Anonymous comments

1 Jul 2007 - 10:18am
7 years ago
2 replies
457 reads
Cwodtke
2004

I'd like to ask the list about anonymous comments. I'm sure the
collective wisdom of the list has plumbed the question, figured out the
fors and againsts of registration for commenting and has opinions. This
for me is coming out of a real-world situation with Found|Read, a site
that uses PublicSquare which requires everyone to register or log in to
leave a comment. I am reconsidering the value of that decision.

People have complained that they have to register "just" to leave a
comment on Found|Read however, comment *quantity* as well as quality
went up when we switched to BoxesandArrows to PublicSquare. Found|Read
has never see anything else but sign-in required, and its numbers are a
fraction of GigaOm's so its comments should be the same. I've worked
with user data for many years, especially at Yahoo and I know that you
have to look at hard data as well as opinion and what seems logical
isn't always true. Though it makes sense in abstract registration would
reduce the number of comments, is it accurate? And is it a problem? Do
you lose useful comments?

Moreover, look at the quality of anonymous comments- often defamatory,
obscene, and ill-conceived. Kathy Seirra mess came out of anonymous
commenting as much as anything else-- with out a channel for the
audience to correct badly behaving members of her community, she because
a victim of the participatory media she championed.

BTW, the registration on PublicSquare, if you haven't done it on Boxes
and Arrows, is first name/lastname username email password twice.
Slightly larger than the minimum but not much.

~c

--

Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator
415-577-255

Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Business :: http://www.publicsqurehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

Comments

1 Jul 2007 - 12:19pm
Jared M. Spool
2003

On Jul 1, 2007, at 11:18 AM, Christina Wodtke wrote:

> I'd like to ask the list about anonymous comments.
[...]
> People have complained that they have to register "just" to leave a
> comment on Found|Read however, comment *quantity* as well as quality
> went up when we switched to BoxesandArrows to PublicSquare. Found|Read
> has never see anything else but sign-in required, and its numbers
> are a
> fraction of GigaOm's so its comments should be the same.
[...]
> Though it makes sense in abstract registration would
> reduce the number of comments, is it accurate? And is it a problem? Do
> you lose useful comments?
>
> Moreover, look at the quality of anonymous comments- often defamatory,
> obscene, and ill-conceived. Kathy Seirra mess came out of anonymous
> commenting as much as anything else-- with out a channel for the
> audience to correct badly behaving members of her community, she
> because
> a victim of the participatory media she championed.

Hi Christina,

I have a few thoughts on this from our work with social networks over
the years: (I'm sure you already know this stuff, but sometimes just
hearing it again can help.)

First, I'd go back and re-read Derek Powazek's great book on
communities. (Amazon link: http://tinyurl.com/2hqwm7 ) I'm pretty
sure he has some great things to say on this.

Second, remember that on the internet, no one knows you're a dog.
(Cartoon link: http://tinyurl.com/292s7q ) It's extremely difficulty
to eliminate anonymity from the internet, even when asking for an
email address for confirmation, since free email addresses are easy
to come by. So, even with what you have now, anonymous entries are
going to sneak through. You just won't know they are anonymous.

Third, when you put up any obstacles for comments (or any other type
if interaction, such as voting, rating, or checkout), you
automatically decrease the number and increase the quality, as you've
discovered. Think of it as a high jump competition. The higher the
bar, the more someone has to want to do it.

Fourth, quality submissions are not the only goal. For some
applications, quantity is more important. Or variety, or
representation. Or some combination. If quality isn't the
requirement, allowing anonymous responses can work well. The Slog at
the Stranger.com, a weekly alternative newspaper in Seattle,
encourages anonymous comments because it generates more feedback.
They feel the more interactive their readership is, the better. (Slog
Article link: http://tinyurl.com/2paz3g -- warning: offensive language)

Fifth, remember that "submission" is different from
"publication" (which I know you know because that's the entire
purpose of PublicSquare). Just because someone submits something
anonymously doesn't mean you have to post it. Of course, this implies
you need a moderator process, which complicates management of the site.

Sixth, the Kathy Sierra incident revolved around anonymous comments
in two forms: first, the offenders were upset she removed anonymous
comments from her own site and, second, they went on to post
offensive anonymous blog posts on another site that allowed it
without any moderation or censorship. If there was anything she could
control, it was the method by which she handled the first form. I
don't think she initially had a reason to allow anonymous comments on
her site, other than thinking what harm could it do? (I think she now
knows the answer.) It's possible that a moderation system or a well
written policy on acceptable behavior might have prevented the
initial outburst. There's nothing she could do about people making
obscene and offensive comments about her on other sites.

Censorship of anonymity is not a bad thing. Despite what people
think, it's not protected by the first amendment. Amazon, for
example, allows anonymous submission but has not suffered from the
costs of an extremely well moderated review system. (You're hard
pressed to find a review on Amazon that isn't on topic. No comment
spam there!)

Given these things, for Found Magazine, what is the benefit of
anonymous comments? How will the site's community benefit? Is there
enough of a need for anonymous comments to justify either the
increase in moderation cost or the reduction in quality?

Those are my thoughts. Hope you find them helpful,

Jared

Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool at uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks

1 Jul 2007 - 2:04pm
Cwodtke
2004

btw, relevant urls include foundread.com, publicsquarehq.com and
boxesandarrows.com

Jared M. Spool wrote:
>
> Given these things, for Found Magazine, what is the benefit of
> anonymous comments? How will the site's community benefit? Is there
> enough of a need for anonymous comments to justify either the increase
> in moderation cost or the reduction in quality?

I'm also suddenly reminded of something rather off-topic-- these
questions change radically when you have one engineer, and you are
choosing between getting import/export working, tweaking reputation
points, allow anonymous comments... and 50 other things. Sure, it's no
big deal to add anonymous commenting... expect at the price of other
things that may or may not change your company's survival. Life is
different where I live.

--
Christina Wodtke
Principal Instigator
415-577-2550

Business :: http://www.cucinamedia.com
Magazine :: http://www.boxesandarrows.com
Product :: http://www.publicsquarehq.com
Personal :: http://www.eleganthack.com
Book :: http://www.blueprintsfortheweb.com

cwodtke at eleganthack.com

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