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Sunday, May 3, 2009


Hi, I'm Cory.
What's your name?
It's a glorious Sunday! Before you go fishing, take a moment to vote in my new poll (upper left sidebar) on anonymity and blog comments. I've received some useful comments from folks on the new Madville Times comment policy banning anonymity. I'd like to supplement that input with some numbers (yes, you can vote anonymously—irony?).

And as you go fishing, think about this hypothetical: You meet someone. You begin the conversation by putting out your hand and introduce yourself. Instead of shaking your hand, the other person hides her face and doesn't offer a name. What's the impression you get?

Awkward? Disrespectful? Shy? Finnish?

That hypothetical got me to wondering if we can accept anonymity as a template for real neighborly conversation. The Internet is a different medium with different rules and different possibilities... but it's still human interaction. Worthwhile communication still requires some basic human respect... and isn't responding to an introduction with your name and a handshake part of respect?

I've got a dissertation on the blogosphere in the works (expect a call from me, fellow bloggers!), so I've been thinking quite a bit about the impact of anonymity on the sense of community we can build online. The hostility anonymity can unleash is obvious to even casual readers. Yet anonymity can also open the door for unexpected insights. How to choose?

You can Google up a number of suggestions for the opposite of anonymity: identity, accountability, nymity, anonanonymity.... I like nymity for novelty, brevity, and assonance... but identity will likely be the scholarly choice.

You can find plenty of other perspectives on anonymity and its opposites at these sites:
You might also be interested in reading about Robert J. Nash's concept of moral conversation. He offers moral conversation as a template for effective teaching. I'm wondering if it will work (and if I have the moxie to live up to its principles) as a template for blogging and online community building.

Stay tuned: more to come! in the meantime, your thoughts are welcome. Oh, by the way, my name is Cory Allen Heidelberger. What was yours again?


  1. Would also be interesting if people completed their profiles. Helpful to see where a person is coming from.

  2. Just voted. The "No" votes total 22 and the "Yes" votes total 14 (including mine) as of 12:11 a.m. MDT on May 4, 2009.

    I'm all for disclosure of real names. I don't fill out too much stuff on my profile, but only because doing so would take attention away from one thing I want all people to see: my Web URL. That's where the paws meet the pavement ...

    One of the "features" that keeps me coming back to this blog is the high level of civility here (even from most anonymous posters) compared with most other blogs.

    I imagine my blog postings as the equivalent of getting up in front of a town hall gathering and making a statement. I would never do that with a bag over my head. If I can't sign my name to it so even the King can read it, then, in my opinion, it ain't worth sayin'.

  3. This blog is your baby Cory and I'll read it no matter what the comment policy, because it is interesting and because I have a daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter living in Madison. I'm cheering for the town by the lakes.

    It would be a simple matter to determine if the new policy drives down traffic to your blog. Determine the ratio of comments/thousand page hits and compare the old ratio to the new ratio. The comparison will become more meaningful over time as the number of page hits post policy change grows. In time it will take a real hot topic to nudge the ratio even the slightest.

  4. I voted yes. I hate boards that allow anonymous postings. Anonymous postings generally don't add anything to the discussion. If something needs to be added and an individual really fears reprisals, the correct choice is to send it to the editor anonymously. Anonymous submission, particularly for a new site, should be the exception, not the rule.

    Additionally, it adds a degree of civility to debates. If one makes outlandish claims and doesn't back them up eventually that voice becomes ignored, as it should.

    Completely unrelated, I think this:


    is going to be how we start to interact meaningfully in the future. I don't particularly care about the band, but the technology they have developed here is mind blowing for me.

  5. I enjoy the comments and in fact would say Tony seems to have the most informed and reasonable things to say. But, who is the guy? If there isn't a profile with a name for others to see, that's anonymous. No?

  6. Oh -- sorry! Sometimes I forget that not everyone has met. John Hess, meet Tony Amert, really smart SDSM&T researcher. Tony, meet John. Handshakes all around!

  7. Cory, you are ignoring my point. You asked for people to be identifiable to everyone who comes on your blog, not just known to you.

  8. [Tony: off-topic, yes, but the Nine Inch Nails iPhone app, with GPS fan finder, points toward a new form of mass interaction. And note the 11,000 fan remixes they post on their website: the band clearly recognizes the benefits of adopting a loose interpretation of copyright. Now, would you want to be anonymous at a Nine Inch Nails concert?]

  9. Oops -- sorry, John, you're right, and that's what I want, identifiability for everyone. We'll have some transition/training time here. (Of course, you're pretty fast on the draw: name, photo, and everything! Good work!) I'll give grace for regular commenters and other folks I know and will do what I can to identify/introduce them to other readers until everyone gets up to speed. Plus, I know Tony isn't trying to hide his identity or spoof us with a fake name.

    (So Tony, will you be putting up a public profile soon? :-) )

  10. An Anon slips in to say there is a big difference between face-to-face conversation and a blog. Perhaps... but I don't think there should be. We should strive to minimize those differences.

    The Anon also suggests the brainstorming value of all voices, and with that I concur. However, I see a lot of Anons hiding behind namelessness to generate more storm than brain.

    And remember, Anon: quality, not quantity. We'll see how this plays out.


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