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Anonymous Blogging 101: a Quick and Dirty Primer

A Guest post by Treacle from The Lingerie Addict.

When the internet first became popular, many people loved the idea of creating a new identity online. Name, gender, age, hobbies …anything and everything could be fabricated. But in the era of Web 2.0, people have a new fixation–authenticity. Nowadays, your readers want to know that you are who you say you are, and for a lot of bloggers that includes using your real name.

But some folks, for one reason or another, just aren’t comfortable attaching their given name to a blog. Perhaps they’re blogging about sex or eating disorders or unfair corporate policies, but whatever the subject, the one thing they all have in common is a behind-the-scenes writer who wants to blog freely but not have to worry about some of the potentially negative consequences of blogging.

As one of those anonymous bloggers, I want to share with you the reasons why some people choose to blog this way, a few different methods to hide your identity, and a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go the anonymous route. Because this article is just a basic primer, we won’t talk about proxy servers, re-routing, and all the other technologically elite methods of making your online trail invisible. As the title says, this is simply a “quick and dirty” guide for people who want to know how to get started.

Why Blog Anonymously?

  1. Privacy & Safety—An anonymous blog allows for the most complete separation between your blogging life and your personal/professional life. For example, the once anonymous author Belle De Jour completed her PhD and began her career as a scientific researcher while blogging about her other job as a sex worker. Being public with her identity from the get-go would almost certainly have limited her career options. As another aside (and this is especially true for bloggers who write about sensitive subjects like sex, sex work, and pornography) blogging anonymously helps to control the risk of stalkers—those people who are determined to pay you unwanted and uninvited attention. Finally, anonymous blogging makes it clear that you’re only writing for yourself; your place of employment needn’t worry about people thinking you’re a “representative” of them.
  2. Honesty—Anonymous blogging allows some people to be more than honest than they might be if their real name was attached. For example, if you’re writing a blog about relationships, you may not want your name attached to that essay about your terrible date over the weekend. A blog identity that’s separate from your personal identity gives you a bit of breathing space that lets you write more openly and honestly.
  3. Personality & Character—Writing under a different name allows you to express different aspects of your personality, including parts that may not be appropriate to show at other times. In the same way that Superman was a cooler version of Clark Kent, your blog identity can be a cooler version of you. For example, my alter-ego Treacle is mellower, sexier, and more outgoing than the chick who shows up at my dayjob. Writing an anonymous blog gives me permission to play because I’m not dealing with the constraints of my already established “mundane” personality.

Ways to Blog Anonymously

  1. Full-on anonymity—This style of anonymous blogging uses an obviously fake name (think John Doe), no photographs, no birthdate, no city, no hobbies, nothing identifying whatsoever. This is actually how I started blogging, and I don’t recommend it. Unless you are really, really, really good…it’s hard for people to feel attachment to a question mark.
  2. Semi-anonymity—In this type, you use a false name but share some identifying details. This is how I blog right now. Treacle isn’t my given name, but the photos of me are real. So are other details like my hobbies, interests, relationship status, and so on. You might call this “everything but anonymity,” as in I share everything but the name on my driver’s license.
  3. “Secret identity” anonymity—I know of quite a few anonymous bloggers who do this. In this style, you choose an authentic sounding first and last name, complete with its own Twitter, Facebook, mailing address, activities, and so on. A side effect of creating a new and fully-formed identity is that people believe they’re already interacting with the real you, and so don’t go looking for it. But the downside is that if it ever comes out you created a fictitious personality and put it out there as your own, your readers can feel massively betrayed. You also have to start doing this from the very beginning of your blog for it to work effectively.

How to Blog Anonymously?

First of all, you want to set up a separate e-mail address just for your blog, register your blog’s domain name anonymously (I think most folks do this anyway), and consider using software like Tor to make your IP address untraceable. Some bloggers refuse to blog from their personal or home computers; they’ll only use the libraries computer, for example. Other bloggers write while offline, and then copy and paste the entire post into the blog while Tor is turned on. You should also consider setting up separate Twitter, Facebook, and Paypal accounts and perhaps even buying a P.O. Box if you’ll need to send or receive goods later on.

Second, spend some time thinking about your pseudonym. Whatever you pick, that will be the identity always associated with your blog. In the same vein, spend some time thinking about your boundaries. What are you okay with sharing? What is absolutely off limits? What are you unsure about right now but will revisit a month or two down the road? For example, I never share the names or any identifying details of friends, family, and intimate partners on my blog. I don’t even make up pseudonyms; I just call them by nouns like “The Boyfriend,” “The Best Friend,” or “The Cousin.” You want to work out the answers to these questions before you start posting.

Third and finally, just keep your mouth shut. If you don’t want anyone to know who you are, don’t tell anyone. Plain and simple.

What are Some Other Things to Consider?

  1. The only foolproof way to keep from being found out is to never blog at all. Therefore, you should start blogging under the assumption that you’ll be discovered one day. It’s depressing, I know, but it’s important to think about. One day, someone will recognize you and very possibly expose you. So, before blogging about anything, think about the potential consequences of that exposure. Whether it’s losing your jobs, losing your kids, or losing your freedom be prepared for the worst possible outcome.
  2. Anonymous blogging is not a free pass to be an asshole. Aside from the possibility that you’ll eventually be found out (see above), you are what you blog. Nice, nasty, or in between the people you attract are going to reflect what you write.
  3. It’s easier to start out with a lot of anonymity and open up over time than to do the reverse. If you’re not sure exactly how much you want to share just yet, start out by sharing a little less. You can always give more, but you can’t take anything back once it’s out there.

I hope this article helps you understand a little bit more about why some people prefer the anonymous approach, and, if you’re thinking about blogging anonymously, I hope it gives you a solid place to start. If you have any questions (about lingerie or anonymous blogging!), feel free to write me at [email protected].

anonymous-blogging-101.jpgAbout the Author: Treacle is a 25 year old knickers junkie who started blogging because her friends threatened to tape her mouth shut if she didn’t stop talking about her underwear. She welcomes lingerie lovers of every nation and persuasion to her blog, The Lingerie Addict.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Great post… I come from the side of bring a personality and enough personal info to let readers get to know you on a more personal level, building that relationship.

    Blogging “secretly” makes it harder to build a relationship and possibly harder to turn readers to customers.

    I do agree that “some” privacy is good, there is a fine line you have to walk, with sharing enough info to let your readers see YOU.. but not to much where it gets to personal.

    This is the beauty of blogging, it works either way, some people blog to blog, some people blog to make a living, i think you need to do what makes you comfortable.

  2. Really Great Post. I don’t think putting to privacy is really a good idea.
    As John said Privacy is good at some points.. , but not Full-on anonymity.. :D.

    Thanks for sharing this great Post. Great work teracle.

    ~Dev

  3. Cori Padgett says:

    Great post Treacle. :) I can understand the desire to blog anonymously, especially if you’re blogging about racy or controversial topics. I’m just about entrepreneurship, and I sometimes get the odd email or Tweet that’s a bit uncomfy.

    Good for you for making the decision of how much you want out there, and for giving others a few tips to do it themselves if they feel their more comfy that way. And LOVE your bio btw.. too funny. :)

    C

  4. Great post Treacle.
    I blog anonymously because of all three of your points. With my blog http://erraticblog.com , I’m able to be more open and write about things that I couldn’t otherwise write about due to my other business. Due to the nature of my other online business some could get easily turned off by things I may say or write about with my anonymous blog. I kinda wish I didn’t have to write anonymously, but some people are just too delicate.

  5. Mario Monk says:

    I have ‘edited’ my real name just a bit, because I did not want my readers to be confused with letter combinations that are hard to read and remember in English. :)

  6. Karen says:

    These are some good tips, Treacle, if you want to blog anonymously.

    I can totally understand the need to be anonymous sometimes as we all know that whatever you type or publish to the internet is eternal.

    Also, there are real concerns with identify theft and stalking so it’s just prudent to be aware of those real-life concerns and not to share everything about yourself on the internet.

    I have never heard of those tools before so thanks for sharing them.

  7. DiTesco says:

    Understood and good advice for those who really want to blog anonymously. However in certain occasions not all of those who don’t use their real names are anonymous bloggers. It could be a “brand” they have decided to use that makes more sense than using real names. In these cases though they still provide a profile where you can see that they are real and share information about who they are

  8. Great post, but one thing stumped me…
    you said,
    “Semi-anonymity—as in I share everything but the name on my driver’s license.”

    so your basically doing the same as perez hilton, right? because i dont see thats as really ‘anonomous’ – to me thats more ‘branding’.

    but other than that, some great tips – thanks for sharing :)

  9. Treacle says:

    Thanks for the comments so far, everyone! It’s been really great to hear what you all think. :)

    @Chris–The Lingerie Addict is my brand. Treacle is my name. I’m not sure if that answers your question, but it’s how I see it.

  10. JMoney says:

    Interesting post. I’m blogging somewhat anonymously on my SEO site because I’m sharing money making tips based on my other site (which I use my real name for). It allows me to give better insider advice from experience without my direct competitors knowing what I’m up to exactly.

  11. Believe it or not but, my real name is not Clearly Composed. :) Yes, I fall in that group where while I am more than willing to share much of my life here with the world, I do like having my pen name to afford me some protection when it comes to privacy. I do share my real name in private messages with people I get to know but I see no real reason to change from being C.C. here in my online world. Interesting post…thanks!!

  12. Wallpapers says:

    I’ll tell you what. I read the author description, nuff said…

  13. Clarabela says:

    Great post, Treacle!

    You are in great company. James Chartrand of Men with Pens has been blogging anonymously, and only recently revealed that he was indeed a woman!

  14. Sandy says:

    Interesting article and I can see why someone would want to use this tactic. However, I feel if you’re going to say it, you should own up to it and not hide behind anonymity!

    Thanks for the interesting post,
    Sandy
    http://emailmarketingtricks.com

  15. Joshua Noerr says:

    I like the idea of semi-anonimity when seperating an online activity from your own personal brand. My name doesn’t appear on any of my affiliate marketing activities, but I try to be as transparent and real as possible when dealing with my personal brand.

    If a personal brand is the goal, and building a strong one, I think zero anonimity is the way to go.

  16. Ben Mural says:

    I have been wondering how much to reveal about myself on my blog so this was a timely post. It helped me think through some of the issues involved.

    I just recently began a blog under a pen name. I chose to do this because I am soon to be a public school teacher and for now wish to keep my online identity separate from my students and colleagues. Eventually I would like to reveal my identity on my blog, but first I would like to gain more blogging experience while writing under a pen name.

  17. dandellion says:

    I started blogging as my Second Life avatar (or character if you like it). So, naturally, I used name dandellion Kimban. And I enjoyed my anonymity, or rather – pseudonimity, for many reasons, many of those that you stated and some others I explored in my posts about it (here and here).

    Now I’m stuck with that identity. Not that I mind, I like it and I kept it for my current blog, but now thinking of it, I’d really hate to have to build a whole new presence all over again. Though I never went that far to open a P.O box :)

    Anyway, thank you for this post. Too many people are making too much noise over the names. Like mark Twain and David Bowie are given names. It’s what people are saying, not what’s in their ID cards.

  18. Dave Higgs says:

    Thanks for this Treacle!

    I think another reason for anonymous blogging – and this is a “problem” I have – is when you interact with a wide array of age groups and so on.

    For instance I work with kids and some of my friends (adults, of course) are swingers! Now what can I put on to my facebook page that appeals to both these groups – and the wide array of others in between!

    Blogging as a form of social media will always have this kind of problem,but we deal with it.

    And for the record, there is nothing wrong with lingerie ;)

    D

  19. vashistha says:

    blogging as anonymous is not good….. you must tell the world who you are…like the problogger :)

  20. Walker says:

    I blogged for over a year anonymously, picking a name quickly, “Delicate Flower” without thinking about where I might want to go w/ my blog… the change to my real name has been complicated but I needed to tie all of my work (3 blogs now) together and begin to build my real reputation as a writer.

    I agree about much you’ve said about being careful. In my personal blog I shared story w/o names about a situation going on in my life, while still anonymous but the person in question found it.. it was messy, she pulled in my family members and … yuck! I held to what I’d written and didn’t remove it but it does illustrate the point about some of the cautions in writing anonymously…or not.

    Your post is great.. I’ve done a few presentations about blogging and used the same ideas, though you’ve gone into greater depth. Thanks…
    Can’t wait to read the lingerie addict. I write for a lingerie website!!

  21. hokya says:

    totally agree
    most of my friends have personal blog for a disguise of their competitor while they also ran another different blog for earning money

  22. Tech says:

    Anonymous is much better for bloggers. It allows them to better express themselves.

  23. Sarah Baron says:

    I blog anonymously and it has been great! I do it to protect my children and the identities of the other anonymous7. Finally, I do it, in case I am applying for a job in the future, so that I don’t have to worry what will show up under my real name at google. I recommend it, but always write under the assumption that one day you will be found out.

    Finally, I wrote a post On Being Anonymous and what it has done to my other personality in case you are interested.

    http://anonymous8.com/women-talk/on-being-anonymous/

    Hope all those in the States have a great July 4th.

    Sincerely yours,
    Sarah Baron
    Anonymous8

  24. Jane Baker says:

    Why hide yourself when blogging? Anonymous blogging should not be practiced.

  25. Tenar says:

    Thank you for this post Treacle!

    I also blog semi-anonymously. I use an obvious pseudonym and don’t share too detailed info about me and my whereabouts, but what I share is true, not fabricated. I’m no too fuzzy about anonymity though, I do share the blog with RL friends and my true personal details with online aquaintances with whom I have repeated email exchanges. There’s nothing on my blog that could have really bad consequences if I was found out. It still would be awkward if my boss and the gazillions of people I’m in contact with in my job could google it easiely. It’s hard enough to fend off those clients who want to invade my private life anyway. I could get fired for having private contacts to clients, and don’t like to have work tint every moment of my life anyway.

    In the blogging world, many don’t seem to understand why someone would like to stay anonymous, and react weird to me because of this. The worst are housewifes or retired persons who themselves don’t have to worry about their professional persona or the opinion of their boss any more, and also often have little understanding of internet culture outside the bloggosphere.

    For me, my blogging pseudonym is not a random handle, it is a chosen name that means a lot to me by now. I have been using it for many years in many places on the net aside from my blog. I come from environments like forums or IRC chat where it was normal to use pseudonyms and everyone would adress you the way you introduce yourself without signs of disrespect. So, when I got emails with my pseudonym used between ” ” it hurt me. Took me a while to understand that most of those people don’t mean to be disrespectful but just come from another culture of communication (or however you call it). I just wish some of my readers could be a little bit more understanding of me. Maybe that is something I should adress in a blog post one day.

  26. Hey Treacle,

    Thanks for the post. I think an interesting discussion and ultimately a matter of personal preference of how much of yourself goes online. I do draw careful boundaries when it comes to family and friends, less so for myself — and my real name is everywhere.

    In my opinion, when a writer is anonymous, I know the writer has less at stake because there is actually less at stake for the writer when he or she is wearing a mask to an audience. It mostly just creates distance between writer and reader, which means for me the writer is being a little too safe.

    I think readers crave authenticity and transparency because readers are so used to being marketed to and having an agenda under the guise of being real. I also think it is more likely an anonymous blogger today is more likely to be a corporate shill than a private person being really honest. In the end it is what makes the Internet so interesting as a writer can actually be both at any moment in time and no one would know — but definitely not my thing.
    devin

  27. Julius says:

    I think anonymous blogging really depends on the person’s preference. I’m glad you cleared up all the points and concepts about it.

  28. Jil Ob says:

    Great post Treacle!

    I thought long and hard about the annonymous route as I blog about sex and relationships.
    After a great deal of soul-searching, I decided to be totally honest about my identity as I felt an important part of promoting a sex-positive attitude was having the courage of my convictions and standing behind my opinions 100%.

    The point you make about setting clear boundaries is an important one. You can’t just ‘take back’ what you’ve shared and so need to be sure (as you possibly can be!!) that your honesty will not come back to haunt you in the future.

  29. Marcie Hill says:

    While I never thought about blogging anonymously, this is great information should I decide to do so.

  30. Jezza101 says:

    It’s funny that you mention Belle as the author was famously exposed (no innuendo intended!).

    At the time I remember the general concensus in the press was that if you want your musings to be kept anonymous forever then the only real way to do that is to not to blog. Investigative journalists can and will try to track you down if their is a story to be had.

    Of course many people don’t want to “brand” their blogs with their real name but I would work on the basis that if your site gets large enough to warrant the interest in who is behind the blog then, as Belle found out, someone will spill the beans.

    As good as Tor may be, and the idea of posting from libraries seems sound, but the real problem is that people leak information in other ways. Whether through their writing or through cookies etc. It just takes one slip up for your blog to be linked to you forever more.

    If the idea of getting exposed is too much then think carefully about what you write. I would work on the basis that one day it will come out.

    I don’t tell my friends I blog about WordPress, MediaWiki, Affiliate marketing etc, because I don’t want them to think I’m geeky. But if they did find out – it would hardly be the end of the world.

    On the other hand, if you have a blog like Belle de Jour, exposure will have some serious consequences. Think about it carfully and understand what you are getting in to.

  31. Great post. There are times i feel like expressing myself differently but due to my online identity i can’t. This post comes handy should i want to consider blogging under a different umbrella.

    Thanks once again.

  32. Seleena K says:

    I’m a big fan of semi-anonymous bloggers.

    Those who share everything including name and location tend to be less open and those who are totally open are often boring, naive or scary.

    Most “fantasy person” bloggers have personalities that you never really get to know and lack any type of continuity or credibility over the long term.

    Yet those who share everything except private contact details often seem to be real, intimate, candid and with well developed blog personalities that are closely tied to real life personas.

    While shopping in the lingerie department, I think it’s cool to wonder “What would Treacle think of that?!” yet believe we “know” you well enough that the answer is obvious.

  33. Jim Hill says:

    I would never hide myself.

  34. Treacle says:

    @Tenar–I completely understand! I think of Treacle as my chosen name too, and it was one I picked after careful consideration and deliberation. Not only that, but it’s a name I use in several online spaces where anonymity is the norm (like messageboards or forums), so by now it feels as much like my real name as the one on my I.D. Thanks for your insightful comment! :)

    @Jezza–The possibility of eventual exposure is one I mention later on in the article (under the “Other Things to Consider” Section). I agree…the only way to keep from being found out is to never blog at all. This article is for people who want to blog, but aren’t yet ready (or may never be ready) to blog under their given name.

  35. Great post Treacle! So excited for you!

  36. For a short period of time I also had a blog with an “augmentated identity” who was writing about stuff that happened – but in the way that it should have happened. It was a fun experiment, although I ended it after a few months and deleted my traces as good as possible. ;)

    If you are blogging anonymously you should check if you are not in conflict with local law by doing so. Here in Germany nearly every kind of site has to have an imprint with name and address, including personal blogs because they are directed to the public.

    There is virtually no way to get an anonymous .DE-Domain from a german hoster. Even if you somehow manage to get an anonymous domain through an international company or register a domain with fake data, it’s against the DeNIC-regulations and your domain could be closed.

    Of course, usually noone cares about a small blog in hosted at WordPress or Blogspot. But in theory it could still get you into trouble.

  37. Anne says:

    Loved the post! This topic was something I deal with because of the blog, website and columns I have. My take is that I combine my stories with others and may just be creating names of the folks involved or it may be the true identity – But I am totally upfront about this so people know, the stories are true, but the names protect the innocent. Most of the time, the innocent one is me :) Easier to write about the crap I do to kinda hide – gives me a freedom to really open up! Love love love this post!!! XOXO Anne

  38. Darren and Treacle –

    You addressed a very sensitive topic in this post.

    Anonymity is funny thing – almost every blogger who is starting out is anonymous by obscurity. And as bloggers’ credibility increases, there are days – or reasons why they choose to wear the garb of anonymity once again.

    As you rightly pointed out, anonymous blogging isn’t good or bad. It might be necessary – or the right thing to do based on circumstances. The key question to ask (and the one that is my personal credo) is – is it adding value, is it making a positive difference in someone’s life?

    Anonymous blogging also brings in its wake a different set of challenges with social media – a topic that I covered on my own Social Media Notebook blog today. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  39. Darren Cruz says:

    You are right, Anne. Hiding people under false names can also protect their identity. What’s important is the story is real and true.

  40. Jane Baker says:

    I truly enjoyed reading this article. True, hiding names will protect peoples identity.

  41. Febap Liew says:

    hello Treacle,
    this is really a great insight.
    It reminded me about what and how I used to be during my younger days.
    I didn’t really blog on anything during my younger times but apparently, I was so caught up and hyped about chatting along.
    Yes, as most of you who may have been through this circumstances, I enjoy having a false identity each time I chat online.
    I would be a 12 year old boy at one time and a 29 years old multi millionaire the next round.
    Even thou I wasn’t good at what i did the first, i progress and improve as I continue mastering such ‘dark’ art. =P

    however, those times are history even thou it makes me chuckle now that i think about it.

    Right now, to make money online today and registering accounts online,i prefer opting in my real identity. It makes it easier i presume at one point. In fact, talk about building solid credibility and reputation. Who knows one day i might have to host a talk show. =P
    therefore, i find at some point of time and situation, it is best to best honest with what you are.
    =)
    cheers
    have a nice day.

  42. Jason Fox says:

    There are reasons why people hide themselves under false names.

  43. Dino Dogan says:

    Anonymous Blogging is a frequent topic in my circles. I’ve encountered many people (interestingly enough they are almost always cute girls…go figure) who cant fathom the idea of real “you” being put out there for everyone to see. My recommendation is always the same. Be yourself and let the chips fall where they may.

    I say that while agreeing with everything “Treacle” said about the pros and cons. In addition, the caveat of authentic “you” being put out there is that your words carry weight (more so than if you say them anonymously). If weight is important to you, I recommend you use the real “you”.

    Provocative but somewhat trivial topics dont necessarily require weight, in which case…go nuts.

    Very cool article, I plan on sharing it with some folks who I know can use it. Thnx “Treacle” :-)

  44. privatetube says:

    I luv your layout did you create that by yourself? Im looking for a blog design thats kinda the same so that is the the only reason I am asking. Either waykeep up the nice work I’m impressed :)

  45. Simon Bunker says:

    Great post Treacle! The timing of this is quite apt as I have a friend who is about to start blogging anonymously. I will point them in the direction of this post.
    Personally I feel that you should be open about your blogging but I guess it depends on the individual.
    Thanks for sharing this post

  46. cjnoof says:

    Living a lie is not living, if you ask me. I am sure that you are not as anonymous as you think.

  47. Treacle says:

    @Kapil–Thanks for summarizing what I really think of as the takeaway! Blogging under a pseudonym isn’t good or bad…it just is. What’s most appropriate for you and your blog will vary.

    @Darren–I completely agree. You can be an authentic person and share an authentic story without giving the name on your passport. Think of how many famous authors have written under pen names; somehow their words still manage to connect with people.

    @”Dino”–Thank “you” for “your” comments, “Dino.” It was good to have another “person’s” perspective.

    @privatetube–The contact info for my blog’s designer is at the bottom of the front page. She’s amazing…I can’t recommend her enugh!

  48. Kalesh @SE says:

    Hey

    I am very happy hearing your tips. It was a beautiful list with some great points. Even I was not aware of most of the points included in the post and I tried to reveal many of my personal mattes in blog. Now I will try to put a control on it.

    Thanks for the post.

  49. Kind of makes you wonder who the crazy person is that writes some of the articles and blogs(?) out there!

  50. Febap Liew says:

    maybe all for the reason they are just trying to be what they couldn’t in reality.
    as for example a guy that all along felt he was more of a ‘girl’. ( get the idea )
    there is no way he could possibly portray such state in reality but through the internet, it is possibly for him fulfill his personal ‘desire’ and express his true ‘state of being’. =\
    cheers