An interesting article in The New York Times urges an end to anonymous commenting.
Instead of waiting around for human nature to change, let’s start to rein in bad behavior by promoting accountability. Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums. Look into using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site. Ask your users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.
Ah but if it were so simple. As the author points out, “until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing.” When I first started participating heavily on the internet, anonymity was actively encouraged. You’d get a “handle” to participate in various forums and people “recognized” that handle as you moved from one forum to the other. That is still the case in many of the technology forums I visit today.
But it is different commenting about the latest BlackBerry or the latest keyboard than talking about news and politics. I rarely see the same venom expressed in the forums of those sites that I see in the comments of news sites. There’s just something about the anonymity that brings out the worst in people.
While I fully support the new commenting system on the Opinion channel of PilotOnline, I’m not quite ready to implement such a system here. Nor am I willing to moderate all comments. (Of course, I’m not dealing with thousands upon thousands of comments every day, either.) I’ve put a few minor tweaks in place to try to make everyone feel welcome here – and to not overburden myself in the process. In addition, I’m a big fan of group dynamics. I much prefer the commentors police themselves – and you guys do a fine job 🙂 I recognize that some people really have a reason for being pseudonymous and, as long as the conversation stays civil, I’m OK with that.