Friday, August 18, 2006

Anonymous comments

Every now and then the issue of anonymous comments comes up.

1.When T-blog was first set up by Ryan McReynolds, the combox was shut down. About a month later he opened the box for comments.

However, much further down the line, some folks began to complain that it was only open to fellow bloggers.

I then changed the settings, since restricting commenters to fellow bloggers was rather arbitrary.

2.As a rule, how a blogger administers his blog is none of my business.

The only time I’d have anything to say about this is if his policy is hypocritical.

That aside, different bloggers have their own priorities, and it’s their judgment call to make, not mine.

Blogging is free. If you don’t like how the next guy does it, you can start your own blog.

3.Some blogs close the combox. Others have a very restrictive policy. There can be both good and bad reasons for that.

A good reason is that a blogger may not have the time to respond or to police the content of the combox.

Another good reason is that a blogger may wish to maintain a certain tone. Suppose he’s a Christian blogger, and his blog is basically devotional in character. So he wants to maintain an edifying tone.

A bad reason is that a blogger is too thin-skinned to take the heat. So he closes the combox, or moderates the combox, or bans every critic, or deletes every critical comment.

Frankly, if you’re that delicate, then you’re out of your natural element in the blogosphere. Take up knitting or badminton.

4.It comes down to two competing priorities or blogging philosophies: which is better or worse—to preempt many constructive comments for fear that someone someday may say something naughty, or to allow for the possibility of some unsuitable comment in order to allow the constructive commenters to speak their minds?

In terms of how I run things, I don’t punish good people for what bad people do. I’d rather have more good with some bad than have no bad at the price of having no good.

There’s a tradeoff. The good comes with the bad. Good feedback and bad feedback.

I have a lenient policy—not for the sake of the bad, but for the sake of the good.

One policy plays it safe. No gain, but no loss.

I prefer to assume a certain risk for a certain benefit. I can put up with a bit of urban graffiti to have my Monets and Botticellis and Da Vincis. A small price to pay.

One of the nice things about being a Calvinist is that you don’t live in a state of fear. You don’t feel the need to be in control of everything. You don’t feel responsible for everything that happens.

You don’t live behind barred widows and padlocked doors out of a spinsterish, schoolmarmish apprehension that if you took a walk in park, you might see something risqué—like the mating dance of the pink flamingo.

In a fallen world, the bad is unavoidable. So why avoid the good for fear of the bad? The bad will find you out in another venue, without the compensatory good.

5. Just as there are good and bad reasons for closing or censoring the combox, there are good and bad reasons for anonymous commenting.

The bad reason is the coward who wants to make vicious and malicious comments without being accountable for what he says.

Even in this case, his strategy may backfire. He ends up making his own cause look bad.

So, even in the worse case scenario, I think there’s often a value in giving a creep enough rope to hang himself.

But there are also innocent or legitimate reasons for preserving one’s identity.

Some commenters fear professional reprisal. Others fear for their own safety.

Some commentators are libertarians for whom it’s nobody’s darn-tootin’ business who they are, what they do, where they live, &c.

Some commenters turn anonymous commenting into a running joke. X chooses to post a comment as Anonymous, so Y chooses to post a counter-comment as Anti-Anonymous. That’s followed by Anti-Pseudo-Anonymous, Pseudo-Anti-Anonymous, and so on.

6. Another problem is that if you try to ban anonymous commenters, they’ll simply return as pseudonymous commenters. Anyone with half a brain can do a fictitious profile.

I can always delete comment that’s way over the line, but prior restraint is not my style.

1 comment:

  1. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how you guys have the open comment...
    I'm just a bit worried that with the discomfiting thing, things would get out of control here...