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February 23, 2010


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We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

My experience with anonymous comments [and by extension the shadowy figures attached ambiguously to them] is that by and large they are people who want to say things in ways - mean-spiritedly, insultingly and sometimes downright abusively - they would simply never be willing to put out there if they know people will be aware it was coming from them.

There are some very limited exceptions. For example whistle-blowers, or people who truly do risk losing their jobs by speaking out in public. Thes are legitimate reasons to be anonymous, but these situations are a lot more rare than people would like us to believe.

I'm sure you surf more sites, blogs, etc. than I do on a daily basis, and maybe you've actually seen a large number of the halo-wearing type of folks you describe who are simply and honestly trying to put out intelligent helpful information and opinions, but for some reason cannot sign their names to it.

That just hasn't been what I have seen by and large when "anonymous" is attached to a comment. The majority of what I've seen from "anonymous" is precisely "hateful, spiteful potshots". It's really easy to let loose and say whatever you want, however you want, to someone you disagree with when nobody will know it's you, rather than taking the time and effort to compose a thoughtful, respectfully worded objection to an opinion you disagree with. To me most of the anonymii are just too lazy to engage in a grown-up respectful way. Consequently, I have no respect, or time for people like that. Why should I?

There may indeed be some reason for the necessity to be anonymous that these people feel is paramount. There's nothing to stop them from using the anonymous to post comments on a lot of sites.

But, as with so many other things, there are consequences that go with making that choice, one of which is that many people will discount their opinions, particularly if they do happen to be nasty, insulting spew. If someone chooses to be anonymous, they don't get to whine that people don't take them seriously. Actually, they can whine, a lot of us just won't care.

I agree with Kristen. Sure, there are some rare exceptions that would make anonymity appropriate, but in 98% of the cases the anonymous commenter simply is too much of a coward to assign his/her name to the comments.

Guys, the example that inspired this post is this discussion on Ragan.com


Look at the first few comments, either anonymous or obvious pseudonyms; they're all thoughtful, not flame-throwers, who probably work for companies and are just terrified to say anything in a professional forum for fear some Dilberterrorist HR manager somewhere is going to nail them for goofing around at work, or expressing an opinion between 9 and 5 ... or whatever.

The whole discussion is just as civil as it would be if people signed their names.

My point is that the anonymity epidemic might not fully explained by a cowardice epidemic--and partly might be explained by legitimate corporate fear and paranoia.

In which case, we should stop AUTOMATICALLY blaming the commenter.

F%$^@ you, Murray

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