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Does anonymity cause online rudeness?

Original post made on Sep 26, 2007

Ever since www.PaloAltoOnline.com launched the "Town Square" comment forum last year there has been a community debate of sorts on whether anonymity is the best policy for the forum.

Read the full column by Weekly editor Jay Thorwaldson here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 26, 2007, 12:00 AM

Comments (63)

Posted by Shy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 26, 2007 at 5:44 pm

Actually, I am just too shy to use my name. I am the sort of person who wouldn't say boo to a goose normally and certainly wouldn't speak up on a contraversial topic. I sort of think that maybe I wouldn't be taken seriously, or that my ideas don't count.

Being able to join in here has actually given me a little self confidence which I didn't have before and I am now getting brave enough to voice my opinion in discussions with acquaintances. I realise that my opinion is just as valid as the next person's even if it happens to be different.

So thanks for the opportunity of learning a life lesson. Who knows, one day I may even use my real name.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 26, 2007 at 6:01 pm

Anonymity is perfectly acceptable for debate, even contentious debate, on topic. It is less justtified when personal insults are tossed. I am seen as a defender of Bush, when what I try to defend is rational policy debate. When the decision was made to shift political discussion to personal attack, even to the extent of denying the humanity of opponents it grieves me, because there can be honest differences of opinion and equally valid opposing goals. Just not in Palo Alto.


Posted by Ghost of Bill Zaner, a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2007 at 6:01 pm

There is very good reason to have anonymity as an option. 1000+ people who know the gory details of the City's inner workings. People who will never reveal their identities for fear of retaliation, yet post, send letters to the editor and risk personal lawsuits to get information to the press and public.

Who are these people?

City of Palo Alto staff.


Posted by JW, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 26, 2007 at 7:10 pm

Let me first say I think Palo Alto Town Square has been the most liberating experience for PA, I love it. I love the format; the anonymity of using aliases has meant that at last we are getting not only honest criticism of our City Government but many creative ideas.

Perhaps Jay you are too sensitive, don't change a thing. Let the free wheeling ideas keep coming. The Palo Alto Town Square is by far the best comment forum in town.

The only criticism I have is that I will now have to copy this posting to three different places!!!!!




Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 26, 2007 at 8:05 pm

I don't use my name because I learned the hard way that it was a bad idea. Out on the big bad Web there are a fair number of nutcases--and back in my real-name days, some of them were obsessed with me.

We're all facing a tremendous loss of privacy. Whatever we say here cannot only be seen by anyone with access to the Internet, it can also be seen 15 years from now. Sorry, I don't feel like being that on-the-record.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2007 at 9:21 pm

Ghost of Bill Zaner, I do not think it is fair to accuse our city employees (1000+) of posting things on this forum. Please be a little kinder. I think most of them are tired and go home (most to another city) and relax. Please be a little kinder towards our city workers.
We have lived in many cities, and have found the services here to be better than any other city we have lived in. For the record, the utility rates were the same here as in the last 2 states we lived in.
I compared our old utility bills.

Every city and company has their internal problems, it is not unique to Palo Alto. I think that the majority of them are really trying their best (to deal with us)

OhlonePar, if you are online could you go to the forum "Voters Get First Peek", scroll down and look for my posting (same name). I wanted to get your opinion on the three web links that I found on Mr. Liu's website. Do you think this is where the money for the MI program came from? And don't you find it creepy that PAUSD MI program is on a Chinese propaganada website in England? The story made it sound like our MI program was fabulous and easy and wholeheartedly accepted. I would love to know who you think would be good for school board (I already know who you won't be voting for - lol). OhlonePar,
I wish that you would have considered running. My personal feeling is... well nutz! I just wish you had considered running for the school board. I will wait and keep bugging you. :) smile



Posted by Ghost of Bill Zaner, a resident of another community
on Sep 26, 2007 at 9:43 pm

Concerned Parent,

I'm sorry, but I can't give you more proof that City employees are posting, sending letters to the editor, and generally exposing corruption at City Hall. To do so would be a betrayal of trust.

However, I will call upon some examples that you can pursue, and draw your own conclusions. Examples where the Weekly has acknowledged anonymous sources from City staff:

The Emily Harrison discipline.

The Utilities scandal, as it has played out for years now.

And most recently, the firing of Brandon Porter.

I'm not accusing City staff of anything negative, just the opposite, I applaud the brave employees who put their selves at risk so that we might know what is truly going on at City Hall.



Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 26, 2007 at 10:46 pm

Anonymous posting indicates a lack of integrity.


Posted by MrAnonymous, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 26, 2007 at 10:57 pm

The answer is clearly "no" as Walter posts under his real name and he is just as rude as any of his nemesises.

What I object to in this forum is this:
"Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson, Online Editor Tyler Hanley and others of us BABY-SIT the comments."

Hey, we're NOT babies out here guys - don't treat us as such. Obviously no curse words or equivalent, no libel, but please, we can (or should be able to) handle other stuff (and in the case of Walt, he probably would say, like his idol W did, "bring it on!").

Your rule of thumb for this forum should be taken from the rough-and-tumble real world of playground basketball: "No harm, no foul" - stop acting like you're the over-protective parents of a 5-year old!


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 27, 2007 at 12:21 am

I like the anonymous approach becaue I can say anything I want and nobody can do anything about it.


Posted by I prefer my privacy, thank you, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 1:01 am

Online forums often make use of usernames (registered or not) in order to keep posters' online discourse from putting their personal privacy (and that of their families) at risk .

Anyone in the world can read online forums. There are "nut jobs", stalkers and all sorts out there in "online land". Anyone who has had any sort of experience with people like that would probably prefer not to give any information to help track them or their families down.

In addition, being forced to use real names would silence a lot of posters whom may simply have thoughtful and well-worded comments to add to a discussion, but who fear real-life "reprisal" and harassment from some readers who might disagree with their views.

In a case where other posters in a forum are likely to be living in one's same town, the risk of potential harassment is even greater. Perhaps most online forum readers are reasonable models of adult decorum, but I personally wouldn't assume that absolutely everyone in town would refrain from, for example, egging the car or house of someone whose online views they disagreed with, leaving "dog waste" on their lawn, or some other such.

Perhaps anonymous posting allows a few posters to feel freer about being rude online, but such behavior really reflects back on those posters, and certainly will not encourage most people to take their posts as seriously as the rude poster might wish.

I work as a moderator at a craft and theater-related online forum, where the members typically register with usernames to protect their privacy (and also discourage stalkers.) Forum moderators exist to remove inappropriate commentary, anonymous or not. I don't see that that is not possible here too.


Posted by The Ghost Of Level C, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 27, 2007 at 6:49 am

I wish this forum had been available when the flood hit a few years ago. There was one city council woman who demanded sandbags be delivered to the northwest corner of level C in the city hall parking lot where she would pick them up for her home. When the city manager got caught she chickened out so city employees had to go back and pick them up.


Posted by Sammy Smith, a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2007 at 7:16 am

I agree with MrAnonymous, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood -- we are not BABYs and don't need to be sat!


Posted by the phantom, a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2007 at 7:16 am

Thank you to I prefer my privacy, thank you. Well spoken, esp. about anyone in the WORLD can read these forums. All it takes is one person, one whacko, and if they so happen to passionately disagree with another's opinion, they can take it as a personal mission to MAKE the other person's life miserable or worse. These nut cases are out there... some even live in Palo Alto. Editor, while you feel better saying that people shouldn't be intimidated by these cowardly types, consider that not all people are firing on all cylinders.


Posted by Mr. Wired, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Sep 27, 2007 at 9:30 am

anonymity in an online forum guarantees far more diversity of opinion, and ideas. Along with that comes the rough edges of communication unfiltered by face-to-face conversation (which is necessarily more measured). The key to not having one's feeling's hurt? Don't take yourself too seriously, and realize that your lofty opinion, or mine, is just one of many, vying for attention. I don't see rudeness here, but a large playing field of impassioned persons wanting their ideas to be heard, or lookign to change someone else's mind. It can get hot in here, but it can often be enlightening, if one is willing to look past the start reality of communication unfiltered by the normal constraints of everyday conversation.


Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Sep 27, 2007 at 9:59 am

Well stated, Mr. Wired. "...impassioned persons wanting their ideas to be heard, or looking to change someone else's mind". What strikes me with this forum is the lack of questioning. These persons are so busy being heard and changing minds that they jump to conclusions about other people's positions, or about the people themselves. Seeking clarity goes a long way in creating a less abrasive conversation. Unfortunately, taking time to ask ("what did you mean by...", "are you saying that...") leads to a tediousness that isn't particularly entertaining. Just look at the fun Jay Thorwaldson had in his last paragraph where he skewered rude posters, and how we delighted in reading it.


Posted by local parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:03 am

So, many people aren't shy about strongly expressing their views (often, anonymously) on this forum, well guess what, many Palo Altans are exceptionally strong in person, too. This area is notable for inflated levels of self-esteem. Many like to bull-doze over others with their opinions.

Posting anonymously permits a wider range of people to get their views out there. Here's a few quick examples: Some don't seek the microphone -- they aren't the type though they may have ideas to contribute --, Some don't have wide local social networks to support campaigns for the school board. Some people, like teachers or other public employees, may feel constrained about speaking up on insider topics (workings of PAUSD). Some parents fear repercussions from speaking up about issues of concern. Some people move here from other places and aren't linked into the Stanford alumni network. Yet these people can be thoughtful (or not!) and start a thread or post something here. It's worth it to have this particular forum for discourse in our community.


Posted by Anonymous resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 11:09 am

I think that an online forum is a wonderful avenue for thoughtful exchange and discussion... but perhaps I should emphasize "thoughtful" and "discussion." It offers the opportunity for people to think, pause, reflect about a particular topic before contributing to the conversation in a way that may be more difficult live or in person. If a person is slow and thoughtful and needs more time before responding, this is the perfect avenue.

That said, what often seems to be the case, this forum (and others) can be dominated by those who are quick to shoot off at the keyboard in the same way that they can dominate conversations in person. (Can't get a word in edge-wise?) The result can often be overly strong opinions spat out without thinking, questioning, or a chance to pass through a sanity check afforded when it is not anonymous. From that point, the forum can disolve easily into opinions levelled at each other, people leaping to wild conclusions, and no real conversation.

In this overly educated community, there is no lack of strong, I-know-what's-best, opinions... anonymous or otherwise. Unfortunately, sometimes the education is lacking when it comes to manners or respect for different opinions. It's truly unfortunate when this lack of respect turns to anger and outrage when one is not able to change the opinion of another. (I question, why do so many people try to change everyone else?) So much energy directed into anger and frustration trying to control others could be so much better directed if it was channeled into trying to .... respect and understand.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 27, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Annonymous,

Could you give us a couple of exapmles of what you consider guilty of "Can't get a word in edge-wise". I find that difficult to understand, because you have as much time as you want to answer any assertion on a blog.

It would also be helpful if you could provide some examples of "thoughtful exchange and discussion".

Thanks you, ahead of time.


Posted by Newcomer, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 27, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Is this a trick question? Of course the answer is yes. Just look at what people say about others on-line that they would never say directly.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 2:20 pm

How about changing the forum software to Pligg? Then the users of the forum can vote up or down on whether to read a submission.

Web Link


Posted by Old timer, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 27, 2007 at 2:29 pm

Newcomer, you are exactly right. It is a trick question.
It is designed to keep people posting with no intention of doing anything about it.


Posted by alumnus, a resident of Professorville
on Sep 27, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Sarah here is an example of " thoughtful exchange and discussion" from the Rumsfeld blog on Town Square


No to Rumsfeld" Response

Something is wrong with our elite universities when the visit of the most influential actor in international terrorism in the world today (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran) to Columbia receives less of a protest than the appointment of one of the most decorated public servants of this generation (former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) to the Hoover Institution.

While stressing the virtue of "disinterested enquiry," the "No To Rumsfeld" petition leaves out Mr. Rumsfeld's unparalleled record of service to his country in favor of baseless, ad hominem attacks. Born into modest means, Mr. Rumsfeld earned an ROTC scholarship to Princeton, where he graduated with honors; served in the Navy; was elected to the House of Representatives at 29, where he served four terms; has been a high-level advisor to every Republican president since Dwight Eisenhower; was the U.S. Ambassador to NATO; has been both the youngest and oldest Secretary of Defense; and has held distinguished fellowships at numerous universities and think tanks.

Any fair-minded person, regardless of his opinions of Mr. Rumsfeld's policy decisions, cannot deny that this man's life has been dedicated to patriotic service. More than almost any person alive, he has had a front-row seat to high-level policymaking in the post-war period.

Any person who knows Rumsfeld, regardless of his political opinions, would reject the implication of the petition that the man's motivations are in any way evil. Unlike the vast majority of professors who signed the petition, Rumsfeld's ideas and policies were taken out of the ivory tower and applied to the unpredictable, chaotic and brutal world during one of the most consequential periods in American history. Implications that Mr. Rumsfeld's motivations for his policies were different from the goal of achieving greater security for our country and world simply contradict the entire history of his life. While heated debate and disagreement over his decisions should, of course, be welcomed, outright vilification of Mr. Rumsfeld's motives betrays the academic spirit that the petition — and Stanford — espouses. Rumsfeld's presence gives the Stanford community a fantastic opportunity to engage in intellectual discussion about the history that has unfolded before our eyes — the joke will be on us if we lose this opportunity due to juvenile, unjustified vilification.

Calley Means '08

Poltical Science and History

Posted by alumnus, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 25, 2007 at 3:06 pm


Posted by Ray Bacchetti, a resident of University South
on Sep 27, 2007 at 7:54 pm

In the Weekly and its leaders, Bill Johnson and Jay Thorwaldson, our community has a great asset. That said, I also want to say that I think they're wrong-headed about the policy of anonymity on Town Square. Jay's spirited defense of the policy in last Wednesday's Weekly was interesting (but highly unpersuasive) in what it did say but dismaying for what it didn't say.

The rudeness and flamers' attacks are not the only price we pay for encouraging public comment by enabling anonymity. We forfeit the opportunity for conversations rather than exchanges of verbal grenades. The potential to build trust--by standing by one's statements, explaining assumptions and aims, articulating an argument with the aim of actually changing someone's mind--is diminished. The ability to hide behind anonymity reinforces as a personal trait not taking responsibility for one's views. Those places where anonymity is crucial, such as the voting booth, get confused with those where identity is paramount, such as, without the caps, the town square.

Journalists rightly use the Freedom of Information Act to bring key documents and their authors into the light of public scrutiny. When they do so, a dialogue that begins in someone's discomfort often ends in a much better place. Why shouldn't the same principle apply to our local discourse, where we have the courage to make someone uncomfortable by the facts and arguments we use? Then, by attaching our name to them, we also enable a genuine conversation aimed ultimately at making some small or great improvement in the way others see things.


Posted by Native Girl, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 27, 2007 at 7:57 pm

I totally agree, and thank you for posting that.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 27, 2007 at 8:00 pm

I would agree with this premise if everyone was being rude and the only people being rude were the anonymous ones. However, many people who are rude do give their names and the majority of the posts are well thought through, polite and respectful comments, even if they disagree with someone else and these people, by far the majority are anonymous. If we left only the polite comments from people who did give their full names, we would not be having a very interesting forum here.


Posted by Kathy, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 27, 2007 at 8:45 pm

I loved Jay's final paragraphs, but I disagree with his conclusion. I do believe that people post things anonymously that they would NOT post if their names were mandated.

At the least, I wish the Weekly would require that people register--whether with fictional or nonfictional names--and then post only under those names. At least then we'd have less of the "Parent/Other Parent" syndrome. Some degree of responsibility comes with a name one owns, even if it is not one's own name.

I wish they would consider that change.


Posted by steve levy, a resident of University South
on Sep 27, 2007 at 9:26 pm

I agree with Ray Bacchetti as far as "in your face" postings are concerned. If you need to say something personal about a fellow Town Sqaure poster, I think the "accused" should know his/her accuser. It is a fundamental principle of our legal system.

On the other hand if you are just posting a viewpoint or an argument or calling attention to a problem and it is not personal, I can see where some people will be protected or feel more comfortable by having an annonymous posting option.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Ray,

Last time I checked I was not the government. Why do you think you should have the equivalent of the FOIA to know about me?

Anonymity has a long and noble history in the United States. Many of the founding principles were hammered out in anonymous public writings. Does anonymity equal rude? Well, only if you think Jane Austen, aka "A Lady" was rude.

As I've said, I used to post with my real name. And I was exposed to some pretty awful behavior. If it hasn't happened to you, then I think you've no business judging someone else's choice to have online anonymity.

Steve,

The accused has the right to know their accuser because they're in a situation where their freedom or life are being judged. There's no legal process here. Libel applies, but libelous statements tends to disappear pretty quickly around here. I think you're talking about a red herring.

Anonymous,

I think Calley Means post is *not* a case of thoughtful and serious discussion. The commentary is very black and white. It's completely pro-Rumsfeld and does not acknowledge that there may be some legitimacy to other points of view. Any one who disagrees with Means is "unfair-minded." Means is sure he's right, there's no self-questioning, no trying to see why the other side thinks as it does.

As a result, despite the obvious effort, it's a singularly unpersuasive post. The sort of thing with which you'd agree only if it agreed with your opinion of Rumsfeld in the first place.

I don't really see the Forum as a place where posters persuade other posters. I do see it as a place where different views get expressed, sometimes very well. People can be ferociously informed. I like that. I like, for example, some of the FLES discussions--how important is a foreign language for an American child? There are a lot of different views and it's interesting to see how they're supported.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:12 pm

Jay,

There are other forums that don't have this level of rudeness, have a better signal to noise ratio, and have more traffic.

There are ways to allow people to remain anonymous to each other without being anonymous to the moderators.

You worry about scaring off posters if there are stronger controls put on posting, but my gut feel is that the personal attacks that exist in this forum scare off even more potential participants.

A lot of what's done with this site depends on what the goal is. If it is to generate traffic sell ads, then I think it can be left alone. If it is to create a community resource where a lot of constructive dialog takes place, then I think this site has a ways to go.


Posted by NotNaive, a resident of another community
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:33 pm

RS:
"A lot of what's done with this site depends on what the goal is. If it is to generate traffic sell ads, then I think it can be left alone. If it is to create a community resource where a lot of constructive dialog takes place, then I think this site has a ways to go."

I will assume that was a rhetorical question. If not, you can answer it for yourself by looking for even a shred of "constructive dialog" in the past threads on the MI issue.


Posted by Old timer, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 27, 2007 at 10:38 pm

There are two problems in the forum. The rudeness is receiving thoughtful comments here and I agree with most.
However, a second problem is when someone posts a great deal, and under a dozen names. yes, a dozen. If you don't know it is happening, you might not be bothered by it. But for those who do recognize it is the same person, it is like dealing with a cheater and demeans the whole forum.
The Weekly could control the abuse but for their own reasons, doesn't do so.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 27, 2007 at 11:04 pm

NotNaive,

Not at all rhetorical, I dont assume that the main goal is not primarily revenue generation.


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford
on Sep 28, 2007 at 1:32 am

Nora Charles is a registered user.

As others have mentioned, these days one has to worry about privacy, identity theft, wackos, et cetera. I feel more comfortable not giving my name and probably would not post if it was required. It is nice to be able to to state one's opinion without the possibility of personal attack. From what I've seen most posters are civil. Spirited maybe, but civil.

A note to Shy: I was inspired by your post. I also suffer from shyness and commiserate with you. The idea of speaking in front of large groups fills me with terror! But I've gotten better over the years, and it sounds as if you are too. All best to you!


Posted by Anonymous is OK, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2007 at 9:25 am

A Palo Altan I know is an official in a political party. After one of the recent elections, his car was keyed--causing a lot of damage to the paint job. Allowing anonymity in this sort of forum allows folks to express themselves without having to worry about attacks on themselves, or their property.

People who are so thin skinned that they can not stand a little hustle and bustle in the market place of ideas should find some other way to pass their time, rather than engaging with folks who might be critical of their ideas in a forceful way.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Anonymous is OK,

As you pointed out, a resident's car was damaged, presumably, for his political association - a publicly visible position - not for his posting on the forum. I suppose one could argue that this is one of the risks of being in a public position.

And I agree when you say people shouldn't be so thin skinned if they engage in these on-line discussions. Anonymity could provide some security or respect for privacy. However, in this forum, the possibility to post under numerous "names" can misrepresent the true diversity of opinions that are out there.

I would like to see more respect for the privacy of those individuals who are not engaged in the public "market place"... those who are neither public officials or even posting on the forum, but get thrown into it by someone else posting about them. Consider this - what if there is fall out to that private individual who never asked for the attention in the first place? What then? When it's on the internet, it's there for the whole world to see and those anonymous posters can just hide behind their keyboards and snicker.



Posted by snipe snip, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Good point, Resident. You make a strong argument in favor of PAOnline's heavy-handed editing. By swiftly removing personal attacks against named individuals, the forum editors are reducing the chance of those attacks becoming a permanent piece of the world wide web.

However, this doesn't justify some of their more questionable content editing, nor does it justify editing FACTS about named public officials. For example, writing about what a board member said or did while acting within their official capacity -- regardless of how embarrassing, politically incorrect, or harmful to their re-election campaign -- should not be deleted.


Posted by Anonymous is OK, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2007 at 4:49 pm

> a publicly visible position -
> not for his posting on the forum.

And what is to keep someone who takes "offense" to comments posted on a Blog from becoming malicious or violent?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2007 at 5:25 pm

I think anonymity was a good thing in the recent somewhat absurd dust-up about the paper shredder on the street. The "culprit" was able to anonymously come forward and the issue was sort of resolved--without anyone's trash/donation habits getting exposed.

NotNative,

I've seen lots of constructive debate about MI--I learned a lot about how charters work, how various decisions got made, what alternatives people thought might work.

What I didn't see is consensus--and I think it's a little much to demand of a public forum that census be created where none, in reality, exists. Frankly, the stuff I've heard outside the forum (on both sides) is more harsh than what's been said here. This is where, for what it's worth, where a lot of the MI dialogue has been. And I think it's only aired here because of the anonymity. Otherwise, I think you'd be seeing almost no communication at all. Would you hear from me? Maybe, maybe not. I've said before that I don't want my kids subject to any spillover from these kind of debates--I've seen posters say a couple of times they'd never allow their kids to play with the kids of whichever poster annoyed them on the other side of the debate.

ONe of the constant issues in online discussions is that you have zero control over the mental filters of your readers. You get interpreted and unlike face-to-face discussions, there are no aural and visual cues to help clarify intention. Newspaper reporters avoid some of this by being very, very factual leaving little room for misinterpretation, but even so . . . here we're expressing opinions, so disagreement is a natural consequence. And if you disagree with someone you're more likely to take a darker interpretation of their posts.

All of which is to say that anonymity has a place in online forums because of the limitations of online forums. I don't have a problem with limiting the use of multiple pseudonyms.


Posted by GiveMeABreak, a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2007 at 9:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Give OhlonePar A Break, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 28, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Ohlone Par is one of the most knowledgeable regular posters to this forum. She gets her facts straight (I have checked them), and she is not afraid to speak the truth. She is up to date on the school issues, and obviously attends the important board meetings.

She has provided factual hard evidence intermixed with her keen and often witty observations from the meetings.

Many people who read this forum enjoy her posts.

Posted by Native Girl who is also a concerned parent.



Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2007 at 9:22 pm

GiveMeABreak,

No, I pretty much always respond, but my response may be to disagree. As I said, there's not consensus here and it shouldn't be expected.

I mean, I think it's safe to assume you disagree with me about MI at Ohlone--that your bias affects your view of me. Correct?


Posted by Burlingame Guy, a resident of another community
on Sep 29, 2007 at 8:07 am

I still read the Town Square after moving to Burlingame. I like reading what people I don't know have to say. If I knew them I would probably not like them. Or they me for that matter............


Posted by A.J., a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 29, 2007 at 10:12 am

The poster has it exactly in reverse. Online rudeness necessitates anonymity. I think the indelibility of online discourse will also make anonymity an essential aspect of honest discourse, at least until we deal a lot better with the issue.


Posted by John Doe, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 29, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Does online anonymity cause rudeness? Why, of course. If you don't believe that, take a look at 4chan sometime. Does that mean it's a bad thing? Not necessarily. All these thoughts were under the surface anyway. Maybe it's best to air them out for once. Then again, maybe not.


Posted by e, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 29, 2007 at 4:08 pm

when your life has been threatened by ''authorities'' for speaking about injustice , you dont post your name. nobody has shown that they will support dissent in america, so until you are willing to watch peoples backs , you should expect anonimity. in a world where people are electrocuted by tazers and no one intervenes , people have pause to name . americans need to decide if they are going to want to live through the coming changes.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2007 at 1:30 pm

"when your life has been threatened by ''authorities'' for speaking about injustice , you dont post your name."
It is difficut to respond politely to such a comment. As corrupt and venal as govrernment often is, I seriously question whether it ever threatens the lives of critics.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2007 at 2:05 pm

Walter,

The person could be talking about "authorities" outside the U.S.
There are plenty of counties where this statement is plausible and they could have brought that fear with them.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 30, 2007 at 4:54 pm

RS, the references in the letter were clearly US authorities.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 30, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Yeah on your urging, I reread it, so I think you are right and I agree with your interpretation.


Posted by R Wray, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 30, 2007 at 5:25 pm

Rather than risking their lives and property by signing the Declaration of Independence, I wonder where we would be today if the Founders had used some excuse not to sign their names.


Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 30, 2007 at 9:44 pm

And perhaps some of us are in the sweet spot of our careers and realize that our "on-line footprint" is often "Googled" by prospective employers, etc. before hiring. I would not want the professional community to know that I sometimes participate in these whack-a-mole sessions.
Also, why would anyone give identity thieves any shred of evidence to link your real name to any other fact ie: website city's name that you blog in?


Posted by Old timer, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 30, 2007 at 11:12 pm

I don't mind the anonymity or even the nasty comments.
What I dislike is the same person posting again and again. And again. I'm tired of hearing from him/them. Often they repeat what they have said before, but even if not, it's like talking to someone who goes on and on, pauses for breath and then goes on and on again. I usually quit reading when the same person has posted more than 3 times.
PS OhlonePar is not female.


Posted by Give OhlonePar A Break, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:12 am

Old Timer (I'm an old timer too),

This is the beauty of anonymity.

To give away the gender of one of my favorite posters came as a surprise, but it makes no difference in how I feel about OhlonePar's posts.

Although you dislike repetition, I feel I must rephrase my above post.

"Ohlone Par is one of the most knowledgeable regular posters to this forum. He gets his facts straight (I have checked them), and he is not afraid to speak the truth. He is up to date on the school issues, and obviously attends the important board meetings.
He has provided factual hard evidence intermixed with his keen and often witty observations from the meetings.
Many people who read the forums enjoy his posts".

Issue settled.


Posted by Forum Reader, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:45 am

What I do like about those who choose to use pseudonyms all the time, or even their real names, is that they become friends. Not that we agree, not that I always understand their points (Walter's present thread mystifies me), but the familiar names and the familiar type of posts make this forum interesting. Even if I have no particular interest in the topic, if one of my "friends" has been the last poster, I may read it just to find out what they are saying today.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Give,

Thank you for your comments.

Old-Timer,

I don't post under another pseudonym, though I've considered doing it when I want to discuss something non-school related, but while I prefer anonymity, I think a consistent identity is more fair. I don't do the sock-puppet thing.

But, please, if you don't like my posts, skip 'em. I don't read the big national agenda threads for that reason--i.e. I know that there are posts that will irritate me, but it's just someone's opinion.

By the way, why do you think I'm a man? In my many years online, I've had people make definitive statements about my sex--often wrong. I'm always curious as to what people pick up as gender cues.

Anyway, don't assume I'm someone you know. I'm pretty obscure in real life. I look and behave like lots of other nice, polite Ohlone parents.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Palo Parent,

Just gotta say, I love the "whack-a-mole" description. Glad to see I'm not the only one who's, uh, excercised one's brain power thataway.


Posted by Old timer, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2007 at 1:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2007 at 2:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Old timer, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 2, 2007 at 5:15 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2007 at 5:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by GiveMeABreak, a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2007 at 8:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2007 at 9:17 pm

GiveMeABreak,

I'm guessing it's different editors. They seem to have different levels of tolerance. Sometimes they'll let something go if the ensuing discussion seems a bit cooler--at least that's my take on it.

I understand why they zap poster v. poster stuff, what's bugging me these days is what strikes me as overprotection of local public figures and candidates running for office. If it's not libel, I think there should be a light hand in the editing.


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