More on real names

I just trashed two long, well-written comments from someone who thought he (she?) was entitled to post under a pseudonym. I wasn’t kidding, folks. And yes, I do understand that sometimes there are reasons for not posting under your real name. It’s just that you’re not going to be doing it here.

21 thoughts on “More on real names

  1. Donna Morris

    Have you considered implementing an automated computer response to those posting under pseudonyms? Perhaps they aren’t aware of your new ID policy and would resubmit using their real names.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    @Donna: Here’s what they see before they start typing:

    “Leave a reply. Your real name, first and last, is required. Please read our comments policy before you post for the first time. You may use simple HTML commands for italics, bold and links. And if you would like an avatar to be displayed with your comments, please visit Gravatar.”

    There is only so much I can do.

    And I’m fully aware that something will be lost, as several people have already told me. I understand that. I also think the community will gain more than it loses.

  3. With all the cutbacks in newspapers, I wonder if any have scrapped the time-consuming (i.e., expensive) practice of calling people who submit letters to the editor before publication, to confirm their existence. No anonymous “comments” there!

    The bodies have fallen in our newsroom, but we’ve still got an administrative assistant making a half-dozen such calls every day.

    I wonder if any online publications do such verbal confirmation? I would suspect not – it’s a big cost and really slows things down.

  4. George Williams

    I can not begin to imagine a reason why someone, anyone, would comment on this site and be concerned about using their real name.

  5. As far as online pubs confirming letters to the editor — my “letters” come in via email and yes, they not only need to be signed with a person’s full name but they’re also confirmed before they’re published. I’m old school that way.

    Dan, I’m wondering if your correspondents may have inadvertently hit “submit” before changing their name. Firefox pre-filled the name, mail and website fields for me and since I’ve always commented as “GreaterGrafton,” that’s the name that popped up. Just a thought.

  6. Roberto Scalese

    I think this is a good policy. I don’t write in very often (and when I did, about casinos, it didn’t go over very well), but you’re right: The name offers accountability, and that lends credence to the entire conversation. There are plenty of sites that have rating systems, flags for inappropriate comments, “disemvowelment,” and all other manner of Rube Goldberg-esque systems for weeding out bad actors. Adding your real name is a far simpler way to keep the conversation civil.

  7. Bill Duncliffe

    I’d be a lot more impressed with the policy if there weren’t already an exception made.

    So for all the “You won’t be doing it here” and “I wasn’t kidding” apparently;

    1) You can
    2) He was.

  8. Mary DeChillo

    It has struck me as odd that Letters to the Editor at newspapes require disclosure of name, address and telephone number, while the same papers do not require anyone’s real name under the “comments” section of an article that is appearing both on-line and in the print addition. Thus you have the posts that range from mildly related to the topic to a vitriolic diatribe of a tangential nature.

    If the news organizations required a real name, there would be far less blog activity. If I am not mistaken, are their revenues not impacted by how many posts they receive?

    It’s a dicotomous method of soliticitng reader “input”. I seen the nameless blogs as just more evidence as to how far public discourse has devolved. No one has to be responsible for their opinions. When no one is responsible for their opinions they then become less responsible for their actions.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Tom: Well, perhaps. To which I would say I gave a longtime, valued commenter with a well-known pen name the courtesy of responding to my change in policy — not to anything else. And we won’t be hearing from Peter Porcupine again unless he or she decides to comply with the real-names policy.

  9. Steve Stein

    What Mary said.

    But how much checking does a newspaper do before accepting a letter to the editor? If the answer is more than “zero”, I would guess it would be difficult to check real names in a newspaper’s online comment section. If I registered with “Ralph Kramden” or “Peter Porcupine” or even “Dan Kennedy”, how would they be able to check?

    I’m still chuckling over “suldog” changing to “Jim Sullivan” here. There must be over a hundred “Jim Sullivan”s in the Boston area (I know two), but I bet there’s only one “suldog”.

  10. Al Fiantaca

    I think some people might fear getting harassed at home if they make too controversial a comment without the mask of anonymity. It’s too easy tracking people down in the age of the Internet. OTOH, with your name attached to your comment, you might think twice and edit yourself before submitting something. If you wouldn’t say it at the dinner table, or to your coworker at the office, then you probably shouldn’t be ranting it on some blog forum, either. Once you accept it, and make the leap of faith to full disclosure, it’s not bad. If it saves me from having to be put upon by some of the nastiness that inhabit many other fora, both private such as Dan’s, here, and public such as many newspapers allow after articles, then it’s worth it.

  11. Bill Duncliffe

    Well, technically Peter Porcupine was allowed to post under that nom de net after the new policy was instituted.

    That being said I did not read all the way to the end of that thread. I apologize for any confusion created.

  12. Neil Sagan

    Wherein Dan Kennedy gets a hair across his ass and drunk on his own personal awesomeness at the time the reality-based world knows commenting on Dan’s blog is no more of a treat than a bout with irregularity.

  13. Steve Stein

    I’ve been posting to the Internet for almost 30 years, mostly under my own name, sometimes including my town, and I’ve never experienced any harassment because of it.

    1. Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: I’m glad you said that. I’ve been writing under my own name for 35 years. My e-mail address is easily found. My phone number is listed. I think the worst I ever got was a nasty but non-threatening letter delivered to my house when I was reporting on the demise of Mike Barnicle’s Boston Globe career.

  14. LFNeilson

    I’ve never had anyone come back at me for anything I’ve posted on the internet, but at the Town Crier, we did have our windows broken and graffiti painted on our building. Would I let that change how I ran the paper? No way. My brother Stu likes to say, “If you don’t get your windows broken every couple of years, you aren’t running a good paper.” Only now the TC has no local windows. Miscreants would have to go to Woburn.

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