My esteemed online colleague, Alex Hayes has once again hit the proverbial nail on the head, highlighting the very big deal that online identity is in this brave new networked world. Anonymity used to be reserved for those of us who were just starting out but it now seems to be the province of the coward, the troll or the antagonist seeking to disrupt productive communication and poisoning fruitful conversations.
Now more than ever, it is important to go by your real name, construct your avatar or Hackergotchi from a real photo and primarily use only your own words, and liberally use citations and hyperlinks when utilising the work of others. Using an alias and cryptic image will only raise suspicion about the need for a mask to hide behind.
Not all aliases and non de plumes are sinister as most genuine people are not hard to Google or tend to link to other open identifiable educators. Sometimes a fictional name puts enough legal distance between a blogger and their employer for the posts to flow freely, but a well written disclaimer can also do the same job. Within my own subscriptions, only a certain Kiwi vegetable might seem contradictory to the concept of open identity. In that case (and there are exceptions to most conventions) the alias serves as a metaphor, not a deception as the blogger's real identity was really easy to uncover (i.e. ask Leigh Blackall).
But if we need to be "surrounding this whole bullying thing with light" onto online bullies haunting comments and forums, then one of the best defences is to be really clear about who you are and make it easy to verify where you are coming from and expect nothing less from others in return. Expect that if you use a cartoon character or celebrity avatar, that others will dig virtually to work out your place in the jigsaw of online edu-interaction. Posters hiding behind fake email addresses, un-Googleable names and antagonistic, sinister tones are to be spurned. By all means, spirited debate and contrary points of view help us all to grow. But it you don't know me personally which of these personas would you trust? :