​In 1776, an American writer published a radical pamphlet arguing for freedom from the oppression of British rule titled “Common Sense.” The author, Thomas Paine, published his incendiary and wildly popular 48-page document anonymously (primarily because it included vast amounts of highly persuasive treason). There were other reasons, of course:

“As my wish was to serve an oppressed people, and assist in a just and good cause, I conceived that the honor of it would be promoted by my declining to make even the usual profits of an author.”  - Thomas Paine

More recently, another anonymous writer created a radical website dedicated to interaction design called “Fuck Jet Packs” (FJP). The author, who shall remain nameless, published his thoughtful and wildly popular 16-post blog anonymously and without “archives, share widgets, a twitter account, like buttons, comments, or a way to contact me” primarily because eliminating distractions allowed him to focus. There were other reasons, of course:

“I’m inspired by the idea that I can lessen the distance between us by stripping everything away but the writing. I want to present you the best content I know how to write, once a week, with no overhead, and let the content speak for itself.”  - Anon.

When he started, Anonymous planned to write a week’s worth of posts and then publish all of them at once. Each new digest would replace the previous week’s writings, which would then disappear forever. For a little while everything seemed pretty peachy. But then FJP got fireballed, and the situation became more complicated.

I came to Fuck Jet Packs late in the game, as a direct result of the Gruber-initiated chatter on Twitter. After reading just the first few posts from the week, I started to get excited. I’d somehow stumbled across someone completely mysterious who was writing compelling posts on a subject that fascinated me, posts that rendered in a kick-ass font and that EXPIRED if you didn’t get to them fast enough.

I was hooked.

Having bookmarked the site, I returned to FJP regularly to check for updates. Imagine my horror then, one fine fall day, when I discovered that Anonymous had shut the entire site down due to all of the attention it had attracted.

“FJP is Closed.”

Wait - I’m sorry - What?!  Anonymous went on to explain:

“I really, really enjoyed writing on this site over the last month. It was one of my favorite projects, had some of my best writing, and the response has been overwhelming. It’s been absolutely wonderful.

But FJP got a little more popular than I was ready for, which concerned me. Technically, I’m not supposed to be writing without disclosing my identity. But I really like writing anonymously, so I didn’t know what to do.”

Early on, when I’d assumed that I could turn to FJP for quality content whenever I had the inclination, I hadn’t felt much more than idle curiosity about the identity of the site’s author. I didn’t want to know who he was for the same reasons I refuse to search for images of Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal on the Internet (basically, I love the way he looks in my imagination). I understood that Anonymous was using his anonymity as a way to free himself to speak his mind and express opinions without worrying about the consequences of making bold or controversial statements.

But something strange happened when Fuck Jet Packs went offline. As soon as I had fully processed the fact that it was gone and it wasn’t coming back, I WANTED TO KNOW WHO ANONYMOUS WAS. I wanted to know for one simple reason: in case he made anything else. I’ll admit that … with a little help … I found out (but I’m not telling).

Before the site whittled down to its present configuration, Anonymous posted about a Kickstarter project he planned to launch called, “For 100 of my Closest Friends.” The idea was that he’d write a 40 page softcover Blurb book with Lukas Mathis (Ignore the Code) and publish 102 copies. This volume would act as the starting point for a multi-volume publication.

All of this artificial demand made me a little neurotic. I wrote to Anonymous and asked if he’d mind letting me know when the project went live so I could back it, and he complied. The project reached its funding goal in less than 24 hours, raising more than $1000.

It’s hard to predict whether the book or future projects will rival the magic of the FJP site, but I must say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to find out.

(originally published on BAD YEWEX)