Preparing to launch a “flame”.
A couple of things have happened this week that has made me look at this blog just a bit differently than in the past.
- I’ve had to ask for help for the very first time in moderating comments as I’ve run out of hours in the day. Thanks Jeez.
- I’ve had one of the most stressful weeks ever in trying to juggle all the workload with this blog, including a wildland fire that has made 5 of my 6 employees absent today. The phones are quiet at the moment and nothing had broken (yet) in our 50 or so servers.
- The realization that I’m going to have half a million unique page views this month
- Some very rude and juvenile comments were posted as of late by anonymous commenters, some of which I’ve simply deleted wholesale. Some I’ve banned. The trend for this has been upwards.
- I’m not getting other important work done, such as getting the surfacestations.org database updated as new stations are surveyed, and I need to deploy my Stevenson Screen paint experiment again. One of the screens has been damaged my a recent windstorm (knocked over, anchors pulled out).
- I’m falling behind in email correspondence.
As I review my time, I find that a good portion of it goes towards managing this blog. It has become a hungry insatiable animal. While I have no lack of material for postings, doing the moderation/management is becoming a bit much. It is often irritating as well as time consuming.
Faced with a choice of giving up blogging (as Roger Pielke did for awhile) turning off comments altogether (as Roger Pielke did when he returned to blogging) or changing the way comments are handled, I’m considering the latter.
One of the things that has always bothered me about blogging and commentary is that the “anonymous cowards” (as Slashdot calls them) generally have the upper hand. Science bloggers like Tamino and Eli Rabbet fall into the “anonymous coward” category, as do many of the rude posters here and elsewhere. Some like “Dano” and “TCO” have whole careers based on snark. Who are they? I don’t know/don’t care, as they are irrelevant. But, they waste everybody’s time nonetheless.
Being anonymous or using a handle allows you to say any stupid, hateful, inciting, derogatory, or otherwise negative thing you want and have no accountability for your actions. At the same time, your opinion or writings is generally worthless as it can’t be verified. Anonymity IMHO, serves only the purpose to allow bad behaviour while protecting oneself or one’s reputation from any real damage.
On the other hand, people that put their name out there with their work or writings, such as John Coleman, Roger Pielke, Joe D’aleo, Basil Copeland, John Goetz, Steve McIntyre, David Smith, Evan Jones, Jim Goodridge, Warren Meyer, and many others (I’m sorry if I missed anyone), including myself, often get viciously criticized for putting their word and reputation on the line every day for writing something they believe in.
The “anonymous cowards” that publish blogs or comments take no such risks when they criticize or challenge. They can work for NASA, be a member of the IPCC, work for a science organization, be a professor at a university, and can taunt, castigate, or criticize in any tone they wish, all without risk to their professional or private reputation.
So today, when I got some angry anonymous comments, one of which came from a NASA employee (which I know because WordPress.com automatically puts the source IP next to each comment, that’s not something I had to search for) it made me think about “why am I taking all the risks”?
Peilke and D’Aleo solved the problem by turning off comments. I like comments because they give myself and others new perspectives, but I don’t like the easy “drive by vitriol” that sometimes springs forth from anonymity. The commenter “MA” recently provided an example of the worst sort of that.
My father, God rest his soul, always told me to “stand behind my words”. I do that, by putting my name on everything that publishes here. I’ve taken a lot of heat for doing so.
So I’m considering this:
Change of policy – all commenters must use their real name and have valid reachable email. The name would be published, the email would not.
Sure, that will anger some folks, but at the same time it will also force those that wish to comment to choose their words carefully, to act responsibly, and to be courteous of others. It will also cut down on the volume of comments that need moderation.
I figure if you have something to say, and what you have to say is useful, factual, and important enough to add to the discussion, you’ll have no problem putting your name to it. Right?
Ok have at it. I’ll make a decision next week.