Sunday, July 26, 2009

Recap: MBS Sunday Brunch for July 26

I knew this would be a popular topic and generate plenty of good suggestions. However, I was still surprised by the number and quality of responses we received. I am grateful to everyone who contributed.

Burl Apsack: My suggestion is that the new blogger pay close attention to the tutorials that can be found on this blog.

Jay: When I started my blog, I was very naive. I've only been going a short while, but there are safety and security issues.

I never use real names... not even mine. If I put up a picture, I make sure I cannot be identified. I don't put full details on my blog. Some things are just for me to know, not the whole world.

Of course, I am still learning, but I love my blog. It's fun and very therapeutic.

Florida Dom: I wouldn't worry about it because if a person isn't interested in spanking in the first place, what are the odds that they'd ever find these blogs.

But you can start by not using real names or pictures with faces showing.

But what I find interesting is that younger bloggers tend to have fewer concerns about privacy and post photos of themselves, especially on Fetlife.

Anon #1: My strongest recommendation is the same as for any sort of internet "shoot self in foot with mouth" concerns. Put in the name of e-mail recipients LAST, and reread twice anything that may be even remotely controversial. E-mails and internet postings go too fast and too far to allow your reputation to be hurt by accidentally hitting the enter key too quickly. Most e-mail problems start out with an e-mail going out before it is well thought out.

Todd and Suzy: This is a question/concern we hear often hear. Here are three basic tips.
  1. Don't use any part of your real name. You need to guard your last name for obvious reasons. But, even your first name can create search engine hits. Type "Todd and Suzy" into Google, and you ~quickly~ find us. It's no biggie in our case, because we don't risk anything but embarrassment. We figure that if family comes snooping, they get what they get.

  2. Create a kink-only e-mail account. Have the regular work and/or family e-mail accounts for those people to use. Then also have a kink/spanko e-mail account for your spanking interests and blog. You can even then have a fun spanko name (Suzy is, for example). Never-ever mix the e-mails. The reasons are obvious. But if you don't understand, Google up your e-mail address.

  3. Don't get too specific in "public." We live "in Florida" or "near Gainesville." We only share the name of our small town with friends who need to know. We also don't post our son's name, his school, etc... You don't have to be too crazy about it, just use common sense about details that could be tracked back to you through a Google search (for example, someone could pretty easily type our son's name and his high school into a search engine... and we don't want that leading back to our spanking blog).

I will also add that keeping kink stuff on just one computer, in one 'hidden' area of that computer, is helpful for those who have privacy issues at home. Again, common sense applies (don't post face pictures, or pictures that show your living room in detail, etc.). Basically, though, ~avoid~ vanilla Google searches leading back to your spanking blog. That's the main thing.

I won't promise that doing these things is "100% safe." Nothing is, including just visiting spanking sites. But, these basic tips cover around 99.9% in our opinion. The spanking community is actually rather small when compared to the internet. You really do have to LOOK for it, and then once there, it is large enough that you again have to look for a specific blog or site. The odds of stumbling into a single blog are extremely small.

Angie: And remember people, this is for your safety.

Think to yourself, 'can my heart really take the shock if I discover that my parents or in-laws were cruising spanking sites, and discovered mine by accident?'

Ronnie: I'm quite surprised at that number. We all have these concerns.

Never use real name or the names of your family, pets, or where you live. Post no pictures of yourself where you can be identified. Have a different e-mail account for your blog. Password everything.

Nothing is 100% safe, just be careful what you post.

Hermione: I agree with the other suggestions that have been made. As Todd said, reasonable care is just plain common sense. I picked a Harry Potter theme for our names, and that's made using pseudonyms quite easy. The downside is that the Potter theme - as well as some posts I have written on other topics - have attracted some vanilla readers. I am careful not to reveal locations, workplace information or anything else that might identify me or make me findable. (If you knew our dogs' real names and breed, you'd easily find us through Google.)

I don't make up the things I write about, but I do change minor details so that an accidental reader wouldn't recognize the situation I am describing if it happened outside our home. Changing he to she is an example, and of course I always use pseudonyms for anyone else I write about.

A separate e-mail account for spanking communications and comments is a must. But make sure that you don't use your real name in any part of the account. Send a test e-mail to yourself to make sure your real name doesn't show up somewhere it shouldn't.

Besides blogging, it pays to be careful when communicating through e-mail. Unless you know the person very well, and have a reasonable comfort level, be just as stingy with personal information as you would on your blog.

Matt: Before setting up your new e-mail account and creating your blog, install the TOR Browser Bundle for Windows available here.

Use the TOR Browser for all of your 'naughty' stuff and your regular browser for everything else. With TOR, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to link anything you do or say to your home IP address.

Sara: I endorse all of the above AND do not set up anything like a Facebook account with information that intersects with your name, blog name, e-mail, etc. I think most of us are kind and considerate and don't want to expose you anymore than they want to be exposed. But it just takes one nut to cause trouble! Being careful from the getgo lessens the stress immensely. I have found that writing a blog is really rewarding in all sorts of ways. I have met people from within the DD/spanko community who have become real friends. None of that would have happened had I not taken the risk. I am glad I did, and yet I want to be in control of who I expose myself to, and so I try to be very careful.

K: There has been lots of good advice already. I only have one thing to add. Never visit any naughty sites, especially your own, while there is anyone in the house you don't want to know. This may seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Even if they are in other rooms and couldn't care less what you're doing, it only takes a split second to view something on your screen as they walk by. Wanna know how I learned this one? :P

Ashley J: There is a lot of great advice here, but the one thing I would add is this. Don't let your desire to make new friends compromise your privacy by sharing information you aren't completely comfortable sharing. As a fundamental rule, if anything you are about to share either in your blog or directly with another person (I.e via e-mail or IM) gives you the slightest bit of pause, then stop and don't share it until you've had time to think it through.

Anon #2: Here are my suggestions:
  1. Don't use real names.

  2. Don't use real names.

  3. Have an extra email account JUST for your blogging persona, and don't have any passwords in common.

  4. Don't use real names.

  5. Occasionally throw in false details when blogging about your life, to make your position on the map more ambiguous.

  6. Don't use real names.

Maryann: I understand all of the advice given so far except the one about not attracting vanilla readers. How do I do that or avoid it?

Maryann, you want to avoid linking vanilla sites and, if necessary, ask them not to link you. You can also try to avoid using terms that will cause your blog to show up on vanilla search engine requests. Hermione's comment about Harry Potter is a good example.

DWC Jim: I just wanted to add that K made an excellent point. One glance, even by a child and you are busted forever. I would also say don't leave computer unattended to go to the restroom, kitchen, etc. If you get distracted and someone sees, you can't get it back. Beside the embarrassment factor, there are jobs and more on the line, so you have to be careful.

Meow: I keep one web browser for guest use on the desktop of my laptop, for when I travel. The browser I use for all the spanko stuff is hidden in a folder. I think you can limit the search engine visibility of your blog in some of the Blogger settings, but I'm not sure how that works. Maybe someone more knowledgeable could expand on that. It might discourage casual searchers?

Bottomsup: The world of "on-line" is a mysterious, scary place for me. My rules are never use your real anything: name, birthday, home town... I even use disposable e-mail addresses if one is required.

little one: When I first started blogging, I was very conscious of protecting my anonymity. I rarely, if ever, had any pictures of myself or talked about family or work.

As time went by and The Journey became more and more about who and what I was, the security and protections slowly disappeared... Until May, when my version of where in the world is waldo showed three hits from the small island where I worked. I panicked and shut down The Journey for a bit. I then took down pictures and links and a whole mess of entries.

Then I learned (on Friday actually) who it was from the island who had come to visit The Journey. I felt foolish for overreacting.

I have posted in detail today about this, and decided no more hiding in the shadows. I am who I am... (Shrug)

After all, a blog IS a bit like attending a munch or public play party. You just never know who you are gonna bump into. :)

HH the H: Another good idea is to use a browser that is on a secure USB memory stick. I use Ironkey and it is great. Not much is left on your PC at all. It includes a TOR-type secure function where all your web traffic is encrypted between you and a proxy that changes when use use it. I also keep all private files encrypted with PGP on my hard drive.

Abby: I think everyone has already covered the major points, so now that I'll be the 20th comment, I'll jump in with some reassurances.

My blog turned two years old this month. During this time, I not only blogged more and more explicitly about my fetish and myself (explicitly meaning everything from my city of residence to the down and dirty stuff) but I also, on a complete whim with my husband, started filming spanking videos, where both of our faces clearly visible. If anyone were to stumble across my blog, my website (under construction), or my videos, there is no doubt that I would be recognizable in all my half-naked, weeping, spanked glory. That said, I've never been recognized.

I gave up on being cautious. I've snuck in blog posts from work (though I never actually load the blog itself, and I would never bring up any other spanking related material). A year ago, I actually showed the blog to a few friends (who already knew my fetish) not in the privacy of home, but at a local pub, on the pub's computer, not even on a privately-owned laptop. I didn't even clear the cache afterward. Yes, that was a terrible idea, and not recommended, but still, nothing came of it. The thing is, I have done literally everything short of e-mailing links to my family and employers with a message saying, "Hey, if you don't already surf spanking sites in your free time, check out what I'm doing!"

A psychoanalyst might point out that I sort of want to be found out. But if you don't want to be found out, follow the tips everyone else provided. If I can't get found by broadcasting my fetish out loud, the likelihood of you getting found if you follow the many wise tips posted here is seriously minimal. Start with a good pseudonym and off you go!

My one concession to anonymity: Abby Williams is not my real name, but at this point, it might as well be.

Prefectdt: Within a couple of months of starting a blog, a relative started asking questions, of my mother, about stuff that I had not shared with the family, yet but had posted about on the blog. These were vanilla elements of the blog, but it was a bit of a shock anyway. So either said relative or said relative's daughter (who I know to be a submissive or switch) had found the blog. I had put very little information about myself on the blog at that time.

The solution was to put a carefully coded post on the blog, indicating that whichever relative it was should either e-mail me directly or do me the same favor that I had done them and leave me alone. The questions to my mother stopped, no correspondence was received.

The moral of the story is that if you know someone who may be of a kinky nature and is connected to people who you do not want to know about your activities, be aware that they may end up reading your blog and working out who you are. Either contact them first and ask for their confidence or do as I did and write a coded post.

Anon #3: Thank you for this. As a non-20-something whose career would be in jeopardy if my spanking kink were discovered by anyone other than my wonderful spouse, it is encouraging yet not entirely reassuring. I’ve enjoyed reading the spanking blogs hosted my many of the people who’ve posted comments. Yet, while I’d be delighted to share my own spanking stories, it still seems safer to be a lurker who posts an anonymous comment once in a while.

Dante d'Amore: As someone who really doesn't care if I am ever "outed," the only precaution I take is a name change.

There are dozens of people out here who know who know my true identity and if the world ever finds out, it will actually be much better for me because hiding behind an alias is handcuffing me in many ways (and not that good kind of "I am helpless and you are going to spank me silly and then ravish me" kind of handcuffing, either).

The only reason I am not yet using my real name is because a few geriatric aunts and uncles of mine who are very religious would likely keel over with massive coronaries if they found out they are related to someone kinky.

My brother and a few friends are aware of my interest in spanking and I told one how to find my blog (she's kinky, but not into spanking).

I don't think I'd want my brother or most friends reading my blog, but that's because it would lead them to my wife's blog and I find the personal stuff she shares about our sex life to be embarrassing as hell.

They've always wanted me to send them copies of humor columns I wrote, but I don't do that with the ones I write for my blog just in case any of them decides to search on a unique phrase from the column. If they did that, they would find me for sure.

I realize that anyone who knows me and accidentally comes across my icon anywhere will immediately recognize my eyes and will find my blog, but I think part of the reason I chose that icon is that I crave the freedom of being "outed," even if I don't have the guts to do it myself.

If my security concerns were much greater, then I would have to seriously question whether or not to blog.

Blogging and security is much like sex and pregnancy. If security is that big a concern, then the only answer is: Don't blog!

Even commenting anonymously offers but a trace amount of security.

Nothing can give you 100% security, but, depending upon your need for security, there are many steps you can take that can get you close to that elusive 100% mark.

For maximum security (and anonymity) in posting and commenting, you should use encryption and a socks proxy system such as TOR (it's free).

"Dr. Who" provides a ton of information about security and constantly updates it to reflect the latest changes. The most recent update is available here:

Doctor Who's Security And Encryption FAQ version 22.6.2

If you don't need the type of security that even the NSA can't compromise, then just take the basic precautions I'm sure have already been mentioned.

If you want more, read the FAQ and follow some of the recommendations.

Katia: Being new to this type of blogging, I made sure not to use my real name or location. I also use an e-mail that is attached to a fictitious name.

Everything I blog is truth, even if in story form. I wouldn't want to portray someone I'm not. I always double check which name I am signed on under because I have a non-spanko blog and I wouldn't want to shock people who do not now my secret, or visa versa, exposing who I really am.

For those out there hesitating... At first, it is scary, but because I put myself out there, I have a wonderful new circle of friends.

Bonnie: I like to compare being active on the Internet with swimming in the ocean. You might be bitten by a shark or stung by a jellyfish, but that probably won't happen, especially if you are aware of your surroundings. The fact that sharks and jellyfish exist shouldn't keep us out of the water. Neither should we shun the entire cyber world because of the actions of a few unsavory people.

So, what can we do to protect ourselves? I think the suggestions above are excellent. Let's recap briefly.
  1. Use a pseudonym

  2. Use separate e-mail and social networking (Facebook/MySpace) accounts for kinky and vanilla friends

  3. Don't visit spanko sites at work or on insecure machines

  4. Avoid sharing personal data (names, employer, geographic information, phone numbers, etc.)

  5. Alter insignificant details to reduce the chance of identification

  6. Be careful who you choose to trust

  7. Don't post pictures of faces, homes, cars, etc.

  8. Avoid vanilla traffic by not linking vanilla sites and asking them to not link yours

  9. Choose complex passwords for online accounts

  10. Avoid popular vanilla themes and keywords to minimize unintended search traffic

The great thing about these measures is that none of them is difficult, time-consuming, or prevents you from blogging to your heart's content. For those of you still on the fence, I think it will be OK. Really.

What a great discussion. You folks rock! Please join us next week for something completely different.


Spank-A-Lot said...

Interesting and informative....thanks for the information shared.

A.S.S. said...

Excellent post, Bonnie. Got some more detailed advice that we'll be able to share in the future. Like your analogy about swimming in the ocean. Be aware and use common sense and follow some basic advice... and your odds of being bitten by a shark are astronomical.

Will add this, spanking is ~not illegal~. Some of the fears we hear about the extremely slim though theoretical chance of being discovered are... well... amusing. Not to say there aren't some legitimate concerns. But what we do is consensual and doesn't involved children. It really is pretty tame and most would brush past it. While the swimming in the ocean analogy is a good one... the worst case scenarios (being bitten by a shark or being discovered online) aren't at all similar.

Plus, hey... it's hard to argue with "that's not me" if the tips shared are followed.

~Todd and Suzy

Spanky said...

Great post Bonnie! You provide a valuable and much appreciated service to all your readers.

pammie said...

Good ideas!

Nici said...

Excellent post. I just launched my FM spanking/Fetish Fashion blog and am heeding many of the informative suggestions mentioned here.

One funny e-mail I did receive said "Why no face shots?" "Your vanilla friends won't be seeing your blog and if they do...they're not vanilla". Probably true but I'm not ready for that quite yet.

Thomas_III said...

It's a pity that I missed this brunch, though I honestly don't follow even half of the advice on my own blog. (For starters, I use my real full name.) Though, admittedly, my situation isn't the same as other people, and I have very little to lose by being "outted" since I'm already about as "out" as I can be without going on the five o'clock news to announce it.

I'm actually intrigued by this topic, though, and hope that you won't mind if I have a similar discussion on my own blog, though I'd also like to delve into not only what advice people have to give, but whether they follow that same advice and why or why not.

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