Brent Boyer: Eliminating online anonymity
New policy will not allow anonymous comments on SteamboatToday.com
February 20, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Editor’s note: The changes went into effect at 8:30 p.m. Monday. This article was updated to reflect the time of the change to the posting policy.
Beginning Monday night, anonymous users will no longer be able to post comments on SteamboatToday.com.
The change is the culmination of years of discussion about our online forum and how best to create a vibrant, thoughtful and tolerant place for readers to share opinions, debate issues and otherwise engage in the news about the place we all love.
I'm excited about this change, and based on the tremendous amount of feedback we've received since I wrote about anonymity several weeks ago and since we held a Coffee and a Newspaper community meeting about it, I'm confident it's the right move for the Steamboat Pilot & Today and for the community.
We've been working with our IT department on the change for the past week, and we anticipate it will be smooth for those who care to put their names behind their words. The transition is to occur overnight Monday.
Some of our posters already use their real names when commenting. For them, there will be no change. They can continue to comment without any action on their part or ours.
For everyone else who is a verified SteamboatToday.com user but has previously chosen to post anonymously, they will be prompted to go back through the verification process the next time they try to post a comment. Once a user has been verified and agreed to reveal his or her identity, the system will allow the user to post comments again.
Users who would like to post with their real names going forward but who don't want their past comments to bear their actual identities can request that their existing accounts be deleted and new ones created. Those users' old comments will be deleted from our system.
If you wish to change your anonymity settings, you may do so at http://www.steamboattoday.com/accounts/profile/anonymity/.
I'm sensitive to the argument that anonymity can give a voice to those who might put themselves at risk professionally or personally for their candor on any given issue. But I believe the greater good that comes from the accountability inherent in putting your name next to your words far outweighs any defense of anonymity.
We demand first and last names when we publish letters to the editor; now we're simply extending that guideline to today's online version of the letter to the editor. Ultimately, we anticipate this new system will attract far more engaging reader discussion than we've had to this point.
If you have problems using the new system or simply want to share feedback, please contact me at 970-871-4221 or bboyer@SteamboatToday.com.