Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Is it right to take away 'anonymity'?

Usually about this time on a Wednesday I'd be posting a 'guest blog' but I'm going to deviate slightly to give some words about a petition that's going around which some of you may have heard of - It's to do with forcing Amazon to do away with the anonymity of reviewers/Amazon members. The 'petition' reports a whole host of nightmarish activity on forum's and professes this is the direct result of organised 'Troll Attacks'.

Again, way back in an earlier post I mentioned the protocols of Amazon forums, I may even of mentioned that 'Trolls" abuse and bully peeps.

Off the back of the heightened global awareness of Internet Trolls and their activities, or more importantly the results of these activities, the glove of challenge to remove anonymity is thrown at Amazons feet.

Behind this 'petition' is the mighty pen of none other than Anne Rice.

Ms Anne Rice is a very well known International Author, mainly Vampire books from what I gather, She brings a touch of glamour, authority and, erm, publicity to the movement. There's no better time for a bit of publicity than just before a book launch. Yesterday Ms Rice decided to announce the impending launch of a new book. A coincidence, probably.

Make no mistake, I am not a fan of bullies at all, on any level. And I have seen some very unsavoury comments posted on these forums, hence the early warning in one of the first posts here. But her references to 'packs' or spiteful and malicious groups attacking her are more than just a little one sided. I witnessed a lot of what was posted through December, and for most of the time I spent looking on the forum Ms Rice did a lot of stirring, prodding and criticising of her own (this is on a thread that she had started). She did blow a lot of hot air up 'authors' backsides whilst being (in my opinion) damn right rude to some 'reviewers', or about the importance of 'reviewers'. And I, personally, also have an issue with the supposed interview where Ms Rice reminds the world that she agreed very generously offer advice to aspiring writers.. That's great publicity, it also has links to The Province interview and the Guardian interview - wow that's a lot of publicity. Any hoo,  I am not saying that 'Trolls" as such do not exist, they do, but in minute numbers, albeit still unpleasant. 

The proposal to remove anonymity can be likened to driving a truck over a fly to kill it: Accepting the fact that realistically there is nothing that can kill all flies. So, what would an enforced 'anonymity policy' mean, and for who?

1. A massive drop in the number of active members of Amazon.
2. The active 'Trolls' would have to find a way around that policy.
3. The people that need that anonymity because of a fear of making themselves public on the internet would not be around.
4. Amazon would see a massive drop in the number of Active members.
5. The very people (Authors) that are demanding the demise of anonymity would have less 'eyes' on their books, less purchasers.
6. If 'anonymity' is abolished surely this would mean that 'pen-names' are off limits to.
7. There's a very good probability that will be a massive drop in the number of Active members on Amazon.
8. Those 'Trolls' that have found a way around the system will have a much easier time of finding the real details of their intended prey.
9. Any significant drop in Active members will also result in a proportionate drop in revenues.
10. Everybody could call each other by their first names when writing posts.

(*1,4,7 & 9 are deliberate, it's to emphasise the only impact that is going to concern Amazon)

I saw a poster put another posters personal details on the forum, and included a threat to utilise contacts to send disinformation to an employer - then goad the person with unemployment and destruction of character. That particular poster is easily identifiable to Amazon, but they do nothing (despite the matter being reported, I'm guessing umpteen times.) It doesn't invest the funds to moderate the forums without anonymity, it certainly isn't going to invest the extra funds to moderate them with anonymity. So, they'll close the forums, remove the facility and it's the members that will suffer.

Let's not forget that these forums are a service that Amazon provides, and in the greater scheme of profit making I'm guessing it has a very very small insignificant impact on theirs, whereas to actual book sales and contacts for the Author it will be a different story.    

To me, taking away the ability to post, review or write behind that veil of anonymity is something that would do a lot of damage to authors/readers/reviewers; especially when there are much easier and cheaper ways of achieving the same result.

However, at least it's getting a bit of publicity - now, when did I mention was the best time for publicity.......

I should remind you guys that these are my personal opinion's.



  1. Look, I have to ask a question and I mean it to be taken seriously. I’m not a troll and I’m not attacking you—I’m just so astonished by what I have read that I have to ask for clarification. You say “forum’s” when you mean “forums”. You say “I may even of mentioned” when you mean “I may even have mentioned”. You say “Amazons feet” when you mean “Amazon’s feet.” And so on. These are marks of the semi-literate—the person who’s submission would not hold an agent’s or publisher’s attention beyond the first para. But you present your blog as a writer’s blog and yourself as a writer so I need to know: You are having a laugh. Aren’t you? And, by the way, I would love to see anonymity removed from Amazon reviewers. It won’t happen, though.

    1. Hi John. I openly admit that I have not attended writing skills courses, or that my schooling was of any great standard, but I follow this by mentioning the importance of a proof reader. I have no doubt that your corrections are valid, and I thank you for taking the time to point them out. I may not be as 'literate' as many when writing my thoughts, but by the time those thoughts become a book the professionals have done their job well. It's a team effort.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Interesting post, Andrew. I agree with your points even though I've never seen or suffered from Trolls (to echo my FB comments, it may be my age :-)), and a small point to John: it's 'whose', not 'who's'. This punctuation…so tricky, isn't it? Probably safer not to criticise unless you are sure of your own…:-D. PS I deleted the last comment because I forgot the smiley. Just trying to be friendly!

    1. Yes, Val, I know it's whose but I've been "corrected" so many times I gave up in public posts. Thanks for adding to the list.

  3. Hi Val - I kind of see this blog site as a scribble pad of thoughts or memories. Mostly it's been about my own experiences, highlighting what I thought others should be aware of. You are most welcome to share your thoughts here, as is everybody else with something to add. And thank you for even coming to this blog :-)

    1. Thanks to you too, Andrew! I'm a big blogging fan, so I'll put you on my blog list!

  4. Andrew. Thanks for your reply. I'm still not convinced, but I've written a post for my own blog that touches on the question: Is this possible? If you lack the basic building blocks—the tools of the trade as I have called them—can proof readers and editors turn it into something saleable? The post quotes my reply to you and yours to me and I would not be so rude as to post it without your approval. Can I please have an email address so that I can send the draft blog post to you? If you say, "No, don't post that," I promise I won't.

    1. Hi John - I have sent you an email giving permission to reproduce this conversation on your own blog. Thank you for asking, and I hope it helps.

  5. Sorry--you won't want to post your email address here so I'll tell you mine:

  6. The post referred to above appears on John's site and expresses his concerns in a professional manner. To be honest my blog site is (as stated at the top of the page) a bit of informative fun, I try not to take myself too seriously. I write my thoughts in an informal and relaxed manner. All of that said, when my books go to print they are proof read and edited professionally, to a very high standard. I believe I owe the reader that much as they have paid for the privilege.