I see the issue of anonymous commenters is heating up again, with Wordbones’s decision to require commenters to have a valid userid with Google or another service. (This isn’t how Wordbones presented the decision, but due to the limitations of Blogspot that’s how it ended up working in practice.) As HoCo Rising noted, we also had a conversation on this at the HoCo Blogtail party last night. I was particularly shocked to hear during that conversation that in the past some local bloggers have deliberately outed anonymous or pseudonymous commenters who offended them for some reason; I think such behavior constitutes a major breach of trust between a blogger and his or her readers. HoCo Hayduke also posted a link to past blog posts on this general topic.

I still stand by my previously stated position on discouraging (e.g., through deletion of comments) truly anonymous comments, i.e., where the commenter doesn’t use a distinctive pseudonym. However since this subject is so controversial, and since the online norms I’m used to don’t seem to always be the rule in Howard County blogging, I thought it would be useful to make more explicit my own policies regarding commenting on this blog.

Without further ado, here are my commitments to you, my readers and potential commenters:

  • I will not moderate comments or require them to be pre-approved.
  • I will not require that you be registered with WordPress or any other service in order to submit a comment.
  • I encourage you to submit comments using a pseudonym if you wish; I ask only that you use a distinctive pseudonym and use it consistently for all your comments.
  • Although WordPress requires you to enter an email address when submitting a comment, I will not require that you supply a working address. If you do supply a working email address then I will not use that address for any  purpose other than contacting you regarding one of your comments as discussed below.
  • I will not attempt to determine your real-life identity. If I should learn of your real-life identity (whether from yourself or someone else) then I will not disclose that identity to others.
  • I will delete only anonymous comments and comments that appear to be spam.
  • I reserve the right to edit your comment if you are wildly off-topic, engage in persistent personal abuse of other commenters, or otherwise go outside the boundaries of what I consider to be acceptable online behavior. I expect to have to do this rarely if at all. If I do edit a comment then I will make it clear in the comments section what I have done and why. I will also attempt to notify you via email if you provided a working address.
  • In my posts and in my replies to your comments I will strive to follow the rule “play the ball, not the man” and fairly engage the arguments that you and others make.

Thanks for your attention, and for reading and commenting on my blog.

JessieX - 2010-06-04 13:26

Your last point, I think is the crux: Play the ball, not the man. If those who feel it’s so important to be able to comment without using their real, given names would simply “play the ball, not the man,” things would be so much more civil. It’s when the anoni use the cover of nothingness to attack individuals that pollutes the stream of comments. It’s odd to me, that those who seem to fight for the right to be anoni are really the ones who are ruining their own party by their own behaviors. Rights and responsibilities always travel together. Were the anoni of #theHoCo to genuinely respect the right to post as such, they would, as you say, “Play the ball, not the man.” Rock on, @hecker.