Anonymous Commenters

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Brian Weatherson blogged about people who refuse to leave their email address when commenting. He gives evidence that it doesn't lead to spam anyway, so one of the main objections to leaving your email address is removed. Then he qualifies it by noticing that his own case (which is his evidence) involves leaving a web address, which is usually what shows on the comment. Thus the email address isn't vulnerable to the spammers anyway.

It seems to me that you don't even need to concede this much, if your MT settings are set properly with a spam guard feature that's built into the software. When someone slides their pointer over the link to someone's website or email link on my blog, all you get is a link to something on my own blog that forwards the clicker to the correct site or opens up an email message with whatever software is configured for email. Thus email adress harvesters can't get anything from my blog anyway unless I've included any addresses in actual posts. People have nothing to fear spamwise by leaving their real email address in the comments. Yet it happens.

This set me to wondering why people go anonymous anyway. Some people have blogs with information they prefer to keep private but don't mind discussing anonymously out of a need to discuss it somehow. That's fine. I know people who do this, and I understand it. When they have a regular pseudonym and visit regularly, I can identify them by their pseudonym. If it's someone I know who doesn't mind my knowing their pseudonym, and if I acknowledge that and agree not to reveal who they are, as has happened with me at least once, I also see that as fine. Those aren't the people I'm wondering about.

It's the people who show up once, leave rather unthinking and harsh comments with fake email addresses and fake names, and never return who really bug me. Why do people do this other than to be annoying? I can't conclude much other than that they're moral wimps and won't stand up for what they appear to be endorsing. They want to register that they don't like what they see on my site, which is their prerogative. If they have something intelligent to say about why they don't like it, then I'm happy to discuss it with them and hear why they don't like something I said. If they don't fit into the first category, then even these people may be subject to my objection. Are they unwilling to stand up for their own view, assuming they really believe it? Are they embarassed for something they think is true? This is just something I don't understand.

6 Comments

I know what you mean. It is rather annoying. The only understanding I can have of it is that they're just venting, and want no fear of repercussions. And, by the way, you suck and everything you say is wrong. Oh, I forgot to leave off my info. Do'h!

I have had anonymous commenters who have left useful information. What gets me is that I don't know their motivation for anonymity, and I don't know why they are giving me information. It's like they know I'm going to follow a link if they give it to me, so what is their purpose?

I've thought about this too, with TheGnu that posted on orangephilosophy. But maybe Gnu isn't anonymous, just to me. Whats that mean? Is Gnu the very definition of anonymous?

No, the Gnu links to his own blog, and there should be enough information on his blog to figure out who he is, I think.

It's not complicated at all. They're just unmanly cowards. For some reason I think most anonymous commenters are male.

I thought the right to privacy and anonymity was something to be valued, not disparaged. I wonder why some people are unhappy about it. Grow up, might be appropriate advice here. Anonymity is part and parcel of the online world and it has its benefits and drawbacks. If blog owners are getting harassment they can simply delete the harassing posts in a timely manner, or before they are archived.

There is a very good reason for not leaving an email address which has not been mentioned here- "mail bombing" by the disgruntled. Back in the day when the web seemed fresh I did quite a bit of posting in the NewsGroups, and naively, left a live email address. Seems I pissed some white racists off, having committed the sin of not only PWB (posting while black) but I inexplicably, countered the fulminations by these deep thinkers with FACTS AND LOGIC. Seems they couldn't let go. For months afterwards it was not unusual to have my mailbox filled with 200 or more messages daily.

Let's not be naive here people. From personal experience I can tell you that our college campuses and schools are places where failure to observe privacy precautions can have major negative effects- from harassing mass mailings by "offended" gay activists, to the spineless and cynical "leadership" of administrators who merely talk about "diversity" and "free speech", to the kangaroo courts and "reeducation" organized by said "leaders" against "inappropriate" speech. The phenomenon is well documented. See for example Dinesh Desouza's "Illiberal Education" and many others. Nor is it just the world of academia. It is all over, including the halls of spineless corporations that prefer to pay Jesse Jackson and other shakedown artists protection money, rather than defend employees who dare to speak certain unpalatable truths.

Let's not be naive people....

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