Pros Contemplating Trouble Online LinkBlogging

T Campbell revisits the lessons he learned in writing A History of Webcomics. I never thought it was as bad a book as he did, although I didn’t see the abuse he apparently got because his perspective differed from others’. It’s a great essay that lists some key points you should keep in mind before writing non-fiction: You’ll make enemies. You can’t be unbiased. You’ll never be done, and you should act with confidence. As he looks back, he thinks:

… generally speaking, the book has done very well in reviews written after its first year in print–funny, considering how quickly parts of the book went out of date…. Reviewers now come to the book without axes to grind, and generally finish reading it before outlining their notes. And so every so often, I’ve picked the book up again, and done my best to self-assess.

In my view, it really is still that bad. Not so much because the ideas are wrong. By 2005 standards, the ideas are all right. But my conflicting desires to define the truth, to admit uncertainty about the truth, to be witty, to be fair, and to be kind resulted in half-hearted, half-baked half-work….

The root of my dissatisfaction, though, doesn’t come from anything that a fair critic could criticize. Even if you put “1993-2005” on the cover, a book like this can never be finished.

Speaking of getting attacked online, Peter David argues against anonymity, although he nicely casts it as a thank-you note to those who do use their real names. He talks about making the choice:

… to attach my name to my opinions. To not hide behind the comfort of anonymity. Even though this course of action has subjected me to: people trying to get me fired from Marvel; people trying to get me fired from DC; attempts at boycotts; my name showing up on blacklists; people challenging me to debates; people writing and publishing diatribes based upon things I never said; people shouting at me at conventions; people showing up at store signings and hurling a steady stream of abuse; and much more.

Screw ‘em.

For me, living in a free society isn’t always a comfortable thing, and that’s the part we should appreciate–and often don’t.

I’m not such a stickler for “real” names as he is, but I do believe, even if you choose to go by Arwyn Thistleflower instead of Robin Jones, you should stick with that handle consistently and stand behind what you say under it. Your words build a past for you, and other people can, and should, evaluate your comments based on your history as well as your content.

I wish more people valued this online playground, because if they found use in it, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to dirty it up.

These guys seem to be doing okay online, having come to terms with how they handle themselves. For a more cautionary tale, consider novelist Kiana Davenport. Creators today are told that they’re responsible for building their audience and that they need to put more effort into marketing themselves. Kiana did so, by releasing a self-published short story collection to promote her upcoming novel from Riverhead Books/Penguin — and the result was the publisher dropping her and suing to recover the advance money. She and the publisher aren’t talking about the details, but it seems that the publisher felt the author was competing with them.

Promoting yourself online is a fine line to walk. Most authors are told they should do so, but they have to be careful not to anger those giving them work — and sometimes, you won’t know what upsets them until after they’ve already gotten mad.

3 Responses to “Pros Contemplating Trouble Online LinkBlogging”

  1. Thad Says:

    I post under my real name, and have for over 20 years.

    That said, I’m a straight, middle-class white boy. Aside from the occasional stalker who gets mad that I banned him from my forums, looks up my address, and posts threatening Google photos of it (only to find out I haven’t actually lived there in a decade), or the one time a job interviewer pointed to something (very reasonable) I’d written about DRM, I’ve got nothing to lose in using my real name.

    I DO think there are people who would behave better online if they were forced to use their real names. However, that’s a moot point as there is simply no reliable way to determine if a name is real or fake (attempts by the likes of Google and Facebook to force “realname” use have merely forced people posting under fake names to use believable ones, while inconveniencing people who actually ARE named “Yoda” or “Batman”).

    On the whole, I’d agree with your assessment — using a consistent identity is acceptable and respectable, whether it’s your real name or not.

  2. Johanna Says:

    That’s true, there can be cases where someone shouldn’t connect their real name to their online persona. I still remember having to quickly research my phone company’s rules on harassing calls when someone from Usenet decided to take offense to my opinions. But the one time I tried to be someone else, it lasted about 1/2 hour before someone said, “Johanna, is that you?” So I don’t want to make a virtue out of my inability to not be authentic. :)

  3. James Schee Says:

    I haven’t read the book, but really just about anything in print about the web is outdated before its even printed.

    I’ve always used my real name online, my first ever SN with AOL was jwschee it just never occurred to me to be anyone else. Of course like Thad I’m a white, middle class straight man. Who lives in a very rural area that’d take someone very determined to come find me. And I’m really not that controversial, the one Internet argument I was ever in with a pro was over and I was being aologized to from her before I even saw the attacking post.

    Using my real name helped when I was able to go to cons, as it was a lot easier to say “I’m James Schee” to someone (& was recognized by a few people) than the (imo) embarrassing SNs like Superdude323 etc. that I see some folks go by.




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