We're trying another approach to engage our anonymous commenters
- on August 10, 2011
Our policy on WellCommons requires people who post content or who leave a comment on a post to use their real name. That's what our advisory group wanted. And it was part of our promise to create a safe place and a trusted source for health news and information.
That worked well, until we began feeding WellCommons content into the news stream on LJWorld's home page. More people came to WellCommons from LJWorld, which was great, and more anonymous comments began appearing.
We didn't want to discourage people from commenting, but we wanted to adhere to the promise we made to our community. So, we decided to allow people to leave up to three anonymous comments before requiring a real name. Health reporter Karrey Britt and I sent messages to the anonymous commenters to let them know about the policy and to ask that they use their real name. We began removing their comments after they'd posted three.
Well, two things happened. One, there are so many anonymous comments that it's taking too much time to manage them. And, two, some people leave such good comments, even though they're anonymous, that we hate taking them down.
For example, kansasplains1 left this comment on a great post by Rebecca Lo about the new Maine Street sidewalk.
A great comment, right? It adds value to Rebecca's post. We're glad to see it. But it's kansasplains1's 10th comment. This commenter -- and others -- have not responded to our private or public entreaties to add their real name to their profile.
Obviously, our approach isn't working. Because we want to keep our promise to make WellCommons a safe place and a trusted source, this is what we'll try now:
- We will allow anonymous comments, but we will moderate them. That means we'll take them down if they're abusive, overly snarky, or are off-topic, i.e., having nothing to do with the content of the post.
- When we take down a comment, we will send a message to the commenter explaining why we took the comment down.
- We encourage you to flag a comment for removal. At the bottom of each comment are two words: "permalink", which is the url just for the comment, and "suggest removal". When you click on "suggest removal", an email will be sent to Jonathan Kealing or Karrey Britt; and they will review it.
- We will continue to send a note to every anonymous commenter asking her/him to provide a real name, but we will give up on the three-strikes-you're-out rule. Here's what the note says:
Thanks for posting a comment on WellCommons. We welcome participation and discussion, and we encourage people to use their real names.
We realize not all users are comfortable posting on the Internet using their real name, but we think that WellCommons will be a safer, more productive place if we all know each other. We're building a positive, solutions-oriented online community. We need your help to make this as interesting, helpful and thoughtful a community as possible.
If you've posted anonymous comments in LJWorld and want to keep them that way, create a new sign-in on WellCommons. You'll need to use a different email address than the one you're using for LJWorld. But that's easy to obtain through Gmail or Yahoo, for example.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
We'd like to get your feedback on this. Feel free to leave a reply here, or contact Karrey Britt (email@example.com), Jonathan Kealing(firstname.lastname@example.org) or me.
We're also meeting with our advisory group later this month, and will bring this up. If you'd like to attend, please let one of us know.
If this doesn't work, we'll try something else. We're constantly evaluating our sites and how to make them better. With your help, they will be.
Tagged: anonymous comments