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A great article on "Why we need to get rid of anonymous comments".

Original post made by peter carpenter on Mar 10, 2011

Web Link

Two excerpts:
" Anonymity has long been hailed as one of the founding philosophies of the Internet, a critical bulwark protecting our privacy. But that view no longer holds. In all but the most extreme scenarios—everywhere outside of repressive governments—anonymity damages online communities. Letting people remain anonymous while engaging in fundamentally public behavior encourages them to behave badly. Indeed, we shouldn't stop at comments. Web sites should move toward requiring people to reveal their real names when engaging in all online behavior that's understood to be public—when you're posting a restaurant review or when you're voting up a story on Reddit, say. In almost all cases, the Web would be much better off if everyone told the world who they really are."

"What's my beef with anonymity? For one thing, several social science studies have shown that when people know their identities are secret (whether offline or online), they behave much worse than they otherwise would have. Formally, this has been called the "online disinhibition effect,"

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As I have stated elsewhere on this forum "The people who post on this forum anonymously do so, by their own admission, for the very reason that they wish to hide something (definition - 1. without any name acknowledged, as that of author, contributor, or the like: an anonymous letter to the editor; an anonymous donation.

2. of unknown name; whose name is withheld: an anonymous author.

3. lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction).

What exactly they wish to hide can only be guessed - it may be their name, their actual place of residence, their occupation, their experience or lack thereof, their otherwise known biases and conflicts of interest or the fact that they have also posted under numerous other noms de guerre. What these anonymous individuals opine must then be filtered though the lens which they themselves have created. In a discussion such as this one about the airport it is always helpful to be able to assess the knowledge base of the poster - which is difficult to do if we have no idea who they are or of their competency on the subject matter. Each reader must therefore use their own judgment in evaluating such postings.

***********
Let the anonymous attacks begin.

Comments (7)

Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

Peter,

As someone who cares deeply enough about Menlo Park to write letters to the editor, Guest Opinions, and other submissions that (hopefully) shed perspective on the challenges we jointly face, I politely disagree with you. I think the wheat of anonymous posting outweighs the chaff. That said, the Almanac might want to boost registered submissions to the top of the pile, out of respect for their authors' commitment.

To my mind, losing anonymous comment loses something very valuable. I am very interested in what people think about topics I care enough about to research (of late, commercial property tax and redevelopment revenue) -- but realize that they pull their punches when their names are attached.

Unfettered, people let us know what they are thinking ... as disappointing to many of us as that content often is. This raw feedback, in turn, helps me -- either in rephrasing what I've learned so it doesn't trigger an automatic reaction ... or in suggesting to me additional analysis that goes to the heart of their objections. So, selfishly, I value it.

Furthermore, one of the great challenges in understanding the public political sphere right now is figuring out the core heart-held beliefs that motivate "liberals" and "conservatives." (And, no, I do not believe these beliefs are "free the downtrodden" and "no new taxes.") Both groups are motivated by deep fears and hopes -- which increasingly sophisticated political PR efforts manipulate with catchwords -- but which the rest of us can only tease out of their anonymous postings.

Finally, looking at the San Jose Mercury's forums, I feel a tremendous amount was lost when they required Facebook registration. Now every submission has the lifetime of a letter to the Editor. Why bother?


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 14, 2011 at 4:19 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Perhaps the solution is to have unrestricted threads for the purpose of providing, as you say, 'raw' input and then threads which are restricted to registered users (and only permitting one such registered user per IP address) to permit more thoughtful exchanges of facts and information. And then finding some way to preserve civility in all of these postings.


Posted by menlo voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm

menlo voter is a registered user.

Peter state: "Perhaps the solution is to have unrestricted threads for the purpose of providing, as you say, 'raw' input and then threads which are restricted to registered users (and only permitting one such registered user per IP address) to permit more thoughtful exchanges of facts and information."

That's exactly what occurs here. If one that starts the remarks sets it up that way. If not, anyone can post. What's the problem? I post here repeatedly. I prefer to remain anonymous. I work in this community and prefer not to have my opinions held against me, thus impeading my ability to make a living. You are retired Peter and have no such concern.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Perhaps the solution is to have unrestricted threads for the purpose of providing, as you say, 'raw' input and then threads which are restricted to registered users (and only permitting one such registered user per IP address) to permit more thoughtful exchanges of facts and information. And then finding some way to preserve civility in all of these postings.


Posted by menlo voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

menlo voter is a registered user.

"Perhaps the solution is to have unrestricted threads for the purpose of providing, as you say, 'raw' input and then threads which are restricted to registered users (a nd only permitting one such registered user per IP address) "

Peter, as I said, I think this is already available under the current set up. When one sets up posts they can require it to be only by registerd users. Remember Peter, registered users are not required to use their actual names. So, it doesn't really accomplish what you truly desire. Bottom line - anonymous posts are here to stay. If the almanac does what you desire and makes it impoossible to post anonymously, you will be left talking to yourself and maybe three or four others. Think about it.


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 14, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

I think all of the following are true:

1. Anonymity permits (encourages?) people to behave with (much) less circumspection than those who post using their own names (if they so choose).

2. As Menlo Voter said, there are legitimate reasons for people to want to remain anonymous (posting strong views about controversial topics, while retaining the need to earn a living in this community).

3. Many of us (including myself, and Ms. Bestor) have found value from anonymous comments.

4. There are a handful of people who do not have financial freedom but have consistently posted using their own names on very controversial topics. (I'm not one of them). It takes a lot of courage. Ironically these people tend to be attacked the most by anonymous posters.


Posted by peter carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 15, 2011 at 7:48 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

I think Jon summarizes the situation well. The missing ingredient is some method of protecting posters who use their own names from the personal attacks by anonymous posters - perhaps better moderation, suspension of posting privileges, censure by other anonymous posters who wish to maintain the civility of this forum or whatever.


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