I’ve been reviewing blogs that I follow in an effort to update my recommended people page (11/25/13 now Online Community Page). I started out thinking that it would be a simple task of compiling a list. However, it soon became apparent that there is a difference between people I read and people I want to recommend. I decided that I needed to define my criteria more clearly, which I will do later in this post, but first let me discuss a key question: should I recommend authors who are anonymous?
I can relate to anonymous authors because I went through this myself: I’ve had a limited access blog and I’ve used multiple pseudonyms on various online forums. I keep access to my social networking accounts limited. And, the use of pseudonyms has a long tradition, for example Ben Franklin’s Silence Dogwood back in 1722. However, I started this blog to interact with people in a public way. I want people who read this blog to be able to discover others who I trust, and thus find their own connections in this vast (cess)pool of information we call the internet. This question brings up the topic of internet privacy (possible future post), but for now let me say that I’ve decided to not recommend people who are anonymous.
To be clear, this does not mean that I won’t reference specific essays from anonymous people. After all, a good argument, story, or poem remains worth reading even without knowing the identity of the author. However, I believe that knowing the author is a benefit to the reader. I believe that opinions carry more weight when the author speaks publicly.
There are good arguments for online privacy, no question about that. However, we need to distinguish between personal information and personal opinions. A lot of money is spent influencing public opinion, especially after the Citizens United decision. One tactic to counter this trend is for more people to analyze the facts and share their opinions with others in their network. This social networking trend is growing already, but I think there is an argument to be made that it serves the common good for more people to express their opinions publicly.
People that I lean toward recommending tend to share enough information about themselves to provide readers with some context about their life. This is helpful in establishing trust. Some do this in a funny or off-color way, but the people I like the best provide enough information for me to feel comfortable with them. I may not always agree with their opinion, but at least I understand their point of view. For this reason, I will add posts to this blog to provide context for my viewpoints.
I went back and forth on the question of recommending television personalities or not. After all, these are likely to be people that readers know already, so why add to the media noise? Well, all of us get some information from television, and, as with any source, there are only a few people that I follow. So, I’ve decided that all media is fair game and I plan to post a mix of recommendations — from television, news, radio, and the blogosphere.
In summary, my criteria for recommending a person is that they are:
- Not anonymous
- Transparent regarding reputation, affiliations, and life context
- Open to a range of ideas
- Willing to engage in reasoned debate
- Committed to fact checking, providing references, and writing with integrity
Of course, I’ll do my best to live up to these standards as I contribute to this chorus of online, public voices.