Outed on the Internet: A Houston professor's plight becomes a web phenomenon

Highlights from the Blog at HOUSTONPRESS.COM

HB: How did you build a following?

JB: The blogosphere has changed. Back when I started in very early 2004 there were a lot more, I guess you'd call them solo practitioners, just writing about stuff. And you had to get breaks, basically. There were a few big bloggers, and I would write for a little bit, then I would send my links out to well-known bloggers begging them to, you know, acknowledge me, and a few of them did. Once you get people there, then if they like your writing they'll stay and spread. So it's just getting over that very first hump that is the key...You spend a lot of hours at night, especially in the early stages, trying to write interesting stuff, and hoping people will read.

HB: How important is pseudonymity to the blogosphere?

JB: I think that it adds voices who couldn't otherwise be heard. There are a lot of people who can't put their name to things they write, for probably even better reasons than I had. If this norm doesn't exist, and if this norm isn't protected, they're never going to write, and the public won't have the benefit of their voices.

HB: Would you have started blogging without it?

JB: There's no way. When I originally started I was working as a [judicial] clerk, and I would have never done anything to draw attention to the chambers. And the same deal even if I had waited until [I moved to my] law firm. So yeah, if this norm didn't exist, I would never have started. That may not be such a bad thing, depending on what you think of my writing.

HB: Do you think your attacks warranted an outing?

JB: I think Rick Moran at Rightwing Nuthouse had a good post on this. If you spend more than an hour in the blogosphere, you'll see much harsher things said. So by the standards of what happens in blogosphere, I didn't think it was too harsh.

HB: Would you have outed yourself eventually?

JB: I always thought there would be a day down the road where I would...But I think that choice belongs to the individual writer. The choice is what's important.

HB: Did you pick "publius" because of its history as a pseudonym? (James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay used it to pen the Federalist Papers.)

JB: I would love to take credit for thinking of all this. I didn't. But, you know, that name has a rich tradition, and it allowed some of these arguments to be made more effectively than they probably otherwise would have been.

HB: Any idea how Whelan found you out?

JB: My guess is just someone who knew who I was and disagreed with me politically e-mailed him after my post, but other than that I don't really know.

HB: Do you have advice for the remaining pseudonymous bloggers out there?

JB: Be aware that the risk is out there, and be careful of who [knows your identity]. But my hope would be that they choose to write and continue to write. The silver lining of this incident is that hopefully pseudonymity will be even more protected because everyone came out so strongly in support of it. I think that people now will think twice, hopefully, before outing someone because of the negative reaction to it.

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