Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Widow Douglas, She Took Me For Her Son

...and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways...
 -- Huckleberry Finn
 From CNN:
Huffington Post to ban anonymous comments

Arianna Huffington is fed up with the trolls.

The founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post says that starting next month, she will require readers to identify themselves by name in the comments sections of her eponymous news site.

Huffington made the off-the-cuff comment in a Q&A session after a speech Wednesday to a crowd of 4,000 at a conference in Boston, according to spokeswoman Katie Burke of HubSpot, a marketing software company that hosts the conference.

"Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they're saying and who are not hiding behind anonymity," Huffington told the audience. "Maintaining a civil environment for real conversation and community has always been key to the Huffington Post.

"From day one, our comments were pre-moderated, and we invested in the most advanced moderation technology along with human moderators," she said. "Now we want to go a step further to evolve our platform -- which has always been about community and engagement -- to meet the needs of the grown-up Internet."

In other words, the Internet "trolls," or nasty anonymous commenters, have gotten worse. The Boston Globe, which covered Huffington's speech, quoted her as saying that "trolls have become more and more aggressive and uglier."

Since its launch in 2005, the Huffington Post has garnered 260 million comments from its online community of readers, according to the spokesperson. The site's current comment policy is clearly stated online, with guidelines for users that include "Be yourself, only yourself, and just one of yourself" as well as "If your comments consistently or intentionally make this community a less civil and enjoyable place to be, you and your comments will be excluded from it."

Huffington's decision to prohibit anonymous comments is better than banning all comments, said Sarah Sobieraj, a media expert and sociology professor at Tufts University in suburban Boston.

"It's valuable that she is not shutting down comments altogether, though it's sort of a Pandora's box," said Sobieraj, who believes that people who really want to post offensive messages will still find a way to do that make other efforts to post their opinions. In the digital age it's not difficult to create a pseudonym tied to a secondary e-mail address.

"The ability to speak anonymously online is not just for trolls," Sobieraj added. Many people turn to the anonymity of the Internet for meaningful dialogue about sensitive topics, such as politics or impropriety in the workplace, that prove difficult to discuss face to face, she said...
From Huckleberry Finn:
The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names, too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well, then, the old thing commenced again. The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn't go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there wasn't really anything the matter with them. That is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.

After supper she got out her book and learned me about Moses and the Bulrushers; and I was in a sweat to find out all about him; but by-and-by she let it out that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so then I didn't care no more about him; because I don't take no stock in dead people.
At the last full-time job I held (which is also quite possibly the last full-time job I will ever have),  I kept my early morning and late night blogging strictly segregated from my paying gig.  I did this because I was not a professional journalist, pundit, tenured academic, think tanker or trustifarian, but instead worked my ass off at a job where I was never more than one or two phone-calls away from being fired for a workplace which never lacked for at least a dozen people who would have been more than happy to make that call.

This doesn't mean I won't implement a tighter comment policy if it suits me to do so (I already changed to a time-consuming moderated method because some commenter decided to get frisky about posting personal information about me in the comment section), but in these United States of At Will Employment I do appreciate the need for some people to keep their opinions below their employer's radar.


mahakal said...

I do appreciate the desire for preserving pseudonymity and requiring "real names" does nothing to ensure people don't create fake identities that look like real names.

But without any sort of consistent identity, and with anonymous comments, things get out of hand.

I comment here because I respect you, driftglass, not because I want to engage with the professional disinfo and sock puppet theater that can easily be expected on any prominent site.

I might just give up the ghost, though, since Charlie Pierce has his head on pretty straight and I don't think you're ultimately going to align yourself with Jeffrey Toobin here:

The issues are simply too important to get buried under a mudslide of personal pique, even though they're half-interred in that already. But, Green Room hooleys aside, Toobin here fundamentally is telling us, again, that they are all honorable men. I don't care what you think of Glenn Greenwald or Edward Snowden. In this democracy, "trust us" is not half good enough any more.

Good luck, driftglass.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Huff will take this opportunity to do a massive data marketing grab of those stupid enough to transition. Data which she will sell off at the first opportunity.
Her comment section has long been a wasteland in any case. It is inhabited mostly by trolls, and those too new to the site to realize it is a troll farm.
...but probably most insulting is her assertion that she is taking us all to the "grown up internet".
Rich elitist white women with zero tech knowledge lectures world on manners.
Just because nobody but trolls comments on her site, all annon. commentors are trolls.

And P.S.
You malelel are an anonymous troll, not an annonymous commenter. You pseudonym does not mean shit. Have fun at Peirce's, if only you would actually leave...they will eat you alive.

Demian said...

If Iago's manipulations had awakened Venice to a situation that threatened its liberty, then we'd have something very like the current story of Glenn Greenwald. This blog has done a better job of figuring out a difficult plot (breathtakingly douchey journalist manqué manipulates stooge in order to injure dark-skinned authority figure - douche also co-opts his spouse along the way - yet resulting mess alerts nation to a serious problem it had been overlooking) than any pundit, publication, or other blog I've seen. This would not have happened so well without the comments.

Anonymous said...

"But if you want to write about politics and you want to attract and keep an intelligent, thoughtful, and reasonable audience (a damned rare and unique thing on the internet nowadays) then you are going to have to take responsibility for managing the conversation. This isn’t any different than being the host of a party, you can either put up with the kind of shenanigans that lead to drunken frat boys pissing in the azaleas and knocking holes in your plaster and assaulting your other guests or you can toss the louts out on their ear."
- Jim Wright

kfreed said...

If you can get a reasoned comment onto the comment section at HuffPo with or without your full name and address attached to it, Good Luck.

Huffington created its own trolldom. Pardon me if the whining sounds a bit contrived.

blader said...

I'm not really sure who Ms Huff thinks she is kidding. Herself? Users of her website? Her ad customers and investors?

When commenting works, it is at the boutique level, and the conversations can be good. Or not. Whatev.

Once a site gets to scale, its only purpose is SEO.