The Anal_yst sparked a solid talking point last night when he penned a post asking what people thought of anonymous blogging/tweeting etc. Felix Salmon expanded on the topic, highlighting the most important issue: for many pseudonymous bloggers, especially in finance, their employers would fire them if they published under their real names. This may seem confusing to some readers, what with "freedom of speech" and all, but my former employer (and I'm guessing most industry peers) have strict policies about communicating with the masses. If the New York Times called me up at my old trading desk and started asking me questions, I could get fired just for answering them. There are company spokespeople who do the press interviews, and we have to refer the reporters to such people. The end result of this is that if you want these pseudonymous financial authors' insights, and you SHOULD want their insights, as they know a crap-ton more than the journalists who write the mainstream media stories do, you have to put up with pseudonymity. (at this point I'll point out that most people who are talking about "anonymous" bloggers really mean "pseudonymous" bloggers. Anonymous commenters are common, but anonymous bloggers are rare.)
The important point, which I've touched on here multiple times in various forms, is that it's what's being said that matters more than who is saying it. I've explicitly discussed this mantra previously with respect to the comments of David Einhorn and Steve Eisman. Critics of Einhorn's and Eisman's ideas quickly snipe "Oh, they're short sellers - that's why they're saying that." Yes - but what about what they're saying - is there anything wrong with their arguments?
Critics of pseudonymous speech say things like "Oh, you're hiding behind a pseudonym - you should stand up to what you write." Let me speak for myself: Kid Dynamite is, obviously, a pseudonym, but that doesn't mean it's meaningless - it's my online identity. It's not as if I can just spout of irreverent nonsense because I'm not writing under my real name - everything I say goes into the "Kid Dynamite" body of work and reputation, which I very much stand behind and work very hard to establish. As The Epicurean Dealmaker put it: "a PSEUDONYM creates an identity,a distinctive voice which persists thru time.This is OPPOSITE of anonymity"
"But Kid Dynamite," you ask, "You're no longer working at one of the repressive uptight financial firms - why are you still pseudonymous?" Fair question, and one that I've thought a lot about. A few colleagues said I should write under my real name, and others advised sticking with the pseudonym. Personally, I happen to think that there are lots of crazy people out there who I don't need to know my real name. I don't need to be worrying about them hunting me down just because they don't understand ETF mechanics and are angry that I'm not part of the Physical Silver or Die movement (even though I'm bullish on silver). I don't need the guy who loses his money day trading coming after me because I explained that high frequency trading wasn't any different philosophically than what he was trying to do.
My favorite "anonymous" attack came on Seeking Alpha after I wrote the post "Calling out Matt Taibbi on Dark Pools." The article was a demonstration of Taibbi's misunderstanding of the subject, but that didn't stop a commenter from attacking my "anonymity." I responded with some snark, including the sentence "It doesn't matter if my name is Harry Dooker, Stephen Judge, George Washington, Ben Bernanke, or Kid Dynamite - the facts are still the same."
My attacker was satisfied, apparently thinking that Harry Dooker was my real name: "Fair enough Mr. Dooker. You've shown who you are. It's now a call-out. Respect."
What's interesting is if people would respect my blog more if it were written under the pseudonym "James Sturgeon" instead of "Kid Dynamite." We all have cognitive biases, and it's definitely likely that the name "Anal_yst" or "Kid Dynamite" negatively biases readers from the get-go. That's an unfortunate side effect of having chosen those monikers, and yet, as I mentioned above, I am my moniker - I have a body of work that has gone into it already, so I don't just want to create a new one.
James Sturgeon does have a nice ring to it, though. I mean, the fish theme seems to be working as far as pseudonyms go - right Felix? "Felix Salmon" is a psedonym, right? (/sarcasm)