Should RCG Allow Anonymous Comments?

In my mind, the best thing about Rain City Guide is that the site has grown into a wonderful community with a constant stream of interesting posts and comments. In no way do I want to mess with this!

However, I’m a slightly concerned with the rise in anonymous commenters on Rain City Guide because I’ve seen a few blogs and forums where the discussions degenerate once people start leaving anonymous comments in bunches. So far this hasn’t been a problem on Rain City Guide, but I don’t want to let things slip to the point where anonymous people (like Bob Cat, el nino, Milton Friedman) make others feel uncomfortable posting their comments.

Here are the options I see in dealing with anonymous comments:

  1. No change… Leave all non-spam comments on the site (anonymous or otherwise)
  2. Selectively delete anonymous comments that are clearly meant to antagonize or bait people.
  3. Try to preempt any issues by requiring that all posts be from people with a valid email address. I could check this by emailing anonymous posters after they leave a comment and if they don’t respond in a reasonable amount of time, I would delete their comment.
  4. Require people to register with Rain City Guide before leaving a comment. This would include an automatic email address verification.

If I was going to make a change, the purpose of the change would be to discourage degrading comments (before they start to occur) and to encourage people to leave comments with less chance of harassment. What do you think? Am I making much-to-do about nothing? Should we just assume that only people with a think enough skin are going to leave comments anyway?

I’m definitely interested in your feedback! (and feel free to comment anonymously… for now.) πŸ˜‰

22 thoughts on “Should RCG Allow Anonymous Comments?

  1. Making people to register will lower amount of new readers jumping into discussions. I think requiring valid email would be enough, but then on the other hand do you really need all this trouble emailing people for validation?

  2. Dustin, I agree that keeping RCG a dynamic community is important as I am among those who have enjoyed reading all the posts and comments. In my experience however in 2001 when I had a real estate blog (it was the infant stage of the site I now have) with the ability to post anoymous comments that because of the high readership it was a target for people who didn’t really want to add to the community but rather spirl it into chaos and add their links to un-related sites. I eventually ended up only allowing registered users to post and after a few years I took out the commenting ability all together because I didn’t have the time to play gate keeper as sad as that is. We would like to think that everyone that is reading RCG is beneifiting from the great community that you’ve created and want to contribute in a postive way but there are always those out there who want to ruin something good. You might consider only allowing registered users or putting some restrictions on the posts (valid emails) to encourage the good and continuous dialogue that you’ve been experiencing.

  3. Seems like it’s been pretty clean up to this point. I’d say let it be until it becomes a problem. Then at that point, require people to register with a valid email address. Those that contribute regularly and have something valuable to say, won’t mind the 2 minute hassle of registering once.

  4. Dustin –

    Two thoughts – require a valid email address (for forgotten password retrieval, if nothing else) and maybe some rules (I have some very basic ones here – and this one may be appropriate:

    3. If you choose to write under a nom de plume, please be consistent in that use so that others can track your opinions.

    I think that anonymity gives some the freedom to comment where they may not otherwise. Requesting that they do so with the same “handle” doesn’t seem too much to ask.

    My two cents.


  5. I do not think there is any doubt that the degree of honesty and number of comments rise with the level of anonymity. Unfortunately, so does spam, personal insult, and the like, which keep filters, human and machine, busy and awake at night. The key is to find that balance.

    As a pragmatist, I would say experiment and see what works (happens).

  6. anonymous comments almost always leads to spam

    then you start seeing crazy random things like “macielter stop googling the term “macielter” when you type macielter it lets me know that you are searching macielter. I am trying to fill the SERPs with macielter. So yeah macielter”

    which doesn’t sense and makes me think it is computer generated?

  7. As for me, I vote for 4. Require people to register with Rain City Guide before leaving a comment. This would include an automatic email address verification. We contributors have our faces and/or reputations attached to everything we write. JG

  8. Jerry,

    Many people prefer to be anonymous for good reason.

    1) They are sometimes commenting from work and the date and time stamps will show that they were here vs. working πŸ™‚

    2) One of our commenters stayed anonymous while he was home shopping, because he didn’t want the agents to see what he was thinking while he was looking at houses. It could give them an advantage when he made an offer. As soon as he bought a house, he removed the anonymous moniker.

    Many professionals want the commenters to not be anonymous, but what they want is more important because without readers…we are nothing but people talking to each other.

    Look at the Seattle Real Estate Professionals Blog and most often it is just the writers talking to one another…because they require registration. They do not require that people use real names, but they do require registration, and they have less conversation generally because of that.

    Dustin asked this question in December of 2006. In the two plus years since then we have gotten a lot of comments by not having restrictions.

  9. Jerry, welcome to Rain City Guide. Many of our anonymous commenters are “regulars”…you’ll get to know their personalities the more you read and converse with them. Ardell’s right…some of them cannot reveal who they really are because of their employment. It’s fun when one contacts you and says, “Hello I’m Joe, you know me as YadaYada on RCG”.

    The Facebook feature that Dustin recently added prevents some anonymous commenting from taking place…we would prevent a lot of valuable dialogue if everyone was verified.

  10. Jerry,

    Ardell and Rhonda summed things up pretty darn well… However, over the past two years, I’ve actually implemented what I’ll call “option #5”.

    In this option, the first thing I started doing is moderating the first comment left by someone (as defined by their email and/or name combination). I did this mainly because I was tired of waking up in the morning to find that a new spam sites had gotten through the RCG spam filter… By simply moderating the first comment, spam comments haven’t been seen on RCG in years!

    The 2nd thing I do is to offer a “carrot” to people who are willing to self-identify themselves via their Facebook profile. If someone is willing to leave a comment under their Facebook identity, then the “no follow” associated with the link on their name is stripped away so that they can get some google juice from RCG.

    These two changes (i.e. option #5) seem to be working pretty darn well!

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