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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

More Pointless Anonymity: Can We Just Talk to Each Other?

The below Anonymous e-mail from the comment form reinforces my desire to ignore Anonymous communication completely:

From Me
Email youknow@madison.net
Subject This
Message Cory:

It's a good thing to be able to identify people commenting on your blog. As the owner of the blog, you are responsible for policing it's content. Now that you have chosen to include names of posters, I think you now must hold yourself to a higher standard of moderation and yes, that means censorship.

I do think that you'll find fewer people posting and fewer people reading over the next few months, but nothing ever stays the same.

Say Hi to Erin and the munchkin.

Does anyone else get a creepy feeling when someone who won't reveal his name presumes to comment on personal details of my family? And creepiness aside, what good is a "Hi" if we don't know from whom it comes?

Me: "Someone says hi!"
My love: "Who?"
Me: "I don't know. Just someone."
My love: "?!?"

As for the actual content, I fail to see why Anonymous would feel the need not to attach her/his/its name to the comment. Other than being afraid of publiclty demonstrating her/his/its failure to grasp the nature of online media (no, I'm not responsible for commenters' statements; no, banning anonymi is not censorship; and no, my standards are fine right where I put them, not where you wish to impose them), what is Anon so afraid of? Retribution? Since when did I become one of Madison's country club Illuminati?

For what it's worth, it's far too early to determine the effect of the new comment-nymity policy on readership (though the poll is running strongly against it—cast your vote!). But Anon fails to understand that the point is not raw numbers. Suppose banning anonymous comments drops comment volume and daily hits by half. Do I really lose that much if all those folks were coming here just to read and post disembodied snarkiness in the comment section?

Compare it to a party: would you rather throw a big beer bash for a hundred people, a bunch of whom you don't know, some of whom break your dishes and behave in other unneighborly ways? Or would you prefer a smaller gathering of friends and neighbors, all of whom get to know each other on a first-name basis and have respectful, enlightening conversation?

Or more simply, what do you prefer, quantity or quality?

By the way, just yesterday, I found my conversations here with Stan, Tony, John, and even Tim, with whom I strongly disagree (they are cool pictures), to be much more enjoyable and neighborly than some past mudslinging. Keep those cards and letters coming... but understand that I can't truly respect your words if they don't come with your name.

Update 2009.05.08: See also this commentary on anonymity, civil discourse, and the First Amendment by David Newquist of Northern Valley Beacon. An interesting quote from Dr. Newquist: "[T]he journalistic basis for attribution is that quotations are not actual unless their author is identified." Wouldn't you rather be actual?


  1. Cory,

    I think you'll receive fewer comments, but Madville Times will gain reliability. Right now, I feel that Madville times is consumed by negative, personal comments by anonymous bloggers. If you take out the option for anonymity, I believe you will present your audience with a much more dependable news source.

    Right now, I can't read a cluster of comments without feeling disgusted.


  2. I hope that at least the stuff above the comment section has seemed reliable. But I can see where if readers conflate the anonymous commenters with the blog author, reliability could suffer all around.

  3. Cory,
    Seeing as how random anons can e-mail you with any snarky comments, I voted that full names should be used. I am a big one on courage, so if someone has something to add, then they should claim the statements with their name. Plus, after talking with my wife about your anon related posts, she told me of the time she last visited, and how a discussion was had about how anon posters can give the impression of "faceless-ness" and therefor be treated differently then if a name was attached. I suppose somewhat similar to how faceless-ness while driving can lead to people treating the other vehicles on the road as just that :vehicles, instead of seeing the person driving said vehicle.

    Joseph Sterling Nelson

  4. So does that mean I now have to go by Matthew James Hendrickson? That's a lot of damn typing!

  5. Road rage: good analogy, Joseph! Our words must have the context of identity, for fact-checking and civility.

    MJH: work those fingers... and think how much typing my daughter has ahead of her. ;-)


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