Sunday, April 22, 2007


Dr Michelle Tempest has written an interesting post on bloggers and anonymity, or lack of. When I set up my blog I didn’t even consider the possibility of not being anonymous, maybe because one of the great attractions of the internet is the ability to hide who you are.

So why am I anonymous on here? I don’t need to hide because I express controversial opinions as I don’t think I do and the things I say on here are the same things I say in the real world. A good reason for anonymity is to preserve the anonymity of my colleagues and hospitals. Sometimes I talk about them and they might not want to be exposed on the internet; maybe worse, they might think I’m talking about them when I’m actually talking about somebody different. Anonymity for me and my colleagues is a solution to this. Either that or naming all names so there can be no misunderstanding but that’s hardly acceptable.

Another reason for being anonymous is that it’s a bit of fun. Sometimes I wonder if anybody I know in real life reads this blog (actually they probably don’t!) and has realised who I am, or if somewhere, somebody is erroneously suspecting one of their colleagues of being me. It ‘s also a play on the slight stigma attached to being a pathologist. Sometimes it’s easier not to be specific about what you do because of the comments you might get. It reminded me of the stereotype of the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where new members stand up and say: ‘I’m K and I’m an alcoholic’ – being honest about what they were. That’s where the name of the blog came from, and it kind of follows on from the name to be anonymous as well.


At 10:34, Blogger Dr Grumble said...

When Dr Grumble started his blog it was really just an experiment. It seemed so easy to do. There was no purpose to the blog to begin with other than giving it a go. But the name Dr Grumble makes it clear that it was certainly in the Grumble mind to give vent to feelings that he could not otherwise give vent to. Not anyway in any public sort of way. The thought police are out there you see.

Speaking his mind was something Dr Crippen was doing. And Dr Crippen was saying things that Dr Grumble would not have been comfortable saying in an attributable way - despite their undoubted truth. As readers have spotted Dr Grumble still holds back but what he has been prepared to say he has found cathartic.

Originally old Grumble intended to put lots of interesting clinical snippets in the blog – because those are the things that Dr Grumble is interested in. For this anonymity was essential. Even as it is the few clinical cases in his blog are heavily disguised to the extent that readers have spotted inconsistencies that have arisen as a result.

Then the blog got a life of its own. It started going down a management pathway. Dr Grumble is not really interested in management. But bad management is the cause of a lot of the problems in the NHS and these things are so important that you cannot ignore them. If you do, you get problems like MMC/MTAS. When the blog started heading off in the ‘wrong’ direction he posted ‘This is not a management blog’ but, by then, it was.

By the time of the MTAS debacle Dr Grumble began to feel that he had a duty to his readers. Suddenly the blog was no longer for Dr Grumble it was for his readers.

Maintaining true anonymity is not easy. But some sort of anonymity is essential in the NHS if you are not going to suffer damage. One day a nurse told Dr Grumble that the students said he had a blog and that his blog name was ‘Dr Grumpy’. This was a great surprise to Grumble. Mrs Grumble’s work colleagues were also quick to identify her and are busy working on the identity of Dr Crippen. If they really want to know who Dr Crippen is, it should be quite easy to work it out.

It is no surprise to Dr Grumble that NHS bloggers like to be anonymous – though others seems surprised. If you are employed by a university like Morris Brown you may be able to afford to lead a MMC revolt but for Dr Grumble sniping from the sidelines is all he is prepared to risk. If the system had allowed the Dr Grumble’s of this world to speak out then the problems of MMC/MTAS would never have happened. But the government is intent on doing things its way without listening and has hired hands that stifle all opposition lest their damehoods are put at risk.

At 21:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Dr Grumble.

Yes, it is very easy to work out who Dr Crippen is. He has revealed more than enough about his past and present for anyone with a brain to locate him. But as he does not wish to be un-anonymised, working out his identity is not a beneficial exercise if you want him to stay online.

My opinion is that anonymous blogging is akin to writing a masterpiece for which one will never be able to claim ownership. One may elicit deep thoughts and responses in others, but though the writer sees their readership reaching out, hears them sepaking, it is all behind an impenetrable pane of glass. Those thoughts, those feeling will never truly be yours, because you have elicited them from behind your mask of anonymity.

Anonymity enables the discussion of issues in an abstract manner. It lacks however the simple empathy which human-human contact elicits. It may be more than interaction with a computer, but it is less than interaction with a person who has a name, a family, likes and dislikes, loves, hates and passions.

Through anonymity, we mght think we are gaining freedom, but in fact we are losing our humanity.

On a simple level, it works. But if one is striving for more than a mere pasttime, anonymous blogging is a sore disappointment.

In my opinion.

At 20:17, Blogger Dr Andrew Brown said...

Don't fink so.

I'm very undistinguished and have never (fortunately) come to the attention of the good and the great. If I gave my real name, most people wouldn't know it. I think that I can write more openly about my feelings under an assumed name.

But you may be right. It's early days for me.

At 18:59, Blogger Dr Michelle Tempest said...

Thanks for the mention. I understand the reasons for anonymity and goodness knows how long my blog will last. But I do it for fun.

At 09:59, Blogger Shinga said...

Some people do call me Shinga as it was a name given to me as a child (it's a contraction of Shingalana).

I'm not that anonymous. I have, however, declined email invitations to meet up with anti-vaccination people who have expressed a wish to dissuade me of my pro-vaccination ways (mild end) or who wish to upbraid me (that wasn't the phrase used) for ignorance that vaccination is a baby-killing, genocidal activity.

Would I welcome mail to my home or worse, a personal visit? No.

Does my 'anonymity' undercut the value of what I write? Probably.

Regards - Shinga

At 16:23, Blogger Dr K said...

Hi guys and thanks for the comments. If I ever post anything more 'whistleblowerish' in future I'll no doubt be glad of the anonymity. Even so there are things I'd like to post about but can't such as a training issue at one of the hospitals on my rotation. Many of the trainees are aware of this issue and if any of them read the post they'd easily spot which hospital I was referring to.

I don't know how much anonymity affects the value of what a blogger writes where what you're writing relies on real evidence (e.g. published research papers) like many of your posts, Shinga. On the other hand I don't have any proof on here that I'm a real pathologist so maybe what I say is less reliable than if I could show I was Prof K Biopsy, president of the RCPath!

At 19:17, Blogger Cal said...

I agree with your reasons. I haven't really got anything 'outrageous' on my blog and a few people have already worked out who I am.

I've had to enable comment moderation, unfortunately, as I don't like people leaving my name up in them, as they do sometimes (some are actually 'real life friends who do it by accident!)

An interesting posts, and some even more interesting comments.

At 08:05, Blogger Dr K said...

Hi Cal

I can imagine that people putting your name in the comments is another good reason for anonymity, plus you never know when you might decide to post something you'd really want to be anonymous about!


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