Websites may hold their nose as they continue to run mostly anonymous user comments, but with a few exceptions, no administrator wants to demand that everybody start using a real name. The real concern is a plunge in traffic. There’s a simple solution. Why not tab comment boards two ways: one for all posts, anonymous and signed, and a second limited to those who sign with their real names?
The first board would continue to be the free-for-all that exists on most boards, while the second could lead to alternative conversations that, while no less spirited, bring a civility that is sometimes missing on wide-open boards. Whistleblowers could comment on the signed board by getting a pseudonym from the site’s administrators – a suggestion first made by Vin Crosbie on this site. Or they could choose to be anonymous on the unsigned board.
The two-tab approach could be easily implemented with e-publishing software Users who choose to use their real names would, upon registration, elect to have their comments published on the second, signed board. Users who do not supply their real names could post only to the first board.
The net result would be comment boards that balance privacy, First Amendment rights and transparency – and just maybe add to the traffic.
Please use the comments below to tell OJR readers what approach you’ve taken on anonymous posting as you’ve built your online community.
What approach do you recommend? (If you are reading on the OJR front page, click “archive link” below to read and leave responses.)
Finally, check out OJR’s previous articles on discussion forum management. – Editor