Friday, February 16, 2007

Blogging Etiquette: A Developing Field

Recently, John convinced me not to respond to anonymous comments. That's a good rule, seems to me.

However, it is possible for a commenter to display a name, but stay pretty much anonymous by not allowing your profile to be viewed publicly. That happened in yesterday's string of comments.

So, what do you think? Should bloggers respond to anonymous or name-only comments? Or should bloggers limit the back-and-forth commenting to either people we know or who have a blog of their own?

Update: Cross posted at Locusts & Honey


Kyleinkc said...

It is all about the tone.

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on what the purpose of your blog is. Are you trying to further God’s Kingdom? Are you engaging in intellectual exercises? Or is there some other reason? Those are questions you need to answer.

In my view, if you are furthering God’s Kingdom, then you respond to the people who need responding to – whether they are anonymous or not.

There are reasons why people post anonymously. I, for instance, post anonymously because I suffer from pride. Remember, not everyone who is anonymous is a troll.

TN Rambler said...

I believe that I would deal with anonymous postings on a case by case basis. But kyleinkc makes a good point re: the tone of the comment. Depending upon the tone of the comment, I may ignore the comment of someone that is completely identifiable.

Bottom line, no one has the "right" to come onto my blog, attack me or be rude...anonymous or not.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous "anonymous" poster...gee, no surprise! I am anonymous in that I do not have a blog or site. I always use the same alias. As previously stated, not everyone who is anonymous is a troll. FWIW, my favorite offerings are usually from Larry B., an anonymous poster. As I have stated previously, I believe that I am using you just to read Larry B! :)

Another irony - to me at least - is that your sense of indignation regarding the previous topic. Yet, it seems we have a corollary as bloggers perceive anonymous posters as "trolls". Perhaps you can answer "what purpose does not responding to anonymous posters serve other than a desire for antiseptic, insulated, isolationist denial of reality? Are you of the mindset that, if they’re there, we can pretend they don’t exist!

Dark Gable

Anonymous said...


Perhaps it's just me, but another irony hit me when I read your referenced post of John convincing you to not respond to anonymous comments.
May I respectfully state: Don't Be Blog People! To quote another esteemed United Methodist Blogger:
There is definitely no 'us' and 'them'. Before the holiness of God, we're all 'them'. May I add, anonymous or otherwise.

Dark Gable

William Timothy said...

I identify myself in the comment section of Andy's previous post.

tn rambler: what you say is true, but if Andy feels that way he should turn off the comment feature of his blog, especially the feature that allows for anonymous commenting.

And if you are willing to publicly comment as Andy does through his blog, should be willing to listen to those that disagree with you. This is the purest form of freedom of speech and mutual respect.

William Timothy said...

There is an important spiritual internet principle: "Don't feed the trolls." I'm not a troll and wasn't trolling...but if you have a troll, delete their comment or at the bare minimum ignore them. Feeding them only encourages them.

John said...

Dark Gable: at least in the sense that I meant the term, you aren't anonymous. Although you don't have a Blogger ID, you sign your posts. That's certainly good enough for me.

Andy B. said...

The ability to be anonymous is one of the issues of the internet. In my mind, it's not about having a blog or not, it's about having some kind of relationship with the conversation partner, even if it is only a relationship of ideas.

I "know" Dark Gable, for example, because I have read quite a few of his comments. When I was starting a conversation after my last post with a "William Timothy," it was at first a brand new person, one with whom there was no relationship. Once I found out it was Tim Sisk, a person I also "know" through his comments and blog posts, my feelings about the whole thing changed.

Kyle's right, tone has a lot to do with it, too. It is much harder to respond politely to a commenter who is using a harsh tone with their word choices. Some comments are helpful to the discussion, and some tend to shut discussion down.

Andy B. said...

By the way, what's a troll?

revabi said...

Andy, I commented over at Locust and Honey on this.

bob said...

Andy, You don't know me but my name is bob I comment at LocustandHoney frequently. I believe even anonymous comments aren't neccessarily truly anon.
Take me for example I comment on several sites always just bob, but the people tend to know who I am after awhile. Just as I come to know other commenters by their writing styles and ideas.

A troll is someone who visits your site to comment in a harrassing way.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for posting this topic. The following may not be any of my business, and please feel free to tell me so. I am not a psychiatrist or pschologist, nor did I sleep in a Holiday Inn last night, so I need to ask. I was curious also why it was important for you to know a little more about the person before continuing on with the discussion? As an outsider, it appeared as if you were evading "Will's" pointed questions. It seemed that "Will's" posts - while direct and strongly made - were not inflammatory or nasty in tone. Perhaps you were in a bad mood or took something that was written the wrong way?

Dark Gable

Andy B. said...

That's a good question, Dark. I wanted to know more about William (whom we know now is Tim Sisk) precisely because his questions were so challenging. Rather than evading, I actually responded to him twice before asking him to share more about himself, but it seemed that he wanted to go even deeper into the conversation. That's great, but we were not on equal footing to do so, since he knew much more about me than I did about him. I guess I felt an imbalance of power in our relationship, and since I wanted to continue the conversation, I asked for some more information about who he was so I might get some idea of why he was being so direct in his questioning. After learning it was Tim Sisk, the conversation could take the next step, because there was a relationship there to build it on.
Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

It does, and thank you for indulging me.

Dark Gable

Vinny said...

Once in a great while the Rev. receives a piece of hate mail or someone leaves an "anonymous" note for her or someone else in a leadership position at the church.

Although she freaked out over the first one she ever received (as a result of baptizing the infant of a lesbian couple), she has since adopted the suggestion of her D.S.: "If it isn't signed, it goes in the wastebasket."

Tone does have a lot to do with it. If someone wants to stand at a distance and throw anonymous darts at me, they're wasting their time - such comments go to /dev/null. If they want to actually engage in a conversation, they at least should have the cojones (or cojon, in my case) to put their name behind their comment. Likewise, I hope I would never flame a commenter mercilessly.

P.S.: troll (Wikipedia)

Anonymous said...

Hello from Ivan Walters, lifelong member St. John's UMC, Rock Hill, SC & delegate to SC Annual Conference and nominee to GC.

Yes it is the tone. After reading yesterday's posts, the only place where Andy went at all off course is when he said that the reason for Mr. Fairchild's proposal was a desire to "make a name" for himself. I don't have a problem with calling out someone's actions by name, but I do with ascribing motive. We can all see what someone does, but only God knows why they doing it.
Also where it seemed someone was calling Tim Sisk "a prick", not good. I think disagreeement with what he said could have been expressed in a more constructive and positive way.

Ivan Walters

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

This is "Howdy" from your friend Seamhead's Blog. I have no earth-shattering revelations nor the propensity to expound so intellectually as those who have discoursed this strand regarding blog commentary and panhandling. But, a few things come to mind that may be more simplistic than the deep philosophical and theological discussion your bloggers are having.

First is that every once in a while, say every 2 months or so, I link over to your blog from Seamhead's Musings, and I read your postings. Just because I don't comment, doesn't mean I'm not reading. And, although, I'm not commenting, it doesn't mean I'm a troll. Or, if I respond anonymously or forget to sign "howdy" when I do use anonymous, doesn't mean I'm a troll. I for one am sometimes just too lazy or in too big a hurry to sign in with my Blogger profile. (however, I don't think I've ever posted on your blog without identifying myself). My point is that Blogger is basically a public forum. While you think of it as "your" blog, it's more like stepping up on a street podium (pulpit?) where a "usual" crowd hangs out to listen, but any passerby also might stop to hear what you are saying if they happen upon you. I think the blogger tool creates that impression of being more confidential, or perhaps limited in distribution is a better way to say it, than it is. That said, you might want to check with Seamhead on how to use settings, etc, as at one time he had some "outside" anonymous (troll-like)posters. You can still post anon on his blog, but I think he tightened up the blog access somehow? maybe not. But, again, it's nice to be able to stop by to get some insight from your blog time to time so don't lock the whole world out :) .

Second, I think Blogging can become an environment where since one is typing words on his or her own screen, it is easy to write things that are more free flow thoughts than things one might say if it were thought more in advance. I mean this such as something you might "turn in" as representation of your view for a thesis paper or other or say perhaps in a face to face conversation. The point is that while it's possible that it seems we are typing on our own computer screens, it may be easy to forget there are actually real people reading the written words on multiple but solitary machines; i.e. many people are reading by themselves in front of their computer. Without the interpersonal apsect of communication which is limited by electronics, things may be taken out of context of what we really feel or mean and especially the whole notion of "tone".

Third is the old never write what you wouldn't want to show up on the front page of a newspaper concept. You simply never know when words can come back to you. And, writing is visible portrayal vs. the verbal word so can't say one didn't say it. Kind of like a politician's voting record. This is also probably why there are so many cautions about using the company pc for personal opinions. And another good one on this topic is that people take things that are written for certain. "It's in writing so it must be true" for instance. "I've got it in writing".

Fourth, do you "really" "know" who the blogger is if they identify themselves with a blogger profile? Perhaps you may know that identity that a person is portraying with that Blogger profile, i.e. they consistently respond a certain way to certain topics, they've responded before in similar ways, they've got a certain style, etc. But, unless you actually know a person in "real life" uses a blogger name, how do you KNOW that person? What if it's a person with multiple personalities? Or, a person portraying a certain personality via Blogger? This point I'm trying to make (which is less relevant to your specific blog than it is to the generalities of knowing people on the internet) is something that borders on the topic of internet dangers and the stories we hear and see of people who are attacked in real life by predators who portrayed themself as something else on the internet. That is an extreme from what you meant by you "knew" Dark Gable. But, it may be a small attribution to trying to understand who you were conversing with with William so you would know that "person's" views, their angle, perhaps their motive . I.e. exactly WHO was that person coming at you? On the internet, although the majority of people are open, there is the real risk of the "uknown". (hope that made sense).

Next, don't say anything to one person you wouldn't say to another. With this, it doesn't matter if the person you respond to is anonymous or named. Either way, your point is your point and your view is your view. That shouldn't (and in your case I don't think ever does which is a good thing) change.

Anyway, that's a few thoughts (somewhat rambled vs. eloquent), but I appreciate the opportunity to comment them and to be able to have access to read your blog from time to time.

Last thought, is that what caught me as very interesting about this who strand is that I am currently reading THE STREET LAWYER by John Grisham in which the main topic is the Homeless population, primarily in Washington D.C. I'm sure many of your bloggers have read it. For me, it, along with the timeliness of reading your blog on the panhandling has created my own self-inspection of how I feel about the subject. I have visited soup kitchens, I have given food to the homeless, I have given rides to needy people to food pantries, I did a video in a college media class on the homeless way back when. But, I have also commented on Musings within the last 2 yrs that I don't think money should be handed out to panhandlers on the street. And, I believe that even if some think Giuliani's method's in NYC were harsh, that crime in the city actually went down with the "clean up" of the streets. The issue, of course, is were the homeless and panhandling people "criminalized", "dumped" in another part of the city, or actually helped. It was probably the first which is not good. While I am a capitalist at heart, I also do have a heart, and am now believing there has to be a better way to solve this issue.

Signed - Aware of the Panhandling & Homeless Dilemma, but what to do?

- Howdy

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy,

I have to go with the tone camp as well. It seems as if we ought to make an effort to treat one another with respect, even online. It's pretty easy to send off a biting comment, especially if one is either anonymous or semi-anonymous. Reading back through the comments on your panhandling piece, I noticed some that could have used a little kindness editing (the editing in of kindness, editing out of sarcasm).

A related incident occured on my blog last week. I have a few parishoners who don't have blogs, so they come up "anonymous" if they leave comments. But they always sign their names on the comment. Until I said something that obviously touched a nerve with one (interestingly, it was a personal dilemma I was struggling with, and wasn't about our church at all). So I got a rather unfeeling post, with no name signed. It is just easier to flame without name, I guess.

I'm going to have to go anonymous, because I haven't had the guts to switch to the new blogger yet, so it won't let me post comments.

I am yours truly,
Donna Simon