Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Goodbye Anon 2:37 PM et al

Since starting this blog almost four three years ago I’ve maintained a pretty liberal policy on anonymous commenting. I did not want to impose any barriers to those who wanted to join in the conversation, believing that the more voices heard the better. In fact, up until now, I have even championed anonymous commenting.

Lately I’ve become somewhat less than enamored with the results of this approach.

Though many have respected my open door policy others have abused it. While I realize that you often have to accept the bad with the good, the bad is now threatening to overtake the good. Over the past year I’ve been told by more than a few of those who visit here that they won’t comment anymore because of the rude and cowardly comments that hide behind the mask of anonymity. The pendulum is now swinging in the wrong direction.

Last year I added I added the “drunken letters” filter to blog comments in an attempt to stem the flow of spam comments. I considered this to be a minimal imposition that would improve the blog reader’s visit. Nobody likes spam after all.

Now I’m taking a minimal step to hopefully improve the blog commenting experience by requiring all Tales of Two Cities commenter’s to at least use a pseudonym when posting a comment. While this won’t stop manic ranting or abusive commenting it will at least assign those with such proclivities a moniker. Hopefully that will result in better self policing.

I accept the fact that this change may chase off some current commenter’s. That would be unfortunate but sadly inevitable.


JessieX said...




Jessie Ann Newburn

Bob O said...

Interesting. What was said that drove you to this? Full disclosure, I'v always been in favor of people posting as themselves. But, frankly, it's always been easier to post as anon, although I think you have to admit, I always take respnsibility for my posts, even though I enjoy the rough and tumble of anon posting.

So, what happened?

Bob O said...

Man, that was too many keystrokes...I think you may see your comment rate go down just because it's too difficult to sign in on a whim. It just took me twice as long to comment.

And twice as long to comment again.

My two cents.

Bob O said...

Wow, that last comment took me three tries, instead of one for an anon. You sure you want to go down this road?

I can see the word verification to avoid bots, but the rest?

If you want to stop the flow of ideas, just make it tedious for people to exchange them.

noo said...

When I read the offending anon 2 37 comment about C Watson it did seem a bit harsh, but this blog policy is an over reaction.

Our electeds are public servants, not celebrities. I believe the comment was as much a statement about our spoiling these people as it was a barb at one of them.

wordbones said...

The decision to change my anonymous posting was not based on any individual incident. I merely picked 2:37 PM as an example of an anonymous comment that contributed nothing to the conversation. 2:37 PM was simply a convenient reference, certainly not the most egregious abuser.

I did not come to this decision easily. It was an accumulation of comments over the past year or so that bought me here. I also credit Frank Heckers recent post for giving me that final push.


David Wissing said...

As someone who banned anonymous commenters on my site long ago, count me as a fan of the change....

Julia McCready said...

As Phineas and Ferb keep reminding my daughter, "Don't do anything on the computer that you wouldn't do in real life." Hiding behind anonymous postings seems to encourage the sort of behavior which is akin to hiding behind trees and throwing rocks. You are making the right choice. Thanks!


Trevor said...

I commend your decision and will take the effort to post comments more often. The few times I have posted my opinions, I get responses from anons that end up sounding like a brick wall.

Personally, I thought the way the anons responded to Courtney Watson was abysmal. I would not talk to ANYBODY in a position of authority, much less an elected official, in that manner. It doesn't matter if it is on the internet or in real life, in our society there is a certain level of discourse that is expected between adults.

If you can't behave like an adult, then get out of the pool during adult swim. Wordbones just blew the whistle... it's adult swim.

RedWrites said...

Good call!

noo said...

So I guess Ben Franklin among other anons would not be welcome here.

Doesn't speak well for inclusivity, free speech. More like an exclusive club that many readers already sense.

HoCoRising said...

Most people miss the difference between Anonymity and posting as Anonymous. Ben Franklin, and any other Founding Father example you may want to insert, used a Moniker to sign his writings. This moniker had credibility and accountability insofar as it was recognized by the reader. He was anonymous, but not an anonymous writer.

Anonymous posting is little more than graffiti on a wall. Its very nature is what allowed it to be abused. I'm more sad that WB had to do this, than happy that there are no more Anonymous commenters.

Sarah said...

@Trevor: hell, I wouldn't talk to anybody at all like that, authority or not.

I agree with HoCoRising-- it's too bad it had to come to this but I don't blame you.

Besides, WB, this is your playground and you make the rules.

JessieX said...

Ditto on what Hocorising said re Anonymity and posting as Anonymous. And, to noo, remember, the ever-so-amazing Mr. Ben Franklin used pseudonymous writing for all kinds of purposes, much of what had to do with intentional manipulation of the business climate in which he was working and stealth purposes to undermine competitors and put them out of business. He wrote pseudonymously in his own published newspapers as if he was a different person, while concurrently writing under his name.

His use of PSEUDOnyms (not anonymity) was brilliant, if not ruthless, marketing schemes designed for market domination.

To WB, the bestest pseudonymous poster around, I will tell you some day the experience of June 2, 2010, and the many layered experiences I had in and around local blogging. Auspiciously, the day started by running into you! xoxoxo, jessie ann newburn

Ian said...

I posted this on Facebook, so I might as well post it here:

This seemed timely and relevant. As someone who's fought his share of "anonymous" folks and thought about this issue a great deal over the last four years, I'm firmly in the camp that ideas/thoughts/words matter more than the name attached to them. I understand the difficulties this raises in trying to converse with a bunch of people named "Anonymous". I also know that signing your real name or even a pseudonym compels, to some degree, civility. But it also limits speech. It limits discussion. And when you're talking about a small geographic area, like HoCo, and when every site has tracking software and the like, and when there is a history of publicly "outing" pseudonymous folks in a certain community, ditching the ability to write truly anonymously has a chilling effect. There is a lot of ugly and mean in anonymous. But there is also beauty and wisdom. And it is a shame to lose some of that.

(Just noticed that even the option for a non-official pseudonym is gone. That's a pity. Can't even do Hayduke's Ghost anymore.)

catherine said...

Ian, breath of fresh air. Inclusivity, prioritizing freedom of speech over a few misguided moments, seeing the good that comes from freedom.

Thank you.

Ian said...

For full disclosure, here are several posts detailing my own struggles with this issue:

Note that I even tried to bring down the hammer and demand names, an effort that failed.

FreeMarket said...

I am in favor of anonymity (for basically the same reasons mentioned by HD) but ultimately it is a decision that each blogger should make themselves for their own blog. One size does not fit all, nor should it.

PZGURU said...

Pretty amazing HD, considering that you and several of your cronies tried on several occasions to intimidate me by posting comments about my family status and the general location of where I live. Essentially, you were trying to out in me in so far as it equated to an insinuated threat toward me. So, I am surprised that you would support anonymity.

When a blogger has access to certain info about anonymous posters, and can leverage that info to "threaten" to out a commenter's real identity, or to actually out the commenter (as has happened in the blogosphere before), that's NOT good.

JessieX said...

i think the issue here is that if a blogger were to out the identity of a commenter, then that becomes an ethical issue with the blogger and should become part of their brand/reputation in the community.

side story: at the company where i worked, a brown-noser took info she got from a facebook connection and told a company executive about something a colleague at the company has posted. the colleague got reprimanded, but she (the brown-noser) got un-friended on FB by a few and her reputation in the company dropped as her level of trustworthiness and ability to handle confidential information plummeted -- through her own doing

let me say this: NEVER SAY ANYTHING that you wouldn't say in person. people have "prints" in how they write, just like voice prints and finger prints. no anoni cover will guarantee JACK.

i know who freemarket is. i know who a number of the commenters in the local blogsphere are, but i've never said anything to anyone about it. it's an individual's choice to be publicly known or not. that said, i ping to my stance: everybody carries their essence with them and eventually all those anonymous will show their cards and expose themselves, intentionally or not. sometimes it's in little things such as a favorite saying (that's how numbersgrrl exposed herself to me); or it can be in a propensity to punctuate a certain way. WRITING STYLE = personal print that is trackable to an individual.