Friday, August 25, 2006

In Defense of Ghost-blogging

A. Fatih Syuhud criticizes those who blog anonymously (apparently this is not the first time). I think there are many legitimate reasons to support those who chose to "ghost blog." Unfortunately, only one seem to be acknowledged by Fatih: security.

So I'm putting forward three points (not in order of importance) to refute his argument.

First point: about authority. What makes the Internet (including blogging) interesting for many people is that there are very few rules. For the large part, the Internet is (still) a free world. Sure there are ethics, but I think they should be applied forcefully only to issues that are damaging (such as spam), not issues such as "linking back," as Fatih said here:
this is one of unwritten conventional rule in blogger world: whenever someone link your blog, you're obliged to link it back.
Since when is blogging full of "rules" and "obligations"? Conventions, maybe. Consider this: saying "thank you" is not common in many Indonesian villages (unless you actually give them something), but we'd more likely get a smile or a nod instead. Or, my Japanese friend told me that there is no "please" in Japanese language. Or, I had a hard time finding the Javanese expression for "excuse me."

Second point: about Narcisism. I'm NOT apposed to it, but isn't that a bias in itself? Delicate, Delightful, Delicious said (my own translation):
People say, welcome to the era of narcisism. This saying refers to blogs and their increasing quantity and popularity.
Fatih is acknowledging this just fine, by saying
Indonesian bloggers tend to make their blogs and their names known in the google world and are proud to see their traffic achieves PG (page ranking) four plus. ...
I hardly found any Indonesian bloggers whose pictures, true full names and CVs are not attached in their blogs.
And this:
blogger is an ego-driven medium, a self-publishing means and a self-satisfying "lust" of own-self existence. Let's be honest about it.
I agree, to a certain extent. But I think your statements may be pushing it too far (they don't apply to everyone). And some bloggers may NOT like to hear that blogging is identical with narcisism.

Third point, let me support nad's note on the issue of objectivity. As Nad wrote, there are two opinions on objectivity:
1. a work cannot possibly have been made in void and thus better understanding can derive from understanding and knowledge of the background of the very person behind the work itself.

2. the work itself should be the main focus of attention. Once a work is released to public domain, it thus becomes public and its interpretation therefore rests with the eyes of each beholder.
Let me ask Fatih: If you knew beforehand that a post is written by an anonymous foreign blogger, then would you view it "differently" than a post written in the same tone by an open-identity Indonesian?

If such post is critical of Indonesia, then would you think that the former is objective and credible, while the latter is biased? If such post is critical of the foreigner's country of origin, then would you think that the foreigner is objective, and the Indonesian is biased?

We can apply this to many things: nationality, religion, gender, what have you. The truth is, not every person is a fundamentalist. I am a Muslim, but at certain times I can be very critical of other Muslims, and other times supportive. Why? Because another part of me is liberal, and another part socialist, etc., which may - sometimes - contradict with Islam. I am pro marginal communities, though I come from a well-off family. I work in a field that champions the use of ICT and hails "the death of geography," but is a fan of urban studies and learned that geography/space is still alive and kicking (ICT even makes geography more important than ever!). I'm sure I'm not the only one who lives with inner contradictions.

I'm sure Fatih means well. But hope this contributes to keeping the internet and blogging a free world.


  1. Without anonymous writing/pseudonyms we probably would have never heard of Max Havelaar, written by our most famous expat.

    And link reciprocity is a silly rule indeed.

    Btw, I heard from the grapevine that you're moving abroad to conquer new and greater challenges. Good luck and keep posting.

  2. What an interesting article, though I think you're a bit being too defense here. I dont really agree with all your saying about Fatih. But who cares? We are what we are, right? And this is your blog, too. You have the rights to write whatever you want! (grinned)

    I don't think link reciprocity is a must, nor even an obligation. But I believe that what should be called as "ethics".

    But exactly at this point, I'm wondering about your own support about ethics, as stated in your nice article here. Are you, or are you not? Action speaks louder than words (wrtings), my friend.

  3. Hi Ujang,
    Max Havelaar would be a great example. About moving out, yes, that might be true, although time-wise it's still uncertain. I may have heard also from that same "grapevine" that you (if you are who I think you are) have just returned to Indonesia? Well good luck to you too.

    Hi Terbanglah lebih tinggi,
    Thanks. Do I support ethics? Sure. I just believe that ethics are dynamic (there is always tension between people who are trying to create new ethics vs those trying to maintain existing ones) and relative (they should not be homogenized - therefore, ethics is a plural word, with a 'small' e).

  4. Muli,
    I am still trying to figure out whether you're trying to ghost-blog or not. You left out a trace of your id somewhere... ;-)

    Say hi to your little sis...

  5. hehe nice piece, muli. i've nothing to response, but if you're interested to read my other post, here you go Anonymity and Credibility
    Keep blogging, nice to have another friend online. :)


  6. Hi Arya,
    I don't know if I'm "ghost-blogging" or not. Sure, my traces are all over the place. I use my real nick name & place, I have links to my organizations, etc. Anyone who asks me about my identity will get an honest answer :)

    Hi Fatih,
    Thanks for commenting. I enjoy reading your blog and regard you highly. See you in future posts.