“To the wicked, all things are wicked; but to the just, all things are just and right.”
– James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.
For those of you just tuning in, you might want to go check out WoW.com’s article on the Ferraro controversy, just to get up to speed if you missed it.
In case WoW.com is blocked by your work filter, Ferraro is a blogger that has been writing Paladin Schmaladin for a good number of years.
I had never heard of him/her personally, until just one week ago when someone posted a link to the site in my comments, saying it would be a great source for Ret Pally info.
I went there, and I have to agree, a fantastic source for Ret Pally info. Also seemed to have an excellent storehouse of Healing Pally knowledge, too. Very well layed out blog, looked pretty darn spiffy. Up until now, just about all my Pally knowledge has come from Siha at Banana Shoulders, but I’m always happy to find a blogger that’s new to me that writes great stuff.
And then along came Jagoex’s article exposing Ferraro as a person that has apparently been stealing the internet content and identity of Sarah, the tech fashionista at TechDarling, for years. Literally, posting pictures and stories Sarah put up of herself on both public and personal websites, and claiming them all as Ferraro’s own on Paladin Schmaladin.
It’s pretty wild stuff.
Ferraro’s most recent post claims that it’s all just this grand mistake, that really there is no one single stalking psychotic running Paladin Schmaladin, but instead 7 different people who have traded off writing over the years.
WoW.com/WoW Insider claims that by checking the IP addresses their system recorded as Ferraro posted comments over the years, they’ve proved that there is only one Ferraro. I have to ask myself, “Didn’t they just prove that only one Ferraro bothers to comment on their site, and maybe the others never did”, but hey, that’s beside the point.
And the point is, whether one person or 7 or umpty-gazillion, when the Paladin Schmaladin website was created, the person doing the writing posted pictures and wrote background claiming a persona and life that was patently not theirs… and over the years, has continued to blog about details of their own life and posted pictures and stories of her own life… that were actually posted by and written by and about Sarah at TechDarling, someone else entirely.
None of this changes the fact that the website design of Paladin Schmaladin is pleasing, the content seems excellent, and the movies outstanding. What it does, is change how we see the person behind Paladin Schmaladin, and let us know that this person happily steals content from other people, lies about who and what they are and what they do, and in short is untrustworthy. Doesn’t it?
What follows is a very long rambling post about blogging about yourself, honesty, trust, and stalking. Read if you’d like, but it is very long, so please feel free to pass on by.
Paladin Schmaladin has lots of great work, lots of hours and care spent researching and providing data on Paladins in the game… it really is a great looking website with tons of effort put into it. How does someone do so much work, and then lie so completely about who they are? If they have lied for years on the blog, have they ever told anyone in their family or friends in real life about the blog? Is there nobody among their family or friends, people who really know them, that knows about the excellent work they REALLY did? Those posts, movies and research articles take time and careful thought, and from what I’ve seen they seem very well done. How does someone do all that in a vaccuum, with nobody in the real world having a clue?
And you, the reader… will you care? Do you read a blog for just the bare bones content of ‘how do I do…’, or do you read because of the integrity of the person behind it?
And one last aspect of this… what drives a person to look for more information about a public figure than what the person shares themselves on their blog?
Jagoex explains that he only got suspicious when Ferraro posted a week ago about supposedly attending a tech convention, and when leaving the convention, had a luggage ticket saying “1337”, including a pic of the luggage tag. The pic seemed familiar to Jagoex, and he found the same pic, and damn near the same story, posted by TechDarling. After seeing this, he started checking back and forth and found that, over the years, this stealing of content from TechDarling to Paladin Schmaladin was widespread.
I think that’s a pretty fair reason to delve a little deeper. Plagiarism is wrong, and having someone call you out on it is damn fine at any time.
According to Sarah of TechDarling herself, Ferraro is most definitely not her using a different pseudonym… but must be someone she knows in some way, since some of the pictures posted came from her private MySpace and Facebook pages. Either someone she knows, or someone that was able to get an invite into her private spaces somehow.
I will say that the WoW.com article that goes into investigative overdrive seems to go beyond Jagoex’s research for no good purpose, but what the heck. It’s gone past a simple “Ferraro is a plagiarist and has stolen the content of TechDarling” and went all the way into National Enquirer territory. Twilight Zone, next stop.
As a blogger myself, this whole thing is incredible.
My position on this is, a blogger should at all times be true to themselves, and whatever they write should be 100% from the heart. Right or wrong, if you post a story, it should be your story. If you post an opinion, it should be your opinion. If you post something by someone else, you should clearly say so and give credit to them.
You don’t have to share your own personal life history on a blog. By all means, do not share aspects of your life that you do not want to. I think it’s fine. You can even refrain from posting any personal stuff at all, and try to stick to data and theory and reporting as much as possible.
Me, I love the people who DO share their own personal opinions and thoughts on things. The more someone tells me about what they think on different topics, the better it helps me to determine how much weight I give to their opinions. And I like the feeling that someone is sharing their thoughts.
The keyword there is ‘sharing’. The writer is choosing what to share about themselves and what they think. I am choosing to read it. We shared a special moment. Awww, how special!
Honestly, my second thought on hearing about this whole thing, was “It never ceases to amaze me how some people that read blogs feel they are owed more knowledge, more intrusion into a writer’s personal life than what the person is willing to share”.
I can only speak to my own personal experience, but I have to figure it isn’t any less intrusive for the female writers out there.
After some of the questions I’ve seen in my comments and in my email, I’ll never be surprised at the lengths people will go to, to try and find out more about a writer than that person has chosen to share, to track them, watch them, and see everything they do or have done.
One example. After some of the comments we’ve gotten, we have a policy of never posting a clear picture of our son online. The picture I posted recently of Alex playing Guitar Hero was, intentionally, the first in a very, very, very long time, and was only posted because I took it from a rear profile and I think it would be damn hard for anyone to recognise my son on the street or in a playground based on it. There likely will NOT be another posted, either.
Why? Well, as an example of one kind of comment I’ve had in the past, there is that person that wrote a comment to a post I made about my love of bacon, telling me that he was outraged, that meat was murder, and asking me how I would like it if they ate my son? And then posted a Googlemaps link to my exact house street address… and the park across the street.
I think that pretty much says it all. Do you need further examples? I don’t think so. I think having someone track down where I live and threaten to eat my son is enough of an example to prove my point. And this was before my name was on the banner at the head of the website. That was back when the banner just said Big Bear Butt.
I always write my own personal opinions, I share my thoughts, and everything I say about my life is as accurate as I can make it. It’s been my own experience in life that while fiction wraps a story up nice and neat and ties it off with a pretty bow and closure… real life is far, far wierder. My Storytimes are written simply because this shit amazes me, and I was there at the time.
But I do not choose to share EVERYTHING on my blog. Some things, most specifically concerning Alex, I just don’t share. I try not to make it too easy for anyone to pinpoint our movements and whereabouts at any given time.
I have also withheld information on certain things that I have just felt had no relevance to what I write about here, and I never felt any qualms about this whatsoever.
Just as an example, Patricelli is not the last name I was born with. It is my name now, certainly, but it is not the name I lived under for most of my life, including my time in the Marines.
I never thought about it one way or another when I started the blog. I never intended to share my real name so publicly in the first place, simply through counter-terrorism training. When I started writing for WoW Insider, they posted my articles with my real name, and I had the link to BBB in the articles. So, the name and the blog were linked there first. It wasn’t planned or anything.
When Andrige made my beautiful new banner for my website, he put my real name up there. I loved the banner, shrugged and said “Okay, no big deal. It’s not like it matters anyway. And I am proud of my writing.”
How my name got changed to Patricelli is a story for another time, and it’s no big deal. No great mystery, it’s just part of who I am and how I think. I never intentionally withheld my original last name, because I never intentionally published my current one.
But that small fact has turned up some stalking on it’s own. I have had people email me asking me specific questions about my military history, who I was with and when, etc, that have made it very clear from the tone of writing that they were trying to dig into my life, and had run into a stumbling block when no ‘John Patricelli’ was found in the Marine Corps archives for that time period. These were very accusatory, outraged emails.
Have I wondered if someone was ever going to write “Omigawd BBB was never in the Marines, he’s a big fat stinky liar, PROOF!” on their blog? Not really, no.
But it does tell me that yes, there are people who feel that they must know more about me than I’ve shared previously, for whatever reason. There are people who feel that this is something they need to know, have a right to know, and would feel proud about digging up.
The very fact that people have the free time and interest to try and investigate my past life is what is amazing to me. You’d think stuff like that only happens in the movies, wouldn’t you? I mean, who am I, after all? I’m just some schmuck that babbles on a blog.
But there really is a certain amount of stalking, even towards someone like me who is about as minor (bordering on non-existant) a celebrity as could possibly exist. It does exist. And I can’t speak for what someone else who starts writing a blog should do to protect themselves from the possibility of being found in real life.
Stealing someone else’s identity and work is pretty shitty. I’m not saying I think it’s right, not at all. Nyet.
But I can see where someone writing a blog might post an entirely fictional description of themselves, or not post any personal info at all, in an attempt to prevent harassment in real life, or in their guild in-game.
A lot of folks write about their exploits in game… and some of them might not want their guildies to know who it is talking about them.
You want more examples of people that watch your every move?
There are people in game that we’ve caught that do a /who whenever I was in a zone by myself, to see who might be with me in game. How do we know they did? Why, I’d get whispered asking me if secret alt such-and-such was Cassie, because they did a /who in the zone when they saw I was there to see who might be with me. No, really, they did. They would check up on my activities by doing a /who, and then see who else might be in the same zone or instance, and let me know this.
To this day, those people are convinced they had every right to do that, and are offended at me for publicly saying that being stalked like that is really creepy. Well, of course they did nothing wrong. I guess because it was them doing it that made it okay, no worries… just wanted to… well, you know… know what I was doing, who I was doing it with, and ask me if she was that character when they were sure they already knew the answer, to see if I’d be honest about it. Ummm…. okay, nothing creepy or intrusive about that whatsoever.
How do you reason with thinking like that?
These days, I do not go into instances with Cassie if she is on a secret alt. Because we know that if I am on one of my known characters in an instance, someone somewhere is going to do a /who to see who else might be in there with me. We’ve had this proved numerous times. Seriously. So we cannot run together if we want her to retain her privacy on her character.
Kinda sad, isn’t it?
It is just one tiny consequence of being up front and honest about who we are, where we are, and on what toons. I never imagined that kind of thing would happen, but hey. Them’s the breaks. You don’t like it, get a helmet.
Even with the stalking (mild and serious) and the wierdness, I cannot personally imagine lying about anything I write on the blog. Personal integrity aside, I’m proud of the blog. And being proud of it, I feel free to mention it.
So, it’s open and available to my wife, my friends, my mother, my brother, my in-laws… can you imagine the nightmare if I’d started writing this blog, had ever lied about anything, and then once I started writing for WoW Insider, I couldn’t tell ANYONE about it because they’d ask what blog I was talking about? And if I told them, they could go find it, and would then go back and see all those lies?
Everyone that knows me in real life knows about the blog, and can read it or not as they choose. I’m proud of my life, of my family, and of the things we’ve done on the blog. It’s a creative writing project from hell, and it’s growing all the time.
It’s all a fascinating mess, this identity thing, but I think the situation is great for bringing up some questions to chew on in the blogging community.
To what extent is the reader owed the truth about the author? Is blogging something where knowing about the blogger’s personal life is intrinsically tied into the nature of the writing?
Authors of published books frequently have pseudonyms and pen names under which they’re known. The work they publish is expected to stand or fall on it’s own. It’s only after someone’s name gets well known that their other writing under other names starts getting tied in, to increase sales. Nora Roberts and Stephen King are two of the best known that spring to mind, of people that have used pseudoyms for different writing projects and then bring them all together ‘exposing’ the pen names for what they are.
Is blogging a different animal entirely? Is being honest about who you are, and open about your life, an accepted part of blog style writing? Or is it just the wierd ones among us who feel that way?
Again, I remind you… take the fact of someone stealing someone else’s identity out of this discussion. That is just dead wrong. But the idea of deceiving people as to your true identity when you blog… that is pretty amazing to me, but seems obvious in retrospect. The internet is anonymous, so writing under an assumed identity is just continuing the anonymity, right?
And to what extent should people who write have to worry about being stalked, researched or studied? Identity theft aside, how much of yourself is safe to reveal in this day and age?
Stalking does exist, safety is precarious, there are wierdos and criminals and the mentally imbalanced out there just drifting along looking for something to fixate on, and our culture increasingly encourages the invasion of the privacy of ‘public’ figures as being fair and just, based purely on the fact that they ARE public.
“The people has a right to know” is the warcry of the press, but how public is public? Does that rationale fall apart when you get down to the public figure only being known by 500 people or less? Did that reasoning ever truly make sense?
You hear it said “If they didn’t want the scrutiny they shouldn’t have sought the fame.”
Well, if you write a blog, does that mean you are seeking fame?
I’m sure some would do, but honestly, I never intended anyone other than my friends to read it. But it was my choice, when creating the first blog… Blogspot asked me, make it private, or public?
I thought about that for a long time. And I finally said the heck with it, and chose public.
I figured then that the worst that would happen would be that someone dropped comments telling me I’m an idiot (which I already know)… and the best that could happen would be that maybe someone somewhere would see something they thought useful, helpful or funny… and maybe I’d make a new friend.
Innocent, naive little me, I had zip idea about ping tracking, or trackbacks, or link tracking, or search engines, or any of that stuff. I figured the only way people would find my blog were if one of my friends mentioned it to a friend.
I never, never in my wildest dreams expected to be read by more than 5 people, tops. And when I get reminded of the fact that more than 5 people read it, it freaks me out a little. It STILL feels like we’re having a private conversation, you and I. I obviously live in denial, go me.
I deal with it best I can, but yes, it does freak me out to think that what I write is read by people I don’t know. As the song says, these are my words, and you use them however you wish.
I’ve never regretted it, because I have made some very nice friends through the blog. Life is too short, and the world too cold, to be upset at anything that brings people of like minds and opinions together as friends.
All that being said… Believe me when I say, knowing what I know now, I can truly understand anyone that decides to conceal who they are in real life when writing a blog or doing anything public, especially if they have children.
Too damn long, but it’s at the heart of any blog. How much of yourself do you put into what you do, and what are the consequences?