Monday, July 31, 2006

Freedom of choice...

I'm glad to see the increased participation and dialogue among my fellow Howard Countians on this blog -- even if most disagree with me. That said, managing the discussion -- or even keeping up with it -- is becoming, well, unmanageable.

I mostly follow comments by having each one forwarded to my email inbox, which looks like this:

Keeping up with each discussion, which can involve just one or sometimes many Anonymouses, ain't easy. The lack of aliases also makes discussion for other commenters difficult.

The time has come to do something about it.

Now, as I've stressed many times before, I'm not going to force people to come out and say who they really are. I have no moral authority on that issue. But I am going to have to impose some speech restrictions -- namely, everyone needs a nickname.

There are two ways we can do this, and I'll let you, through the power of democracy, decide which to use. First, I can set up comments so only those registered with blogger can comment. Registering with blogger is as easy as setting up an account with any other online community. You go to, enter a user name, password and email address, put as little information as you want in a profile and you're done. The email address is not public and you can set your profile private to maintain your anonymity (for an example of how to make an anonymous profile, see mine).

The second way to do this is for me to turn on comment moderation. This means that before any comment is posted to the blog, I have to approve it. Under this scenario, you would have the same options for commenting that you have now. That is, you can sign in under a Blogger account, you can make up a nickname on the spot or you can post as "Anonymous." If this is the preferred method, I will not approve "Anonymous" comments.

Since its a democracy and everyone gets a vote, here's mine: the first one. I say this for two reasons. One, it's less work for me. Two, I want to keep things on the blog as transparent as possible. Forcing me to approve comments takes away some of that transparency.

I would note that most blogs, including both Howard County Blog and David Wissing, require you to enter an alias of some kind before commenting.

So as we Democrats like to say, vote early and vote often in the comment section of this post. I'll leave the polls open until around this time tomorrow.


roscoe said...

I vote for Option 1

Anonymous said...

I don't really like giving up my email. Can we still do anonymous as the default but sign our comments at the bottom? Like this?

Puzzled in EC

Anonymous said...

I vote for anon#1's write-in suggestion. Howard County Blog's and David Wissing's nonanonymity requirements are exactly why I don't post on their blogs and do post here. Just because they do it, doesn't mean it's the best idea for open dialogue.

Last time I checked, Evan's blog, like yours (for now), still allows anonymous comments.

Further, Blogger's privacy policy, , doesn't provide great assurances. And, look at all the info SiteMeter gives up. Sheesh.

Free speech doesn't seem so free when the cost is one's privacy/anonymity. I do expect that if and when you do turn on blocking of anonymous posts, it will solve your issue of finding discussions too hard to follow, but perhaps not in the way you intend.

To paraphrase your concluding remarks from yesterday's post, what's more important: ideas, ideals, or IDs?


Evan said...

I am with you on this one HayDuke. I think conversations and some of the other strengthes of blogs (1: solution finding, 2: fact checking, etc.) are enhanced by having a distinct way of addressing each participant. That way a participant in the exchange can build up their credibility over time and their comments will gain the credibility earned over time. I have pleaded a couple times in the comments sections at for users to at least pick a pseudonym and use it when they post. You can even do a pseudonym for each post without registering with blogger by clicking the "Other" bubble below and type in the pseudonym in the "Name" line. However if people do this last approach they keep to the same pseudonym to allow a good discussion to develop.

I vote for option 1, with the last way to create a pseudonym as a solution for the two posters above who don't like blogger accounts.

mary smith said...

I too am in favor of keeping this site as open as possible to discussion. Also, though, anonymity is not compromised if your email address excludes your name.

Dave Wissing said...

I say take Option #3 and switch to Wordpress and dump Blogger.

I force people to at least enter something because it does mitigate drive-by commenting, but I can tell you most of the email addresses are phony anyway. But at least it forces people to enter something and use a psuedonym of some kind. Also, the email requirement helps keep spammers at bay, which is my prime reason for doing it.

Hayduke said...

For those concerned about privacy, blogger does not require you to enter any personal information about yourself. The only requirement is an email address, and I've always found it best to have an email address used specifically for such things (i.e. online purchases, registering for various sites). I also have plenty of invites for Gmail (google mail) if you need to create a fake address.

William Jefferson Clinton said...

As for David Wissing's comment. You can make up any name and email address you want at I am not able to verify whether a writer is using a real name, a pseudonym, a fake email, etc. You can even use the alias "pseudonym" and it would still allow you to post.

As to AllYourBlogsAreBelongToUs comment that users can't remain anon. It isn't true. I will sign off on this as Bill Clinton.

Anonymous said...

I vote for option #1 because it's what you want and it's your blog.

No ones' freedom of speech will be hindered, but freedom from embarrassment for saying stupid things might be infringed. I can live with that.