Thursday, March 10, 2011

Send us your reckons!

Historian Guy Walters had an excellent slot on the BBC’s Culture Show recently, in which he discussed online discourse, particularly the comments on web articles. I especially enjoyed the part where he called up someone who had sent a stream of abuse his way on Twitter. 

Four million such calls would never change such people’s behaviour, of course, but if I were the editor of a newspaper or a website I would simply disallow comments on anything but a letters page. Sure, some readers would be annoyed – they could send in letters about it, and I’d choose which to publish, as has always happened. The current practice of allowing comments under most articles online is, I think, simply a way to garner traffic. We all like to think our views are important, and we like to think others are listening. (I have a blog, and so can pontificate about what I would do if I edited a newspaper.) When newspapers allow us to comment we feel included or, as an employer might put it, we feel we ‘share ownership’ of their material. It may be Big Important Columnist’s name up there in the byline, but our thoughts are on the same page as theirs, with potentially the same audience. TV news does this as well, as this great sketch points out.
Allowing comments draws traffic because it taps into our desire to have our views heard, but also because we can do so anonymously. This means people can say whatevers on their mind with no fear of reprisal from those they insult, which is liberating. People also revisit an article every time they post a comment, and every time they check back to see if anyone has replied to their comments yet, and so on. If the article is about anything remotely controversial – and sometimes if it isn’t – pretty soon there will be a stream of comments and a great big slanging match and, wow, fantastic, your traffic on that article has gone through the roof.

So if I were a newspaper editor, increased traffic and therefore advertising revenue would be a strong reason for allowing anonymous comments on my site. But I think it’s short-term thinking, and it damages newspapers in the longer term, for some of the reasons Guy Walters touched on. Walters’ blog is a perfect example of this. I’ve been aware of Guy for years, because it seemed that every time I came across a piece of Second World War history that could form the backdrop to an exciting thriller, he’d been there before me. Last year I read a blog article of his about Diana Mosley on The Daily Telegraph’s site.
I agreed with every word of the article, but then made the mistake of reading some of the comments below it. One of them read:
‘Nazism and Fascism are different animals. Mr Walters please explain what is wrong with Facism.’
I’ve read more of Guys work since, and come to know him a little, and he’s a voice of reason in the world of Second World War history, much of which is dominated by what he rightly calls ‘junk history’. But I think allowing anonymous comments below his pieces is, on balance, unhelpful. Whenever he writes about the Second World War, which is often, the comments below frequently descend into a shouting match about, of all things, whether the Holocaust ever happened. This isnt the BNPs website, but a major national newspaper. Journalists arent responsible for their audience, of course, let alone that portion of it that chooses to comment on their work, and its easy to dismiss the ramblings below articles as those of the ‘green ink brigade’ finally given a voice. But they have an insidious effect nevertheless. In the case of Guys blog, I think they make sober and reasoned debates about very specific topics into a rendez-vous for nutters to proclaim their sometimes sinister views, and whether he refutes the comments or simply ignores them the impression is that in some way the articles are about the topics that dominate the discussions below, even when they arent.

Well, don’t read the comments then, is the easy answer. And many don’t, of course, and I often don’t, or just read a few in passing. But that’s also part of the problem: most people dont have time to read hundreds of comments, but by glancing at a few an impression is inevitably formed, however fleeting. I’m singling out Guys blog, but this applies to all articles published with comments attached. For many people, the point being made by the writer is replaced by the debate that goes on below. Debate is good, but the newspaper in question is publishing this particular debate and its usually not one they would have chosen in the editorial meeting that morning.

This isnt just about The Daily Telegraph. The wider issue, alluded to by Guy on The Culture Show, is that this relatively new practice by newspapers undermines the discourse. The Telegraph and The Guardian are both excellent newspapers (and I’m proud to have been published by both), but both also have widely-recognized caricatures: the former the living embodiment of a Colonel Blimp stumbling about complaining that things aren’t what they used to be, the latter The Critics from Viz, smugly eating organic tofu and making lots of typos as they go along.

Both sites have allowed comments on many of their articles for some time, and I think that apart from increasing traffic, the result has been to push both sites further towards these caricatures. While both papers often cover the same stories in very similar ways, when you read the comments below you are instead subjected to the most extreme Guardianistas and Torygraphians spouting abuse, often at each other. Indeed, people who make a sensible comment on The Guardian’s site are often told in no uncertain terms (everyone is certain online) to head back to The Telegraph from whence they came, and vice versa. One comment on Guy’s Diana Mosley piece claimed he was a Guardian fifth columnist because of it. Only someone very right-wing indeed would view it as left-wing to state that the wife of the leader of The British Union of Fascists should have been interned during the war.

But most people are not especially left- or right-wing. Because the majority make up the middle ground, newspapers are not doing themselves any favours by allowing the most extreme caricatures among their readership a strong voice in their publications. It isn’t a right of readers to be published in a particular newspaper or on a particular site, any more than its a right of journalists. The editors decide what they feel is fit to publish. When I worked as an editor at a magazine, most of the letters and emails we received were either very dull, very insane or very offensive to someone, usually us. We published the sanest of the letters if wed published everything we were sent wed have looked as rambling, mad and abusive as the writers of them. The web means that space is no longer an issue, but infinite space doesnt mean ceding editorial control. Newspapers do moderate comments, but usually only very lightly. Outright racist abuse, for example, will get a comment removed, but even then often only after it has been published. And subtler forms of abuse are published by major newspapers every day. Papers now employ editors to read the ramblings of all the Colonel Blimps and Critics, removing only those comments that break laws. 

The effect is corrosive: even the most erudite and well-reasoned article can look a little amateurish when its followed by pages of abuse and idiocy. And newspapers know this. Thats why some articles do not have comments below. If it’s a particularly sensitive topic, comments aren’t allowed. The paper would just look too bad if its maddest readers were allowed to run riot below certain stories, and the editors know they would if given the opportunity. But a certain level of poor image is tolerated, even encouraged, because it increases traffic.

But only in the short term, I think.


  1. You have hit the nail on the head Jeremy and it’s wonderful to read your views on the subject.

    I have read Guy Walters blog and noticed the comments at the bottom and I am a firm believer that left without any moderation they detract from his blog posts. It’s a shame as I am sure given the time, he replies to any comments who are not complete loons, the ones that have a valid point. But ultimately it’s pointless to get caught up in and a waste of his time. Perhaps jealously is a factor for some. Guy Walters is getting paid for his views by The Telegraph and they aren’t.

    But that’s the same with any forum. The anonymous factor really doesn’t help the cause in my opinion. It encourages trolls. Not sure of the solution, but a big one has got to be getting people to come in from the cold.

  2. Nick, I reckon if the world was made up of people as sensible as you, it would be a better place. :)

  3. Here I am leaving a comment ... but I rarely read comments.

    Walters' calling Adam was amusing. But will Adam's behaviour change?

    I am in despair. Certain subjects bring an astonishing amount of ignorant vitriol gushing out - cycling, for some reason, or (in Canada) bilingualism (

    But even on non-controversial subjects, the comments can be painful to read. When AF 447 crashed into the Atlantic two years ago the comments on a newspaper article about it were hateful - about Brazilians, the French, whatever.

    Anonymity does seem to be the key; not just the kind that lurks behind a pseudonym (nowhere near as clever, usually, as its coiner thinks) but also the kind that makes people rude to each other in motorized traffic - the anonymity of "We're never going to meet, so I can be as bloody rude as I want to be."

  4. [Random intemperate remark here]

    I hear you. I read articles on climate change and am horrified.

    But I think the thrust of this is misguided and unrealistic.

    I think it's fantastic to have people commenting on everything. You are missing one of the main points here, which is the amazing amount of material that people produce at all in comment on stuff.

    And, obviously, to me at least, the incredible amount of intelligent thought that does show up in comments. I am moved by this. I think you need to read comment streams again. Extremely often blindingly funny, very often with some amazing, crafted, inputs. I truly think what is going to go away is not comments, but 'journalists' who pour out bland material that is easy to attack.

    I think we can agree that seditious or persecutory material should be ruled out of public discourse. But willful error? Ranting and raving? Sorry, but if you hold to this, in my world, you'd have to shut down all religious websites, and a lot of public policy ones, and at least as many 'news' websites.

    So, who's to determine what is suitable public discourse?

    The web is. You sound like a middle-aged school teacher, a bit, Jeremy. We need intelligent thought on how to guide it, not ideas for how to 'turn it off'. The whole structure of 'articles' and 'newspapers' and 'editors' is dissolving before our eyes. It's not coming back.

    There is a reason to this. Newspapers, editors, professional journalism existed in a world were a) people did not have access to means of publication, b) publication means were themselves limited (x pages in a paper). Both of those are gone, and the vehicles of communication that reflect those facts are going with them. Even if you could get rid of comments, the comments will appear in some other place, presumably with less reasonable content above them.

    Not realistic. Instead, we need debate on how to create strong discourse, in which people /are/ involved. Even the loons. Myself, I think it's a question of turning the problem on itself, i.e. using mass participation to resolve the problems of mass participation. If you explore the dynamics of e.g. Wikipedia, or Reddit, or YouTube comments, what is emerging is the concept of the ad-hoc community that protects its own content. If write a /sensible/ comment on a blog, I don't want that drowned by ranting. So, I need to help curate it - creating a culture around that comment stream which protects good discourse. Lots of technical and social ways to do that. Wikipedia is effectively vandalism-free on this basis.

    I refer you to:

  5. The ugliness of anonymous comments on newspaper websites is something that I've been writing about on my own blog for some time ( I'm all for the exchange of ideas, but allowing people to hide behind the wall of anonymity in order to post mean-spirited, hateful, racist, or perhaps worst of all, completely false statements does nothing to further the exchange of ideas; rather it demeans the very concept of the marketplace of ideas and cheapens it into a unregulated where the loudest, most strident voices drown out all reasoned debate.

    And those who do wish to engage in good discussion and debate are forced aside because they don't want to have to wade through the vitriol that newspaper comments sections have become home to.

  6. John and MSW, thanks for the comments. And John, I'll reply a bit later, and agree with some of what you say, but my attention has just been drawn to this excellent piece:

    I think it makes some fairly reasonable points, and isn't especially middle-aged or school-teacherly about it. :)

  7. Sorry, I don't agree. I don't think Farhad Manjoo comes over as school-masterly, just petulant and somewhat speaking against what I imagine is his better judgement.

    Firstly, he's not thinking straight. Facebook cannot compel anyone to reveal real information, so if someone wants to post anonymously, they will.

    Second, it's more of the same seigneurial approach. Not so deep down, I think one reason there is so much trolling on the internet is that most journalism is basically shit, magicked up by people on a payroll who know if they only file copy, they'll get a check. This Farhad Manjoo chap doesn't seem half as bright as almost all the commenters on blogs such as, e.g. Three Quarks Daily, or many other blogs I could name. I doubt he'll have a job in five years, once more of this transition has taken place.

    All of this is slightly bizarre to me. If someone wants to control their blogspace, or any other internet territory, get people to sign up and tell you who they are, with sufficient verifiable info to check. Why is that a problem? If you want a club, start a club.

    But don't rely on the free, chaotic, aleatoric flow of traffic to garner interest in the first place, then complain about the quality of passers-by.

    The Times recently created a total paywall around its online content, including comments on articles. If you want to see the absolute worst comment-streams on any online property, look there. Why so bad? Because there is absolutely no-one involved. If I have to 'register' for every conversation I ever participated in, I'd never speak to anyone.

    I do appreciate your points about the quality of discourse, and the scourge(s) of anon commenting. I want it to improve. But trying to 'manage' the internet to solve that seems quaint and Quixotic and, in different contexts, either school-masterly, or just petulant.

    For various reasons, I think Manjoo is onto something, though I don't think he really knows it. Which is that, we are becoming identifiable whether we like it or not. I.e. anonymity is not going to last for long anyway. Everything we do online has a more and more distinctive fingerprint, and soon the opposite will be true - and you'll be joining the throng, J - we'll be asking how we can stay 'private' on the internet.

  8. And as a follow up, can I ask you to read the comments on that article?!

    They make my point for me both de facto, and in their messages. They are brilliant, in sum and in content, much better than his ranty article, and by their very existence, prove my point. But also, they make clear cases in favour of anonymity in public discourse.

  9. John, I think you make a lot of fair points, as do many of the commenters at that article, especially re Facebook being no more private than Yahoo, for instance. But I think you've also misunderstood some of my points.

    'I think we can agree that seditious or persecutory material should be ruled out of public discourse. But willful error? Ranting and raving? Sorry, but if you hold to this, in my world, you'd have to shut down all religious websites, and a lot of public policy ones, and at least as many 'news' websites.

    So, who's to determine what is suitable public discourse?'

    But I'm not talking about all public discourse. I'm saying that allowing anonymous comments on websites, especially when very lightly moderated, usually leads to very poor discourse, and that if I were the editor of a national newspaper, I wouldn't allow that option on my site. That doesn't mean I'd be stopping public discourse or shutting off the net: as you say, impossible. I'd be editing a commercial publication. People would go to other sites and shout abuse. The pieces I'd commission and pay for would not have their messages distorted by my deciding to publish, instantaneously, the ramblings of total strangers. I'd be exercising my editorial judgement.

    I agree that there's a lot of shoddy journalism around. If I were the editor of a newspaper I would clearly want to publish the best journalism. But *all* journalism is very easy to attack - especially anonymously. I'd choose not to publish myself the words of anyone who decided to attack my employees' work, right on my own site, right under their pieces. Foot. Shotgun.

    There are lots of great things written in comments sections on the internet, but I'd also hire great writers. I think most newspapers that allow anonymous comments have excellent articles that are tainted by vitriolic ravings beneath them. Hard to find the good stuff in them. Harder to persuade your advertisers your readers are all sophisticated graduates with money to spend, too. And harder to attract such readers as a result of the impression of your readership from the moronic discourse pervading your site.

    I think newspapers are facing tough times, but the way to combat that is to pay excellent writers to write great stories that involve real journalism - not to chase advertising revenue by allowing your own publication to be hijacked by nutters and fools.

    A related problem is the legal issue. If you walk into a restaurant and shout racist abuse at someone, you can't 'delete' it three hours later when the moderator shows up and decides it's unsuitable. You're in court. And yet newspapers seem to think that publishing offensive material from complete strangers is fine, and if they publish something illegal well, they'll delete it, at some point, when they get round to it. In the meantime, thousands of people could have read the comments in question, which could be racist, sexist, libellous what-have-you.

    This is not defensible practice, as you agree. But then you move on from it, as though it's a minor point and the more important one is the right to allow people to rant. I'd suggest if there's no manageable system for stopping the publication of illegal material by anonymous strangers, it would be much more important for me as a responsible newspaper editor who also doesn't wish to incur legal costs to abandon having comments altogether, rather than be so concerned that people can shout at my writers and run the risk that someone might libel someone or link to a paedophilic website or whatever. Comment in the pub, or elsewhere. Commenting on my site is not a right, is it? As a journalist, can I simply insist that The Guardian give me a blog? Why not? I need a voice, dammit.. oh, I can write a blog.

    I think this is much more about newspapers desperate for traffic than freedom of expression. And papers can and should exercise responsible editorial control over their own publications.

  10. You make two points, but I think conflate them.

    The first is legal. You use the restaurant example. This is precisely the situation newspapers are in: they /cannot/ prevent people shouting racist abuse in their restaurant, and therefore canot be liable (c.f. John Galliano!). You seem to think otherwise? Newspapers at least /try/ to moderate discourse. This is the eternal problem of the public commons, or semi-commons. You can't have your cake of free flowing traffic, and eating it of managing everything.

    The second is about brand, and quality and such. I agree, you are right, crappy comments make journalism look bad. But I think bad journalism makes journalism look much worse, and sadly I think that is far more dominant (which is not quite the same as more prevalent) than crappy comments. Farhad Manjoo is a great example. I don't feel his article enlightened me, but the comments sure did.

    I also just think that the conclusion you intimate - shutting down comments (since you agree you can't prevent anonymous or fake-id postings, that's all that's left) - is a disaster.

    Like I say, I think your best option is to a start private debating club, with defined members commenting on content. If you do that though - c.f. The Times - after some time of the same polite, named, but stunningly thick and misguided few people saying the same thing endlessly, I think you'll welcome a bit of spicy anonymity. I really do.

    Anonymous posting is extremely antisocial and annoying. So is spitting out chewing gum on the street, which causes /billions/ in costs of removal (extremely hard to do once hardened and flattened). But I don't think banning chewing gum is a well-guided or realistic solution.

  11. I don't think we disagree all that much, John. Perhaps I am conflating points. Let me try to unmuddle them, though, because I think both are relevant.

    Forget the restaurant. As an individual, you know that if you shout racist or sexist abuse at another person you may face criminal proceedings. You can't get out of it by deleting it somehow. You said it, it's done. The same should apply to anything published on a website. Even for five minutes. Some newspapers edit or delete posts after publication, ie there is no screening. That is the equivalent of me running a print magazine and inviting anyone to write an article, printing it, then discovering one of them is John Galliano and running around ripping out his article Why Hitler Was Wonderful And His Lapels Were Fab Too before anyone reads it. Too late. It's been read. It's illegal. This is irresponsible practice, surely? The reason they don't edit beforehand is because it's too time-consuming and they want the traffic. Nothing to do with wanting to protect freedom of information.

    You're free to set up your own blog, as I've done. But if you were to start hurling abuse at me on my blog, I'd simply bar you from commenting. My right, no? I'd do the same as a newspaper editor. I wouldn't be censoring people, or stopping them from starting their own blogs or setting up their own sites or papers. I'd simply be protecting my paper from being hijacked by a mob of furious nutters.

    Bad journalism is, I agree, more heinous, more dominant and more corrosive than anonymous comments. So are some crimes, but that doesn't make these points invalid. I may blog about bad journalism later. You say 'don't rely on the free, chaotic, aleatoric flow of traffic to garner interest in the first place, then complain about the quality of passers-by.' I agree. But I wouldn't rely on it to garner interest.

    I also think that this practice is itself bad journalism. From a legal perspective, completely irresponsible. From a moral perspective, also questionable. From a marketing perspective, highly effective in the short term in attracting a lot of angry people who aren't really interested in your content but want a large space to shout in, but who may drift elsewhere the moment you tell them it's not okay to write long screeds about killing people, while in the long-term weakening your ability to survive in a tough marketplace through gaining loyal and thoughtful readers who understand what you're doing. From a staff perspective, I also suspect it is very detrimental to morale, and makes it harder to attract good journalists and well-known writers who, like most sane readers, will find it depressing and disheartening to read their finely honed words misinterpreted, while their good selves are threatened and abused, all because you the editor think the braying mob is good for numbers.

    From memory, Singapore has been very successful at banning chewing gum. But regardless, newspapers survived for quite a few years without anonymous comments. I don't read a print version of The Economist and think 'Disaster! Where are all the comments from moronic trolls with a handful of well-written intelligent remarks hidden between them?' I'm reading an intelligent well-written piece already. If I want the rest, I can eavesdrop on the next table or go to any discussion forum online. So what is your argument for me as a hypothetical editor allowing this practice? I don't see why it would be a disaster at all.

  12. I think we have different starting points. Your two examples are, to me, proving my point, not yours: Singapore is very much a problem (authoritarian in a way that you yourself would never wish to live in), and the Economist is awful for the very reason you see it as being good (totally insulated, self-justifying worldview that is crying out for some good trolling).

    I agree anon comments are rubbish, if trolliferous. I think your solution is not sensible or feasible. My final point is to agree with you, and to challenge you. Yes, cutting out comments will protect the brand and the discourse. So let the editor cut out the comments. But then watch their online organ fail even faster than it currently is, both in terms of content quality and readership/revenues.

    We need to meet to discuss this! Comments boxes are not sufficient to contain all discourse!

    Thanks for letting me be part of your club, by the way. A very good discussion.

  13. When I posted my comment earlier today, I wasn't able to past a proper link. Here are two posts from my blog concerning anonymous comments in our local newspaper that I think highlight the problem. The first post concerned an attach on a local politician (I updated it a few days later with even more comments); the second concerned a fire in a donut store in a wealthy suburb. As you will see, the comments are certainly obnoxious, if not vile. I've written other similar posts, but often the article involved something controversial in the first place.

    I believe that there is a place for anonymity. Certainly the whistle blower should be able to report illegal conduct without fear of retribution. And someone should be able to voice an unpopular political opinion without fear of a violent response. But should the person voicing the unpopular opinion be free from a loud or angry response to that opinion? Sarah Palin thought that her First Amendment rights were being infringed when reporters criticized her. But the point that I'd make is that a newspaper's website is not the town square. The newspaper can choose whether to enable comments or not and whether to allow those comments to be anonymous or not. I doubt that any newspaper would allow anonymous letters to the editor to be printed (again, absent compelling reasons).

    If someone wants to be an Internet troll (personally, I prefer thinking of many of them as thugs, but that's just me), there are plenty of ways for that person to do so, including creating their own blog. But allowing people to hide behind the wall of anonymity on someone else's private website does nothing to enhance debate or even further discussion. It merely allows people to vent, demean, insult, and lie.

    A court in our state just had to analyze the issue of whether a newspaper could be forced to reveal the IP address of an anonymous poster who posted defamatory comments. The court concluded that yes, the papers could be so compelled.

    I think that newspapers allowing anonymous comments has fostered a culture where people feel free to say whatever they think, without self-editing, without thinking about the consequences. If you know that the reader (or listener) will know the source of the comments, then a commenter's criticism or political opinion will likely be more reasoned (or at least less violent, racist, or defamatory). Similarly, if the commenter is known, then it is far less likely that the comment will include outright falsehoods. Nobody wants to be pointed to and called a liar; but if a commenter knows that his/her identity will remain hidden, then what's the harm in telling the lie, no matter how bad or hurtful that lie may be.

    So, while I do believe that there is a time and place for anonymity, I don't think that the comments section of a newspaper is that place.

  14. MSW, I agree with every word of that - thank you! I'd say I'm shocked by some of the comments you quote on your site, but sadly I think they're par for the course.

    John, thanks for your reply. I'm not sure, reading again, that it's necessarily morally questionable for newspapers to allow comments - but I stand by the rest of my points.

    I think you miss my point about The Economist. If you think it's awful and insulated, don't read it. You can discuss how awful you think it is, and why, elsewhere... like here, or elsewhere online, or down the pub. And if lots of people agree with you, then The Economist will struggle to maintain readers in this new digital age.

    But why on earth would The Economist want to publish either reasoned or rabid criticisms from strangers on its own site? If it's awful and insular it has problems anyway, because readers will figure this out themselves or discuss it among themselves elsewhere. *Hosting* that discussion is shooting themselves in the foot. There will certainly be some insightful and robust criticism among the reams of abuse - both are damaging to your publication, and serve no helpful purpose but to point out how ill-educated and prejudiced most of your readers are, and in a few cases, the flaws in your journalism.

    I fail to see why content quality would fall without comments. Excellent journalists will write as they always do. Others will Tweet and Facebook and discuss elsewhere, sometimes abusively. But the newspaper in question will not publish the largely idiotic and aggressive first 'reckons' that pop into the heads of the most attention-seeking of their readers, and in doing so undermine their own content. Readership and revenue would undoubtedly fall in the short term. I think in the longer term, by hosting anonymous and very lightly moderated comments, newspapers are hastening their own demise, because they lose authority, become indistinguishable from elsewhere on the net, and invite thousands of people to pick holes in everything they do - which people will do whatever they do to try to adapt their content to their criticisms. I think being a source of rapid, trusted news and good journalism is a better business model than being a discussion forum.

    That's from a business standpoint. Legally, I think this is a minefield, and one that sits on the freedom of expression border, but tries to ignore it. The Guardian and The Telegraph both remove comments *after* publication. So is it okay to publish racial or sexual abuse, for example, or links to images of illegal acts, as long as you do so for a shortish, unspecified amount of time? I can't really see why that's legal, and I wonder how long it will be before a newspaper gets in serious trouble over it. It's pot luck journalism, publishing anything anyone in the world fancies on your own site, and then reading it to check if it's illegal or not.

    I also think this practice weakens discourse in general, for reasons touched on by Guy in his Culture Show piece. I've read lots fo comments under articles that have very little to do with the articles. I've read some admitting they haven't read the articles in question. Respectable newspapers' sites are increasingly becoming homes to vicious flame wars, and the good journalism is getting lost, written out of the picture, 500 words above a 15-page stream of abuse from nuts with axes to grind. It's like an episode of Question Time in which everyone in the audience who wants to stands up and shouts at the panel and themselves for weeks on end, with no Dimbleby in sight. I think newspapers now play to the comments crowd as a result of this - and I think that's bad news for good in-depth journalism.

    But... I'm in danger of frothing. :) Yes, we should meet up for a real-life old-fashioned chat! You don't mind if I bring my blackboard, right?

  15. Maybe we are struggling to come to terms with the internet in general (or at least I am) It’s evolved so quickly.

    The Twitter user that Guy Walters phoned up in the Culture Show was another one of the types who shouldn’t be given any electrical devices apart from an electrical tag. That same user also tweets racism at Premier League Football players in the UK. It’s sickening. So no, LotStreetWiz, his behavior won’t change, and I am amazed at what can be deemed acceptable behavior on twitter and facebook.

    If someone can’t be bothered to register to post a comment that tells me that his or her comment is not that important as you don’t have the passion to register. If registering puts people off can they really be that interested in the subject matter in the first place? Amazon is a good example where I post as myself. I often cringe at my poorly written reviews, and try to make them better. And the reason for that is the passion for a good book I want to see others read. That’s what drives me to post reviews there, passion and interest in the subject matter. If an Author has poured his heart and soul into a novel I don’t think an anonymous user on Amazon should be aloud to attack the work anonymously, for me it’s cowardly.

    I have posted under an anonymous name in an internet forum and also as my own name in another. There is a difference in the quality of my posts (Although the quality wasn’t so bad to be classed as trolling I hope). I had no accountability as an anonymous user until some people knew who I was. Another problem is professional people posting as anonymous users. They use it out of jealousy to discredit someone else’s hard work out of spite that they didn’t find the elusive exclusive. So what is the point in a forum where everyone is anonymous? What value does an anonymous poster hold? None, I think, until you find out who the poster is. Because with out really knowing whom they really are it’s just a block of text with no source. I don’t want to waste my time talking to the Jack The Rippers of the internet world. I want to know who people are.