Lifestyles of the rich and infamous mean online notoriety

It all began quite innocently enough last summer.

Back then the extent of the country's debts were just beginning to crystalise and even before any cuts had been announced it was clear the good times were over and the era of make do and mend had begun.

In an effort to chime with this new back-to-basics Britain, Lisa Unwin began an internet blog. As is the way, she didn't use her real name, but instead called herself Austerity Mum and set to work offering her words of wisdom on coping in straitened times.

Except Unwin wasn't a woman who shared the same view of financial prudence as the rest of us. Instead of counting the pennies, in one entry she debated the merits of having to give up a family holiday in the Maldives for a weekend with her husband and two children in their French Alps holiday home. In another she claimed the impracticalities of BA's luggage allowance would prevent her from ever flying economy and described suggestions she should sack the gardener or wash the car by hand as simply cruel.

Austerity Mum was not completely immune from belt-tightening. She did once talk of cancelling her helicopter transfer from Nice to a hotel near St Tropez, persuaded her husband to have his 600 Berluti shoes resoled at an upscale cobblers and her online musings, delivered with tongue firmly in cheek, soon became a hit.

However, this week the joke backfired when Austerity Mum's real identity was revealed. Unwin's neighbours in a smart area of London were apparently less than impressed by her boasts and, having grown up in modest surroundings in Yorkshire, some said she should know better.

The critics missed the point that Unwin was simply putting the skills she had learned in a creative writing class to good use. Austerity Mum no doubt had some basis in truth, but her exploits also had to be taken with a dose of salt.

In fact, it was her husband, the man she had referred to as Chief Spending Officer who had the most reason to feel embarrassed. Ashley Unwin, whose family are believed to come from Sheffield, has carved out a successful career in consultancy and now holds a senior position at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

According to Austerity Mum he also has never heard of Primark, has an 80-a-bottle aftershave habit and a liking for expensive handmade shirts.

Much to many fans of the blog's dismay, Austerity Mum has now gone into early retirement, but with Unwin clearly having a gift for a turn of phrase, she will no doubt pop up somewhere else soon.

"People write blogs because they want others to read them, but often they don't realise just how many people might stumble across their words," says internet psychologist Graham Jones.

"Many people see their blog as the online equivalent of talking to friends down the pub, but there are crucial differences. Firstly you don't know whether everyone reading it will share your views on life and because there is no body language or intonation it's likely that some people might just not get the joke.

"I'm sure Austerity Mum's social circle would know that it was all a bit of fun, but convincing other people is a different thing all together and it doesn't take long for a blog to build up a head of steam.

"All you need is a few people to start tweeting (posting messages on the social network Twitter) about it and suddenly you can go from having half a dozen hits to thousands. When you have that kind of attention it becomes almost impossible to keep your identity anonymous. Someone, somewhere will likely blow your cover."

The last time such attention surrounded the identity of a blogger was back in 2009 when Dr Brooke Magnanti outed herself as the woman behind Belle de Jour. The blog, which described in explicit detail the encounters she had as a high-class call girl in an effort to earn money for her PhD, attracted thousands of followers.

When her memoirs were turned into the television series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper, speculation as to her real identity intensified and, fearing an ex-boyfriend may kiss n' tell, Dr Magnanti stepped out of the shadows. Many had criticised the blog, accusing it of glamorising prostitution, but the former Sheffield University student was no less direct in person than she had been behind the cover of anonymity.

"It feels so much better on this side. Not to have to tell lies, hide things from the people I care about. To be able to defence what my experience of sex work is like to all the sceptics and doubters," she said. "Anonymity had a purpose then – it will always have a reason to exist. For writers whose work is too damaging or too controversial to put their names on. But for me it became important for me to acknowledge that aspect of my life and my personality to the world at large. I am a woman. I lived in London. I was a call girl and I stand behind every word with pride."

Dr Magnanti who had gone onto work as a research scientist for the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health, came out to the public on her own terms, but others have been left to rue the musings idly posted on their blogs.

Conservative politician Nadine Dorries had one of the most popular blogs in Westminster, but last year was forced to admit that much of what she wrote was complete fiction

The MP for Bedfordshire was criticised during the expenses scandal investigation for giving the impression she spent more time at her constituency home than she actually did. Dorries, who was cleared of misusing her allowances, admitted using a little poetic licence, but insisted the false diary entries were an attempt to protect her family from press intrusion and the threat of verbal and physical abuse.

It was a salutary lesson in the dangers of committing anything to the web, one Darryn Walker came to learn to his cost. Three years ago his 12-page blog, which imagined the kidnap and murder of the pop group Girls Aloud was brought to the attention of police by the Internet Watch Foundation.

Charged under the Obscene Publications Act, Mr Walker, who immediately removed the blog from the specialist site, faced the humiliation of a court case. He was cleared of all charges, but the prosecution started a lengthy debate about the need to protect freedom of speech.

Lisa Unwin's foray into blogging is more likely to lead to a book deal than any serious repercussions, but she won't be the last person to get her fingers burnt by dabbling in a virtual world.

"When blogging first took off, some people assumed it was a novelty that would quickly wear off. It hasn't," adds Jones, who has written numerous books about how people behave online. "Of course there are a lot of people whose blogs end up tailing off after a couple of months, but for me and many others it's a way of getting immediate reaction to our thoughts and ideas. I try to post something every day and having being doing it for five years now I guess my advice would be, only ever write something that you would be happy to say out loud and in public."

Read all about it: The top 10 internet blogs

Huffington Post: The American news website now boasts more than 3,000 bloggers, from politicians and celebrities to academics and policy experts, and its often outspoken views have won a legion of fans.

TMZ.com: A haven for celebrity gossip, it also claims to have been behind a number of scoops and was the first to report the death of Michael Jackson.

Engadget: Launched in 2004, the site is updated multiple times a day with articles on gadgets and latest technology.

PerezHilton: The one stop shop for all the latest celebrity gossip, and sometimes just vicious rumour, has turned its author, Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr, into a bit of a star himself.

Gizmodo: Increasingly influential technology site which contains blogs and reviews from industry experts.

Mashable: Billed as the site which contains blogs on, "All That's New on the Web", it has attracted more than two million followers on Twitter.

TechCrunch: News and analysis of technology companies, products and websites.

Gawker: The site publishes in excess of 50 stories and blogs which dig behind the world of music, film and television every day.

Lifehacker: Daily weblog on software which recommends downloads, websites and shortcuts it says will help you "work smarter and save time". The site has also been used as a basis for a book.

FanHouse: The American sports blog has attracted a worldwide following thanks to its specialist bloggers in golf and motorsport.