Some new blogs have popped up on referrers and blog searches in the last couple of weeks.  My normal practice is to keep an eye on new blogs to see where they go, participate in discussions, and then see about how I can help successful blogs become more successful.  But there's a different trend going on in the last few weeks, and it really surprises me.  Many of the new Lotus-related blogs are being written anonymously.

Now in some cases, people do this because their employers prohibit them from discussing "work" in public, and they've chosen to interpret that to include discussing the technology they use at work.  They write about coding challenges and admin tips and the like, and that's all good.  An example:  "One Lotus Developer", who attended Lotusphere and seems to be quite excited to get ahold of Notes 8 (hint: you'll read it here first :-).

Other cases seem to be online venting outlets.  That's fine, too -- who hasn't written a flameogram at some point in their life?  I've seen a bunch of these show up in the last few months.  The most recent one is "i hate lotus notes", and by linking it I've just gone against what I wrote in comments there.  It may well be an interesting read, but if they're just going to rant and rant -- no matter how accurate or relevant they are -- I'm just not interested.  Why not?

The answer to that lies in the latest discovery, the "Big Smile Happy Club".  The writers here are arrogant enough to say that my position on anonymity, discussed just a few days ago, is the wrong way to go:

There can be no free discussion if there is any limitation on the discussion. Once you exclude participants for any reason you have immediately restricted free speech. Now, it's your blog and you have the right to do so, but don't claim it improves the conversation, how can any conversation be improved by the exclusion of opinions? There is, as can be seen in any free speech nation, a price for that. You must endure the fools, it is an either/or proposition. Either you promote, encourage and support free speech or you don't. ...

There is a power in anonymity that can be a important tool in an open society. It can be guaranteed that some of those who scream about online trolls and want to restrict them also would throw sh*t fits if when they went to vote their vote was public. Hell, pick any loss of personal security. Once again, you can have a free society (with its warts) or not, which side are you on?
Actually, I'd happily allow my vote to be public, but I do acknowledge how important that right to privacy is.

As I said in a comment on the "club", there is a huge difference between the need for protected speech and open discourse in government, politics, and society in general, versus running a business.  In a business, if you start listening to anonymous critics, you have no way to know what those critics represent--legitimate business interests, fanboys, fringe elements, critics, competitors, muckrackers, or anything else.  

If I take time away from listening to the customers and partners I can identify, in order to listen to voices that I can't, there's no way to know whether I'm on the right path or not.  There simply aren't enough hours in the day to spend the cycles with those who won't identify themselves.  I'm not going to be able to have a credible conversation with my vice-president citing screen names and aliases.  And I'm certainly not going to change my policy.  

Sorry, Script Avenger.

Update 28 February 2007: The "Big Smile Happy Club' went off the air 24 hours after this blog posting.  Eventually, the blog/domain was hijacked, so I removed the link.  "i hate lotus notes" has been hacked with a redirect -- which first went to a completely inappropriate site, then was redirected to a page on on Outlook.  I've removed both links.

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