Better commenters use pseudonyms, and Facebook squashes discourse

I use Disqus for my blog comments management. It continues to improve and adds significant additional functionality to the site without a massive overhead of extra plugins.

Disqus has conducted some research that shows that commenters using pseudonyms are “the most important contributors to online communities.”

The service gives each user the option of commenting with a Disqus account, a social media identity or anonymously. It says 61 percent of commenters use pseudonyms, 35 percent choose to be anonymous and 4 percent use their “real identity” verified by Facebook. It also says those with pseudonyms post the best comments, while anonymous comments are lower quality. One theory: People don’t mind being accountable online, but they don’t want it to blow back on their work or personal lives by using a real identity. A pseudonym protects them while providing a measure of accountability.

Once people settle on a pseudonym I think they do take more ownership of their comments. The anonymous cowards tend to junk up the comments and their flame attempts become frustrating to those who are trying to engage properly.

TechCrunch rolled out Facebook Comments in a bid to rid themselves of trolls and abuse. Facebook Comments of course works on publishing, in most instances, the real credentials of a commenter. hOw did that work out for them…turns out not so well

It was early 2011 and TechCrunch’s comment section was overrun with trolls. Bullies and asshats were drowning out our smart commenters. We hated our commenters because, well, they hated us. So we rolled out Facebook Comments in an attempt to silence the trolls — by removing their anonymity.

But we eventually discovered that our anti-troll tactic worked too well; The bullies and asshats left our comments sections, but so did everyone else. Now, several years later, after dozens of endless meetings and conference calls, we’ve decided we’re going to try out Livefyre instead of Facebook Comments.

Frankly, our trial with Facebook Comments lasted way too long at too steep of a cost. Sure, Facebook Comments drove extra traffic to the site, but the vast majority of our readers clearly do not feel the system is worthy of their interaction.

And we want our commenters back.

People periodically email me with suggestions and comments about the site…they are not ignored…I add them to a spreadsheet of issues/challenges and I discuss them with my technical advisors and moderators…I am always looking for improvements.

I have toyed with the idea of requiring a real email address to verify commenters…but so far have shied away, preferring instead to rely on the vigilance of the army for outrageous attempts at hijacking and the up and down votes to encourage foolish trolls to improve their ways. Some learn and some don’t.

Anyway as always this is a work in progress…some new changes are coming, the blog will be refreshed, rejuvenated and continue on unabated.


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  • People who don’t use their real names or a consistent handle are just pussies. As opposed to #Cougarswhokickarse

    • RightNow

      And that will be the only time I ever google Cougarswhokickarse

  • Pete George

    Many people using pseudonyms use them responsibly, but they are also misused. Switching pseudonyms is common, as is using different pseudonyms in different forms. And I know of instances in the political forums where people who are commonly known by one pseudonym also use other pseudonyms to stir or push agendas.

    I see the research is based on ‘likes’ – that’s an indicator, but not proof of quality. Likes are often stoked by groups (I could suggest a couple). And I often post comments where I know they won’t be liked, that’s common when you are challenging the preferences and comments of regulars in blogs. Unlikes are often a sign of success with a comment.

  • Mike Jones

    Online pseudonyms are akin to self-imposed name suppression. Anonymity is used to great effect by cyber bullies and measures to combat this have not been overly effective.

    • Mr_V4

      It generally takes two to tango though.

  • Stuarts.burgers

    I chose to use a handle across all the sites I use, I do this to stop any confusion.

    Standard one two boys same first name, same surname, same middle, initial not directly related. We were given a extra by teacher that reflect fathers occupation mine a baker and his a doctor. A lot of years later, a classmate, who I had not seen for at least 30 years, when I spoke to her at a call center, asked if I was Baker or Doctor

  • thor42

    I use a consistent handle.

    I think pseudonyms are very useful. If a pseudonym-using troll comes along and tries to stir up a shitstorm, they’ll soon be banned.

    It’s great to see the occasional person from here (recognisable by their handle) showing up on other blogs too.

  • unsol

    Clearly I’m a fan of using pseudonyms so have no issue with them.

    What I find amazing is those who apparently use their real names & make appalling comments online…including on Facebook. Some of the animal rights groups are notorious for exposing the scary & pathetic in our society.

    In terms of people who comment on here – I actually assume that everyone uses pen names and determine who is a troll or a flamer based on how how they approach the debate rather than the name they choose to go by,

    Re the real email thing – don’t you already have to have an email to comment on here which then gets verified by Disqus or the app you log into via?

  • Mr_V4

    I think techcrunch just found out the hard way that tech sites are a dime a dozen.

  • Orange

    NO, *I’M* JOHN KEY!!!