The best way of ensuring reasonable behaviour in online commenting spaces is to make people responsible for their words. Anonymity prevents that. Of course sometimes anonymity has benefits — especially in repressive environments; but overall it seems to enable the pollution of unmoderated discussions. Mark Anderon has been pondering the question in relation to his blog, and has come up with some rules.
After a year or more of running this blog without rules, we seemed to have recently crossed the Rubicon: in moving from our internal member conversations to a more open, perhaps wild frontier on the Net, the dialogue has gone from that of mutual respect and intellectual exchange to anonymous insult and emotional attack.
So, as of today I am putting the same rules in place on this blog as we use in our newsletter. They are very simple:
1. All comments must be signed, hopefully with real names. Since we are not naive, there is also:
2. Comments should be about issues, and not personal and / or emotional attacks. Fine to say you don’t agree or like something, but say why.
3. We will allow anonymous (to the public) comments in only one situation: when the poster would suffer career damage from the expression of ideas. In these cases, we will require the poster’s real name be shared with us, and we will post the comments anonymously.
In other words: vigorous debate is encouraged, hate mail is not allowed.