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

Tweaking comments: Moving away from a real-names policy

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I’ve finally decided to implement it. I am taking a tactical step back from requiring real names in the comments section. I will continue to screen every comment before it’s posted, which I’ve come to realize is of much greater value than real names.

Since I first started requiring real names a few years ago, the online conversation has changed quite a bit. Comments at Media Nation and many other websites have dropped precipitously. At the same time, I post links to everything I write on Facebook, which often leads to in-depth, high-quality interactions. As you probably know, Facebook does require real names, and though not everyone goes along, most do. Here is my Facebook profile. We don’t need to be “friends,” since I post blog content to my public feed. In my opinion, the shift to Facebook is far more important than whether I require real names here.

The other reason I’m moving away from real names here is that several of my most regular commenters log in via WordPress under their screen names, forcing me to go in and change it to their real names. It’s a pain in the neck. Then, too, there are the excellent comments from people I don’t know who haven’t used their real names. I’ll often email them and ask them to resubmit under their real names. If I don’t hear from them, their comment goes unpublished.

As with everything in digital media, this is experimental. I may change my mind again or go in a completely different direction. Thank you for reading. If you want to comment here, be my guest, but I strongly recommend looking me up on Facebook.

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  1. I have been waiting for someone to come up with a taxonomy of online discourse. If you have a blog, and publish a public Facebook feed, and you have a Twitter account, and also write for other online outlets like WGBH, what should be the purpose of each? Where should your readers comment? Do you come up with a community of readers that engenders productive discussion? It’s been a real jumble for many folks. Looks like you’re on the way towards organizing things, which is more than other outlets can claim.

  2. Dan, I’m amazed at what people commenting on my blog are willing to say even using their real names. It’s an interesting process. Keep us posted on what the outcome of your change is.

  3. Are you just distracting yourself from doing real work on your new book? This is part serious, part sarcasm. 😉

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