A question of trust

Almost weekly someone says to me "why do you still allow that idiot so-and-so to post on OP?" Probably almost as frequently, someone else accuses me of "censorship" or worse for putting any limits on what can be read here on OrangePolitics. For whatever reason, this site has become a community of record and is read regularly by the media, elected officials, community leaders, and countless potential local activists. It may mean different things to different people, but it does matter what is said here.

We have recently had some commenters actively using the site under multiple identities. One did so after his initial identity was put into moderation for mean behavior (as jmk and then David Freedman), and the other to create the appearance of more support for his or her positions (using the names Tim Mullin, J. Nicholls, and Steve S). These are both a clear violation of our existing guideline: "If you use a fake e-mail address or attempt to impersonate anyone (real or imaginary) your comments will not be displayed." This kind of activity totally compromises the trust that commenters and readers have in this entire site, wastes people's time, and can be personally and politically damaging to people trying to help our community. Whenever this behavior is discovered it will not be tolerated here. Unfortunately, this is not the first nor the last time will see this kind of thing on OP.

If you haven't read it, you may want to check out this thread for some excellent discussion of this issue. Here are a few highlights:

"...all these websites are used by local newspapers to get a sense of what is going on in the world of public opinion. If I'm posting constantly under my name and no one else is agreeing with me or posting on a similar topic, then it's obvious it's just me. The newspapers also know who the usual suspects are.

If I create 5 new names and identities, I'm giving a false impression that there are 5 people - perhaps who have never posted or been concerned before - who are really concerned about (fill in blank) - perhaps creating news where there wasn't news before.

Besides it's just dishonest." - Maria Rowan

"Insisting that people be responsible for the comments they make is part of what keeps this forum functioning as well as it does. It is meant to be a quasi-public forum, much like gathering people in a room to talk. If you wouldn't say it in the room, then this forum is not the right place to post it either. " - Anita Badrock

"If people don't feel safe posting here, on STP, OrangeChat, or any other digital commons under their own names, we should at least ask why before assuming they have evil intents and banning them from future participation." - Terri Buckner

"For me, its been helpful to have a certain degree of anonymity on this site although I'll occasionally throw my full name (George Cianciolo) into a post or another poster might identify me in some way (certainly, quite acceptable to me). As with most scientists I know, the easiest way to track down someone's research now is to simply google their name." - George Cianciolo

"At first, I was hesitant to give my full name, in part because of some of the unpleasant flak lobbed my way (publicly and privately) once I “went on the record” in local papers on the issue of HWA. Eventually someone here challenged me to give my full name, saying — as some here have — that they wouldn't take me seriously if I weren't willing to identify myself.
[...]
In the end I decided that I should indeed be willing to stand by whatever I write here, just as I would in print media." - Priscilla Murphy

I believe there are valid reasons to allow people to comment without full names, and I don't want to change that. However, as many of us have said, while we try to listen to anonymous viewpoints, they lose credibility when they level serious attacks from behind a mask. Commenters will be treated with same level of respect that they show this community. It's like karma, you get back what you give.

So I am considering modifying the process we go through with new commenters. Although this is a technical problem in some ways, what we really need is a policy. Then we will try to find a way to implement it (keeping in mind that for now I am the only person here and am a volunteer). In case you have been here for a long time, here is the message that I send to each new commenter on the site:

Thank you for participating on OrangePolitics. To confirm your e-mail address, please reply to this message within 24 hours and state what town or county you live in, and your comment will be posted. Future comments will be approved automatically.

What if we change the validation process to require new commenters to also share their full name privately so that they can be identified as an actual person who is in the phone book or registered to vote. Just as with e-mail addresses this information will never be shared. In fact, once a commenter is verified it can probably be deleted. Of course this would require trusting me with the knowledge of who you are, but I don't believe I have have ever exposed anyone's address in nearly 4 years of running this site, and have only revealed identities when our trust was being abused (as above).

What do you all think of this proposal? What other suggestions would you offer?

(By the way, if anyone out there is a MYSQL expert, I'd love to find a way to scrub the content of the fictitious commenters without making the historical archives look like people are arguing with themselves.)

Total votes: 134

Comments

I really rely in this site and others for insights into community concerns. I'm sorry to see that honesty and transparency aren't as important to some people as amplifying their ideas.
I'd like to see OP try a rating system of some kind or some mechanism that allows us to register concerns. At the same time, I'd hate to see it become a way to register approval or disapproval of someone's views.
Thanks for thinking about this and for trying to protect the integrity of the site.

kmr

(By the way, if anyone out there is a MYSQL expert, I'd love to find a way to scrub the content of the fictitious commenters without making the historical archives look like people are arguing with themselves.)

Without knowing your specific database layout, it'd be something like this: UPDATE SET = "comment deleted for violation of site policy" WHERE =

I'd run that on a backup copy of the table first, though ;-)

d'oh! It ate my sql because I stupidly used GT/LT's. At the risk of commentspamming this thread & driving it offtopic, let me try once more:

UPDATE (name of table with comments) SET (field containing comments) = "comment deleted for violation of site policy" WHERE (field containing ID of bogus user) = (ID of bogus user)

This is a tricky question, because you can never detect all of the cases, but at the same time, if you just let people use multiple identities it destroys the usefulness of a site. Local politics is full of people with diverse viewpoints, and its too tempting for people to take their personal opinion and have it transferred into an apparent groundswell just by assuming multiple online identities.

"I believe there are valid reasons to allow people to comment without full names, and I don't want to change that."

There may be, but in local politics those reasons are few and far between. On balance I believe the community loses more with anonymous postings than it gains, but of course its your site, and your views of privacy will prevail. In my opinion anonymous postings are almost never used for noble reasons, and end up being used for furthering vendettas and other unsavory purposes.

As a matter of process, how is trading emails going to verify a person's identity? What's to stop someone from just making up names and signing up for a half-dozen free email accounts.

You can also export your Wordpress site in Meta-blog format and run some XSLT (if you happen to know an XML expert ;-) ) to filter or modify the comments. I'd be happy to help with either approach.

As far as Kirk's suggestion, maybe something along Slashcode's ability to rate up and down various comments without removing them (you can look at everything or just those comments that the community has sorted to the top).

BTW, I wouldn't remove the comments but do something like Ross suggested, add a comment that you think the comment is bogus based on whatever reason.

You don't plan to go back and change all the attributions to Gregor Samsa's comments to Cam Hill do you? We now know who Gregor is, to scrub Cam's content just because he posted anonymously doesn't seem right.

Michael, trading e-mails is what we do now, so it obviously does not prevent but merely slows the process of creating fictitious identities. I'm suggesting to also require them to tell me their real name and then I would look for them online to validate that it's a real person's name. I can also check IP addresses when relevant. Hardly an ideal solution.

I hate to throw another suggestion onto the pile (but I will anyway) and I have no idea whether it is technically feasible or not. Is there any way to let persons (like myself or WillR) continue to post with partial names but if someone clicks on the partial name have the full name appear? It certainly would fill my needs but still allow full disclosure, so to speak.

sockpuppetry is hard to stop. I don't think any major blog has it figured out. I vote for making people post using their first and last names; but I realize not everyone is comfortable with that.

Anonymity has its benefits... but accountability isn't one of them.

I can't go to a town council meeting with a ski mask and bark away (at least I hope I can't), but anonymous blog postings are a near equivalent.

Will
I was just kidding when I said I was Gregor Samsa. I'm not nearly as clever as she/he was.
I am, however, Kaiser Soze.

George, I like your suggestion. I think it would be possible if we move the site to drupal because each user has her or his own account with an extended profile and whatever else we want to include.

Ken, if I'm elected to Council I'll be happy to invite you to come bark at a meeting. Not sure if the Chief would be thrilled with a full face mask, maybe a Reagan or Nixon?

1. As I noted on the other thread, you could ask for phone numbers as newspapers do -- which we would have to trust you to keep confidential (think that's not a problem). You may not be able to verify someone through the phone book if they are unlisted and, similarly, not everyone (sadly) is on the voter rolls. (I suppose you could even limit participation to registered voters......) But you can reverse-phone-search or, ultimately, even call the number.

2. Probably because Nicholls/Mullin sometimes agreed with me, I do want to ask about the need to expunge all his posts through history. The poster may have been a 2- or 3-headed writer, but somewhere in there is the one person's point of view. And the responses to the posts in some threads may not make a lot of sense otherwise -- phony or not, he provoked discussion.

Priscilla
He agreed with you sometimes so it's OK that he was duplicitous in his basic approach to this blog? His comments overwhelmed the threads he participated in, sidetracking them and driving away serious posters.
Yes, I am taking this personally and I think his posts should be removed.
Mussolini made the trains run on time

I like the idea of tagging old anonymous posts if possible. I don't think we should expunge the posts. It would deprive the discussions of a lot of context. Let's just live with the history of the comments and make changes going forward.

And a special request - while we are contemplating changing the records to reflect false names, could some of my more strident and politically incorrect postings be changed from my real name to a fake name?

By the way, if anyone out there is a MYSQL expert...

Check out Disemvoweling

Cam, is JMK/Nicholls/Samsa to become an un-person erased from the rolls?

Hey, where have you been on many of the other issues before OP?

Sucks that it took this issue to get you rumbling. When Tom starts to drub me on your behalf, I hope you'll bring the same level of participation.

Until then, how about a guest post covering your thoughts on the local tax option?

Disemvoweling is funny, but I just don't see how it helps. You can still get the gist of what people say wtht th vwls.

Maybe we could add "Unidentified ID, aka jmk, etc" to the multi-persons names on all those blog posts?

Also it seems that a good way for a person to share information anonymously on OP is by emailing the Author instead of leaving a comment. Anonymity is good for whistle blowing etc but why does that have to be done with a blog comment?

NO Cam... I am Kaiser Soze! :D

I've said it before but I agree with Ken: if people don't have to publicly ID themselves then the path to abuse remains wide. I understand some people have fair reasons to want to be anonymous. But to me that's a choice people make about posting/not posting and where they are employed. I'm not sure OP can be a site of record and allow the anonymousness. Not my sight though...

Cam, although my qualifier was meant to acknowledge, humorously, a possible ulterior motive of my own, I still don't think that it's a great precedent to bar people entirely on the basis of content and either agreement or disagreement with something an elected official does or says. If what Mr. Anonymous had written had been posted under just one, authentic name, would you still be saying all previous posts should be expunged on the basis of whether he criticized you or "ran away with" any particular thread?

(Surely, he's not the only one who has "driven away" other posters -- I can say for myself that I have avoided some threads -- not frequented by Mr. Anonymous -- because of the heat generated among posters, complete with their real names.)

To be clear, I'm not defending the "duplicity" in his posting; but I am saying we should be careful about the grounds on which we advocate censorship, revision, or barring.

I'm not sure you have to flush duplicitous postings down the memory hole. Instead, simply stamping a
"editor's note: suspected sockpuppetry" on their past posts should do the trick. Rational people can see the posts for what they are, and still be able to understand the context of other people's comments.

Erasing their remarks actually decreases the accountability. Keeping them, branded with a scarlet letter, is a better form of social control (at least that is what Foucault might say...).

The fact that I am an elected official is irrelevant. Agreement or disagreement with something I or anyone else says is irrelevant.

If someone posts as a real live person then their post is accepted as such. They are owning what they say. If someone posts anonymously (and it is clearly anonymous) then their post is viewed differently. BUT when an anonymous poster pretends to be a real live person, they are lying and any tolereance of that makes this all a waste of time.

Cam, again: I'm not at all defending this guy. In fact, I'm pretty thoroughly ticked that his cowardly abuse of this blog undermines or even negates whatever he might have said that had validity and that someone else (like me) might have agreed with about, say, the airport.

But I do stand by my warning that we have to be careful about exactly why we're saying "off with his head(s)" and how it would apply in the future. Ken's suggestion makes some sense to me, even though it will further discredit anything the guy said that wasn't nuts.

(FWIW: The relevance of criticizing an elected official or writing as a public official on the internet actually raises some interesting legal issues -- e.g., in theory, one can't libel "the government," and public figures have a higher bar in a libel suit to prove libel against them than we commoners might have .. or is it somehow different on the internet?)

"it will further discredit anything the guy said that wasn't nuts"

Well, yeah. That's kind of the point. Sockpuppetry carries a price in terms of credibility (past, present, and future).

Unless, of course, your name is Shari Lewis.

Got it, Ken -- was my point, too,

Hello Ruby, I am glad to see you widening the policies for Orange Politics. I may be mistaken, but in the past, I believe I have submitted stuff for publication that did not seem to me to agree with your viewpoint. When it was not published on OP I inquired about this, but to my recollection I received no reply. I don't believe I am reluctant to use my own name, but I also use "Old Codger Blogger" for my own blog. Will you accept my occasiuonal contributions?

This discussion is also going on at the Poynter-hosted OnLineNews list with folks as diverse as MaineToday, Council on Foreign Affairs and SlashDot all trying to get at good answers as to the appropriate uses for anonymous postings and of the needs for and means of moderation.

There is no clear answer. Naturally RobLimo of Slashdot has his answers -- run slashcode is one. But that is clearly not for everyone.

Most sites want to ban anonymous postings or to moderate them way way down.

One interesting new defense for Anonymice comes from Missouri's Clyde Bentley:

Coincidentally, I instigated a similar discussion on MyFoxSTL, which has 13,000 registered bloggers. I talked about the thread and a related threat at http://thecyberbrains.com/2007/08/21/billy-don-meet-mr-wildflower/, but the upshot was some citizen blog writers have legitimate concern that their employment will be impacted by their writing. In the long run, that might be a greater motivator that political concerns.

Why don't you make it really easy and keep all the posts anonymous?

Think about that for a bit. If you take out all the names, you take out the ego, then it amounts to having the conversation, the debate, in your own head. All you have left is the ideas.

Love,
A Bodhisattva

I've seen that system in operation on other sites, Christian. I don't think they are safe for self-expression or healthy for community-building unless everyone agrees to participate in a mindful way. Folks here have unfortunately shown that they are not up to that considerable challenge.

Some random thoughts on what is being discussed here. On this blog and in general, I always take personal responsibility for my posts and I don't respond to posts that are made anonymously. Knowing that some posters use made up names makes it difficult to tell if anyone is taking responsibility for a post and if I can't identify an individual responsible, I often will not respond. Reading this thread has given me second thoughts. It might be fun and liberating to have only anonymous posts. I think it would be hard for me to sign a post on a primarily anonymous blog. Maybe it would be fun to have two blogs, OP and OP-annon.
Some further thoughts on this issue in history. The spot for anonymous posting before the internet was the bathroom wall and sometimes that has been an interesting read. I think Thomas Paine's pamphlets that circulated during the Revolutionary War were anonymous but then he was in danger of getting hung. Also weren't the Federalist Papers circulated anonymously? I don't know what those authors were in danger of if their names had been known and I am also not sure the author's identities were not fairly common knowledge at the time.

Anonymity and freedom are the same. As we see when we find that anonymity of speech and freedom of speech carry with it the same pros and cons.

Is freedom of speech safe when "they" know who you are? Does it lead to community building when "they" don't like your good ideas because you got angry one day and hit someone with your car?

Anonymity has made it safe for people to express themselves though out the ages. (Not a catholic, are you Ruby? :^) And where would we be without anonymous tips coming into the police department?

And as a student of Eastern Religion I have seen that one can never be free until they drop the ego and become "anonymous", by having no identity.

I should make it clear that it is anonymity I suggest is only for the other readers of the blog, and that they still need to register with the blog with a real email, address, etc.

From:
http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/mtarchive/anonymity_as_the_default_and_w...

1. Anonymity allows people to say and do things that those in power don't like. It enables dissidents to speak and whistleblowers to blow their whistles.

2. Anonymity allows people to say and learn about things from which social conventions otherwise would bar them. It helps a confused teen explore gender issues.

3. Anonymity (and especially pseudonymity) enables a type of playing with our selves (yes, I know what I just said) that may turn out to be transformative of culture and society.

Anonymity also allows some awful things to happen more easily, but we can't fairly decide what we want to do about it unless we also acknowledge its benefits. Just as with free speech.

Yes Jim, Hamilton, Jay, and Madison all published editorials under the same pseudonym "Publius" when writing the Federalist Papers in some New York Newspapers. The Anti-Federalists wrote and responded in a similar way.

Hamilton, for one, used the anonymity because he was an active delegate at the Constitutional Convention.

If they Hamilton, Jay, and Madison were restrained by the guidelines on OP;

If you use a fake e-mail address or attempt to impersonate anyone (real or imaginary) your comments will not be displayed.

we would never have the historical papers we do today.

And we are all still "in danger of being hung". What do you think is happening to Dan Coleman? What he did was very emotionally and spiritually immature, but when I hear his speak on ideas am I listening to that one past incident or his present ideas? Am I weighing his ideas on their merit or on his reputation?

When it comes down to it, the Supreme Court protects my right to speak anonymously. But it is up to the private citizen, those who own, run, and have the knowledge of this new medium, to allow us to use those rights.

When I think about it, any forced registration of my name, or email address, just to speak on a public forum, is tantamount to tyranny. Instead of the government controlling my speech, OP is. Then what do we have but a million blogs and no conversation.

Yes, it is hard and a lot of work, but we need to learn how to deal with delusional posters to ensure our freedom. In Buddhism there is a saying; "You cannot walk in freedom using only one foot."

I also found this on the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
http://www.eff.org/Privacy/Anonymity/

Christian,

I presume you wear a mask and full costume when going out in public...

OP is not controlling your speech by requiring that you post in your own name. You are controlling what you are willing to say and what you are willing to stand by. I'm sure there is a Buddhist quote concerning taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

Then what do we have but a million blogs and no conversation.

This is a point of been trying to make for several years (pretty much since OP got started).

At some point OP, because of the efforts of various posters/commenters, morphed into something more akin to a Town commons than Ruby's backyard salon. Having seen many failed attempts to create something like the local multilogue that occasionally happens ;-) on OP, I wonder why anyone would want to dramatically mess with its success.

Yes, Ruby owns this site. She pays the bills. She keeps the whole shebang going. But the conversation, at least to some extent, going on is not Ruby's (or Tom's as he rises ascendant in the OP-verse), it's our conversation.

Sure, they have significant power to set the dominant agenda. They can manipulate the direction of discourse, chastise folks they disagree with and overlook the foibles of those they don't but in the end the value of OP derives from the conversation that takes place here.

When I hear "get your own 'blog" cast about by folks who should know how difficult it is to create a somewhat open multilogue, well, I have to wonder where the short-sightedness comes from.

Concentration of attention, focus, is the value here.

A million dissipated commentaries maybe have some value but, in the case of a place like OP, the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts.

What about the weeding that has/is going on at OP? Heck, I could stop posting here, probably to some folks delight, and OP might become better for it.

But there is a critical mass to keeping the content diverse.

How far can you prune the discussion before OP becomes the Tom and Ruby show? What value, to the local community, is there in a self-identified "progressive" echo chamber?

Funny how this issue reflects what's going on in our greater community. Our Town's policies are driving diverse folks out of the community - helping to create a mono-culture of the rich and uninvolved.

Anyway, long windup to a simple request. Err on the side of openness. Be as transparent as possible in operating OP.

Keep it loose Ruby.

I think each of you has your own impression of how OP is "run," but none of you actually understands what I am and am not doing. As Tom as also told you, his 'control' here ended when I returned from my honeymoon over a year ago. So don't go blaming him or anyone else for whatever you believe is going on. Trust me, hardly anyone is helping me here and precious few of you have even contributed to the site. I wish there was a posse of OP editors, but there isn't.

Secondly, there is extremely little moderation going on here. All I do is ensure that people have a valid e-mail address, and look into commenters who call attention to themselves with excessive vitriol or suspicious patterns. So I don't know what you mean by "pruning," Will.

I do hope that OP's next platform will be one that allows every registered user to have her own blog and that the community can participate in deciding which posts are promoted to the front page. But we just don't have the ability right now.

I think it's absurd for Christian to call this "tyranny." Make note that I am providing the platform that you are using to make this accusation, and that I have no interest in stopping you from stating that point. In fact I'm not stopping anyone from writing or speaking aloud, I just might not publish things that I feel are a violation of what this community stands for. Depending on what it is, it might not be published in the New York Times, the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Farmer's Almanac, or Will's blog either. And I think that's pretty reasonable.

I very much appreciate the important role OP has come to play in our community, and I know it has grown beyond one woman's blog, but I believe it has gotten to this place precisely because of my attempts to establish it as a reputable and ethical place for political conversation. There are other venues for people who wish to remain anonymous, but I still think people read OP because they have some degree of trust in the authors and commenters. I want to keep it that way.

Will, you are a great example of the benefits of having your own place on the Internet. People who like what you have to say have been linking to your blog and and it has become one of the leading local blogs in the county. I still think the the more (blogs) the merrier.

Mark, of course I wear a mask and full costume in public. And the there is no quote in Buddhism that speaks of taking responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

Control of speech and freedom of speech are different. I was talking about freedom of speech. To be truly free in speech we must not be afraid. Some of us can do that in public, some of us cannot. I can, others cannot. I am looking after those who cannot.

Perhaps a remedial bog should be set up for those whose speech needs training wheels. After some practice they could graduate to responsible debate.

Also I think you are confusing "freedom of speech" with what might be called "license to speak". With freedom comes responsibility.

Ruby,

Tyranny, I see, was not a complete choice of wording. I was referring to the tyranny of the majority as described by Nietzsche and Tocqueville.

In America, when the majority has once irrevocably decided a question, all discussion ceases--Reason f or this--Moral power exercised by the majority upon opinion--Democratic republics have applied despotism to the minds of men.

From "Democracy in America"

You exemplify what Tocqueville was talking about when you state; "I just might not publish things that I feel are a violation of what this community stands for."

Then, according to Mark's theory, there is no place in the world for whistle blowers. People must either willingly to risk their jobs and political roles or they must keep quiet. Doesn't that just perpetuate the "system" that you so often rail against, Mark?

Has anyone else ever wondered how OP discussions might be different if local government staff or elected officials felt free to participate in these discussions?

For the sake of discussion I will define Whistle blower like this:

A whistleblower is an employee, former employee, or member of an organization, especially a business or government agency, who reports misconduct to people or entities that have the power and presumed willingness to take corrective action.

source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistleblower

Can someone give me an example of "whistle blowing" in a OP comment? Please provide info on how that comment has led to a corrective action on our physical community. Examples of such corrective action would be helpful.

Side note:
How do we separate the ability to protect anonymous commenters from reprisal and their ability to use anonymity to hide while executing attacks on others?

Are those who defend anonymity on OP also ok with defending the attacks that come with it?

So far all I can see is abuse of anonymity on OP. Lets find some positive uses of it.

First, Ruby, I think OP is great and I think you're great. I really value OP and the time you put into it.

Next, as someone who posts using my (real) first name only, I wanted to put out there my simple reason for it (which I believe I've shared with Ruby and others in the past): I work in a profession where it's pretty common for potential employers to google you. (And these folks are really good at googling! Indeed, they are professionals.) I stopped using my last name when I googled it and found an OP post. It's not that I'm unwilling to have my identity known--not at all, as I know Ruby in real life and even have a few OP folks as friends in facebook.

But I don't want potential employers down the road to hire me or not based on posts I've made on OP. It probably isn't a make or break it deal, especially given that most folks in my profession are pretty liberal, but I'd just rather keep things separate.

And I'm certainly not anonymous. I've had people I didn't know read OP come up and to me and say, "I saw your comments on Orange Politics!" So, there you have it.

So, Ruby, I'd be in favor of whatever is easy for you and also honest. I don't see a need for folks to use last names if they're not hiding their identities. If that means you are the keeper of identities, so be it.

Hi Brian,

Because there have not been cases of whistle blowing using OP does not mean that it should not be a forum that makes it possible for someone to blow the whistle. [Your definition of whistle blower is on the spot, but I think whistle blowing on OP is meant to mean keeping an eye on government power and policy.]

On your questions;
Q1: How do we separate the ability to protect anonymous commenters from reprisal and their ability to use anonymity to hide while executing attacks on others?

A1: The moderator(s) would do the fact checking, as newspapers do, and would let the post through if there was reasonable evidence. Is it work, yes. But with freedom comes responsibility, right Marc? :^)

Q2: Are those who defend anonymity on OP also ok with defending the attacks that come with it?

A2: See A1 and add, "Flames appear only in the presence of oxygen."

The benefits? Freedom of speech, higher participation, greater transparency in government, a safe haven for people to speak their mind...

Christian,
All the work you are suggesting is theoretically possible. Theoretically being the key word. We can not underestimate the amount of time that is involved. Volunteer time, as OP is not for profit. Is anyone volunteering to help Ruby? If so please contact her.

The labor required *might* be reduced when we switch OP's software platform. A form of distributed effort by the entire community could be possible. But I have yet to see a system that can't be gamed.

I would say that so called "fact checking" is fallible. Not impossible. How do you measure "fact checking" quality? How do you define it?

For that matter what is a fact when it comes to local politics? How do we verify it "according to an established standard of evaluation"?

Forgive my practicality but after watch Ruby work on OP for so long its hard not to.

BTW - I am very much for "Freedom of speech, higher participation, greater transparency in government, a safe haven for people to speak their mind…" But to find this we must answer a lot of difficult questions.

Ruby doesn't deserve the violent slander she receives as she actively searches for this. The other day someone called her a 'Nazi' for not publishing his awful comment. That is only a small part of the abuse she has received. Do you want to work for your community under those circumstances Christian?

Hey Brian, thanks for your time,

Ruby does put in a great deal of effort and I am in no way minimizing her troubles. She does personally benefit from OP, however. I am not saying she should not, just that she does.

Regarding fact checking, what's the difference between someone posting lies with a name or anonymously? Will fact checking be done regardless? This matter is not to be entered into halfway, and if it is not practical or easy or feasible it should not be done. But do not glorify blogs as anything other then scribbles on a bathroom stall if they do not conduct fact checking.

Q: For that matter what is a fact when it comes to local politics? How do we verify it “according to an established standard of evaluation“?

A: How do newspapers do it?

As far as the Nazi comment, no one deserves to ACCEPT violent slander. Learning how not to ACCEPT someone else's words is a good skill to encourage and practice. We will never be able to shield ourselves from life, and I am afraid that is what more blogs are starting to do, each one carving out their own niche, cutting this and that because it is "off topic" or "not up to community standards".

After reading another posting when OP banned several IDs because they shared the same IP, anyone using the TOCWIRELESS.NET will show up under the same IP address. I could also use an Onion Router and it would change with ever posting. So that method is inherently flawed. If you want any help in that area I used to work for Cisco Systems as a network engineer and for AT&T broadband as an internet crimes investigator.

Let's be clear: no-one has ever been (or will be) banned from OP solely because of shared IP addresses. Also, pseudonyms have always been and still are used here. They will continue to be questioned or ignored by participants when they feel that anonymity has been abused.

In the years I've known you, Christian, you've never given me the impression that you would change your position once you had reached your judgment about something, so please excuse me if I don't attempt to convince you now. I appreciate the points you and others raise about the value of anonymity, and I expect we will try to maintain some of the current gray area in the future.

Dear Ruby,

http://orangepolitics.org/2007/09/the-first-phase-soon-to-begin/#comment...

Upon further research prompted by Tom's comments, I have found that Tim Mullin, J. Nicholls, and the mysterious Steve S. all share the same IP address. These addresses will now be blocked from commenting as per site guidelines:

“If you use a fake e-mail address or attempt to impersonate anyone (real or imaginary) your comments will not be displayed.”

I apologize for the confusion and for my inability to root out impostors without blocking valid commenters. We will keep working to improve this.

It seems like you have blocked someone only because of a shared IP address. It was a judgement call on your part. What proof do you have that those people did not live in the same house? How much fact checking did you do? How do we, the readers, even know that they had the same IP?

In a million years you could not know a millionth of another person. And you have known me only a million millionths of that. Please, focus on the ideas, and not your impressions of me. My experiences are not swayed by a slight breeze. I welcome reasoned converstaion, but only from BrianR have I recieved participation that amounted to anything mildly stimulating.

And to say nothing about how you profit from this site? Please, let's not be silly about that. You put it on your resume. http://www.linkedin.com/in/rubyji

Please ban me from this blog. I find my intrest in socialogy and human mental patholgy keeps me coming back here.

Sorry Christian, unless you have been posting under other names and not telling me, I can't think of any reason to ban you.

For OP, I prefer knowing whose post I'm reading. Ideas are great and don't always need a face, but the credibility of some information depends on where it is coming from. On a site like this, I would rather require responsibility than sift through the negative consequences of not having one's name tied to what one says.

"First, Ruby, I think OP is great and I think you're great. I really value OP and the time you put into it." -- Joan above
I totally agree and add my thanks to Ruby.

Personally, I assign very little weight to anonymous posts,
any more than I do to anonymous phone calls. This is
one of the reasons why I sign my full name. I would encourage
Ruby to reject posts from names that are obviously contrived.
Every day I get emails from "Red Herring" or the like.
This is why God, with a little help from Al Gore,
created the internet on the second day, quickly followed
by the "Expunge" button on the third day.

Unfortunately, checking IP or MAC addresses isn't
a good solution for verifying the legitimacy of the poster. I submit posts from many different computers;
from home, from UNC, and from out of town. Of course,
one of the values of the internet is this broad geographic
convenience. The best check on whether someone is impersonating me would be for me to read a post with my name on it, that I didn't write. I would certainly react to this. Luckily this has never happened to me.

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