Say Goodbye to Anonymous Cowards

Since this site started last September many of you have called for restrictions on anonymous posting. All of us involved with OrangePolitics.org couldn't agree more. That's why I have been working for over two months on moving the entire site to a different blogging platform that will allow for more control over posting.

The move from MovableType to WordPress will allow us to require and validate real e-mail addresses for every commenter. In case this system is abused, we also have the ability to turn on moderation for all comments. This will be a real bummer for everyone, so let's hope we don't have to resort to that.

The new site is in its final stages of development, and all it needs now is testing. That's where you come in. Soon (this week or next), the subscribers to our reader's digest e-mail list will be invited to check out the new site before it gets launched to the public. If you would like to help with that effort, please join the list by entering your e-mail address in the form on the right side of this page.

The list only receives updates once a week (on Sundays). Only the list members will be invited to test before the new site is launched. Thanks in advance for your help!

Total votes: 446

Comments

I hope no one follows through on Duncan's option to get a special email account. Those kinds of accounts are easy to forget about. Some of the best conversations I've had through OP have come through private emails. If everyone had and checked the email they use here, then personal spats/attacks could be worked out privately instead of in public.

Well, geez. All I'm saying is that if you're (God forbid) posting from work, or don't want your employees/employers/customers/parishioners/prisoners to know what you think about __________, then getting a Hotmail or Yahoo account is an option. You can still have an e-mail conversation with an @yahoo.com account, and work out your personal spats/attacks in private.

That said, I'm still not clear that e-mail addresses are going to be posted for the world to see. My impression was that they would be used only for the purposes of sending a confirmation e-mail. I think that was the gist of Dan Coleman's first question on this thread, which I think has been misinterpreted.

I wasn't criticizing Duncan--just sharing that I use a real account that I check frequently and as a result of that have had some very productive/informative discussions--including one with you!

See

See http://orangepolitics.org/unc/is_chapel_hill_about_to_fracture.html for how OP participants feel about anonymous sources used by the Independent.

I don't think there will be an appreciable change in the discussion here, if Ruby requires that you submit a valid e-mail address in order to post.

Leaving aside the technical aspects of this change, assume for the moment that most of the people who have posted anonymously decide not to participate. Based on my unscientific observation of this site, it seems to me that there has rarely been a point raised, or an argument waged, that hasn't been taken up at some point by someone who _has_ submitted their name and a valid e-mail address. I also can't think of any instance, offhand, when an anonymous poster has dropped in with some "inside information" that isn't already public knowledge. (It's also hard to judge the quality of such information when you don't know where it's coming from, or what might be motivating the leaker.) I had hoped that anonymity would result in a flood of insider information, but this has definitely _not_been the case. Anonymity has been used almost exclusively to post "me too" comments echoing the conventional wisdom, to play around with cute monikers (Plato, Whittaker Chambers, gregor samsa, etc), and to launch personal attacks on people with real names.

Only the guy from the Ministry of Truth ever contributes anything new and worthwhile from behind the veil of anonymity.

So, will the new rules change much? Here's a sampling of the people who have posted to this site using their real names and addresses:

Melanie See, Mark Marcoplos, Terri Buckner, Eric Muller, John Hood, Gloria Faley, Todd Melet, Jeff Vanke, Mark Kleinschmidt, Patrick Mulkey, Jim Protzman, Will R., Terri Buckner, Alex Zaffron, Fred Black, Mark peters, Tracy Burger, Joe Capowski, Paul Newton, Barry Winston, Paul Falduto, Ron Stutts, Jean Bolduc, Joal Broun, Dan Coleman, Bobby Clapp, Winston Smith, Mark Chilton, Jim Heavner, Richard Franck, Sally Greene, Paul Jones, Mike Nelson, Al Hartkopf, Roland Giduz, Jacquie Gist, Mark Dorosin, and Steve Rose.

Those are just a few, but I think you'll notice that there's a wide range of voices in that group from all over the political spectrum. I'm not afraid for the diversity of the discussion in the future.

Now, what about the technical changes? My understanding is that your e-mail address will not be made available to public on your post if you don't want it to be available. All that will happen is that you'll have to provide a real e-mail address so that the blog-o-bot (or whatever they call it) can automatically e-mail you to confirm that you want to make that post. When you hit the link in the e-mail that indicates "yes," then it will be posted. Your e-mail address will not be automatically posted, if I understand correctly.

Anyway, you're always free to go get yourself an anonymous free e-mail account at yahoo or hotmail or some place like that, and add another layer to your anonymity. The point here is to make a small change to weed out those anonymous posters whose commitment to the discussion is so weak that they can't be bothered to get themselves a real e-mail address and confirm that , yes, they intended to make that post.

Do you trust Ruby? You should. And if you don't, well, it's already too late. As another poster has said, all of our IP addresses have been logged, and if anyone running this site really wanted to find out who we were, they could. The fact that this hasn't happened ought to be assurance enough that the owner of this site doesn't have any interest in keeping lists.

By comparison, the Chatham Chatlist is run completely in the open; there is no anonymity of e-mail address, and anyone who follows that discussion forum will know that it is at least as energetic, heated, and heterogeneous as this one.

We should thank Ruby for allowing any sort of anonymity at all. Her proposed changes will not eliminate anonymity altogether, just those anonymice who have so little of value to say, and so much hate to spew, that they can't risk even an automated message from the site in their inbox.

Most work places have whistle blower protections to allow people to retain self-interest and excecise integrity at the same time..

I disagree you must choose one or the other but I guess if anything ever needs attention on OP we can hope that the newspapers will not be conflicted over giving coverage to such an event... or someone could email OP with the scoop for someone else to post...

It's clear a lot of reporters and elected officials visit this site...

I don't think you all will see such a radical change here as you seem to fear. But I'm willing to take that risk.

The purpose* of this site is not to be a recepticle for political insiders to unload their dirty laundry, it's to encourage progressive people to learn about and engage in local issues. If using a valid e-mail address restricts your ability to talk shit about other members of the community, I'm OK with that. If your business is private it should be whispered, not shouted in the "public square" as Will thinks of this site. As some of you have noted, I don't always "play nice" as I should, but I always sign my name to it, and you can take me to task for what I say about others.

Of course there can be some value in anonymity, but a handful of people here have shown over the last 9-10 months that they are not able to handle the responsibility of such an open forum.

I don't think the type of anonymous sniping and bickering we've seen here enables anyone to learn or get involved - more likely it encourages folks to get defensive and bite back, or just run away before they get drawn into the violent fray. I also don't think it's particularly effective for winning people over to your perspective.

As Rickie and Fiona pointed out, there's nothing stopping folks from getting their own websites to rant as they please. Or just e-mail your friends, or start a listserv, or start a newspaper or 'zine if you like. If there's one thing the web is good for right now, it's self-publishing. If you've got something to say and you can type, there's nothing stopping you from communicating with the world. http://blogger.com/start

* The purpose is and has always been printed on the bottom of the right side of the front page of this site.

Stephen Carter offers a very useful three-step definition of integrity:

-discerning the difference between what is right and wrong

-acting on the knowledge of that difference

-making an open and public commitment to acting on that difference

Unfortunately, sometimes integrity and self-interest seem not to be compatible, as in the suggested case of a business owner or gov't employee who wants to speak out.

Given the choice, I'd rather discuss issues with someone whose integrity compels them to discern, speak, and identify themselves. In other words, someone who chooses integrity over self-interest.

I support the change.

Anon Coward makes the assumption that those of us who post with our real names/email addresses don't take any risks in what we say here. There have been several times when I've written something and either had the good sense to delete it or wished after posting that I hadn't. Other times I take the risks--sometimes they pay off and other times they don't. In general I have come to the conclusion that this isn't like a face to face conversation, which are not anonymous, nor is it like letters to the editor, which are not anonymous. Here, it's important to more carefully weigh the consequences of what you write because it's a semi-permanent record and available to everyone.

For that reason, I originally opposed the loss of anonymity. But that privilege was abused over the past couple of months and while I agree with Will that the nature of the conversation here will probably change, I think Ruby has made the right decision. She is taking a risk by making this forum available--ultimately she is responsible through her ownership for what happens here.I know she has 'censored' posts by deleting them in the past--a practice I am sure she is uncomfortable with.

For what it's worth, E-democracy.org has a list of forum rules that are used by a number of citizen-to-citizen forums. The rules can be found at: http://www.e-democracy.org/center/draftrules.html. For more research on online political activities, see http://www.e-democracy.org/research/.

I too lament the so called "end of anonymity" on OP.org, but the truth is NO ONE and NO COMPUTER was ever *really* anonymous to begin with. People and machine "identities" are really just temporarily hidden behind technical knowledge. This is not something Ruby has done THIS IS HOW THE INTERNET WORKS.

ABSOLUTE anonymity is NOT easy on the internet. I encourage anyone REALLY passionate about free speech online to go to http://www.google.com and learn for yourself. It has been Ruby's GIANT GIFT to all of you out there to allow a first layer to hide behind. Now it is her hard working right to remove this layer.

Please don't put the burden of dealing with nasty anon posters on Ruby. The consequences of harassment online are much larger than your comments "being censored" or making sure there is a "nice safe group of people on OP.org that Ruby likes".

Ignorance is the only thing keeping us digitally unfree.

Ruby, I don't know how much a hassle anonymous posting has been but I'd like to see you still allow it.

I think it will become quite obvious once you clamp down that both the lurking and the posting will diminish - probably to the point of losing OPs critical mass. I also think you'll find the site become somewhat of an 'echo chamber'.

Fiona, sure, you can start a new blog if you're an anonymous "low-life", but I think this comment is based on a misapprehension of what OP.org is - which is a place for people to meet and converse - not a piece of software running on a server in cyberland. Through luck, intent, skillful writing, circumstance and, as I think, its open, public nature, OP.org has gained traction and momentum in the greater world.

Further, to date at least, OP has been more like a place of public accommodation (like the lawn at Weaver St. ) instead of Ruby's private living room. Yep, you can be booted off the lawn for outrageous behavior, while Ruby might have a much lower threshold for boorish behavior - like TALKING TOO LOUD.

And while you're right, it's Ruby's football and she can make the rules. But consider how RIght (dissent-free) that is ;-). Even a succesful 'blog like OP is evanescent. Why risk losing OP?

Considering that the 'net is littered with the 'blogs gone by, I'd hate to see OP.org join their ranks.

I hope she reconsiders.

Isn't there a way to block IP addresses from posting if they cross the line?? Shouldn't that be what's done???

not computer literate.

-- Anon Coward

As mentioned above some people may depend on government contracts for their livlihoods or have "business" not necessarily $$$ but issues before either council members or county commissioners. I bumped into some APS types who were afraid of publicly not supporting the incumbents for the BOCC race. So retribution and or not wanting spouses incriminated by a spouses posts on a blog do affect some people.

Definitely will not get as many viewpoints and ideas discussed here but I thought the main idea was to "play nice" and keep the tone from degrading (which does happen faster with anon posts). I guess it is a burden to remove posts for crossing the line but certainly this gets the most view points. Also, I have noticed that some people are more blunt than others even with posting their name so the most outspoken views will be the most prevalent. And I agree with another anon coward above things will tilt a certain way.

With the BOCC race I cannot help but think that at least some of the $$ contributors and op ed writers for Commissioner Brown did not vote for her when they were anonmymous cowards at the ballot box... Some of the anon coward postings on this blog about one shoting give a glimpse of the secret M. Brown referendum that was going on..

-- Anon Coward

Anonymity serves a useful purpose, even if some use it for an ill purpose. There are people whose situation as a business owner or an employee or neighbor doesn't allow them to speak openly about certain topics. That's unfortunate, but a reality. Plus, there are some who just don't want to be personally excorciated by others on this site. Just look at the single chilling question posed by Dan Coleman above, who wants access to a poster's email address. His modus operandi in print is to resort to character assassination whenever facts or logic fail him (which seems to be frequently). Can you blame others for not wanting to subject themselves to the same here?

And Joe, why does it matter that you know someone in order to engage in debate with them? For that matter, why do you have to know someone for you be interested in their product or service? The aggravating thing about telemarketers is the call is interuptive, not that they haven't met you yet. That analogy is one of the worst I've seen on this site.

I wonder what percent of postings to this site would have been eliminated without the option of anonymity? I'm sure it is a very high number. Are you sure these discussions would have been better without all that input?

Of course, Ruby can do as she pleases with her site. But the remaining contributors will not be much broader than the folks she normally sees and talks to on a regular basis. We are all more comfortable with our own set. It takes a conscious determined effort to draw in different ideas that challenge our own. Offering anonymity invites more participation. By definition, you'll get less without it, and the site will be more politically segregated.

Methinks you'll be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Well, I guess we won't be commenting here.

Publius, The Federalists, aka John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison

Mark Twain, aka Samuel Clemens

Anti-Climacus, aka Kierkegaard

New Republic's TRB, aka ???

Richard Sauders, aka Ben Franklin

and too many more to mention . . .

I think the anonymous people should be encouraged to start their own weblogs,and to run them according to their own rules. It's (still) a free Internet.

I agree with Fiona's suggestions. www.livejournal.com is a great place to start. You can be as anonymous as you want and slander anyone/anything you want without consequences. I'm happy to see that this won't (potentially) be happening on here as much.

The real cowards are those who are afraid of criticism, regardless of source. If Ruby's guidelines are adhered to, then the only thing that should matter is what ideas are expressed. Not who expresses them. Of course, the guidelines aren't adhered to, with Ruby leading the way. This site seems to default to personal attack. Hence the desire to remain anonymous.

So, you'll get less discussion. And, less dissention. Hope that makes you comfortable. You'll also miss inside information. But who said more information and more opinions are a good thing, anyway?

Perhaps we should do away with the secret ballot while we're at it.

I agree with and congratulate Ruby to require posters

to identify themselves.

To New Voter: You ask "What is wrong with being anonymous?"

I reply that you lack credibility and strength. Why should

I or anyone take you seriously? -- you're just like a dinner-time

telemarketer who calls me and opens with "Can I please speak

to Joseph?" No one who knows me calls me that, so I know

instantaneously to politely terminate the conversation

without getting into the substance. Go Ruby!

About being anonymous.

Just think about the flak CH Tire got about the adversting with WCHL and how people said they would quit doing business with them.

So for all the people that work in the County government ,the many people who run their own business trying to make a living without the help of the govenment and the people who just are wanting to say something I wonder how they'll feel when you say you have to tell us who you are or you can't talk here and if you tell us who you are and we don't like what you say then we will boycott your business or may fire you if you work in the county government. How else does one let people know how they feel and keep their job or stay in business or be harassed by their neighbor that is very strong in county government. Can't you just see a county employee disageeing with some on the Commissioner Board and using their real name. . Since CH usually votes so different than the rest of the U.S .it doesn't surprise me. I believe CH even voted about 80 percent for Mondale. Then when the voters actually make a change everyone wants to shut them up. I believe people presenting another view actually changed some minds this time but I'm sure that is a cardinal sin for many people.

Have fun agreeing with each other .

thought exactly the same thing about the comparison between faison and Edwards... wondered if we were support Dick Cheney or something?

It seems negative campaigning doesn't work well around here and that is a good thing..

Heck of a choice between Edwards and cheney isn't it.

Have you seen the email about all that served with Kerry and they tell a different story than the news media. Wonder if that will make it to the national media?

nv

Ruby,

Will the verified email address be available to all or just to you?

I have been conflicted about the value of disallowing, or more tightly controlling anonymous posting, and have been sympathetic to the bias toward allowing for free-wheeling discussion. I will further admit taking prurient pleasure in lurking by the sidelines watching some participants slap each other silly.

Having said that, the level of discussion on some strings has descended into the Pythonesque: "Your Mother smells of elderberries!"(head of lettuce hurled--*SPLAT*!)..."Oh, yeah, well, I f**t in your general dirrecssion(sic)"(bucket of s*** dumped on head--*SPLORT*!)... Oh, Really, well...(rotting cow carcass trebucheted over the wall--*THWUMP*!). Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but I agree with and applaud Ruby's need to take a little control and demand some accountability on the part of participants. She told us to play nice...so...

Cheers,

Alex

Alex--since not all of the fireworks came from anonymous posters, I don't think you have to worry about losing your ringside lurking post. ; ~)

I was originally against this idea when it was first raised. And I will miss some of the anonymous posters, but I think it's the right thing to do. Thanks Ruby.

What is wrong with being anonymous? As long as you don't make up things I see nothing wrong with it. In fact its been quite entertaining. Of course I imagine its getting to hot in the kitchen for those that don't want to hear all sides of an issue. Same as national politics in that if we don't agree with me then we'll do everything we can to shut you up.You have to hear other sides to make an informed decision but maybe that's not the goal of some.

On Faison' spending his own money I think its crazy but its his money. I don't know why anyone would want that job that bad. But then on the other hand I think we need to critize Kerry and Edwards. I think I remember they have spent millions and millionsof their own money. But that may be alright with some of you.

Wonder who's Barry's supporting in the election since Edwards portrays Faison so much.

Maybe next time in seat 50 someone in the middle will run to offer more choices.

new voter

 

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