With some newspaper folks claiming that anonymous comments are evil
and somehow bad for America
, it's nice to see someone from the business step up and defend the value of anonymous commenters. The Washington Post's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander recently wrote a good defense of anonymous commenters
. The first half details all the bad that comes along with anonymous commenters -- the vile and nasty comments -- but then points out that an outright ban is the wrong response:
For every noxious comment, many more are astute and stimulating. Anonymity provides necessary protection for serious commenters whose jobs or personal circumstances preclude identifying themselves. And even belligerent anonymous comments often reflect genuine passion that should be heard.
He also points out that allowing anonymous commenters has helped to build up a much larger community at the WaPo site, where those users tend to be more loyal and spend more time, even if it's not known who they are specifically. But I think the point highlighted above is key. We all can remember the awful anonymous comments, because those stick out in our memory. But that creates this anecdotal belief that anonymous comments are awful. Yet, as I look through the anonymous comments that we get at Techdirt every day, the vast majority of them are quality comments. Yes, there are some terrible ones, which may be more memorable, but we have anonymous commenters who provide tremendous value -- and it would be a shame to cut them off, just because of a few troublemakers.