If you have ever left a comment here on this blog or over on Always Off Book, you are aware of two things. The first being that I moderate comments, and the second is that I allow anonymous comments. Neither concept is popular throughout the blogosphere. Some even prefer a blog that allows no comments to a blog that allows anonymous but moderated comments. Let’s take these two unpopular concepts one at a time.
I do moderate comments. I have heard all of the reasons not to do so. That it makes me seem paranoid. Tyrannical. Unwilling to accept criticism of my ideas. Expresses a need for control that people find off putting. And many others. None of them apply of course. But I fail to see the purpose of allowing just any kind of incoherent, rambling, rude or threatening comment to grace the pages of my blog. How does letting the comment, “fuck you and your liberal whining” increase the value of my blog, or enhance my ever so important (tongue in cheek) “personal brand”? It doesn’t. Just as I avoid belligerent people in real life when I see them yelling and screaming on the street, I avoid them online. And just as I would not allow them into my home, I am not going to allow them on my blog. My blog is not community property. It is public, but it is still mine.
I don’t edit comments for content. I don’t filter out comments that express respectful disagreement with the point I am raising. Many have said, “but unless you turn off moderation, we, the readers have no way of knowing you are telling us the truth about who you censor and who you do not!” In response I ask, who is paranoid now?
Anonymous posting is not skewered quite so often as moderated/approved comments, but is still frowned upon in my experience. This one is a little more confusing to me, but the argument goes something like this: If I don’t require people to somehow identify themselves I am not only freeing them of the responsibility of their comments, but I am defeating the entire purpose of a blog which is to network with those who have other ideas.
If someone doesn’t want to use their name when they write a comment, fine. That is their business. I am not here to hold them up to some sort of standard of accountability. Personally I would rather have ten well written anonymous comments on a post then one half-assed comment with a name and link attached to it. Some people just won’t comment if they have to a) identify themselves or b) register with some service. If something I wrote inspires such people to reply, they shouldn’t be held back from doing so.
I comment as “Anonymous” sometimes. I do it because on any given thread I want it to be about the idea I am presenting more so than about who I am. Yes, I want to meet people, and I want people to read my blog, but counter to most personalities in the current generation, I don’t feel I have to always be self promoting. Sometimes I really do just want to say something without attaching my name to it. And no, it doesn’t mean I have something to hide. It just means that I want to explore an idea with someone, not an identity. I give others the same privilege.
As to networking being the entire purpose of a blog, I can’t buy into that wholesale. Blogging is one good way to network. But networking to me is more organic than it is for most. It comes about by engaging with people that have mutual interests or similar thoughts. My blog is about ideas and questions. Sharing. It is not about networking just because networking often results. So I want people to feel free to reflect on what I say and share their thoughts on it. Help me learn something just as they learned something. If that means I make a connection great, but if not, at least I have spurred an ongoing conversation. And that is why I blog.
One of the first blog posts I ever wrote over five and a half years ago remains one of the most commented upon in my collection. It still gets comments to this day, and half of them end up being anonymous. I wish more of my posts got that much attention, but even so, I’m happy to have it.
So it isn’t about a power trip, revisionism, abdicating responsibility or fear of commitment or any such thing. I just believe that we have so little control over the coming and goings in this life that when we own a piece of cyberspace, we might as well make it easy to use, free of spam and vitriol, and hope that it speaks to others.