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The Evil of Anonymity

Connie Schultz points out some obvious problems with anonymous blog commenters in her Sunday column. In many ways, she's absolutely right. On the other hand, why did it take her so long to finally write this column?

The evil of anonymity has been known to anyone who has participated in an internet discussions at any point in time. Before blogs there were forums and message boards. Some were moderated, others were free-for-alls. The difference in the quality of discussion was like night and day. The ones that were closely monitored had the opportunity for decent discussions; those without any rules were always reduced to the least common denominator, pushing away those with anything worthwhile to say and leaving only the nonsense and banter that had almost no value.

Schultz's take is:
Anonymous comments also alienate many thoughtful readers, who are the majority of people who read newspapers. When readers complain to me about ugly comments, I urge them to weigh in, but most balk. It's like trying to persuade your friends to visit a great tavern in a bad neighborhood: They want nothing to do with that side of town.
This basically describes me. I read a lot of blogs and a lot of news articles. The solution to offensive anonymous comments is actually very simple, but the burden lies with the content provider, not the reader: delete them. Any time a post is dominated obnoxious comments, it makes me wonder what value the author actually sees in them and why I should bother adding my own opinion?

I think there is another problem that might go overlooked when it comes to newspaper comments. A city's newspaper is supposed to be a voice of reason for a particular place. By extension, it isn't a stretch to think that commenter opinion represents the opinion of people in that place. When out-of-towners visit a city's paper for whatever reason and all they see is comments dominated by people who can't write properly or form a respectable opinion or say anything good about their own city, what are the visitors supposed to think about that city or the people who live there?

Comments

LKBM said…
See also: John Gabriel's Greater Internet F___wad Theory ( http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/ )

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