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Friday, May 1, 2009

Anonymity or Publicity: Take Your Pick

Would you walk into a city commission meeting or Gary's Bakery wearing a mask to chat with your neighbors? Neither would I.

Therefore, new rules of engagement, kids! See the new Madville Times comment policy:
  1. Leave your real name with your comment.
  2. If I don't recognize your name, and if you don't provide a hyperlink to a profile or other identifying information, I delete the comment.
  3. If you have something to say but are unwilling to say it publicly, send your info privately, and we can talk.
  4. Don't like it? Get your own blog. It's easy, it's free.
(Still not as concise as the admirable comment policy at this website... but I'm trying.)

Life is full of choices. In civil discourse, you can choose between anonymity and publicity. Attaching your identity to your words is a small price to pay to participate in neighborly public discourse. Think of it as an investment, an investment of added context, meaning, and decency to your words. I've been doing it for four years here at the Madville Times, and I quite enjoy it. I hope you will, too.

All policies are provisionary: we'll try this and see how it works. Onward and upward!


  1. CAH goes old school!

    Todd Epp
    SD Watch http://www.southdakotawatch.net

  2. Ask any of my past students: I've always been old school. :-)

  3. [Anon: I understand your reasoning. Feel free to use the private contact form for future anonymous communication. :-) ]

  4. The result of taking away the anonymous posting seems to be less local interaction, at least on local issues. It looks like a few postings with -0- comments. Most local readers probably enjoyed hearing what their neighbors had to say without fear of retribution. Your regular professional bloggers who don't live here always weigh in with an opinion you can normally anticipate before they even write it. Too bad for readers as there have been good local thoughts over the past two years from a variety of anonymous writers who may feel restricted in the future if they have to give their name.

  5. We'll see if that is the result. But I wonder: is it really "local interaction" when we don't really know if it's a local speaker?

    Granted, on local issues, Anons can use certain words and details that demonstrate genuine knowledge of Madison. But without a name, a face, a context, it is too easy to dismiss and even demonize those we disagree with, and thus degrade the quality of the interaction...

    ...or so goes the hypothesis I'd like to test here. We'll give it time, see what happens.

    And again: what retribution? If I cheese off Randy Schaefer again, is he going to come slap me? Heck no!

    Again, I do understand the desire some have for anonymity. But if everything is great, as Commissioner Lembcke says, what are we afraid of? If we're all so scared of each other that the only way we can talk about Madison issues is by hiding our faces, then something is wrong... and we need a very open conversation about whatever that is.

  6. My hope is it will help prevent hostile comments which are counterproductive. But I do remember that story about, was it Mobridge, where they were afraid to use their names. Without kids in school, a client list or a boss to keep happy my perspective is a little different. When people see real names maybe it will actually encourage talk face to face.

  7. My friend Mr. Hess mentions the concern some folks might have about their kids facing retribution at school. I have a child in this community. I guarantee, if she ever receives unfair treatment in school because of something I say, her teachers will face much sterner complaint from me than I ever got from cranky parents. And my complaint will be very public.


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