In this post, I mentioned that I didn't know who Jeff Rice is, even though he's from the department that granted my Ph.D (about two years before he arrived). I've gotten a few people asking if that link was an implied endorsement of his article -- and it was not. It was simply to say, "hey, here's a blogger from my grad school, but I don't know him at all."
So now I feel compelled to write about the two issues raised in his post (and the raising of hackles that followed): pseudonymous blogging and overly-serious blogging.
First, as to pseudonymous blogging: the short answer is that I think it can be both fine and terrible, as with any other pseud/anonymous activity. Though I blog in my own name (part of that whole "public intellectual" project), I don't have anything particularly against pseudonymous blogging. I know the identities of many pseudonymous bloggers (a few who don't know I know, too), and I feel no desire to "out" them. In one case, I have not blogrolled a pseudonymous blogger because I think she feared others might figure out her indentity by the connection (so I keep her blog in my "Favorites" file). Most pseudonymous bloggers I know blog to maintain a freedom to be honest without fear of damaging their careers; in the case of academics, this generally means that their institutions also go unidentified.
But, the protest goes, pseudonymous bloggers often use their anonymity to behave badly! Yup, that's right ... but I can think of a dozen academic blogs of the top of my head in which the blogger behaves badly in their own name, generally in the form of stupid political posturing protected by tenure. I can also think of a lot of pseudonymous blogs that behave properly, are always respectful of their audience, and use their pseudonymous nature to blog more honestly, not more cruelly.
Besides, I engage in all sorts of anonymous behavior besides blogging. Like everyone else, all of my electronic financial interactions are done anonymously (lest hackers steal all those big bucks we professors get paid). I have used anonymous e-mail accounts to subscribe to all sorts of online publications because I don't want to get a bunch of spam (Let us tell you about our latest exciting product!). I vote anonymously. In other words, I engage in anonymous behavior to protect myself from all sorts of threats, from major (hacking all my dough) to minor (getting spam). My children are required to remain anonymous/pseudonymous online, for the obvious reasons, a reputable websites for children forbid kids from posting identifying information.
My point is that anonymity itself is not a problem; the problem is people abusing that anonymity. Sure, some people use ski masks in bank robberies ... but then, a lot of people use them to keep from freezing. Let us freely condemn those who use anonymity (or tenure or sheer cussed-ness) to be mean, but let's not condemn all pseudonymous blogging.
Now, as to the second issue -- seriousness. I think it is true that a lot of bloggers take the medium (and by extention, themselves) too seriously. But we took down Dan Rather, but we're the New Media, but we are a democratizing force ... yes, all that may be true, but there's also a lot of blogging out there that is delightfully unserious. I've got a pretty serious project behind the Wordhoard (again, the whole "public intellectual" thing), but if I ever start falling prey to the idea that because of my blog I'm "Professor Awesome, Ph.D.", it's time for me to go back and read Plato's account of the dialogues of Aristotle, 'cause I'm not all that (nor am I with a bag of chips). I think a blogger can take the blog seriously without taking himself seriously.
So, to summarize:
Pseudonymous blogging = sometimes good, sometimes bad
Taking one's blog seriously = usually good
Taking oneself serious = always in moderation