Monday, November 12, 2012

Do Anonymous Comments Add Any Value To The Community?

The following is a commentary submitted by Allan Berlind.

I’ve been a regular reader of the Middletown Eye, but never before a contributor. When I access the site, I do so in the hope that pretty much all the content will be worth reading. With that aim in mind, I offer the suggestion that the blog would be very much improved if it were to ban anonymous posts and comments. If identities had to be attached, there would be a substantial improvement in the value of the information available to readers, in the interest level of the posts and commentary, and in the civility of the interactions. If contributors had to take some responsibility for their posts by revealing their identities, they would be likely to give a bit more thought to what they say and the general intelligence of the content would rise.

The kerfuffle that started last week with an identified post from a defeated candidate for Congress (Nov. 8; “Opinion: A Sad Day”) is a case in point. In terms of importance and interest, Mr. Winsley’s post was an eye-opener that provided valuable information to readers about the quality of a candidate who had otherwise been invisible and, more significantly, about the party which saw fit to put him up as a candidate.

If exactly the same sentiments had been expressed anonymously by him or by another poster they would have simply been a whiny rant with essentially no value. Of the seventeen comments that have, to date, followed the initial post, eleven are anonymous. I find the overall difference in quality between the anonymous and identified comments to be striking. The majority of those posted anonymously are simply not worth the time it takes to read them.


Lyn Shaw said...

Well said, Allen, and I agree... anonymous comments, wherever they appear, too easily become emotional rants...People should have the consideration to identify themselves, in so doing standing behind their feelings.

Anonymous said...

the eye should set an example and start banning posts from its contributors who are not civil. Like Ed's.

John said...

I agree completely. I also think there are other major improvements that can be made to this site that will only help improve the content. I'd love to see that happen.

Anonymous said...

I do believe that anonymous comments can and do add value to an online forum. There are those that, of course, will take the opportunity of anonymity and use it as a means to "emotionally rant." Far too often though, there are many who are simply afraid to state their names because of the way they have been shot down and bullied in public forums in the past...both online and in other forums (like school board and PTO meetings, for example). It would be wrong of any editor to rule out an online opinion simply because there is no name attached. I very rarely comment here at the Eye, because I DO prefer to do so anonymously, and I have seen many, many times where the editors have taken it upon themselves to publicly denounce and even delete comments that were simply unsigned. I don't believe this is a fair and unbiased practice in the world of journalism. This is a blog, however, so I realize that you are free to do as you wish, but with that freedom also comes the responsibility to be sure that your readers understand that you are NOT a news source, and that you reserve the right to report stories in any biased manner that you wish (because you do...admit it).

I have seen many comments here, signed by readers and editors even, that also did not display decorum and often comes across as bullying. There is one particular editor that has even resorted to swearing and name-calling. If you want the rest of the world to hold themselves accountable for their words, then you should start by looking in the mirror and doing so for yourself.

Signed, "Anonymous" (because I can...)

Anonymous said...

From a fellow anonymous poster, well said 6:22 anonymous

Stephen Devoto said...

Below are two thoughtful pieces on anonymous comments. I personally share a sentiment expressed in the second piece, "Put your name to something and your words are freighted with responsibility." I always take signed comments seriously, and rarely pay attention to anonymous ones (in fact, I assume that most anonymous comments are coming from the same individual). However, I agree with 6:22 that anonymous comments can sometimes add value to a discussion, I am not in favor of eliminating the option of anonymity. After all, whether a comment is signed or not, it is trivial to skip over it without reading.

Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt

How the internet created an age of rage