There is real value to pseudonimity, and Slate Star Codex is one of those treasured corners of the internet that wouldn’t exist without it. There are times when the value created for society by exposing personal information can eclipse personal losses. Not knowing the details behind how the NYT makes decisions about anonimity, nor what this story was actually supposed to be about in the first place, this doesn’t seem to be one of those times. The essay above clearly lays out a good set of reasons why Alexander should remain pseudonymous. Unsurprisingly, the author makes a good case for himself. I’m not more than an occasional SSC reader, but there’s been a lot of noise about this incident in my circles online recently, and it’s hard to see how the NYT could justify this. Now the onus is on the NYT to decide whether whatever story they were planning to write is actually worth publishing, outweighing the logic presented by Alexander and backed by a wide array of very-online-people.
This article, recommended by Mike Davidson, discusses many ways we could fix journalism. Basing its recommendations on a bunch of communication and psycology research, the author tears apart a bunch of different situations in which the conversatin could have been nudged elsewhere, allowing for more productive outcomes. There’s a lot to unpack, and I was not expecting it to be so long (should’ve noticed the “39 min read” at the top!), but totally worth it. It reminded me of a tweet by Mason Hartman and the ensuing conversation: “When you ask a really useful question, most people will consciously or unconsciously try to determine if they have a cached answer that roughly fits what you asked. Getting people to consistently forget their lines is a skill worth mastering.”
The main point here is that people are willing to pay for niche content that is relevant to them - this is not news. You’d assume that the spending patterns would be different for finance and tech (where money flows more freely) than for individuals and their local news, but in the end its the same people. People paying for Stratechery or The Information probably care about their kids schools, the local events on their neighborhood, and whatever else their hyperlocal publication has to offer. This is why I’m so interested in initiatives such as Hoodline’s hyperlocal news wire.