MOTIVATE. Of the bloggers, journalists, and activists who cover Anons, all are in agreement about at least one thing — that due diligence, and lots of it, is of the utmost importance. At the height of their intensity, Anonymous campaigns might stretch over several days, and can yield developments that need constant attention —Olson says that her research and writing process was like "chasing a bullet." She's not kidding; We Are Anonymous was initially scheduled to be fully edited by March, but had to be amended all throughout that month after LulzSec honcho Sabu was officially outed as an FBI informant.

In another show of perseverance, filmmaker Brian Knappenberger shot his compelling Anonymous profile, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, well into late 2012. Chronicling Anon-assisted Occupy Wall Street actions, the documentary is peppered with the sort of telling details that come from close observation over long periods of time. "Don't expect anything super-quick," says Coleman, who appears in We Are Legion. "Have patience. Journalists are really good at fishing for information in ways that are respectful, but even if you're good at that, you need to go an extra mile. They're not going to just turn around and trust you."

OVERJOY. In communicating with Anons, it's prudent to always be amenable. Olson, for example, proactively avoids direct confrontations with potential bullshitters. As a result, even after Sabu, Kayla, and Topiary began attacking other media outlets, they and other tempermental Anons spared Olson their wrath. Coleman says that sort of passive, respectful demeanor is critical for interpreting this story. "I think [Anonymous] needed someone who was not part of 'the collective,' " she says, "but who could speak in a way that wasn't so blindly celebrating or denigrating them."

While Norton took issue with the third-person perspective in which We Are Anonymous is written, she acknowledges that Olson was accepted by characters who aren't always welcoming. "Parmy did an amazing work of access," says Norton. "The Anons all knew she was writing a book, and they liked her, which is an absolute requirement. Bad things can happen if people aren't nice. My recommendation is that if you're someone who people generally think is an asshole, then don't cover Anonymous. First of all, there are bigger assholes in Anonymous — you will get out-assholed. But overall it's a culture where being nice goes a long way — as do dick jokes."


UNIVERSALIZE. Brown morphed from journalist to full-blown activist because he saw promise in the impact that Anonymous can have on corrupt governments. "When I made the transition," he says, "I said that Anonymous could be a real challenge to nation states, and I think that's been underplayed." He's onto something; Anons have filled instrumental roles from Occupy Wall Street to the sociopolitical uprisings in Egypt and Syria. Other related Anonymous forces helped mobilize a successful campaign to stop the loathsome Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in Poland. All this while Anons in Brazil attacked government sites to protest shuttering of the file-sharing service Megaupload.

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