By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Toward less anonymity

I’m probably going to require people to register with Blogger before posting comments to Media Nation. I’ve long been uncomfortable with anonymous comments, but have held back from taking this step because most users, after all, will still be anonymous. Here’s why I’ve changed my mind:

  • Having a Blogger identity at least gives you some sort of public persona — you’re not anonymous so much as you are pseudonymous. That’s a step up.
  • Spammers should be completely blocked from posting. I hope.
  • I shouldn’t have to screen comments — they’ll go up immediately, and it will save me time.

I’m going to do this unless I hear a good reason not to. “I don’t want to register” and “I’m afraid Google and the CIA will implant a microchip in my brain” are not good reasons. But if you have a serious objection, I’ll take it seriously.

More: I notice that Atrios, who’s on Blogger, uses Haloscan. Any thoughts?

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  1. Edward Prisby

    I’m with you on less anonymity. But they had this debate over at Bluemassgroup, and on Universal Hub recently. The arguments for anonymity usually center around people fearing for job or reputation by voicing an important, yet unpopular, opinion.I recently “googled” myself, and was taken a little aback by the experience. While it’s always in the back of my mind that we, as bloggers, are participating in very PUBLIC discourse,the more I do it, the less I think about it. It’s like the Real World phenomina. Of course these kids know they’re on TV, but after a while you forget the cameras are there.And with the web, what we say is permanently out there. I may express an opinion about homeland security on BMG, or about the Globe here. And it may be fine for the purposes of whatever conversation I have at the time. But is my opinion in 2007 going to be revisted by someone in 2015? There’s a sort of chillnig effect the release on anonymity might have on web-based conversation.Obviously I’ve considered it and I’m willing to forgoe anonymity. But I can see where other people aren’t as comfortable with it.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Edward: I don’t want to debate you, but people could still obscure their identity if they wanted to. Once they register with Blogger, they can still go by mike_b1 or Peter Porcupine, to name two actual examples. I don’t know who they are, but at least we all know their personae. Do you think anyone could have a legitimate objection to that?

  3. Edward Prisby

    Yeah, that seems fair enough.

  4. Brigid

    Here’s another problem: You want me to register with Blogger. LiveJournal shows me as anonymous unless I register with them. Some WordPress blogs require you to register as well. It’s all a bit much, and it’s also intimidating registering with some larger entity in order to comment on one blog. I think it discourages people from making that first comment, and that makes the discussion less lively. As a fellow blogger, I sympathize with you about comment spam. That’s one more reason to switch to WordPress, actually: I just added the Akismet spam blocker and it has made my life much easier.

  5. MeTheSheeple

    Speaking a guy with several different online personas (politics, computer games and family), I’ve got no problem with requiring registration.I’m not so sure it would have a massive effect on spam, however; SplogSpot has a 20mb text file with nothing but URLs of spam blogs, all or most of which are on blogger. I wish you the best of luck!

  6. Steve

    Within the context of Blogger, I guess this is OK. It’s very valuable to know who you’re talking to, even if the “who” is pseudonymous. Greenwald (who uses Haloscan comments) requests that commenters pick a pseudonym for each comment thread, which is a bit better, I think (you don’t have to register).I was registered with Blogger when I got here, but I don’t think “I’m afraid Google and the CIA will implant a microchip in my brain” is the fear that most people have. I think it’s along the lines of “If I register with Blogger, the spam I receive will be off the charts”.To those people I say that registering with Blogger has not increased my spam load. Just my experience – your mileage may vary.But overall, I think that having anonymice on a thread is not helpful. I’m happy with anonymice that sign their contributions, though (like N and EBIII).

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: You can always register using an e-mail address that you set up strictly for the purpose of siphoning off spam. I have a Yahoo e-mail address that I use for registering for various stuff. I never even look at what comes in.

  8. A.J. Cordi

    (Sorry I’m kinda late posting my comments to this.)When I first began on Blogger I allowed anyone to post. I didn’t have the comment moderation switched on and I would receive TONS of spam. I deleted it all and turned on the moderation. Spam, however, still slips through but at least I can reject it before it is posted.The problem I encountered was that I NEVER checked to see if I had comments to approve. Then, when I upgraded to the new blogger, I saw how many comments were actually left. Out of all that were left, only a couple were actually spam. But since the comments were so old, I rejected almost all of them anyway.The down side was that I screwed myself and now NOBODY leaves comments on my blog – not even the people who view my blog on a regular basis.I suppose what I’m trying to say is don’t change anything if it’s working for you (kind of like the old saying “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken”). Though you have a lot of anonymous posts, they are for the most part logical and mature comments. But I do understand the whole ‘having an identity’ idea, and it is nice knowing who is leaving all the comments.Is it possible to simply leave the moderation on withuot having the option for anonymous? That might be your best bet to avoid the spam.Also, have you ever thought about creating your own forum? You seem to have a fairly large audience; a forum might work for you.

  9. Anonymous

    It’s your blog, and you can obviously do what you wish. But it isn’t entirely clear what ailment you believe that you are trying to cure, particularly since you moderate responses anyway.From what I can see, bloggers require registration primarily because they get a lot of spam from commenters who are unable (robots) to register. Are you really getting that much spam?BTW, I think I have registered with blogger long ago, but I don’t remember what either the username or the password is, and I’m not likely to try to do so again.–raj

  10. whispers

    FWIW, I support the decision to limit comments to pseudonymous identities. That will get rid of most of the hit-and-run spammers and should have a minimal effect on people who want to blog behind an assumed identity.

  11. Philocrites

    I’d prefer you not go to Haloscan. I like reading comments attached directly to the individual posts themselves rather than opening up a pop-up window, which is how Haloscan’s comments work.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Philocrites: I don’t think the separate window is a big deal, but in looking at the comments on Atrios, I don’t think Haloscan accomplishes a whole lot, either. So I probably won’t go that way.

  13. Anonymous

    Dan, I comment here from time to time but probably would not do so if I had to register. I already have too many registrations and user names and passwords to remember and I don’t feel like hassling with more just to chime in now and then to put my two cents in.One (naive) thought – are you troubled by people who say things anonymously they’d perhaps be embarrassed to say otherwise? If so, you could always consider being more stringent in your approval process, or is there a function in Blogger that allows you to track and block IP addresses?

  14. Peter Porcupine

    Blogger does not allow blocking of IP addresses, and the tracking is relegated to a sitemeter if you have one – and that is inexact as well, as more than one person may be logged on at the same time.However, I speak from the perspective of Old Blogger, as I am not switching until the bugs are out/I can’t post any more. Have these defects been remedied in the new version?

  15. Bryan Person

    I strongly object to the notion that I have to register with Blogger just to leave a comment. It’s more work than someone should have to do.When that’s the only option I have, I just don’t comment.Dan, have you ever considered switching your blog to WordPress, which is much more robust and gives you more options from the publisher’s end for managing comments and killing spam?

  16. Anonymous

    Has there been a problem?I haven’t seen much spam here.My expereince is that if your equire people to register…..then you will have less overall comments.PErsonally, I have always had respect for how you DO allow sometimes negative comments and how you handle them.

  17. Anonymous

    I’m more concerned about people who think the expression is “centered around.” That ain’t logical.

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