April 2nd, 2015
I’ve been considering requiring all comments on the PFRE blog include a website URL. This inclination has evolved over many years. The fundamental issue for me is anonymous commenting. Currently when leaving a comment you must supply a email address but other readers can’t see that e-mail address, only I can see it. Comments by people that supply a URL on their comment allow any reader to just click on the name and it takes you to the commenters website. The current PFRE WordPress theme doesn’t have a way to force commenters to enter a website URL. Here are some of the reasons I don’t appreciate anonymous commenting:
- If no one knows anything about you are then the natural tendency is to be too unrestrained in your comments. Anonymity enables trollish behavior. Trollish behavior isn’t a huge issue on the PFRE blog. In the course of 8 years and going on 5,000 comments I can only remember about 3 or 4 issues that I took any action regarding comments. Also think anonymity allows people to be less concerned that their claims and assertions be grounded in facts.
- When someone makes assertions or gives advice I like to see their website. A website says a lot about you, particularly when you are talking about photography. A website establishes important credibility, context and background to comments. Everyone can easily see the difference between an accomplished professional and a newbie BSing
- Several times readers have requested that I give them a commenters e-mail address so they can get in contact with them and discuss something in more detail. For people that supply a website URL there’s usually a way through the website to contact the person because that URL is visible to everyone. So a website URL would enable discussions outside the blog comments.
- I think that anyone commenting on the PFRE blog should have a website, even if you are just beginning in this business. Websites are trivial to create and free and there are even social network sites that work as a website. If you don’t have a website, you are hiding. Comments from people that are hiding have very little credibility.
Given all this, I’ve asked Cristi, my WordPress mechanic to look into modifying the PFRE blog so that anyone commenting must supply a website URL on the comment. Cristi says, “it’s easy to do.” But I’d like to get more user feedback before I have Cristi implement this feature.
Yes, I know there are some that won’t comment if they can’t be anonymous. But, I can live with that. I think that conversations here on PFRE will be much more valuable if people aren’t anonymous. Currently, about 75% of commenters put a website URL on their comments. Many of the commenters that don’t fill-in the URL have a website because I can see it on their email domains.
I’d like to hear reader arguments for and against requiring a URL on comments. Even if you don’t have an argument please take the poll below. I’m not promising to follow your advice, I just want to understand readers point of view.
Update 4/5/2015: Thanks to everyone for all the input on this issue. I appreciate it! A lot of good discussion. I’ve decided to go ahead and have Cristi implement the feature to require a URL on comments. I’ll do a post explaining the feature more when I turn it on. Don’t know exactly when that will be. It’s up to Cristi’s schedule. I’ll also give a list of ways that anyone can easily create their own site if they don’t have one.