Thoughts on Anonymity and Identity in Communities from SXSW

I just listened to an interesting panel at sxsw on World Domination via Collaboration. One of the many great conversations during this discussion related to anonymity in communities. One panelist allows anonymous comments on her blog because she wants to know what people really think, even if she don’t like it or agree with it. Another panelist mentioned Slashdot’s use of anonymous coward, which highlights the fact that people value comments more from people who share a name and identity. I also allow anonymous comments on my blog (with captcha and other spam filters). Some trolls hide behind anonymity to say nasty things, but I have been lucky so far to only have a few of those comments. I find that the vast majority of people commenting will chose to share a name or other identity, but I am not comfortable forcing it on people. I prefer to have people share an identity because they want to, not because it is required in order to leave a comment. Like many people, I value the comments from people who associate their comments with an identity over those who choose to remain anonymous.

The panel members talked about how people in a community can be anonymous from the standpoint of not sharing a real name / real identity, but having a log in and identity on the site. This is a better solution from a community perspective where people tend to interact together over a longer period of time. Community members get to know each other based on the site identity. I have noticed this recently with my interactions on Jyte. Some people share a real name, others share some other identity, but you get to know these people based on this identity whether it is an “anonymous” identity or a “real world” identity. Jyte uses OpenID, which is a great way to facilitate identity management within a community, since it gives people control over their identities and allows them to use their identity (or multiple identities) across sites.

I am looking forward to more really great sessions at sxsw this weekend!

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