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.