Monday, April 12, 2010

The devil's in the comments: Is anonymous dead?

Today's New York Times includes an update on where you stand with anonymous comments, particularly on news sites, where policies are changing--in part, due to a case involving anonymous comments on a Cleveland Plain Dealer story that disparaged a local lawyer and may have come from a judge.  Among the changes to watch out for are:
  • Giving priority to named and trusted commenters, as the Washington Post and Huffington Post consider "ranking commenters based in part on how well other readers know and trust their writing," and whether they use their real names.
  • Abolishing anonymous comments altogether, as some journalists have recommended.
  • Letting readers choose to see subscriber-only comments, as the Wall Street Journal does.
The article notes that Facebook and other social networks have helped make familiar taking credit for your updates and comments, with your name and photo attached, and that, overall, editors see the need for anonymous comments dwindling. At the same time, other sites--notably, U.S. federal government blogs and websites--routinely allow anonymous comments. What's your comments policy? Will these trends change it?

UPDATE:  Check out this Nieman Labs post with data on how Gawker improved the quality of its comments by tiering them, a move that appeared to discourage many from commenting at all.

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