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Thread: What do you think about the policy requiring user identification?

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  1. #1
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    Default What do you think about the policy requiring user identification?

    A Discussion Forum user recently emailed me noting that the Discussion Forum seems to be awfully quiet, while there's lots of activity at the Town Crier boards.

    A legitimate question is whether our policy of requiring users to be named is the best policy for this Discussion Forum, and I would like your feedback on it.

    When the Discussion Forum first started, our policy was to require users to either use their real name or identify themselves to the board moderators. If they wanted to remain anonymous, they were not allowed to post anything of a controversial nature (whereas postings like, "Does anybody know when hydrant flushing will occur?" would be perfectly fine.")

    Somewhere along the way, we amended that policy to simply require all users to use their real name as their user name. Our concern was that we wanted to avoid the extreme negativity that we have seen on the Town Crier boards. We encourage active debate and disagreement, but we can "disagree without being disagreeable".

    How do we best encourage useful and energetic debate without encouraging the bad behavior that drives people away from these boards in the first place? What's the right balance? Your thoughts are welcome. Even, especially!, if you disagree with me.

  2. #2
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    Default

    My vote is to continue this Discussion Forum as-is. There's been plenty of traffic in the past, and I don't see that there was some sort of "de-nucleating" event that would have changed that.

    That said, I like the idea of allowing anonymous questions--perhaps there could be an "email the administrator" option whereby the administrator could do the posting. Of course, the administrator might have to decide that some questions aren't on the "up-and-up." And, the anonymous asker would have to trust the administrator, but I see absolutely no reason why they wouldn't.

    Also, the Town Crier discussion board doesn't have all that many participants: Dawn, Kim, Jeff D., plus roughly a half-dozen anonymous contributors.

    Kim, do you have a way of reporting posts and views by month?

  3. #3
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    Default

    I don't think I have any way to post views by month (other than by manually summing the view data for each post at the end of each month - which anyone is welcome to do!), but I can report on the number of new threads and new posts, if that's useful.

    I like the idea of soliciting questions that I could then post. I have posted things in the past on behalf of people who didn't want to or were not able to post themselves (though in the past always with them identified).

    I would be happy to post questions submitted to me (or the editorial board if that would make more sense) when appropriate. I like this idea.

    I hope others will weigh in. If you have an opinion, and are not registered, please feel free to share it with me and I can post for you (with or without your name attached).

  4. #4
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    Sep 2008
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    Default Keep it!

    My personal feeling is that if you're going to make a comment, you'd best be willing to put your name on it. The Town Crier "discussion" boards seem to be more about lambasting each other than actually having a fruitful discussion. Whenever I read them I swear my blood pressure goes up, so I try to stay away as much as possible. Posting anonymously allows people to say things that they wouldn't necessarily be brave enough to say otherwise.

  5. #5
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    Mar 2008
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    Default User id is good

    I am quiet sometimes because I'm busy. I never will post on the Town Crier boards because so few people use their real names. Even if some of the points could have merit there it sounds like "the nonsensical ravings of a lunatic mind." (Gene Wilder, Young Frankenstein) The posts and the answers on The Crier are not generally calm and careful discussions - but rather slightly hysterical rants of highly emotional people. The discourse on Waylandenews boards tends to be more rational and even-keeled even when people disagree. I like that.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Wayland MA 463 Old Conn Path
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    382

    Default Maintain your policy of identification

    Kim,
    It takes a lot of work for you to maintain a site which is vetted for real names and real people who are associated with Wayland.

    I agree with the above posters that the only credible language is language where the author is willing to sign their real name.

    I have posted in the past on the Crier and have found myself sucked into conversations with ghosts and posters who seemed to have multiple handles but usually the same personality. The anonymous posters can hide behind that cloak, throw darts, say cruel things and do it with impunity because they never have to be identified.

    Now that being said, if somebody wants to post on an anonymous forum and be anonymous and if the forum allows it then that is also their right.

    I suppose if one wants to jump into the ocean then they should be prepared to become part of the food chain.

    I see your forum Kim, more as a warm swimming pool.
    So, i'll continue to post here.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Wayland
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    6

    Post judi marks I think we have to be accountable for what we say. I have no problem with

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    A Discussion Forum user recently emailed me noting that the Discussion Forum seems to be awfully quiet, while there's lots of activity at the Town Crier boards.

    A legitimate question is whether our policy of requiring users to be named is the best policy for this Discussion Forum, and I would like your feedback on it.

    When the Discussion Forum first started, our policy was to require users to either use their real name or identify themselves to the board moderators. If they wanted to remain anonymous, they were not allowed to post anything of a controversial nature (whereas postings like, "Does anybody know when hydrant flushing will occur?" would be perfectly fine.")

    Somewhere along the way, we amended that policy to simply require all users to use their real name as their user name. Our concern was that we wanted to avoid the extreme negativity that we have seen on the Town Crier boards. We encourage active debate and disagreement, but we can "disagree without being disagreeable".

    How do we best encourage useful and energetic debate without encouraging the bad behavior that drives people away from these boards in the first place? What's the right balance? Your thoughts are welcome. Even, especially!, if you disagree with me.
    If I have something to say I will be accountable for anything I put in writing. I have no problem and actually encourage the current system.
    judijudi

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    726

    Default Excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times on anonymity

    I think collectively we've made all these arguments before, but this is a very good piece that pulls it all together:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/opinion/30zhuo.html

  9. #9
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    Wayland MA
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    Default

    Gizmodo's "audition system" is an idea I hadn't seen before--interesting. Couple that with a way for the publisher (but not readers) to know a person's identity and there might be a semi-anonymous middle ground. For this Discussion Forum given its local focus, however, I still prefer posting under real names in the spirit of Town Meeting's "Mr. Moderator, Jeff Dieffenbach, Pleasant Street" approach.

  10. #10
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    Wayland MA
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    Default

    A few minor new points, most notably the opinion to oppose making a web site responsible for content posted by the site's users.
    http://www.salon.com/technology/dan_...ity/index.html

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    117

    Default

    We should all congratulate Jeff on the accomplishment of 1,000 posts. He is the most prolific poster here and the first to hit this milestone! Congrats!

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