Are you that guy who wrote that thing?

I used to write a blog under the pseudonym of Harry Webb. I wrote pseudonymously because I wanted to be free to play around with ideas. If you like, the blog was a sandbox. I didn’t want to have to think about whether something I wrote was in line with my own school’s approach. This was fine when I was writing for an audience of about ten. However, I began to realise that writing like this was a bit of a mistake.

The blog was actually quite anodyne; full of links to academic papers and the like. I didn’t write anecdotes about work – in fact, I steered clear of a lot of stuff. If you never read it and want to know what it was like then… it was pretty much like this blog. In addition, I began to realise that some people – usually those who disagreed with me; supporters of inquiry learning and that kind of thing – chose to view a pseudonymous blog as something sinister. It had never occurred to me that people would think this way. I don’t think like that at all. And this was compounded by the blog’s growing popularity.

Why did I shut it down? Well, someone at researchED Sydney figured out who I was – there are not that many people with my blend of interests living in Victoria. He has been trolling me on-and-off about it ever since. I can’t remember him ever constructing an actual argument against something that I have written and I think this is no coincidence. Instead, he has declared that Harry Webb presented a narrow, ideological view and was something of a bully.

I reject this. It’s strange how the people we disagree with are always so darned ideological and exhibit such terrible manners. Actually, it’s not strange at all. This is a common cognitive bias; the negative version of the halo effect. In the interests of balance, the comments at the end of Harry’s farewell post will give you an entirely different perspective on what the blog was like. Some of them still bring a tear to my eye.

There now seems to be a growing tendency to reanimate poor old Harry in the middle of any discussion I might be having on Twitter. Some people think this is a kind of “gotcha”. It’s more of an irritant.

For instance, I wrote a typically arcane piece making the case that our political beliefs do not require us to hold to certain views on teaching methods. A guy from Canada who I had never interacted with as Harry started a discussion with me about this on Twitter. He quoted Freire. I then posted an old piece I had written about Freire that this guy didn’t like much at all. The discussion continued, I asked a question that I thought was pretty central to Freire’s argument and, all of a sudden, the Canadian guy started repeatedly asking me whether I was Harry Webb. He wanted to establish my ‘credibility’, apparently.

From these events, I conclude two things: Firstly, someone is busy on the DMs, informing people of this great secret and secondly, people are going to keep using this tactic to avoid tricky questions and sideline discussions.

This could be most tiresome.

Therefore, I will be directing these folks here in future.

And now a word of advice. This kind of stuff isn’t nice. It makes people feel bad. Engage with me on the substance of an argument and we might both learn something. Take the excellent advice of Paul Graham. You might find me abrupt. I’m really sorry about that. I don’t mean to be but, you know, Twitter only allows 140 characters. And consider the fact that if you disagree then you are likely to project the worst possible interpretation on what I write. Launching personal attacks just makes people feel sympathetic towards me.

As I grow ever stronger.

Now, where’s my black hat and cape…?

[Maniacal Laugh]

[Maniacal Laugh]

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6 Comments on “Are you that guy who wrote that thing?”

  1. If you start debating the identity of a writer rather than what he/she wrote then you’ve lost the debate! People who troll you are in a very small minority. The majority of us love reading what you write. Doesn’t matter (and didn’t matter) WHO you are when you write. Thank you for making me think.

  2. rdk says:

    I was about 75% sure Harry Webb was you, based mainly on writing style, choice of topics, and the fact I largely agreed with “both” of you.

  3. vlorbik says:

    the “paul graham” link appears to be broken. good piece.

  4. […] training, David Price OBE. He writes about the fact that I work in an independent school and that I used to post pseudonymously as well as taking a swipe at my book sales! Clearly, he has been doing a bit of research. I have […]


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