This forum is a sounding board for a range of issues facing eastern Boulder County. I will prompt discussions with my posts and elected officials can tap into the concerns of citizens here, and explain their rationale on decisions. Follow along with the latest discussion by checking the list of recent comments on the right. You can comment with your name, a nickname or anonymously if you wish. You can become a contributor as well. Thank you for your comments!
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm Not The Only One Wondering...

I found today's print edition of the Camera's editorial section very interesting, as both attributed and anonymous sources have commented on the issue of whether anonymous blog and other internet postings are helpful or hurtful to public debate.

Given my recent experience with my blog, I found a few articulate defenders of the policy of allowing anonymous posts. I also felt a few people nailed the reasons why on balance such posts are not worthwhile. A few samples:

"I post anonymously because some years ago, in a different online forum, someone took such umbrage at my comments (under my real name) that he figured out where I worked, and attempted to get me in trouble with my employer. None of the accusations he made were true, of course, but I still had to defend myself, take my time, and my supervisor's time, to address his charges. He later gloated that he could make my real life a mess - just because he couldn't successfully debate me online." - moniker: derecho64 .

"EVERYTHING on the INTERNET blogs/comment boards is "anonymous". It's the nature of the media. You'd have to be one deluded fool to believe that just because someone claims to be John Doe online, and asserts that John Doe is their true identity, that said poster really is John Doe." - moniker: Reality_Check.

"Blogging in general is addictive, and anonymity in particular is a crutch. To speak up anonymously is important for those in vulnerable situations such as working for a hostile employer or being targeted by a criminal. Anonymity is the game of the predatory minded when they go sniping — which is to harm someone from a position of cover. But for most, the risk of writing anonymously on a routine basis is to lure oneself into thinking it is done for personal or political “safety.” The ultimate face of anonymity is the hooded jihadist. Few bloggers, named or anonymous, are self disciplined. They give in to the haste that is the hallmark of blogging, and by misstating and then attacking others’ remarks, they put up straw-man arguments that ignite cycles of anger that go round and round. That’s addictive." (Read more by Anne Butterfield, a member of the Camera's editorial advisory Board.)

"The good side of this virtual war of words is stones don’t actually hit bodies. The bad side is that in this virtual world, victims still fall. Heading the list of victims is truth, fairness and civil discourse. Particularly when participants post anonymously but not solely when they do, discourse is much harsher and emotional rather than civil and thoughtful. Rules of decorum in only some places hold off ad hominem attacks, obscenities, lies and the like." (Read more by Shirley Scoville, a member of the Camera's editorial advisory Board.)

The Camera also provides several links to articles about the general topic of the worthiness of anonymity on the internet.

Now it figures with my new blog template I'm having trouble having the comment function re-activated. As I post this I'm going to be working on making this post a "live" debate as in the past with the comments function.


Dan Powers said...

Making a test run on the commetns function.

Alex Schatz said...

I'm generally a supporter of anonymous postings.

Public opinion can be raw, but it is a good thing to understand. The cloak of anonymity emboldens people to say what they otherwise would not. This is a bad thing, as we have seen, and it is a good thing, as we have seen. But it is the best representation of public opinion available. With comment back up, I hope that we will see more of Cyclorado, Doktorbombay, Dreamer-Believer, Mortgage Guy, and other screen names. On balance, I still believe that anonymous posts are beneficial.

This board was recently taken over for the sole purpose of diverting all attention to a vendetta against Chris Rodriguez, a.k.a. Wrongmont. Personally, I didn't care for the tone, and I'm not at all convinced that Wrongmont has engaged in any defamatory activity.

The scary thing about anonymous debate is that we so easily end up believing that judgment must be passed, and urgently. Though I can't articulate an exact rule, you always have to ask if the person behind a screen name or anonymous post cares whether their actions make sense. Anonymous posting fosters an environment where there is no social responsibility when harm is done.

But an anonymous poster with knowledge and good motivations can freshen up debate. Anonymous posting is a counterpoint to dialogue that is strictly conventional. Used responsibly, anonymous posts can be a shortcut around chatter. Why not get right to the point? Anonymous posts can be legitimate protests, too.

I believe that anonymous posts have their place. The Web, and sites such as this, are a direct channel to those interested enough to tune in to local issues. Sometimes, in fact much of the time, I want to understand public opinion. I like the openness of debate on this blog, and I view the anonymity of some of its participants as a central feature.

Dan Powers said...

Checking this out again; Thanks Alex for your thoughts - more to come as I'm troubleshooting this. I'm attempting to get the Intense Debate comments function online.

Cyclorado said...

I had commented earlier, but it didn't seem to go through... Anyway, my $.02 is that anon comments are good, in general. I like blogging as a way to discuss issues and learn from others opinions. For anyone to use a blog as the sole source of information is a bad thing, but blogs can provide links to sources and guide a person to good/bad information. It's up to the user to decide what is right/wrong. But then again this isn't really Cyclorado, or is it?

Michael Benidt said...

Not sure about comments - but far too many blogs are anonymous.

Check out the Poynter Institute (www.poynter.org) and read about "transparency."

Transparency means that you let your readers know who you are, what you stand for, who is backing you, who is fronting for you and how we can easily communicate with you.

You do a great job of that, Dan. Let the comments fall where they may.

Boulder Betty said...

I recall a poor citizen of Longmont who wrote a scathing opinion of the mayor and city council in the local newspaper. A week later, the longmont police visited this person and told him to "tone it down". I would imagine having a couple guys with hands on their guns at your doorstep would convince you to post anonymously. Perhaps the newspaper should warn its citizens that any comments not approved by the city would warrant a visit by the police?

Alex Schatz said...

I'm the real Alex Schatz. I don't support anonymous postings. But how can I prove I am the real Alex? What if my name were Bob Jones? There are hundreds of thousands of those guys. Yikes! Of course, anything to keep C.R. off my tail is a good thing.

Alex Schatz said...

Wow, if only I knew who "C.R." is, that might be funny. Then again, I don't get the impersonation at all. Sorry.

Alex Schatz said...

Wait a minute - I don't know who the other two Alexs are, but I am the real Alex Schatz. I think we should have an online version of What's my Line to prove I'm the real Alex. Dan can ask the questions. No one should post anonymously, and there should be an online database tracing all IP's and users to their true ID.

What's my line?

Alex Schatz said...

If this site has the capability, I'd be happy and I'm sure Dan would be happy to tell us just who is the real deal and whether there are really two or just one fake here...

But, you know what? Since I will now be gone from here, it doesn't really matter what happens.

Crackpots 1, Legitimate anonymous posters 0.