for “established anarchy with no holds barred”. Similarly, the English Badscienceblogs community where I started blogging has no rules, but I would say that reflects its having no real owner.

    “Please note that I don’t have a stated policy for commenters- but that commenters on this blog tend to follow my tone. That’s good enough for me. Furthermore, while some people might find the occasional flame war annoying- *sometimes* those exchanges, unproductive as they may seem to you, result in someone thinking twice about what they said, or thinking in a new way about what someone else said. I think those moments can be instructive as well.”

    Yes, I agree, and on my own non-NN blog I do exactly what you do. And I respond to anonymous commentators, even trolls, there and in other places too, for exactly the reason you describe. So I was playing Devils’ Advocate. But… of course, not everyone feels the way we do – and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I personally find it kind of nice to have at least ONE blogging forum that is a troll/wacko-free-zone. Again, the people that own NN weren’t trying to set up a “scientists talk to the general public” forum. It seems pretty clear to me that they wanted primarily to set up an “online meeting place for scientists”.

    Last time I checked I wasn’t blogging at Sb or NN, so count me as a neutral party.

    Fair enough. I was the same, having been a blogger at Badscienceblogs, and a commenter round the blogosphere, for a long time before I started hanging much at NN.

    Anyway, the take-home is that NN is a particular kind of set up, different to some of the others, with a different target audience, slant and set of ground-rules. Overall, for those of us that blog at NN, it has features we like, and things we don’t like so much. It is really just a question of whether it feels overall positive for what one is trying to do. Are there things I would change if I ran it? Probably. Do those things make me think I don’t want to be there? On balance, no.

    PS This has got so long that I may post an edited /extended version of it up back on my NN blog – if you’re OK with me re-posting your responses that I’ve included.

    PPS to CPP – thanks for the Enlightenment, BTW. Off now for some cucumber sandwiches. I do hope the butler has remembered to cut the crusts off properly.

  12. “If you all think commenting under pseudonyms is OK, then why not just get rid of the policy?”

    I’m afraid it’s not as easy as that!

    Several of us have made a case for allowing pseudonymous comments at NN. However, it’s not a unanimous position among the bloggers, and even if it was, it’s not up to us. Having said that, I do see several people commenting under a familiar pseudonym, and AFAIK none of them have ever been sent a cease and desist notice…

    There have also been a couple of posts recently by NN bloggers, roundly taking the piss out of various parts of the official policy. But the policies haven’t changed, and I don’t think they will any time soon. Personally that doesn’t bother me enough that I’m going to stop blogging there to make a point, because like Steffi, I really enjoy the community. I understand why some other people don’t, but hey, no-one’s forcing them to read!

  13. AE, beyond my penchant for FWDAOTI, there is a serious point here. NN is stepping on their own dick with respect to stated goals vis a vis increasing the online version of science interplay and discussion. Since I think their goals are decent ones, I consequently criticize their moves that get in the way of achieving those goals.

    It goes beyond just NN. Being aligned with NPG and more importantly, with Nature, they punch above their weight with scientific audiences. So it is no longer just a matter of network preference with respect to whether they are right or not in their bloviations. They troll out their nonsensical assertions about tone, commenting, etc, without proof and in direct opposition to the evidence in many cases. Consequently, if traditional academic organizations wish to start up some variety of online presence, they are going to look to NN and perpetuate the f-ups. This sort of thing should offend any scientist if you ask me…

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