Briana Tomkinson

On anonymity

I was just re-reading an post on the Burnaby Politics blog about a rumour that former Conservative MP Paul Forseth could return to politics in the Burnaby-New Westminster riding currently held by Peter Julian. As a resident of this riding, I am mildly interested, though at the moment it is nothing but a rumour. This blog post is not about the rumour, however. It's about the reader response: thirteen comments on the post, all anonymous.

I struggle with this on Tenth to the Fraser. We have our own semi-regular commenters who choose to remain anonymous. I like to hear from them, but I wish they would leave a name or a handle with their comments. I'm sure there are valid reasons why people would choose to be anonymous, but I confess my knee-jerk reaction is to assume either cowardice or axe-grinding.

Now, before you flame me (anonymously) in the comments section, this is nothing personal against any of our anonymous commenters (or any on Burnaby Politics). I just feel the level of dialogue on a public forum is better when people are willing to stand behind their comments. Using your real name is best, in my view, because it forces a person to consider the effects on reputation when they post a comment. A nickname is acceptable if it's how you are known online. Given the option to use a nickname, I just don't understand choosing to be "Anonymous."

I'm not planning to prevent anonymous comments at this point, unless such comments turn hateful. While they are sometimes stinging, so far I haven't felt they have crossed the line. Or at least, not too far past. But I would like to express my preference that commenters here include their name or nickname.

We aspire on this blog to represent a variety of voices and opinions in New Westminster, so we especially value the contributions of those readers who respectfully disagree. Thank you, all of you who have shared your opinions with us. Perhaps some of you will consider sharing your opinions in a guest post in the new year - assuming, of course, that you are willing to sign your name to it.

5 comments:

  1. www.theleftcoast.ca says at

    On our blog (theleftcoast.ca) we had it set so that people had to login and create a user name before commenting...and nobody bothered. So we decided to open it up so if people want to they can leave anonymous comments. We do get more comments this way which we like; we like to encourage conversations. Good luck to you with this website. Good stuff so far.
    theleftcoast.ca

  2. Anonymous says at

    I like the nickname idea (I use a few different nicknames, based on my real name, on different forums/blogs) but I don't know if anyone really 'knows' anyone online. I find what you know of someone online is limited at best and more often it's what they want you to know of their 'e-self'. Just my 2cents.

    Anony-ross :)

  3. poli-sigh says at

    I like using a nom de plume as it allows me to engage in discussions in a more involved manner than I would probably feel free if using my real name.

  4. New West Lifer says at

    I enjoy reading the blogs and the comments they generate. I was just reading Niki Hope's blog where the comments turned from the posted topic to the issue of anonymity. One commentator astutely pointed out that a pseudonym allows for protected participation in public dialogue. As long as the issues are the focus and the language is reasonable, I concur. Controversial or strongly held views might otherwise never reach public domain forums, especially in NW where there really is only 3 degrees of separation between much of the citizenry.

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