Comments: Publicizing Achievements, and Reactions

I've had experience working anonymously over the years. While it can be frustrating it is also liberating.

My first project was one where I'd made a sizable contribution to a program that someone else was going to release, and it was my intention to be anonymous. This wasn't a great act of self-sacrifice, but rather I was worried about the repercussions. This software was, frankly, illegal in most of the civilized world. But I let the leader talk me into putting my name on it, and it worked out OK, I got a lot of credit and reputation, and didn't get into too much trouble.

Since then I've done more projects anonymously, now using technology to protect my identity. This lets me work on things that my employers and others might not approve of. And these days, privacy oriented projects have a political element as well, and I don't want to have to deal with those kinds of problems.

But sometimes there is a sort of Clark Kent/Superman vibe and I get frustrated at not getting credit for what I've done. The other day I was talking to a guy who had a program a few years ago that I had really fixed for him. I found a major security hole in his design, proposed a new algorithm and proved that it was secure. So I was very familiar with him but he barely knew me. Then his program came up in the conversation and he started telling me about it. I so wanted to say, yeah, I was the guy who... But I didn't, of course.

It was my own choice to take this road. I'm happy with the contributions I've made and I fully intend to continue on this path and work on what I'm interested in. I don't have to worry about offending anyone or making my boss unhappy. If I didn't do these things anonymously I probably wouldn't do them at all.

Posted by Cypherpunk at April 14, 2005 02:34 AM

Well, the problem is that I got the worst of all worlds. Per above, several people who did know I was doing that work, attacked me viciously. If it works for you, that's good. But it didn't work for me, and I don't want to ever go down that path again.

I know there are some people who have had good experiences. But it seems to be a lot tougher and more wearing on a person than is apparent at first.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at April 14, 2005 11:50 AM