Community And Anonymity Must Get Along

Anonymity might be the only path to building community in an age of corporate brand preservation.
I think Anonymous is relevant in this context because an online business commons lives at the intersection of the hive mind that is the Internet and the hive mind that is corporate brand protection. And the only way to get past that deafening buzz is for business portals to invest in -- and for business consumers to adopt -- a credentialing authority for the anonymous business masses online, something similar to what InformationWeek did for me.

The closest I've seen to what we need is on LinkedIn. When you click on "Who's viewed your profile," you see a mix of real names (the brave), those who "chose to be shown as anonymous" (the cowardly) and the people who fit somewhere in between:

--Someone in the Design industry from the Dallas, Texas, Area

--Someone in the Computer Software industry from the San Francisco Bay Area

--Someone in the Legal Services industry from the Anchorage, Alaska, Area

It's that last set of people who, in the context of a community dialogue, have shared enough with me to let me feel connected.

Trust is an entirely different matter. Sites can easily ask users for city, industry and role information, but people can just as easily dodge that ask (see sockpuppetry).

A handful of companies have taken on the challenge of verifying identities, usually for commerce. But the need that continues to go unmet is that of verified anonymity -- for all of us in the business world who want to contribute to the creation of a thoughtful online community but can't risk the crosshairs of Big. There probably is a company or product out there that's perfect for this challenge. We just need to introduce it to the business portals.

The Insipid Message Of The Social Media Rah-Rahs

If I read another "10 reasons" article about why companies should use Twitter or why executives should tweet, my tweet will tweet!

I finally signed Coverlet up. Not because I have insight to share. In fact, I'm thinking about tweeting my weight every day. Frame it as half protest, half art installation.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer