Monday, November 05, 2012

Should You Sign Your Name Here?

We had an e-mail from a reader who stated that while he enjoyed the blog, he didn't read as often because people don't sign their names.

We've had some discussion around this before but I thought it worth revisiting.

Now for those who don't know it, we allow monikers because many of our readers are SPS employees who might otherwise face issues if they signed their names.  (Also, we allow NO purely anonymous names because it becomes difficult to follow with multiple anonymous posts and well, if you are unable to think up a blog name, you probably are not in the right place.)

However, I do find sometimes when people make grand claims, I long for a name.  Who is willing to make big statements/opinions - usually backed by no data - and not sign their name?  That is the frustration of the internet; that ability to say anything you want without having to take credit/blame for it.

To the credit of our readers, we rarely get trolls.  We carry on a fairly civil discourse (and if you don't believe it, go check nearly any other comments section at any other site).

So, I'll ask - should people sign their names?  Does it matter to the blog itself?  Does it matter to you? 


Anonymous said...

Even if you were required to sign a "real" name, there's nothing preventing someone from calling themselves a made-up, real sounding name. As long as comments remain civil, I see no harm in allowing anonymous monikers. It allows for much more information to be shared.

John Smith

Greg Linden said...

Maybe encourage people to sign their real names? Maybe mention in the blurb that appears when people try to comment that real names add to credibility and civility and ask people to use them whenever they can?

Anonymous said...

I respect the comments of those who sign their names, including the bloggers at the site and other regular commentators. So I really value those folks who are comfortable signing their names.

I don't sign my name because I have a unique name that is searchable on the internet, and thus, anything I post on a forum becomes a public record that follows me into the future (for example, a random comment that I made on a usenet bulletin board 20+ years ago can still be found associated with my name).

If I was required to post my real name, I would have to post a lot less, and much more carefully think out my comments much more thoroughly, to think of my board comments as endorsements/public statements rather than conversation.


Someone said...

No thanks- I too work for an entity that would find my commenting on this blog problematic. And as Mr. Smith suggests, it's extremely easy to make up fictional persona - so why would that change anything. I see no problem with continuing the current format.

Frankly I know of very very few blogs/forums etc that require such a thing and I actually think it's likely detrimental to open discourse - if one has the perception (right or wrong) that your job could be at stake for what you say, are you going to be as open and honest as many commenters have been here?

Anonymous said...

Signing my name would be potentially harmful to my employment and to some of my associations. I comment only to provide information that hopefully clarifies an issue raised by someone else.

--- someone who knows

Patrick said...

The comments of the people who work for the District are very valuable. I want to see them continue, and allowing posts signed with pseudonyms is a small price to pay.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the other posters here. I am smart enough to know that not everything said on this blog (or any other) is true, but I am also smart enough to know that if you somehow force people to use their real names, we'd see a lot fewer posts and get much less information.

Anonymity is valuable and has its place. Our family is currently dealing with a poor teacher - the worst teacher we've had after all good or very good teachers the past seven years in SPS. I would love to tell this teacher what I think of him and his teaching, but I don't want it to hurt my kid. I like that this blog allows you to post without a concern about retaliation. People CAN retaliate against you for speaking the truth.

-living in the real world

Anonymous said...

I never understood why anyone thinks it's necessary to sign a real name. If your ideas have merit they will stand on their own. Protecting your children's privacy is more important than gratifying your ego. I've felt embarrassed for whoever's kids after reading some of the bombastic and foolish rants on this forum.

-Ann O'Nymous

Unknown said...

Actually Ann, the converse is true.

It takes some degree of courage to sign your name. It's not about "gratifying your ego" - it's about willing to be named, no matter what you say and have the courage of your convictions.

Your children do follow as you lead.

Charlie Mas said...

I have posted here with my real name for years, but I don't presume that everyone is free to make that choice.

I recently changed my user id on the Seattle Times comments from a psuedonym, coolpapa, to my real name. We'll see how that works out.

Anonymous said...

What zb said: I don't sign my name because I have a unique name that is searchable on the internet, and thus, anything I post on a forum becomes a public record that follows me into the future (for example, a random comment that I made on a usenet bulletin board 20+ years ago can still be found associated with my name).

If I was required to post my real name, I would have to post a lot less, and much more carefully think out my comments much more thoroughly, to think of my board comments as endorsements/public statements rather than conversation.

I'm self employed and have to keep track of my internet presence. Though I stand behind what I post, I don't need clients weeding through all these comments to find bits relevant to my work.


Eric B said...

I find value in people signing their real name where possible, but having a regular nom de blog when not. On the other hand, I don't post my whole name, since that is far more recognizable than my first. I'm not trying to hide, just to manage what pops up on Google. I don't think that I need Solvay or ZB or mirmac to reveal their real names, since I feel like I know them already.

As far as wild claims, I think a strong "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" policy would be good. Challenge people making those claims to provide evidence. There are places where documents can be posted anonymously to back up claims. Where there isn't a piece of paper, people can choose to believe or not.

Unknown said...

Eric, that's what I do find amusing because Charlie and I DO challenge people when they say those "extraordinary claims. Most of them go silent which speaks volumes.

I have no problem with an opinion if it is stated as such.

A. Hamilton said...

Until people sign their real names or the owners of the blog attribute quotes to real people...this will only be a blog.

You have to have real people, real quotes, real attribution before you are a journalist.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, this district and our mayor and city council members seem to be driven by grudges about as often as fundraising. Unless in some nirvana our city - OK all cities, I know we're not unique - are driven by issues and their solutions, anonymity must continue.

Past Exhibit A: Anything having to do with Maria Goodloe-Johnson's performance. The woman blatantly tried to fire employees and nonemployees alike who didn't agree with her.

Current Exhibit B: Cross the Big Ed Reform backers and they will aim to make your name mud in their cocktail circles and beyond (see LEV, Gates Foundation, Stand, Bezos parents, John Stanton)

Current Exhibit C: Cross the politicians backed by Big Ed Reform and get same result. See wanna-be-mayor and Families and Ed Levy is My Fiefdom Tim Burgess as Exhibit A in that one.


Jan said...

I like the current policy, for the reasons described above -- many work for organizations who would disapprove of their views, and possibly retaliate against them for having/voicing them. If you work (at a high level) for a company that does a lot of Gates foundation work, it is a bit problemmatic to speak your mind about the corrosive and corrupting effect his money is having on political discourse.

It is nice that many people post consistently with a "name" that we can all recognize, so we get the benefit of following their thinking over time (whether we agree or disagree with it). To me, that is what really matters. From time to time, someone posts really flaming, outre stuff -- but it is easy to spot; Melissa or Charlie usually outs them by requesting proof that they can't/won't provide -- and the issue goes away. I also think that it IS true that some parents want to be able to post examples that involve their kids, or their kids' schools, without becoming personal.

Frankly, I have NEVER found the current policy to be an issue (except for the day I couldn't get the log in to work and posted as "anonymous" -- as did at least two others, causing total bewilderment trying to follow everyone's positions). That was easily solved.

Josh Hayes said...

A. Hamilton said...

"Until people sign their real names or the owners of the blog attribute quotes to real people...this will only be a blog."

Well, golly, as opposed to what? A reputable, reliable source of unbiased information, like the Seattle Times?

(That's a JOKE, son!)

I'm with just about everybody else here: sign if you can, but if you can't, no sweat.

Anonymous said...

A. Hamilton, I don't understand your point. Both Melissa and Charlie sign each one of their original posts. It is the commenters who sometimes are anonymous. The commenters on every traditional newspaper website are anonymous as well.

Finally, if I'm assuming correctly that you're name tag is a play on Alexander Hamilton, please let me remind you that he famously used the pseudonym of Publius when he contributed to The Federalist Papers.

--- someone who knows

Anonymous said...

I also agree with the currently comment policy.

As a former SPS teacher, even with an annon name I couldn't really get into the horrible things that were happening to me last year in SPS because those details could be used to track me down. I appreciated having a voice, no matter how small, even if I couldn't really get into the abuse I suffered at the hands of SPS admin.


A. Hamilton said...

-Someone Who Knows:

The reason A. Hamilton (and virtually every other writer of that era) used a pseudium was because they were not writing "unbiased" pieces.

They were writing to persuade. They were writing with an agenda. Often times they were writing with half-truths to get a result that they wanted.

A. Hamilton said...



Anonymous said...

This is an importan thread. I am a teacher who has been named on this blog. Several of my colleagues have been named in ways that are less than flattering and completely unsubstantiated. We have been named by first and last name by people who are not willing to sign this own name to their comment. Today, if you google our names these comments come up. This has unfairly impacted our reputations. I think it is right for us, the readers and creaters o this blog, to consider the fairness of this. This forum, with a pretty big readership, allows anonymous individuals to slander good people. Google etches it in a modern kind of stone.

Jan said...

ABC: I confess that while I don't think I have ever named any teachers in an unfavorable light, I had also not considered much the point that you are making. Thanks for the reminder. It isn't very fair, especially when teachers can't respond because of confientiality or other professional obligations.

Anonymous said...

All my statements here and elsewhere online are for the record. This blog works just fine with the present policies in place. As for "A. Hamilton's" comment, the comments made by many of the regular posters here under pseudonyms are one hell of a lot more credible than those made by Lynne Varner, purportedly a "real journalist," under her real name. I say this with not only the expectation, but the desire, that she will Google this and learn what low regard I hold her in.

-- Ivan Weiss

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