Troll, Reveal Thyself
Why we need to get rid of anonymous comments.
Posted Wednesday, March 9, 2011, at 5:55 PM ET
Once or twice a week, I get a letter taking me to task for Slate's commenting policy. The reader wants to tell me that I suck, but he doesn't want to log in to Slate's comment system using his credentials for Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or Twitter. Obviously this requirement doesn't bother everyone; hundreds of people happily sign in every week to tell me I suck. Yet I imagine that there are lots more people who are itching to chime in but who are put out by the login process.
One common misperception is that Slate wants your social-networking account in order to steal your private information. In fact, when you comment by typing in your username and password for Facebook or Twitter, those sites are the ones that check your credentials—Slate never sees your login information. If you sign on with your Facebook account, we do see your name and other details you've made available for everyone, but we get nothing more private than that.
If Slate isn't looking to invade your privacy, why are we asking you to log in with your social-networking accounts? Why make it so hard for people to comment—don't we want every reader to participate, even if they're skittish about revealing their names?
I can't speak for my bosses, who might feel differently than I do. But as a writer, my answer is no—I don't want anonymous commenters. Everyone who works online knows that there's a direct correlation between the hurdles a site puts up in front of potential commenters and the number and quality of the comments it receives. The harder a site makes it for someone to post a comment, the fewer comments it gets, and those comments are generally better.
To read the rest, check it out at http://www.slate.com/id/2287739/. (In deference to Todd Price's superior judgment on such matters. See his constructive comments below.)