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Saturday, September 11, 2010

KELO Killing Anonymous Comments, Replacing Fora with Facebook

I find the KELO fora a cesspool of cowardly gossip and macho bull. For instance, consider this thread on the Madison firefighter busted for DUI at the wheel of our firetruck. "GlassMan" alleges that the arrest was just a Madison PD vendetta. Pressed for details by other anonymi, "GlassMan" asserts "there's more to this story" that will "all come out in the wash." Funny: the story could come out pretty quickly if "GlassMan" would just tell it. But no: it's more fun to throw insults from behind the veil of anonymity and peddle one's vision of the world without actually backing it up. Grrr. If you have something important to say, can you not simply say it... and put your name to it?

Starting September 28, that's what KELO will require of all of its commenters. KELO is abandoning the fora in favor of a Facebook-based comment system. They appear to be installing a Facebook widget that will allow users to comment at the bottom of each story. That's a bold, bloggy step for KELO, mixing their journalistic product and user content on the same page. But the widget will also require users to sign in with their Facebook account. If I understand Facebook's terms of service, users are not allowed to create anonymous or bogus accounts. So by October, most user comments should come with some reliable attribution.

What will this do to conversation on the KELO website? For a small-potatoes comparison, I imposed comment nymity in May 2009. In one week the preceding April, the Madville Times received about 130 comments, about 90 of which (70%) were anonymous or pseudonymous. Last week I received over 80 "nymous" comments. After the nymity imposition in 2009, I saw a summer-long dip in blog traffic that didn't rebound until August... but that pattern matches the traffic pattern I saw this year: the moment warm weather breaks out, gardening and the lake rightly take people away from their computers to finer pursuits. The blogosphere bounces back right around when school resumes. My current weekly traffic is about double my pre-nymity traffic.

Unlike my commenters, virtually no one in the KELO fora has the guts to put name or face to their words. I would expect their comment traffic to drop 95% when the Facebook widget replaces the fora. But I hope the new requirement of name with words will result in an increase in quality. Folks like "GlassMan" won't be able to start long threads of gossip on supposition and wishful thinking... at least not without taking responsibility for it.

Now, I wonder if they will do us the favor of installing the same widget on the KELO blogs. I would love to see if the risible "Patriot Militia" has the guts to accuse me of treason and threaten me with deportation without hiding behind some fantasy name.

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