As a result of Huffington Post’s decision to require linking your HuffPo account to Facebook and providing your phone number, I have deleted my Huffington Post account, and will no longer be reading that web site as a source of news. I have removed HuffPo from links on my personal web sites, as well.
I just sent an email to their support contact address, with the following simple question:
Did any of you do any research?
So I was actually surprised a few years ago when TechCrunch moved to switch all of its comments to Facebook comments, claiming that one of the good things about it was that it required you to provide your real name. Apparently that wasn’t actually such a good thing for lots and lots of commenters — as after nearly two years, TechCrunch has dumped Facebook comments and is pleading for commenters to come back.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press went this way last year. Unsurprisingly, participation in the comments has dropped to near zero.
I can see why companies do it – this saves them the trouble of moderation, as people moderate themselves when their real names are used and they conceivably could face real-life consequences for what they post. Is real-life intimidation really the best way to police comments? Certainly not if you want more participation…
When companies enable facebook comments in the hope that the discussion quality will increase or more commonly, that facebook would be a “safe” way to embrace comments they are often disappointed. Its not unusual to find a site with facebook comments enabled and no comments. This is not cultural, I’ve seen it happen in both Japan and the west.
Both articles were highly controversial. What drove intelligent discussion was the content, not the commenting system. Controversial content will generate controversial comments, if a publisher enables facebook comments simply because they don’t want to risk controversial comments they are missing the point completely. Its not the commenting system its the content.
If a publisher is building great content without discussion they will eventually lose their audience to those that do have the discussions whether those discussions are social or anonymous, but obviously the lower the barrier to joining the discussion the better off the company will be in the long term.
It took techcrunch three years to realize this but now they have once again opened the gates of discussion to the trolls of the internet, hopefully they will be more behaved this time.
I’ve argued previously in defence of online anonymity – getting into the pseudonymity debate in the comments. My view since then has not changed, I still believe this is a battle we must not lose. So I’m very excited by some figures just published by Disqus. The platform, which enables people to comment across multiple websites via the same identity, has just released data showing that pseudonymous participation is actually the healthiest type.
According to the data, 61 percent of all Disqus comments are made via pseudonyms, versus 35 percent anonymous and 4 percent using real names (i.e. Facebook). People with pseudonyms also comment 6.5 times more than those who comment anonymously and 4.7 times more than commenters who use real names… Disqus maintains that not only does allowing pseudonyms produce more comments, but the quality of the comments is also better, as measured by likes and replies.
Given they are the largest cross-media platform designed for online commenting – used by blogs and participatory sites everywhere and mainstream media from CNN to Fox News, this is surely a shot in the arm for all us keen on protecting the right to operate online under identities of our choosing. (It might even persuade TechCrunch – the site I first saw this research on – to give up its attachment to real name Facebook comments on its own site)
Conclusion. The most important contributors to online communities are those using pseudonyms. In our data, the accounted for 61% of total comments! These contributors also comment more frequently – 6.5 times more frequently than anyonymous commenters and 4.7 times more frequently than commenters using a real name (via Facebood).
A pseudonym is a fictitious name chosen by a commenter. Pseudonyms are often used because they are more expressive than the name on the birth certificate! A commenter may use a pseudonym because it better represents her persona in a community. This is different from commenting anonymously – for example, someone may use a pseudonym to leave behind personal ties (e.g. job, relationships, privacy) without sacrificing personality.
PSEUDONYMS ARE THE MOST VALUABLE CONTRIBUTORS TO COMMUNITIES BECAUSE THEY CONTRIBUTE THE HIGHEST QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF COMMENTS.