Choose your pleasure: Voyeurism or exhibitionism. The Open Diary, a newly launched Internet journal project, allows users to indulge in either, hidden behind the comforting veil of pseudonymity.
The Open Diary isn't the only online diary project, but its founder, Bruce Ableson, believes it is the first to allow contributors to remain completely anonymous while still interacting with readers. In a little more than a month since its launch, the site has attracted 800,000 page views and nearly 1,300 diarists, ranging in age from 15 to 79. Users hail from 42 U.S. states and from 20 other countries, Ableson said in an interview.
"The idea was to let people keep diaries online directly through their Web browsers, without them having to create their own Web sites," he said.
Two "e-cents" worth
Some contributors post entries about job problems, health issues or other problems they are afraid to discuss with relatives and friends. Readers are often eager to give advice, Ableson said.
"I've had quite a few people write in to say that the reader comments really helped them out when they were in a tough spot," he said.
Traffic to Open Diary spiked when the Yahoo! (Nasdaq:YHOO) portal named it as its "Pick of the Week" three weeks after the site's October 22 launch, he said. The site is supported through banner advertisements.
A Web site designer by trade, and president of the Gladstone, N.J.-based company that produces the site, Able Sites Inc., Ableson said he's pleased with the quality of the writing in the diaries. He noted that the majority of contributors comply with the site's prohibition on explicit sexual content and racist or otherwise offensive language. (Able Sites employees use software to screen the diary entries for potentially offensive content, he said.)
Readers can search for contributors by geographic location, age, most recent postings, and by the nicknames contributors use on the site. They can also see entries arranged chronologically.
The Open Diary's contributors include a 43-year-old teacher from the United Arab Emirates who calls herself Jo. In her diary, she frets about the stress of teacher-parent meetings. A 51-year-old man from Vermont, who calls himself "SrCharles," asks in his first entry, "Who will read it? Who will care?"
In the end, SrCharles concludes that finding out who's interested in his musings is half the fun of keeping the diary.
"Now that's the spirit of the Internet," he wrote.