From P: “The reason that many media sites are moving to eliminate anonymous comments and/or requiring moderation at some level is simple: Total freedom resulted in a level of ‘conversation’ at sharp odds with the tone the site wanted to maintain,” Weiss said.
So the trend is at least moving away from anonymity without some level of filtering. And it’s a good thing because the courts are beginning to show clear signs of agreement that pure anonymity without limitations is not wise."
My "gripe" is this: far greater input and diversity occur under postings that allow anonymity.
Posted by Tim Wulff, a resident of another community, on Jan 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm
As a person who experienced intimidation by the Atherton Police Department, (and I assume that I can post this because I am referring to events to which I was subject and an eyewitness) I would like to raise an issue which is continually NOT discussed regarding the the issue of online anonymity.
Threats and intimidation are the routine tool of those in power to induce fear in anyone who would speak out against those who hold power both in Atherton and in this County. This is not rocket science, nor is it a technique confined to these locations in the world.
Anonymity, while it has undesireable aspects and also allows its use to be accessed by those interested in applying threat and intimidation, provides protection for those who are fearful of reprisals against them for the expression or communication of fact.
Fear and Greed are the two primary manipulations applied to people to compel them to the agenda of the powerful.
Anonymity is a substantive antidote to the tactic of instilling fear of reprisal.
I have used it in the past in a time when such fear was reality based in this forum.
It is utterly unreasonable to deprive people of the opportunity to make anonymous comments or unsubstantiated claims.
It is the responsibility of those in power to allow such expressions and provide such a clear picture for transparent conduct that such claims are debunked by the factual representations of the conduct of public officials that they are rendered harmless.
Such standards of public officials are absent in our world today.
Suppression of anonymous comments in a public forum are, in my opinion, nothing more that another veiled actualization of the fascist repression all about us. Which includes the suppression of the reporting of negative truths regarding local government so prevalent in the local press.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Tim's comments are notable for two reasons:
1 - He and John Johns are the only posters on this forum who have ever actually experienced retaliation and persecution because of statements which they have made,
2 - Tim made the above comments in his own name because in this posting he was not exposing himself to such retaliation.
I accept that those very few individuals who are actually vulnerable to potential retaliation and persecution may need to post as anonymous registered users, however the only thing that 99.9% of the no-registered anonymous users wish to be protected from is the well deserved ridicule which they would be exposed to if their true names were known.
Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Jan 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm
it goes beyond the fear of retaliation. Some of us have to make a living in this area. Were we to post under our real names it could cost us or our family memebers business. There is no way to actually quantify this damage. If my company doesn't get a job because of something I have said, the people not using us certainly won't say it's because of something I posted here. They will simply not hire us. Especially in this economy, I cannot afford for that to happen.
I do agree that anonymous posters should register as it allows the monitors to keep the boards respectfull. No one else will know who they are and frankly, one doesn't really need to use a real name to register.
Personaly, I just discount the views of those that post infrequently and anonymously. They ususally have an agenda.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 28, 2012 at 9:00 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Posted by Tim Wulff, a resident of another community, on Jan 29, 2012 at 11:25 am
For those apparently incapable or unwilling to comprehend what I wrote:
The base issues I raised are 1) Fascist repression of dissenting opinion through intimidation and retaliation as a means of controlling opinions which differ from the controlling powers; and 2) the absence of a critical forum for negative reporting in the local press regarding the conduct and structure of government.
To be pursuing the agenda of non-anonymity on this venue simply due to the issue of resenting personal attacks is petty and ego-centric.
Posted by open discussion wp, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm
Let's have some fun!!!!!
"... and have effectively devalued the Town Forum as a thoughtful gathering place." Prove it.
My proof you're wrong? You, Peter, keep returning.
"Just look at how few topics contain serious dialogue and how few people participate in this Forum."
Yup. The Palo Alto Online forum is far more active. Maybe it's because open dialogue is encouraged and there aren't a bunch of "sticks" declaring good open conversations are "devalued."
My point? Peter starts the same thread as a closed conversation and it DIES.
This same thread (as monotonous as Peter's constant droning about anonymity is), only open, gets discussion. As I originally posted: "far greater input and diversity occur under postings that allow anonymity."
Thanks Peter, for proving it.
Yer a mensch!
But I'm willing to revisit the part of the discussion about "petty and egocentric".
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
As for personal attacks directed at me, I simply don't care - I have served in public office long enough to have learned to consider the namelessness of the source and simply ignore them.
I do feel that the preponderance of personal attacks by unregistered anonymous posters directed at other elected and appointed officials is the primary reason that I am the only such official that bothers to participate in this Forum. The result is a lot of spleen venting and little serious discussion - and that few people in positions to make or influence change even bother to read this Forum.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2012 at 3:39 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
" One suspects any official at the state level or above rarely reads ANY reader input online."
Your cynicism has no bounds. All of the public official whom I know are avid consumers of 'critical' public input; likewise, all the public officials I know avoid this Forum as a useless cesspool. Just read the unregistered anonymous comments on any topic and see how few meet the standard of being respectful and thoughtful.
Posted by still anon, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm
There are good reasons that most of us remain anonymous. Maybe this isn't a consideration for Peter, but lack of privacy is an issue that affects everyone. Once comments are posted online, they never go away, and future employers, clients, neighbors, etc can read the posts and perhaps misinterpret or misuse the opinions stated, taking them out of context to malign the poster. I am not the only person who has been a victim of this kind of treatment.
From many discussions with council members, planning commissioners, school board members, and similarly situated Menlo Park residents, I know for a fact that most (probably all) are aware of the posts on Town Square. Even if they don't read the psots themselves, others inform them of the contents.
This is a small town. Word gets around.
If people want to identify themselves in their posts, that is their prerogative. The rest of us do not want to put ourselves in the spotlight, and that, at least for the time being, is also our choice. I wonder at the motives of anyone who would try to out us or force us to state our names. If I interpret Tim Wulff's posts correctly, I agree with him!
Posted by still anon, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2012 at 11:39 pm
Trying to understand how posting on Town Square is the same as visiting someone's home, but instead keep asking myself "how is a fish like a bicycle?" None of which has anything to do with the issue at hand.
Posted by Ironically Unregistered, a resident of another community, on Jan 30, 2012 at 10:47 am
> There are good reasons that most of us remain anonymous.
Thank you, "still anon", I couldn't have said it better. The fact that online comments become a part of a permanently searchable record completely redefines the rules of privacy.
Back in the 80's when the internet was in its infancy, the default for most postings to the Usenet news groups was the user's unix login id which almost universally displayed the user's full real name. But anything posted ostensibly had an expiration date.
Now that google has acquired all of that content, every one of those comments has been "permanently" ressurected for employers and neighbors to peruse and apriori decide whether the individual is in alignment with their own values when making employement or friendship decisions. Fwiw, back then even with that full identity disclosure, online discussion were certainly no more polite than I see demonstrated on the Almanac's venue.
It's great, Peter, that you are unfettered by the economic reality of having to worry about a job and have already established community ties that allow you the latitude to simply ignore those who would choose not to associate with you just because your opinion might be contrary to their own on some obscure topic dejour. Some of us do not have those luxuries.
When "still anon" spells out these excellent reasons for privacy for you, you entirely ignore his point but instead counter with an absurd response about offending our hosts. It is ironic that you seem so nonchalant about excluding the second half of the sentence that says in effect we won't be offended if you don't use your real name --> "...but you may use any member name you with."
And then in almost the same breath you find it inoffensive to refer to your host's forum as a "useless cesspool".
In my opinion, The Almanac staff do a suberb job of balancing the difficult job of deleting truly ad hominem attacks and postings that make claims that are likely libelous while still permitting (extremely) blunt and even sometimes offensive opinions that are clearly just that -- opinions.
I think the fact that the vast majority of us posting to prefer to exercise our right to privacy makes it in the Almanac's best business interests to continue on the course they have to date. As an experiment, perhaps they should consider creating an optional posting board that only those with proven and disclosed identities can use. Then all eight of you could decide whether you want to talk among yourselves or join the rest of us peasants in a truly engaged discussion.
Posted by open discussion wp, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2012 at 11:01 am
"As an experiment, perhaps they should consider creating an optional posting board that only those with proven and disclosed identities can use."
Peter tries to do that every so often. In fact he tried it with a closed version of this thread AND IT DIED!!!! Even Peter validates that closed threads are infinitely more boring and useless than this open discussion on the value of anonymity, by his participation here in the last week and his lack of participation on his own closed version of this thread! Hence the original comments above a week ago: "Snore, a fresh perspective on anonymous postings - SNORE"
Your closed threads [Portion deleted -- please avoid sarcastic references to other posters.] are a SNORE.
And then this unfinished sentence: "Others should note how little substantive input has been received on this thread from the anonymous proponents of anonymity,"
Peter, "how little substantive input" describes your repetitive posts that fill a third of this thread, such as the oft repeated: "Consider yourself as properly ignored."
"Consider yourself as properly ignored." [Portion deleted] posts it three times so far.
Your version of holding your breath until you turn blue?
Didn't work for me in Kindergarten, maybe it did for you, perhaps that's why you continue the tactic.
Face it, the "cesspool" in which you so freely (and often) swim is valuable. It is best kept open and free, proven by all the comments above.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2012 at 11:21 am
How telling tat anonymous posters are truly unwilling to stand behind their postings" The fact that online comments become a part of a permanently searchable record completely redefines the rules of privacy."
They will say whatever they want secure in the knowledge that they will never be held accountable. But don't be too sure, IP addresses are traceable.
Posted by Tony S., a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm
A couple of points-
** As long as I've observed it, this forum is primarily a place to vent and be entertained. People come here to get the self satisfaction of bloviating a little (trust me, I'm doing it right now) - they do NOT come here to be challenged and reconsider their ideas or get a statistically significant sample of actual public opinion. If there are any public officials who read this for anything other than amusement, they need to resign. Most people in these communities don't read the paper Almanac, much less log onto this site.
** It is SOOOOO easy to conceal your online identify on a site like this. Even the "register" hurdle is nothing for anyone who understands proxy servers. So you have to have an email address- make one for just this purpose and only access it through multiple layers of IP addresses. Our own federal government even has a free tool that routes traffic through various constantly shifting locations, in order to allow people in places like Syria to express their opinions anonymously. You think the Almanac is tighter than that? If you want to make it Facebook-only, OK, that's different, but there's no distinction between fully anonymous and Almanac registration. We're in Silicon Valley, people.
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm Peter Carpenter is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Tony S states:"they do NOT come here to be challenged and reconsider their ideas or get a statistically significant sample of actual public opinion. If there are any public officials who read this for anything other than amusement, they need to resign."
Sadly, Tony is correct. This Forum could have been a 'thoughtful gathering place' - that opportunity has long ago been lost.
Posted by bob, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Feb 7, 2012 at 10:44 am
Tim was harassed by the police. Great statement. Why and how were you harassed? Without knowing these facts impossible to determine if it is true or not. I could claim the same thing happened to me in high school. The fact that I was going 55 mph on the Alameda, might have had something to do with the harassment. So give us the truth.