Saturday, March 3, 2012

New Comment Settings

It's taken me awhile to decide to do this, but I've now disabled anonymous commenting on the blog.

I am a huge proponent of free speech, and have long understood that anonymous commenting allowed some the freedom to share unpopular opinions.  Anonymous comments haven't really bothered me, nor has it ever bothered me when others disagree with my opinions.  The cure for bad speech is not censorship, but MORE speech, I've always believed.

That's why I don't moderate comments (screen them before publishing them), nor do I delete comments (censor them after they've been published).  I intend to stick with those policies. Disallowing anonymous comments seems to me a middle ground, less stifling of free speech than moderating or deleting comments.

I have been disturbed by the NUMBER of anonymous comments lately.  I did a spot check of the almost-9,000 comments here, and have discovered an enormous growth in the percentage of anonymous comments.  In the first 500 comments on the blog, only 6.4% were anonymous.  In the middle 500 comments, 20.1% were anonymous.  In the last 500 comments, 48.4% were anonymous. That last number was startling to me -- almost half of commenters aren't willing to identify themselves.  Wow. Not only do these figures show a growth in anonymous comments, but even more disturbing to me, that's an enormous decline in the number of folks willing to identify themselves.

The anonymous comments have also declined in quality as they have increased in quantity.  Commenting anonymously has permitted folks to issue personal insults, not just of me, but also of other commenters.  Instead of offering reasoned disagreement, anonymous comments have become simply disagreeable. I believe the nature of the anonymous comments has chilled more speech than it has promoted -- many readers are declining to comment at all for fear of being attacked.

I'm pretty thick-skinned, but I have to tell you, the tenor of discussion in the comments has been depressing lately.  I know many would be delighted if I decided blogging wasn't fun anymore and quit. In fact, I believe that is actually the reason for the anonymous nastiness -- trying to stifle speech, not promote it. To make blogging more enjoyable for me, I need a better quality of disagreement (after all, there's little I like better than a good argument!). I'm hoping that by requiring commenters to identify themselves the quantity and quality of comments will improve.

Of course, I know this is an imperfect process.  Anyone is free to create a false identity on the internet (for all you know, I'm an 18-year-old Botswanan man with a great imagination!).  But I figure this step, of requiring one to establish an identity before commenting here, might deter the kind of drive-by nastiness the comment section has become prone to.

I hope to hear from many more of you, where I can agree or disagree with you by name!


omegamom said...

I wish you'd still have name/URL as an option, with email required but not shown. I have an OpenID, but it's a pain to use in Blogger comments, requiring multiple extra steps plus logging in to my OpenID account. But, since I don't comment very often, it's not like a huge number of comments from me will be suddenly reduced...

That said, I can understand where you're coming from.

Wendy said...

Good for you Malinda. I have stopped commenting here altogether because the discussion have become so unproductive and insulting. I often have unpopular opinions, but I feel if you truly believe in what you are saying you needn't hide behind the anon label--it is cowardly and enables a person not to truly believe all they spew.

Maybe we can get back to real discussions with those who don't mind a debate, but abhore the name calling and rude statement aimed at people, not ideas.

Wendy said...

Why my s doesn't seem to be working is beyond me (lol); add an s and I make more sense!

Bukimom said...

I think this is a fantastic move on your part, Malinda. Lately I have been really discouraged by some of the anonymous comments as well.

The Gang's Momma! said...

I could have typed pretty much what Wendy said, if I hadn't stopped to read all the comments first. I've never been a fan of anonymous comments - and have been increasingly disturbed by the nastiness and "pot shotting" that happens when it occurs. Here and other sites I read. If you think it, if you feel it strongly enough to type it out, OWN it.

I tend to be on the politically conservative end of the spectrum (here and other sites) but I always seek to phrase my thoughts in a way that focuses on the issue and on discourse. And I always, always appreciate hearing the same from other who may be at the other end of the spectrum from me. I like to learn from others' view points. It's why I started reading here (and other sites). I owe it to myself and to my family to learn from others.

Great move. I'm looking forward to reading and commenting 'round here again.

American Mamacita said...

Ditto on the "Please return the Name/URL option" - I don't use my primary Google account on my blog because I don't want my last name out there on my blog - and I comment on all these other posts in community with my blogging, so if there's no Name/URL option, I won't comment.

But I WILL still read, either way!

LisaLew said...

I agree it's hard to comment at times without the intention being misinterpreted.

For example, I referred to a child as a donor child and felt reamed for stripping him of his identity, worth as a person.

Uh, I just used the term as clarification during discussion.

Trust me, I would never, ever forget about a child's rights. Once, I didn't have any, so I get it.

Stop the hate, have productive discussions.

Truly Blessed said...

It looks like there are several ways to reveal your identity when commenting on this site...Google (Blogger ID is one of them), but there are at least 5 other choices if I'm counting correctly. It is usually quite easy, and often free, to sign up with one of these other sites to give yourself a virtual identity, and if you do so, you're free to join in the discussion.

I, for one, will be glad to see the 'Anonymous' comments stop. People quite often get nasty and/or rude when they are able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.

Momma C said...

I don't comment much but I have noticed a general decline in civility here (and other sites in the blogosphere) Good for you for trying to keep people a little more civil and the discussion at a higher level

Reena said...

I think this is a great move!

"I know many would be delighted if I decided blogging wasn't fun anymore and quit."

I think many would miss reading your very informative blog and the thoughtfull discussions it creates.