Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Anonymous Comments

Hey all, I'd like to take a time out from the world of publishing to discuss a blog community matter. Town hall meeting! I'll bring the gavel if you bring the crazy guy who wants to open up the park for deer hunting.

A few weeks back the Ethicist Blog discussed the issue of anonymous commenting.

Ever since I had to close anonymous comments myself a few weeks back due to a single anon (they've since been re-opened), I've been toying with the idea of permanently closing anonymous commenting.

Here's the thing - there are absolutely people who use the anonymous function responsibly, whether because they don't feel like signing in or because they are writing about something sensitive.

But at least 95% of the rude comments on the blog come come from people using the anonymity irresponsibly, saying things they probably wouldn't say if they signed their actual name. And sometimes these comments can get an otherwise good discussion seriously off track.

I'm wondering what you think - do you like having the option of going anon if necessary? Do you think it adds to the discussion to have people politely registering their anonymous comments? Should we just ignore the few bad apples?

Or would you prefer that people sign their own name?

And if we do keep anonymous options open, what should be the criteria for comment deletion?

I'm not too worried about a few bad apples and definitely don't take the anons personally, it comes with the territory, but at the same time, it's important to me that the comments section be a place where good, respectful discussions can take place.

Thanks, everyone!


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Ann Victor said...

My vote is to have people comment under their real name. One can still debate issues from whichever standpoint one has; signing your real name ensures that this debate is done with integrity, honesty and courtesy.

caboozie said...

I think it's good to keep the anonymous fuction for sensitive issues in which a person may face repercussions, but that being said, this should not be abused or used as a cover for the virulent and spiteful who just want to hurt people. If there is "someone" who shows a pattern of foolishness or negativity, they should be deleted. If this occurs enough times, they'll probably recognize they can't get the impact they want and stop.

Daniel said...

I agree with Ann Victor. I think the anonymity of the web is too easy for folks to hide behind and they will then say something they normally never would say if they were actually held accountable for their actions. If someone is too afraid of ruffling some feathers, they might not want to be the one speaking out. I'm a big fan of being responsible for one's actions.

Dara said...

Honestly I don't know. It's really hard to say because there are plenty who do use it responsibly but at the same time plenty see it as a way to be rude and not worry about it reflecting on them.

For me, I wouldn't be affected either way. You could keep them or get rid of them and it still wouldn't bother me.

That probably didn't help much...sorry :(

Ann Victor said...

PS I need to add that by "real name" some authors write under/are known by pen names. In such cases, comments could be made under the writing name one is known by.

Terry said...

A lot of people write under sort of pen names here. I only use my first name. And we can certainly say stupid things sometimes, even using our real names.

But the anons do seem to go more hog wild. It isn't as if your blog is begging for more comments.

I see why you have kept the option but I wouldn't miss them.

Marilyn Peake said...

I’ll be happy to accept whatever policy you adopt in this regard, Nathan. I tend to use my own name rather than Anon when I participate in forums and it’s bothersome when conversations are derailed by insults and fights. On the other hand, anonymous comments are sometimes useful. Some people aren’t able to figure out how to sign in without using the Anonymous choice. Sometimes people want to comment on something in their own writing experience, e.g. their publisher, but don’t want people to identify the publisher as a result of knowing who the author is. And many authors won’t risk speaking honestly if they feel there might be backlash from the publishing community. Would you lose valuable comments if you banned anonymous comments? I’m not sure. I appreciate that you delete highly insulting comments, as those tend to destroy online communities and bring all thoughtful discussion to a screeching halt. I also appreciate the free reign you give to discussions here, only deleting actual insults.

candicekennington said...

Removing the anon is only a deterrent. People can register screen names under whatever name they want and keep their profile anonymous. So if there's someone who really wants to join in the discussion, but is too shy they can always register under a different name. It's just more work than using the anon option, so maybe it will lessen the drive-by rants that can be so unproductive.

Next said...

It's insane to use your real name on the internet if you are a serious writer. For a start, words, like mountain tops, get their presence from the surrounding silence. Splashing your opinions everywhere, blogging, publishing in bad ezines--there are a lot of writers ruining their careers this way. Words are our medium; to have force, they need aura; internet exposure ruins that aura. So yes, keep the anonymous function. You'll lose the serious readers and writers if you don't.

Keith Popely said...

If you're afraid to stand up and take credit for saying something, then don't say it. I'm for banning anon comments.

Marilyn Peake said...

Just now read the Ethicist Blog and strongly agree with the points he made.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, you are in a position of power. Because you are an agent, many writers who are aspiring to publish are afraid of offending you, or of offending other people in the publishing industry who may be coming here. For that reason, we sometimes feel the need to be anonymous so that we can be honest. If you decide not to allow anonymous commenting, much of that honesty will go away because few people are willing to risk their chances of publication to voice their opinions. So, I think it comes down to what you want your blog to become. Whether you allow anonymous commenting or not, you still have the opportunity to tell us your opinions. That won't change. If you are trying to market yourself as an agent, anonymous comments are necessary. But, if you are trying to open up this blog as a forum for good discussion, I think anonymous commenting is a good idea. Regarding the bad apples, as you put it, this is still your blog. If a comment comes up that you think is out of line, you ALWAYS have the right to remove it, and I would never argue against that.

J. F. Constantine said...

I'm on the fence on this one, although I'm leaning toward Ann Victor's comment. I used to post anon and then sign "J.F." just because I didn't want to log in; but, I've ceased that laziness and starting logging in to post. :)

I'm not sure what would be so sensitive I wouldn't put my name to it. If it's that sensitive maybe I shouldn't be saying it in this type of forum? I don't know - like I said - kind of on the fence; but, if you shut off anon posts, it wouldn't bother me at all. I won't post unless I sign in and behave myself. :)


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant to say, "If you are trying to market yourself as an agent, anonymous comments are NOT necessary."

Dearth of Reason said...

I would assert that anon is important. Debate sharpens us all. As writers we live and die by controversy and conflict. If someone with a provocative point to make hesitates due to the potential of recognition (real or imagined), we -- the community -- have lost a touch of our edge.

Rudeness can be policed. But I think we want to encourage, or at least not discourage, the outliers on the other side of the bell curve.

Terry said...

Next- You're making me rethink.

Perhaps we should all post annonymously before we destroy our careers:)

M.D.Hobson said...

I think that there will still be bad apples even if you do ban anon's. I think we should just ignore their comments if rude and unneccesary. And delete them if it dosent contribute to the discussion in a healthy way.

MeganRebekah said...

I never minded anonymous comments on my blog, as they usually contributed to the post or conversation.

But two weeks ago I received my first anon spam comment. I had a post about Twilight's success (and how we can try to capture it) and this commenter wrote some rude, hurtful things about Meyer and her fans. I caught the comment early in the morning and rushed in to delete before anyone else noticed.

Luckily, that commenter hasn't returned. I've already decided that if happens again, I'm taking away the anonymity.

I (almost) wouldn't mind controversial comments, if people were willing to stand behind them openly.

Carol said...

Your blog always has so many comments that I usually don't bother reading the ones that are anonymous. I wouldn't miss that feature.

Jamey Stegmaier said...

I completely agree with blocking anonymous commentors, especially with the sheer number of people who comment on your blog. I took the approach of an open letter to commentors on my blog a while ago, and I've had very few issues since:

Melanie Avila said...

I say do away with the anonymous comments. I know some people try to stay as private as they can, but since I'm one who tends to overshare, I have a hard time seeing it from that perspective. Especially if they abuse the policy.

They can always create an ID that has a different name.

M.D.Hobson said...

ironically I think the anonymous guy made the best point and I agree 100%

Jenna Marshall-Hano (aka MBA Jenna) said...

I appreciate the generous tone and relative civility of this community, so thank you Nathan for both leading by example and deleting posts as necessary.

There are always going to be some flawed individuals who just want to spew, and unlike the business world, there seem to be few professional repercussions for this behavior in the writing world (Alice Hoffman aside).

Anon posting makes this all too easy. I think you should disable it, and continue to allow people to select what name they post under.

It's not like it is difficult to choose a name (and we're supposed to be creative people). If you want to say something sensitive, use a pen name. It's an incredibly minimal attempt to require some basic manners, and should be respected by anyone who wants to comment publicly.

You should stand behind your words or keep them to yourself.

MeganRebekah said...

@ Anon 10:20/10:21 --

I disagree.
Yes, Nathan has the right and option to come in and delete disrespectful comments. But he can't be at the computer 24 hours a day monitoring everything. It could take hours before he catches the controversial commenter, and by that time many people may have been affected.
And yes, Nathan is in a position of power. But are people actually *scared* of him? To the point that they won't disagree with his opinion, for fear of rebuttal or being blacklisted from Curtis Brown?

I think that anonymous comments are similar to twelve shots of tequila. They both allow people the opportunity to be too honest. And often at the expense of other people.

L. T. Host said...

I agree that if someone wants to seriously post something anonymously they can create a different screen name account to post under. I just don't think the anonymous feature is so necessary that we should invite the kind of trolling that's happened. I know some are responsible with it, but just like any other social news site, for example, create a login name that has no attachment to you and don't attach a blog to it. Same thing, a little more work, worth it to keep a level of sanity and not make it so easy for people to spout off if they're just being difficult and not adding anything to the conversation.

Cheryl said...

In regards to what should be deleted.... that should be strictly up to you. It's your blog and you set the tone between what's acceptable and unacceptable.

If you feel removing the anonymous function will cut down on rude behavior, then by all means pull it. If people want to post a response, but want to retain some anonymity, I would suggest they get a secondary ID. I'm all over the 'net and have multiple emails and userids. I can guarantee people don't know me from one place to the next unless I want them to know.

Margaret Yang said...

Your blog, your rules.

Blogs are free for the writing and anyone may have one. Each blogger is free to deal with comments in his own way and dissenters may leave or post on their own blogs.

D. G. Hudson said...

NO - I personally don't like the idea of anonymous comments, and I've been reading the blog for a while. Even a nom de plume would be better, since you end up with far too many anons to determine which one said what.

Using the anon facility to stay hidden could mean you don't want to be held responsible for what you say, or that you don't have enough confidence to say it publicly. I find it very annoying. Ditto with the bloggers who don't show any of their profile.

If you continue to allow the anon comments, then have some way of identifying them as 1, 2, etc. if that's possible. Using the anon status to post always appears as a cloak to me, so where the dagger? Hm-m-m.
Glad you asked, Nathan.

Yat-Yee said...

Have people hide behind the anon status to derail good discussions is a big problem, and it seems to give you unnecessary work to monitor everything.

That being said, I don't know how it would affect people who are very private who would stop offering thoughtful comments if the anon possibility.

Madara said...

The only reason for someone to post anonymously is they are too lazy to set up an account.

I it was very easy to sign up and only took a minute.

Anything worth saying is worth say for yourself.

David said...

I vote to keep anonymous commenting as an option. Like Nathan said, most use it responsibly for whatever reason that they have. I've done it from time to time on sensitive issues and would like to have the option to do so in the future.

RCWriterGirl said...

I think you should keep anonymous comments. Yes, you'll get a few bad apples. But, I think it's a nice way of letting new people ease their way into the commenting process. I don't think its fair to make someone join Google or OpenId or these other services just so you can comment.

Anonymous lets people comment without adding an extra step if they don't already have one of these accounts. Also, sometimes it's nice to be anonymous, especially on a touchy subject.

Not to mention, people do sometimes get sidetracked into side discussions, and post a question they may not want associated with them publicly (i.e. "what if my agent won't return my phone call?").

I've not seen that many bad apple anonymous posts. So, I do hope you keep them.

clindsay said...

I eliminated anon comments last year, and have been happy with it.

The reason I did it is because I was getting bot spam which has pretty much been totally eliminated since disabling the anon comments.

A human being, however, can still register a Blogger account under any name and choose to make idiotic statements on your blog.

My policy is that I only delete the comment if it is a personal attack on me or one of my commenters. (Disagreements don't count.)

In two years I've only had to delete two comments because of this, by the way.

Sarah said...

My vote is to disable anonymous commenting- for all the reasons others have already outlined.

If you post something that might benefit from anon commenting, you can always allow anons for that one post.

Laurel said...

candicekennington brings up a good point. If you have something valid to bring to the discussion and are truly concerned about a negative impact on your career you can always create a login ID that is, for all intents, anonymous.

It's just one extra step and won't eliminate rude or malicious comments but it might deter a few.

If the point is valid and respectfully stated I see no reason why the author shouldn't own it. I've seen two, maybe three comments regarding a specific experience in the industry that I could understand needed to post without identity.

Posting anonymously for the purpose of being just plain mean without repercussion is cowardly but I haven't seen much of that here.

The Procrastinating Perfectionist said...

Nathan - you are a creative guy, working in a creative field. I say make the anonymous commenters show their creativity as well: do away with the one click "anonymous" functionality and make those non-spotlight seeking, or bad apple, folks at least come up with a bogus call sign to hide behind.

oneyearbook said...

Personally, I like the non-anonymous comments, especially those linked to a website, because when I find the opinion interesting I can click to follow-through and find out more about that person. I see the comments sections on blogs as a place to build a community around that blog, and it's hard to build community when you don't have any idea who you're talking to.

On the other hand, Next and Anonymous have some points about people fearing that their words could get them in trouble if they're sharing an unpopular opinion. Perhaps if you put up a post that's looking for a certain type of honest reply - one where people might feel a little sensitive about attaching a name - you could allow Anonymous for just those posts? But that sounds like a lot of work, really. Maybe it's more that we need to realize that being honest, as long as it's done with tact and compassion, shouldn't be something that we fear will get us in trouble.

Anonymous said...

If you take away the anonymous option, you will lose many of the professionals: editors, agents and published authors who want to contribute anonymously. I am one.

Leave the option but delete any iffy comments.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks that we can all comment under what ever name we chose - our own, a made up pen name, our blogosphere name. BUT, the big difference with commenting anonymously is, to my experience, that as soon as you don't have to sign with any name at all, it is so much easier to be rude and mean. Even if it's a made up name, you will still be at least somewhat nicer if someone can actually address you with a reply that is not addressed simply to anon 10.49...

Rebecca Knight said...

I know for myself, I always think that I'm not going to post anything I'm not proud to put my name on. We can all be honest here if we do it in a professional and respectful way. A respectfully given opinion shouldn't hurt us unless we're being disrespectful or rude.

I think sometimes we forget that when we want to break into publishing, we are trying to break into a business environment. We should behave like we're talking with potential bosses, co-workers, and important clients, not like we're gossiping with our best friends.

As long as we're professional, we can be as honest as we'd like. If you want to post, post something you're proud to attach your name to :).

Also, if you are wanting to contribute but are just super shy, like others said, you can register under another name. That's the only other valid reason I can see for anonymity.

Becky Mushko said...

With the multitude of comments you get from people who do use their names (or pseudonyms), I wouldn't miss the anonymous comments.

But it's your blog, your call.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

OMG, I just posted about this today on my blog. I have a husband and wife couple who've been stalking me for a year and leaving really nasty "anonymous" comments. Yeah, I know I have sagging granny boobs--I know!

Still, I allow anonymous comments, though I do moderate them. When I get an anonymous comment, I cross-check my stat counter to see if it came from those lunatics and then I delete it without even reading it.

People are crazy!

Jeff Adair said...

No anonymous posting! Only losers who have something to hide use it anyway. Let's do our part to keep the vermin out of these discussions!

Audrianna said...

I think: if you can't make comments under your name, then you probably shouldn't be commenting. I vote for banning anon comments.

Karla Doyle said...

When I see the words "Anonymous said..." I think of people who block their phone number from showing up on call display. They may not all be crank callers, but if you want to be heard (or in this case, read) - be willing to put an identity to the words.

Sarah said...

I say get rid of them. I know how annoying it is for me to delete inflammatory comments on my blogs - and my readership consists primarily of friends and family (with a few randoms thrown in), so I try to imagine that x1000 or so.

Trolls are obnoxious and, more importantly, lazy. Most of them won't want to take the time to register a name just to say something spiteful. We know this because most of them won't even take the time to spell check or use appropriate grammar. On the other hand, a responsible anon poster who actually desires to contribute shouldn't find registering a name (fake or real) too prohibitive. It doesn't cost money to create an account and it isn't inconvenient.

I agree with what was said earlier also. You should stand behind the words that you put in print - even if the 'print' is made of electrons instead of ink.

Marsha Sigman said...

I consider myself a serious reader and writer. I always use my real name and I'm not afraid to voice my opinion. Although I do think about how I phrase comments.

I say away with anons!!

~Aimee States said...

I think if you're afraid to say something under your real identity, that is a CLEAR indication you shouldn't be saying it in a public blog. Find another writer to talk to, or a writer's forum, if you need to air something private/business related. I mean, really, check your fences. There ARE restricted access places for writer's to ask sensitive questions that won't get them thrown on a spike. Go find them! If closing the anonymous function here keeps the conversations manageable, it seems like an obvious choice for the type of blog this is.

Word verification-tormen; This subject before I've had any tea.

Robert McGuire said...

I suspect that most people who comment anonymously do so because they just haven't gotten around to creating an ID yet and don't want to bother. I know that's been the case with me in the past, and in fact it still is when I'm on a blog outside of Blogger where my Blogger ID doesn't apply. Or even if I'm on another computer somewhere and therefore not automatically signed in. Then I get lazy and just post anonymously. So I doubt people treasure the anonymity as much as the usage of it suggests.

To me, we're not discussing anything politically sensitive here that you're likely to be punished for later. Possible, but unlikely. In this context, sabotaging a helpful discussion is the bigger problem. So I would recommend turning off the anonymous commenting. It's not a grievous trampling of free-speech rights. You're still welcome to go say whatever you want somewhere else.

Lydia Sharp said...

I think if it's enough of an issue that you feel the need to post about it, that should answer your question. It takes all of two minutes to make a profile, and you don't have to use your real name. Why do we have anonymous comments at all? You can still post anonymously under an alias.

And I totally disagree with the comment that following and posting on blogs will ruin your chances at a successful career. I'd like to see proof of that, because my experience has been just the opposite.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

If you're so damn timid not to sign a post, how are you ever gonna have what it takes to shake up or surprise the *WORLD* with your words? (What? Ya gonna write the controversial dicey parts in #2type)?

LOL, I'm laughin' so hard I broke a hemorrhoid stitch!

Haste yee back ;-)

Vicky said...

Nathan, thanks for sharing the Times article. I agree that all too many thoughtful people have stopped commenting in cyberspace because of a few vocal nutcases who thrive on flame wars.

I moderate my blog to ensure no one leaves inappropriate comments. But I don't get much traffic yet. My 1st book will be out in 2011. Guess you'll be celebrating that year, too. :-) Gotta get back to my revisions - congrats again on your sale!

Keith Schroeder said...

You can't hunt deer in the park?

I would keep the anon option open and delete the rude posts. The other option is to review comments before listing them. I like the anon option for situations where I want the reader to follow the comment and not me. I am always polite, never rude. Shame on those using anon as a weapon. It is a powerful tool, same as using a pseudonym when writing.

Heather Lane said...

First, I have to say that I have been impressed in general with the types of comments I find on your posts, Nathan, and I think that a lot of that is due to the respectful atmosphere that you have created here. I go to other blogs, and find real jerks commenting.

There are cases that I can think of where there is a real need for anonymity-- but I wouldn't comment without signing my name.

This has been a subject of controversy at Verla's blueboards as well.

That being said, this is your playground-- you get to set the rules. We'll play however you want, Nathan.

Mira said...

Thank you for asking our opinion about this, Nathan, before making a decision.

My input would be to keep the anonymous commenting. I was there the day you stopped it. The entire feeling of the blog changed. The discussion felt careful and inhibited.

Also, important people were missing, because if you drop anonymous, you also drop Name/Url.

It's frustrating, and more work for you, that some people will not handle the openness and controversy well. But unfortunately, I think it's unavoidable, unless you stop the discussions altogether.

This is such an important forum, Nathan. Writers need a voice right now, and I think your blog is one of the few places where the writer can feel free to speak openly. That's so important with the changing landscape of the publishing industry.

If you want more control without getting more flack, I do have a suggestion, though. You could post 'posting rules' on the sidebar. Rachelle Gardner does something like this. Then, when you have to delete a comment, you can simply say: sorry, folks, rule #4.

Kristi said...

I've also noticed the correlation between rude comments and the Anon feature. I agree that if professionals/writers out there don't want to use their real name, it's not hard to make up a name to use for commenting - there are plenty of regular readers here with fabricated names. One of the things I love about this blog is the community that Nathan has built and the fact that people disagree in thoughtful and respectful ways.

Nathan, it seems like extra work for you to have to moderate/delete the crazies but that's for you to decide.

karen wester newton said...

The only time I would ever use anonymous commenting-- or prefer getting it-- would be if someone was asking people to express what could be damaging facts about themselves, like "Have you ever cheated on your taxes?" Asking for honesty in such a situation requires allowing a way out.

Alice said...

I had an unpleasant anonymous commenter recently and I considered switching off the option. I figured that if someone couldn't leave their name, then their comment was not really of interest anyhow. THEN a few weeks after when this certain individual seemed to have taken my advice and buzzed off, an anonymous comment dropped into my inbox.

I groaned inwardly and thought 'here we go again' ... but instead of the horrid person, it was a lovely lady with a lovely comment and I thought to myself that had I turned off the option, I might not have received it. Turned out she doesn't have an account and I also think some people simply don't know how to leave there name without a link anyway.

So, I would say - for the few bad ones that get through, it's not worth turning it off all together. Also, I tend to delete anything really crappy :-)

Scott said...

Real Names please . . . or really good blogger name. Personally, I use my name and my real picture and everything links back to my Blogger blog.

If I'm willing to make a comment, I'm willing to stand behind that comment as well.


Okay, word verify is 'flabs'. I seriously hope Blogger isn't implying that I have a weight issue . . . because that's just rude. : )

Rick Daley said...

I am way too self-centered to post anonymously. Although I did post one time under the guise of "Some Overlord" to poke fun at Mira, but that's a different matter altogether.

I know that many reasonable anon commentors post that way because they are at work and cannot sign on. I for one would hate to be responsible for their return to full productivity and thus support the continuation of anonymous commenting.

Saundra Mitchell said...

I'm big on not hiding behind anonymous to take pot shots. But I think having an anonymous account is important in this industry. Authors do not feel comfortable publicly talking about their negative experiences with their own face on it. We're expected to present a pleasant, unified front when it comes to our books.

Look at Justine Larbalestier- it wasn't until two news outlets put a focus on the issues with her whitewashed LIAR cover that she- an author who is one of the most outspoken, and least concerned with generating controversy- felt comfortable making a public statement. And even then, she was utterly diplomatic.

I'm sure agents and editors would appreciate the same kind of anonymity from time to time. Just because a name isn't signed doesn't mean it's trolling.

Perhaps you should implement the "anonymous" feature that's used on the Verla Kay boards. YOU create an Open ID account, and you give the login and password in your blog. Change the password weekly, and post it in your Friday roundup. That way people who have something they need to contribute anonymous still have a way to do so, but you don't have people going all cowboy with it.

Susan Quinn said...

Nathan -

Regardless of whether you keep the Anons or not, you should have a Terms of Service guideline for posting, and delete those that don't adhere to it. It could simply be "Don't be a rude jerk, as judged by Nathan Bransford."

If eliminating the Anon makes it easier for you to monitor, then go ahead. But, even if you eliminate the Anon option, people should still be expected to have the same level of decency that you bring to your fabulous blog.

I love that you lead by example.

Anonymous said...


I'd love to read a post on this comment from Next: "Splashing your opinions everywhere, blogging, publishing in bad ezines--there are a lot of writers ruining their careers this way. Words are our medium; to have force, they need aura; internet exposure ruins that aura."

Blogs, yes or no? Current consensus seems to be yes.

"bad ezines", what's the definition and does it tarnish a fledgling career?

Anonymous said...

Can I be honest? The thing I worry about is not being anon. It's the reaction from those loyal subjects of some blogs that have followers like pitbulls, which attack dissension with gusto. That's scarier than any anon comment. If the comment is over the line with regards to respect- swearing, name calling, inappropriate discussion (as in has nothing to do with the conversation.) then obviously you have the right to delete it. (As with ANY comment, anon or otherwise...*) If the comment is merely disagreeing with the premise in a respectable manner, then no it should be given the same consideration as those comments which are in agreement.

I think it's important to respect the opinions of the minority.

jjdebenedictis said...

There are some fascinating comments, that people won't leave unless they can do so anonymously. I would vote to keep the anon-comments function open.

At the same time, people can set up a blog with a nonsense name. Even when we sign in, we're as anonymous as we want to be.

The criteria I'd use for deletion is (1) any form of hate speech, (2) excessively-negative opinions that don't include any justification, (3) anything that serves only to derail the discussion, offensive or not.

Etiquette Bitch said...

agreed, agreed, agreed.

i think it's nice to have the anon option (as a blog owner) if nothing other than it may garner you more hits/eyeballs. BUT i have a massive problem with people who use the comments -- not just on blogs, but on newspaper sites -- to badmouth anyone and everything from the author, to obama, to another commenter.

these are things that these cowards, hiding behind the anon feature, would never say in person.

so, yeah, much as I like it from a traffic perspective, I'd say if the anons are the core issue, shut 'em down.

Mira said...

Rick, that was you??

Color me impressed. There are many, many things I don't do well, but I'm good at blogs when they become a dance of wits - I've lost aruguments, of course, but that is the only time I've been cornered like that.

Respect, man.

Regan Leigh said...

I agree that anonymous comments should be disabled. Making an alias is not very time consuming, especially in comparison to the time you might spend moderating those anonymous comments.

I also agree that you might consider anonymous comments if the topic of your post seems more sensitive.

And I don't agree with Next.

J. F. Constantine said...

I am a serious writer and have no issue with posting under my name. I'm not saying anon posting (with courtesy) isn't okay, I'm just saying that turning it off does not discourage "serious writers" - at least not this one.

In fact, not being anonymous forces me to measure my words and to be more respectful of how I express my opinion. When one begins to build a brand, this is necessary practice.

None of the above is to say polite anon comments shouldn't be allowed - I just disagreed with the assumption that eliminating them somehow ruled out "serious writers".

MeganRebekkah, I like your comments, especially the last line of your 10:27 comment. Also, Melanie Avila made a good point, which is someone can always set up an account with a pseudonym.

Eric said...

I don't think you should allow anonymous comment. I just figure if you're going to put it out there, you ought to be able to attach your name to it. If you're saying things you shouldn't (even when dealing with sensitive subjects), then perhaps you should think twice before saying it.

Fawn Neun said...

I say leave anonymous posting enabled and then feel free to remove any you wish. Personally, I think the anons add content without it falling back in their faces.

But... your blog. I can see that moderating everything could become a serious time suck.

Lia Mack said...

I've had a really rude comment from some lame-o who wouldn't step up to the plate and say who they really were...

My vote is to can the anon comments...only opens the door to trouble...

Daniel said...

Personally, I favor their removal, with one caveat: I think it's extremely important to allow for posting under screen-names and pseudonyms.

Online anonymity (as a separate matter from anonymous comments) is an important tool, used by many people in disadvantaged situations. They can post honestly if it can't be tracked to them, but if linked to their real life, could lead to serious problems.

The previous example, about commenting regarding a publisher, is a good case-in-point.

Yamile said...

No anon comments! There are people who hide behind them to act irresponsible, like many others have said before me.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Are you talking about taking off only the "Anonymous" option? Or taking off both the "Anon" option AND the "Name/URL" option?

On one hand, I honestly don't know why so many prospective authors are scared to let agents know their thoughts. I want to be a part of the online community and get my name out there. I can't do that if I don't sign my name! And if I can't figure out how to take part in a conversation (even to disagree) without doing it politely, then I probably shouldn't do it at all.

However... I think anon posters fall into three groups.
1) The jerks
2) People who have a legitimate reason for posting anon. (I've done it once or twice when I was posting a give-away-ending to one of my stories, and I didn't want people to connect the two.)
3) The Internet newbies. That's mostly whom I'm concerned about, 'cause I could always create an alternate profile for #2 reasons if they come up again.

See...I've done workshops for offline writers, showing how blogs like this one are quickly becoming something every writer should spend a little time on, because it'll strengthen their writing, inform them about the industry, etc. Quite a few of the people taking my workshop are Internet-illiterate. They find the concept of "creating an online account" of ANY type daunting. Sure...if they hang around long enough, they'll figure it out and create an account. But first they'll want to read, then they'll want to make a comment and question, and only THEN will they feel bold enough to create an account.

So if the "Name/URL" option is still open, you wouldn't be shutting these people out before they reach that level of comfort.

That's what I'd be careful not to do, because these are some of the writers that need your blog the most.

Lady Glamis said...

I don't appreciate anonymous comments on my own blog, so I'd say keep them out. I'm still laughing about deer hunting in the park. Nice.

Meghan said...

I vote for no anonymous comments.

TLH said...

I will never comment anonymously. Period.

If I care about something enough to comment, then I will sign my name to it. I'm not ashamed of my opinions, and even if I disagree I try to be cordial and respectful. My handle is just my initials, but I always put my first name at the end of my comments so replies can be addressed to me.

I would not be upset or surprised if you chose to take away anonymous comments. Even for those that wish to be "anonymous," they can always use a pen name. (See Moonrat and EA.)

And it's not that hard to just... sign in.


Charlie said...

I think you should allow Anonymous option because there are those who may have a legitimate question and must keep their identities secret. If someone chooses to attack anonymously, they’re just revealing their cowardice. Those comments should be removed. However, if someone has something negative to say, even against you, and they sign their name, the comment should stand. IMHO.

I stand behind what I say in comments and never choose the Anon option. I’m also one who doesn’t like to stir the pot so I don’t have to worry (usually).

Anonymous said...

I have an agent and have published many books, but I still like to read your blog. I wouldn't comment here my real name because of the admittedly slight chance that my agent were to discover I was reading and responding to other agents' blogs. I wouldn't want to offend her. Without the anonymous option, you'd lose my input and possibly the input of other agented authors.

Also, it is considered bad form to complain about publishing (both by publishers and by many unpublished writers who think that getting the "brass ring" means that any published author who complains about his presumably now perfect lives is a whiny prima donna). So smart authors won't say anything negative about publishing under their real names.

I've read agent blogs that don't allow anonymous postings. Many of these comments seem kiss-assy, like the commenters think that if they applaud the agent a lot, they will get signed on as a client. I find those kinds of comments less than useful. I would hate to see your blog comments seem like Compliments from the Nathan Bransford Fan Club.

I myself am a fan of yours, but I don't agree with you 100 percent of the time and would like the opportunity to disagree without having to worry that my career could be jeopardized.

I would not even make these points now if I could not be anonymous.

rose said...

Sometimes our established identity is not genre-appropriate. I had been writing MG fiction before I was asked to collaborate on a memoir project. My login accounts for Blogger and Live Journal link directly to that children's writer identity.

I have not yet created the one that will be associated with the current book. Since my partner and I are only 3/4 of the way through our first draft it's not at the top of my to-do list.

I like being able to comment here under a pseudonym, but I would not create another account just so I could have participation privileges.

Ulysses said...

As someone who registers comments under a pseudonym, I find it difficult to condemn the use of anonymous comments.

However, I'm a guest here. I understand that, should I fail to maintain a minimum level of civility, I will be asked to leave. How Nathan chooses to enforce my absence likely depends on the level of my transgression and on the amount of time he can afford to devote to blocking me. Some bloggers choose to screen comments, but although this is effective, I bet it is also time-consuming.

Sometimes, I guess, the amount of disruptive noise from anonymous comments rises to the point where it's easier to disable them than to weed them out. In those cases, I believe Nathan has an obligation to his guests here to do so, and I welcome his intervention.

I created the Ulysses ID because I wanted to remain anonymous while I dabbled in the blogosphere. I wanted to comment in places where anonymous comments are not allowed, yet I didn't want my real name well known. I expected to make a few etiquette mistakes and give unintended offense as I learned how to get along in this society. I didn't want those goofs associated with me when the time came to approach agents professionally. Being anonymous gives me a certain freedom. I can say anything, but I choose to keep my comments civil and welcome correction when I violate etiquette. I like to think that I use my anonymity responsibly.

Obviously, there are those who do not.

Thermocline said...

This topic pulls me in both directions. I feel much more free to say what I think behind a screen name that isn't linked back to me. I'm not trying to hide behind it. This is just my current comfort level with my web presence right now.

It's unfortunate the Name option is removed when you deleted the Anon option a while back. I would rather see you keep Anon because I think you'll get more honesty.

Other Lisa said...

I don't understand why "Anonymous" commenters don't just adopt a pen-name and use that. What I don't like about plain ole' Anonymous is that when you have too many of them, it's really hard to have a conversation and keep them all straight.

Next said...

Anon at 11:18 wrote


I'd love to read a post on this comment from Next: "Splashing your opinions everywhere, blogging, publishing in bad ezines--there are a lot of writers ruining their careers this way. Words are our medium; to have force, they need aura; internet exposure ruins that aura."

Let me clarify what I mean. In an age of information overload, the only way the word will have an aura to it, is if the writer is selective about where and how he uses his words. Otherwise, words themselves are cheapened, and the words the writer uses become no different from the words other writers uses. So, you need to be selective in how you represent yourself. It seems to me taking part in comment threads is career suicide, which is why not many serious writers show up to these threads, under their own identities. To pen another metaphor: your work is like a single-malt. If you dilute and hand it around for free, no one will take your brand seriously. They'll sniff you out for a fake.

BriMaresh said...

We don't need anonymous--we have pseudonyms, nom de plumes. Just because you have to have a name doesn't mean it has to be the right one.

Fake Name said...

It's just as easy to post using a fake name as the Anonymous tag.


Mercy Loomis said...

Personally I would leave anonymous posting intact. What I'd really like to see is when someone (anon or not) makes a post that is inappropriate, that the rest of the commenters ignore that post. Then the topic does not get derailed. Problem solved.

I myself prefer to leave my name, but there are definitely cases where I would prefer to post anonymously - such as relating a negative experience with a particular editor or publisher. It's a small industry, and I'd like to keep working in it.

Also, occasionally I find myself on a website where I'd like to post a comment, but I do not belong to that particular site. I have so many stupid usernames and passwords now that if I don't foresee myself following that blog regularly, I would rather not post than have to make yet another account and have it cluttering up my passwords file. There are times when I do have something useful to add, but I just can't bear to make another stupid account. In those cases I would post anon, or not post at all.

Wilkie said...

As much as I try, I simply can't see any necessity for an Anonymous commenter option. If people are truly concerned with the sensitive nature of their comments, they can use a pen name or simply their first name. Given that option, I can't see any reason why an anonymous option is necessary.

In terms of criteria for deleting anonymous comments, I think it should be at your discretion, Nathan. It's your site, and if you think that a comment is inappropriate or offensive, particularly if you also believe that it's not adding to the dialogue in any meaningful way, then you should feel free to delete it. The problem with coming up with specific 'criteria' (to quote the post, not for emphasis:) ) for deleting comments is that there most certainly will come a time when something doesn't quite meet the official 'criteria' for deletion, but that you feel should be deleted for other reasons. I, for one, would trust your discretion.

Rachel said...

People can use whatever name they want for the name/URL, which leaves it somewhat anonymous, since you can write "Anonymous" in the box.

As has been stated, you're being very kind by asking us, but it's your blog; if you're unhappy with the anonymous commenting, then it's totally cool to change that.

Rick Daley said...


Yep, that was me. But I only did it that one time, I swear. And I thought it was pretty funny (still do). You know I am your arch nemesis.

To keep this relevant to the topic at hand, I think this illustrates the point many have made that you can easily mask your identity, and it's your choice if and when you choose to reveal it.

WORD VERIFICATION: metter. Originates from a popular song lyric about a transvestite: I metter in a club down in old SoHo, where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola...

AM said...

I don’t get to participate as much as I would like because I usually can’t get into the blog until later in the evening. But I do enjoy the conversations, especially the debates that many times ensue because of comments made by the anonymous. I’d hate to see those curtailed.

However, I think the majority of blog participants are savvy enough to know that they can create multiple logons, and I've suspected more than once that certain regulars use secondary identities. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I've always been of the opinion that people should use alter-identities on the internet anyway. I think most of us could agree that we wouldn't want something that our teenage-selves thought or said to haunt our writing careers in the future.

I’ll admit to having made a few anonymous comments when I didn’t want to logon, but if I have to logon to make a comment, then I would if feel strongly enough.

I'd say do what you want, Nathan. If you want people to use a pseudo identity in place of a generalized anonymous, well, I'd say that certainly will make identifying individual Anons. within a discussion thread much easier.

Mariana said...

My vote is to maintain the anon, since it encourages sincerity, and have a strong moderation policy.

reader said...

I sign myself "reader" which of course, is probably the same as using Anon because:

1) I don't have a blog or website to promote.

2) When I signed up for a blogger account (specifically to comment on blogs) so I didn't have to use "anon" I was only able to make one comment before it no longer worked. (now it won't let me sign in at all)

3) My first name is so common I know five other writers with it, but my last name is so unique that I would worry about being stalked. (yes, I'm completely serious, I've had a stalker experience before. Plus there are many crazy people out there.)

However, this is your blog and though I like participating under "reader" if you chose to delete that option, then that is what you should do. I can read along, I don't HAVE to comment. :)

Lisa said...

I don't believe in censorship so I think an anonymous commenter is a-okay.

But you, since this is your blog, you have the right to delete any rude or inappropriate comments.

But I feel like anyone can give a fake name, too. They can set up a fake account or whatever and still be just as vile.

Anonymous is okay. If language or obscenity gets out of hand or name-calling, simply delete. And we all move on.

Ignore the bad apples. The just want attention.

blt said...

I say leave the "anonymous" option for people who may be looking for an agent and are not ready to reveal their real name to the world. Under these circumstances, privacy may be important.

Negative comments can always be deleted.


Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I've used the anonymous function before, when posting about a sensitive subject. so I understand the need for it and think it's good. But I also think, if it's getting out of hand, then it's better to not have it. Unfortunate. But nobody likes rudeness.

anonymous poster said...

i hate anonymous posters, your name blog, or email should always be visible.

you need to be held accountable even on the internet.

take down the anonymous posting.

Nick said...

I don't know whether to leave or remove anonymous posting, but a little piece of humanity dies every time someone makes a rude anonymous comment. It's very easy to get into the rude anonymity thing, and I got in trouble once by being rude in an internet forum where some of my real-life friends also posted. Especially people new the the internet might not realize the damage that mean posts can do. I would probably say boot the anons because they don't often add anything contructive.

BarbS. said...

I'd like to see name-only. This site is a good PR training ground for people who could find themselves in the public eye as professional writers. Commenting under a name should make them consider the image they want to project to their readers. Just a thought ...

Laura Martone said...

I haven't read all the comments yet, but I WILL after I find a good blackberry scone recipe while hubby's at the store and can still get my ingredients... That being said, I simply have to throw my two cents into the mix, before the comment count gets too high.

Personally, I've never been a fan of the Anonymous commenting function. Speaking as someone who is sincere without it, I don't really understand the need for it. Besides, you can always set up a Blogger account with no personal info if you so desire. While I realize that NOT having the Anonymous commenter function might curtail some people's willingness to discuss, most of the time the really sensitive stuff that emerges from Anonymous commenters is more vitriolic and off-topic than said commenters might otherwise write if their identities were known.

The incident from several weeks back was a good case in point - the "Goose" stirred a pot that I'm not sure needing stirring, and I'm saying this as someone who unfortunately felt the need to jump into the fray (without the shield of anonymity). I'm sorry that there are some commenters who would prefer to leave polite comments anonymously - I hope they won't refrain from commenting if the Anonymous option was gone from the site... but I resent those that use it as a shield to say whatever they want, whenever they want to... which, to me, smacks of cowardice.

For the most part, this is a very respectful community - something I love about your site, Nathan - and I'd like to see it stay that way.

But that's just my opinion - as Marilyn Peake wrote, I'll happily accept whatever decision you make. And, in the future, I'll try to refrain from egging on a rude Anon.

Now, I'm off to find a blackberry scone recipe! Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

keep it open. I have a google account but I comment so infrequently that when I do, I've forgotten the sign-in information. deleting the anon element would exclude people who are too LAZY (moi) or are not into an avatar pic or whatever. when I have commented on something, as I'm doing now, it's spontaneous. the flow of thought/comments outweighs the random moments when the discussion goes off the rails. keeping it open - and you're good about deleting nuttiness or what you don't like - is better. also, it's not really "anonymous." with blogger, I'm pretty sure you can check the site traffic or counter & figure out who's who, if you really need to. Tomas who's too lazy to figure out his google account.

Mira said...

Rick, it was pretty funny. I thrilled to see I chose my arch-nemesis so well. :)

Nathan, sorry to over-post, but I did notice that people are focusing on whether to close anon posting or not. Your other question: what should be the criteria for deletion....

These should definitely follow your preferences. But my two cents:

to be deleted:

a. Disrespectful tone.
b. Personal attacks or flaming, including name calling, insults or slurs
c. Profanity

And my sense of your preferences:

d. Discussion of politics
e. Posts that stray too far from the topic (these can often just be given a nudge by the moderator, too. If he has time.)

And, of course:

f. Rhetorical questions

DebraLSchubert said...

I've never posted anonymously, however I agree that sometimes the anon posters are a bit, shall we say, feisty? They also tend to be a bit longer winded. That said, sometimes their comments are helpful and nudge the conversation in a more interesting direction. As with any blog, comment deletion criteria should be solely up to the blog owner's discretion.

Word ver: debut
What I hope to release with the next year or so.;-)

Watery Tart said...

I guess I agree that it is easy enough to create a new profile if you are concerned about sensitive issues or offending the original author (in this case Nathan). I have 3 email addresses and could use one with a nonsense name (even with only the one, I never know if it will pop up as Hart, or the Watery Tart)...

but at least when it isn't entirely anonymous--a real offender can be tracked... regular readers can keep an eye open and give them a good French Taunting when they are out of line. They are less free to spread their venom everywhere, and so will be more likely to self-censor a little (a good thing).

:)Ash said...

I guess the Name/URL function is also "anonymous"? I always attach my name, so it's clear which entries are made by me.

If the Name/URL option isn't available, I probably won't comment. However, if there is a discussion I particularly want to join, I guess I'll break down and sign up for a blogger account.

It's not a big deal, either way. Do what's best and easiest for you.

Steph Damore said...

I keep reading the arguments for both sides and I have to say that I personally don't read the anonymous comments - not all the time. Generally, I skip over them because I don't attach a real person to them. I know that sounds crazy, but that's just the way I see it. I like, and respect people more, when they use their real names (or screen names).

I understand the argument about being a professional writer and not wanting to hurt your reputation - but I wonder how many big time authors read this blog and feel that they need the anonymous function? (Nathan, you would know this answer better than anyone.)

At the end of the day I say whatever makes your life easier. You've already had a trial run with anons turned off - so how'd it go? Why did you decide to reopen them?

Melissa said...

I prefer real names. Definitely.

Laura Martone said...

I like your criteria, Mira - and, Rick, your logic does kinda make sense... for an overlord.

Man, I so wish I had been there for that little sparring... I've never really seen Mira cornered before.

P.S. Oh, Rick. I love the Kinks! Can't believe you worked them into the blog like that... :-)

Bane of Anubis said...

I say no anon commenters, but, other than that one you mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I haven't had any issues with other anons -- just like the idea of using your name (or pseudonym -- the name's not really Bane, though sometimes I wish it were ;)

Keith Popely said...

Anonymous commenters are the Joe Wilsons of the writing community.

Anonymous said...

I prefer staying anonymous because, frankly, I prefer to remain that way. I'm a writer with an agent (yet to be published, still working on rewrite). While there are a few bad apples hiding in the anon sobriquet, if they get out of hand...or as any comment signed or not gets out of hand...delete the comment. Deciding on what comment crosses the line is pretty easy to determine. Simply delete those. We trust your judgment...this is your blog after all.

Matilda McCloud said...

Some of these anonymous comments in the last week have been creepy and hurtful. I found them upsetting. I vote for disabling anon comments.

Bane of Anubis said...

For anon commenters who want to remain anon (b/c of agents or whatever), you can create non-available profiles under goofy usernames (e.g., NathanBransfordHatesAnons).

ryan field said...

Most anons always seem to have a valid reason for commenting as anons. If you take that away, then they won't be free to offer what could be valuable advice.

However, I strongly believe it's up to you and it's your choice. I know that anons can really bother some bloggers, and I respect that. And I wouldn't stop reading this blog if you dropped anons.

Ryan said...

I feel that if (and when) my blog were as big as your blog than I most definetly would set it up so that anonymous comments were unavaliable. But this is just because I'm lazy, and I do read everyone of my comments. If I didn't have to worry about anonymous comments (especially the rude ones), then that would be a lot less work for me.

Melissa Petreshock said...

There's no reason that anyone who wants to post can't either sign their real name or come up with a good fake name if they really want to be anonymous. If I deeply desired to speak out on a sensitive issue that I was uncomfortable signing my name to I would just simply make up a name to use for that post. It's not that difficult to do. However, I've never felt the need to post as anyone other than myself.

I think anyone who wants to post a comment responsibly should not fear repercussions so much. We're all mature here on this blog and you've cultivated a place where mature adults can discuss a variety of topics freely. Anonymous comments can be used to disrupt that discussion with rude and obnoxious commentary not fitting the atmosphere of this blog.

That's my two cents worth anyway.

Crystal said...

I would like the anon comments to stay active. We can just set some guidelines for the bad apples, both for the commenters and for deletion. If there's a bad comment, blog readers should just brush it off and ignore the comment until it gets deleted and continue the discussion at hand. And of course any inappropriate comment should be removed (or off-topic comment).

I think it would be ashame to disable the anon comments. Like others have said, anon comments do have good comments most of the time, and for people like me who do not have an account to log into wouldn't be able to comment at all on interesting subjects. I just think it'd be a diservice to all who enjoy the blog to disable a group of writers from commenting.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Anon 10:20. I'm another "lurker" who doesn't speak up much and prefer to keep a low profile, so I enjoy anonymity. When I do comment I am sometimes afraid of making an idiot of myself in front of people I respect quite a lot (Nathan, readers of this blog, and members of the writing/publishing community) so I usually avoid using my actual name. Everything I write sounds dumb the next morning. I guess I shouldn't be so timid, but that's my nature. On the other hand, writing under a real name/account would force me to think through my comments a lot more before posting and be more confident about them, and that's always a good thing. I could go either way on this one and will still read and participate regardless.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I always comment ANON. Not because I am being secretive, but because I cannot log on to any account from where I work. If you take it off I won't comment anymore, mainly becuase by the time I get home it is too late, I'm busy writing, and my internet is slow.

It's okay if you want to cut me off, I understand. If I do comment it usually with a stupid question or an off the wall POV.

I did want you to know that I am sure I am not the only one in the position that they have no other option than to be ANON.


Anonymous said...

By the way, I've never read a single rude comment on this blog, part of the reason I enjoy it so much. Great policing so far, Nathan!

Kate said...

I think it is a tricky question. People should have the courage to admit who they are if they are critising someone else but sometimes people can be more honest if they feel their identity is protected. Unfortunately though some people will always abuse this - sad but true.

Kate x

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You can cut anon if you like. I don't think I've ever posted under anon. I mean, really, what's so sensitive that you can't just spit it out under your own name? And maybe if it is, you should think twice about saying it anyway...

Of course, I'm on a bit of a Be Nice rant this week. I'd send the rude anons back to kindergarten, but it's not fair to the nice kids already there.

Jade Park said...

I think people should sign their names. It's not that hard to go make up an alias on and still have a shade of anonymity (hence my pseudonym, Jade Park and eponymous writing blog)...

And I find that whatever you have to say, you should sign your name to it. Way more accountability.

p.s. it's your blog, you should do what you want. I haven't had big problems with anonymous trolling but if I did, I wouldn't hesitate to put the kabosh on anonymous commenters.

jimnduncan said...

I'm not sure why it's so hard to sign in to post. That's a minor inconvenience at most. While I don't mind anon comments per se, they shouldn't be used to be rude. If one wants to flame something, then own up and stick your name on it. Otherwise don't say anything. If you keep anon comments, which is fine by me, I think you should feel free to delete as you see fit, Nathan. It is after all, your blog.

Firefly said...

Well there sure is consensus on this one! ha ha

When I first created my blog I created a 'google username' (there's those darn single quotes again). I did it because I wasn't sure if I wanted to be outed. So now I have four options when I go to a blog -- my google name, my real name, any other name I decide to make up for purposes of the post, or anonymous. I can live without anonymous. That said, I would not disable it for my own blog -- I think people like the option. I prefer to just delete any truly inappropriate comments.

Melinda Elliott said...

It doesn't really affect me if some anon commenter has a grumpy day. Perhaps they have a beef against the daily topic, who knows? BUT, I know that you can't always stare at your blog with the job of "Comment Approval" (do you hate those quotes?). So, I suppose if you find that a big chunk of your day is screening comments, then I'd ditch the anons. Otherwise, I'd keep 'em and let people comment how they may. I don't find much of anything offensive.

Anonymous said...

I always tought that people who use their names in comments are trying to establish an internet presence which is smart if they want to build a platform.

But some of us just want to comment here and there without too much hassel. If you take away the anonymous option, we won't comment.

Is it worth losing our input because a few bad apples?

Karen Schwabach said...

The anonymous comments function is useful for people who want to ask something about publishing without getting themselves into trouble.

moonduster said...

I allow anonymous commenting on my blogs, but hey are all moderated too. And I "reject" spam comments.

I haven't had any negative comments yet, but I suppose it would depepnd on the comment on what I would do about it.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I think that anonymous commenting is helpful on blogs where the topic is of a sensitive nature--and book publishing doesn't count. I mean, people can always email if they have a sensitive question they don't want posted, but your posts are always about topics where if people are speaking respectfully, they shouldn't be squeamish about having it connected to their name. I think needing to stand behind your words makes people think twice before hitting publish. least I hope it does.

Q said...

I rarely use the anonymous function, but I understand why people would want to. When I do use it, it's to protect my privacy, not to say something sensitive.

I like it when people sign their name or a consistent pseudonym, and wish there was a way for the name/url option to remain available while the anonymous one is removed.

You have the absolute right to determine which comments offend you and which could be offensive to your readers. You are the master of this blog. My opinion on this subject doesn't matter.

Lisa Iriarte said...

If you can't own up to what you're saying, it shouldn't be said. If there's one comment you desperately want to make, but don't want it under your name, make an account with a false name. You might get blocked, but you had your say. If you are having this need often, you might want to rethink your mindset.

Alli said...

Definitely take away the Anonymous option for comments. It's a shame a few spoil it for many, but that's life. If someone wants to write something and it is sensitive and they don't want their real name used, they can always sign up for an account with a different screen name. Sure, they could still leave ridiculous and rude comments, but at least this way they may be traceable and might think before they hit send. Just a thought...

J. L. Bell said...

I prefer people to leave comments under their real names, taking responsibility for what they say. I’m willing to accept consistent pseudonyms, first names, and the like.

But there’s a technical aspect, too. I find it easy to sign on to some blogs, harder to sign on to others, and I can’t figure out why. So I figure other people have the same problems.

We can always add our names manually, of course. But from the blog owner’s point of view, that would require enabling anonymous comments and then deleting any that don’t have some signature attached.

Anonymous said...

Life is full of rude and strange people.

Keep it real.

Rachel Bateman said...

I think we can all have healthy, productive blog conversations under our real names. People will disagree sometimes, and that is okay. It just needs to be done respectfully.

I also think non-anonymous commenting is nice for when people want to respond to something someone else said. It is a lot easier to say refer to "Jane Doe" than "ANON 4:47PM"

Anonymous said...

I don't like the "real name" comments much, because they are invariably stale, "best-foot-forward-because everyone's-watching-me-now" publicitiy attempts. You end up with a sterile experience where people hand out virtual business cards (OK, here's my polite take on the situation, never mind what I really think, now BUY MY STUFF!"

So I'm actually in favor of the other extreme, a blog where anonymity is mandatory, because it's so much more real, as well as entertaining.

that said, I realize that I'm here for the infotainment aspect of it, in contrast to the legions of wannabe authors who think that having their real name out here will iln some way aid them on their "journey to publication." But it gets old reading the same ole same ole.

Also, I think a lot of anons like to post from work machines, where you don't want to log in because it leaves a bigger "footprint," if you will, of non-work related web usage.

kyred said...

Its really sad that a few can ruin everyone's fun, but I think most of the people I have seen on this blog have been polite.

I also sympathize with those who don't have any option except to be Anonymous since that was me just a month ago. And truthfully I like still having the option, because it can be a pain to use the open id if you're in a hurry. So I vote Anon commenting stays open, but I don't really have strong feelings on this either way.

I still have faith in humanity, even if its not very much.

Lora said...

Real names only. Own your opinion.

Anonymous said...

I just read this post and the linked one and, wow, there are real issues here to that need to be considered.

I learned early on that there are predators and, hey, I'm a really sensitive soul. I don't want to do harm. But I also don't want to be on the receiving end of someone with a mean streak either.

Being anonymous has allowed me to feel safe enough to participate and I try really hard to be nice.

A few times, I realized, to my huge embarrassment (yes, even anonymous embarrassment)that what I thought was being fun and funny was taken the wrong way. Man, I apologized. I have tried really hard to be especially polite and continue to try to be polite.

I really appreciate being able to partake of the conversation and being named I might just stay quiet in my shell.

I know. That is my embarrassing truth. I'm shy and sensitive and afraid of meanies.What a whoos I am.

On the other hand, I also was really unhappy about the snarking anons too. It wrecks it for the nice ones and it hurt the conversation.

At best, I can only hope that they cleaned up their act because Nathan is such a great teacher of the polite ethic.And this blog is a great conversation place.

I like the way Nathan runs the blog. I think he is very polite about administrative removal of comments and I think a lot of us have learned a great deal about manners on line here too.

As I said, I would miss my ability to be anon here and might not participate as much.I don't mind IDing myself personally in private rooms, but I worry about the www.
I have had a stalker and I could be googled right here with my name. As an anon, someone would have to know I come here and they wouldn't know which anon I am. I can e-mail people privately that I just was a certain anon.

But utltmately this is Nathan's blog. It's a gift to the writing community and fun and educational too.Whatever Nathan needs to do, I am for.His blog=he rules.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

I don't allow any Anon posting on my blogs. I don't see why you allow it here. You have a billion people rushing to post on this blog as it is.

Anon posters can go troll on

Robena Grant said...

I say remove the anonymous posting.

Think of it this way, if you were a published author doing a TV interview or one for a magazine, newsletter, whatever, and asked to give an opinion on certain subjects, you would think about your response. If you were smart.

You should be doing the same on a blog. These blogs can help a writer to pose a response and own it, proudly, to debate carefully, and professionally, to be open to the other point of view, rather than giving an immediate and off the cuff answer.

If the subject is so sensitive, and your honest response would reflect poorly on you, it's quite simple, don't respond. Just as you wouldn't call a TV interviewer an a** neither should you on a blog. And if you do goof up, as we've all done, you simply apologize, retract your statement and say, "Ya know what, after deliberating this, I agree with you."

Anonymous said...

I like to post anon because I don't want every comment I make indexed by Google.

Maybe you could have a sub-blog for Anons Only where the Real Opinions are spouted, then keep the main blog for the "sterile business-card" types, as the above anon pointed out.

There is some truth to that. It does get old after a while seeing the endless stream of "I agree" gushing forth after some established industry autor or agent posts. Remove the name recognition and see how many still rush to agree...

Robert W. Leonard said...

I agree with closing anonymous postings as well. I don't know how much good it will do, I think people would probably just make up a name and post under that. There is no difference really.

I think in the end you have to accept there are trolls and delete them were appropriate. Or make all your comments have to be approved before they appear.

Anonymous said...

If I can't post anonymously, I don't post at all. It's not that I'm rude and I certainly don't spam. Frankly, it's a privacy issue. Who I am is no one's business unless I choose to make it so. I'm interested in sharing my opinion, not my name, where I live, or anything else about me. The rest of it is irrelevant.

If someone posts anonymously and indulges in ad hominem attacks or other forms of interpersonal bad behavior, delete their posts. Otherwise, respect the fact that some people want to share what they think without having to share any more than that.

Luisa Perkins said...

I would disallow anonymous comments altogether. If people absolutely need to express themselves without using their real names, they can always sign up for a pseudonym-driven blogger account.

Anonymous said...

I go anon because I've perfected my google ranking with my author web presence, and I don't want to clutter it up with random blog posts under my real name, which might even bump my more important reults down, if I posted too much.

When people search my name or books on the web, I want them to find the books, not my take on the inner workings of the industry--not because of what that take is, but because I don't want them distracted from going to the books.

Terri Tiffany said...

I use my real name because I like having people know who I am and what I stand for:) Anyways, I'd delete on a case by case basis.

Kathleen MacIver said...

It's kind of interesting how many people think that the ONLY reason for posting anon is to "hide," when there's quite a few people on here with totally different (and valid) reasons for remaining anon. Some don't have a choice!

Holly Bodger said...

I vote for real name, keeping in mind that anyone can fake that with a Gmail account if they are really that desperate to remain anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think ANON comments are taken as rude even if they aren't meant to be. I know from personal experience I have had mine jumped on when they were intended to be innocent. So maybe you should put a stop to ANON if all of these people assume ANONS have nothing constructive to say anyway.

Personally I can't comment any other way, I'm blocked by the company I work for.

SZ said...

You get so many posts the moderation must be exhausting. And if it switches to fake names, you will still have to moderate those.

When you had the poll on how many writers, published ... it seemed there were words unpleasant from people not anonymous as well.

Seems moderation will always be needed, with or with out the feature.

Tris said...

Very interesting topic Nathan. I'm sitting on the fence on this one so my post is pretty useless =D

Rick and Mira - you guys are hilarious!

Congratz on the BBAW award Nathan!

Anonymous said...

I post anon because it's quick and easy -I have never had the time to find out how to do it otherwise. I totally understand if anon function is turned off. I am an avid reader of this blog and will continue to do so.

HotAussieChick said...

I think it should be Nathan's decision alone as he is the one who has to read the rude comments from rude anons.

Tabitha Maine: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dick Margulis said...

Here is my comments policy (on my own blog, that is), updated 1 March 2009:

"Comments should be signed. If a technical glitch forces you to post as an anonymous user, please include a signature, which may be a fictitious name to protect your privacy. I will hold your comment and release it for posting after I receive an email from you claiming the comment and containing your real name. Otherwise, I reserve the right to discard your comment after twenty-four hours."

I don't get many comments (one or two a month, compare to your hundreds a day). So I don't know whether such an administrative burden would be feasible for you. But if my policy is attractive to you, you may adopt it.

Christine H said...

I don't like "anonymous" because of the way it impedes conversation. You have to start responding to "Anon 12:35" and don't know if "Anon 12:35" is the same as "Anon 12:42" or not.

If someone wants to remain anonymous, they can always give themselves some kind of false identity - "Cat Woman" or whatever.

But at least we would have an idea which comments come from the same source.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the professional writers will not want their real names that they publish under attached to anything not meant for sale.
So by disabling anon, you will lose some posts by established authors not wishing to pollute their google results with informal stuff.

However, as an agent, your target audience also includes aspiring writers, and most of them like to use their real names because they are seeking to get their names out their in any way they can.

So, as another anon pointed out--maybe split the blog into the Formal and Informal, where the pro's will end up going informal so as not to overuse their names with behind-the-scenes topics, and the aspirants can puff their chests in full login dress.

Guess which blog would get more traffic?

Meryl K. Evans said...

Some people work for corporations and don't want to risk their reputations. Some people work as freelancers and don't want to risk their reputations.

You're right that anon comments can be a waste, but some are good honest comments because people feel they can bare their true thoughts without any fear.

It depends on the site and the issues it covers. But even one that doesn't reel in controversy will have posts that can be piping hot.

I watch for the wasteful comments that add nothing and delete them. But of course, it's harder when you have 100 comments per post.

Anonymous said...

I also access this site through a work computer, like some other posters. This employer, we shall call him "the Gestapo" crawls over the logs on our computers. I always post anon on this blog and any other site I access while at work.

If anon was disabled, I would be relegated to lurker.

On the flip side, if the blog is absorbing tons of spam posts then it is the only option.

I don't think we should fear rudeness and inappropriate comments. The bottom line is, if those comments are made, someone really feels that way. How can letting somebody express their honest opinion be bad bad thing?

Anonymous said...

Yep. Anon 3:09 nailed it.

Split the blog. The "Here-I-Am's" vs. the "I'm-only-here-for-informal-discussion's".

Nathan Bransford said...


Let me first say that I remain undecided about the broader question.

But you're evincing the kind of attitude (e.g. suggesting that all or most of the people who post under their own name are puffing out their chest) that I think is influenced by the fact that you're allowed to post anonymously. Would you be carelessly generalizing and have an attitude like that if it could come back on you? I doubt it. That's the kind of tone that I find unfortunate and detrimental to good discussion.

Regan Leigh said...

Christy- "Anon posters can go troll on 4Chan." I thought of that earlier! :)

I wanted to add that I use the Name/URL for commenting. I do this for a couple of reasons. My Google acct is attached to my personal email address that I DON'T want out there. I think I have an old Blogger acct floating around, but my blog is Wordpress so I never use Blogger. I suppose I could use Open ID, but I think that too goes back to my old Wordpress site since my new blog is on my individual home page.

All that to say... I hope you don't lose the Name/URL! :) I don't intend to be anon. It still goes to my site and I use my name.

(Nathan, can you clarify if it is even true that this option would be gone as well?)

Anonymous said...

I always comment under my Blogger ID. But as an act of solidarity, today I'm signed in as Anon. :)

There may be the odd bad apple, but it seems most have a reason for remaining anon.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think we should fear rudeness and inappropriate comments. The bottom line is, if those comments are made, someone really feels that way."

Excellent point. Life isn't a filtered experience. Why create one here? I WANT to see the rants. if all you want is a canned how-do-I-get-published webinar, there are plenty of places to get that.

Nathan Bransford said...

I find it curious that the two "pros" in favor of some sort of pro-only section the have some trouble with apostrophe usage.

Also it's not happening.

jongibbs said...

I allow anonymous comments on my blog. I haven't had any unpleasantness, at least, not since my old gran lost her internet access :)

I do sometimes have technical problems when trying to post a comment on a non-lj blog, so on occasion, I've posted anonymously, though I always give my name.

Marge said...

Definitely have comments by real names. It's all too easy to give hateful, 'in bad taste' comments when one is 'anonymous'. It's high time folks stood behind their comments, pro or con, without hiding behind a shroud of anonymity. If one feels that strongly about an issue, step up to the plate.

Anonymous said...

I'd close Anonymous commenting. People who want to comment but for professional or other reasons don't want to use their real name could simply use the "Name" choice - and they could type in whatever name they chose to use, right?

I allow Anonymous comments on my blog, but I also approve or disapprove them before they post. Which isn't feasible for a blog receiving this many comments.

Nathan Bransford said...


And of course when I make a punctuation joke I have a glaring typo.

Dorine White said...

Whatever I say is my responsibility. I take full credit for it and thus sign my name. If I ever write anything rude, then it my responsibility to apoligize.
Unfortunatly a lot of people don't take responsibility for their actions. I say sign your name.

Anonymous said...

re: 3:09, I don't know, Nathan. It's just an opinion. People can agree or disagree. Why censor?

Do not fear the words, people. Learn to understand what they mean!

Anonymous said...

I comment rarely, but if I do, I do so anonymously. I'd like to say, too, that it's a matter of choice. I'm tech savvy enough to set up a google account, even two or three, and I'm creative enough to come up with a pen name. I've got a few already.

But even a fake persona takes on a life of its own, and I don't want it. This is why I enjoy the anon function. I don't comment on blogs where I can't use this function.

As for guidelines for deleting comments:
1) spam
2) comments that are disrespectful against a person (as in downright insulting)
4) longish rants that veer considerably from the point under discussion
should be deleted. And ignored by everybody else.

Arrrgh, the word verification is weepo. I do hope that's not me.

Dorine White said...

Just read the comment that an agent/editor wrote about contributing to your blog as anonymous. I have to agree that professionals probably want to remain incognito, so I suggest anonymous remain, but with your editorial hand over it.

Anonymous said...

"People who want to comment but for professional or other reasons don't want to use their real name could simply use the "Name" choice - and they could type in whatever name they chose to use, right?"

Good point.


Anonymous said...

Re: Anon 3:09

Nathan, as a relatively consistent commenter, I'll admit that I DO indeed comment to try and get traffic over to my blog or to try and get "noticed" in any way I can. So, "puffing out my chest", while a generalization, is at least accurate in my case, and I honestly think a lot of people here are the same way. That's the business side of this, as I see it.

Nathan Bransford said...


It wasn't so much an opinion as questioning the integrity of the people who are commenting using their real name, which is pretty objectionable. And it's the type of blithe disregard for the people that they're criticizing that is brought out of some people when they post anonymously.

Not all opinions are created equal, especially not when someone is hiding behind a cloak of anonymity to say something objectionable.

Nathan Bransford said...


I'm not so naive to think that everyone who comments here is doing so from the pure goodness of their heart. But I don't think everyone should be lumped into one category.

Mira said...

Tris - thanks. :)

So, I was curious to see what all the options were. I went to my blog and tested it out.

And yes, if anonymous posting is closed, Name/Url is also closed.

The options will be Google or Open ID.

This is a fascinating discussion.

m clement hall said...

I believe strongly that if you have something you wish to say, your name should go with it. The only reason for "anonymous"is to hide the name of the author -- this has resulted in the most appalling abuse on the internet and in the newspapers that permit (encourage?) an exchange of abuse.
To a blog of this kind. I'm sure we're all hoping for intelligent and meaningful input, to justify the time and efforts that Nathan puts into it himself.

B.J. Anderson said...

I figure if you wouldn't say it with your name signed to it, then you probably shouldn't say it.

Maria Schneider said...

Get rid of anonymous comments, it encourages trolls.

Robin said...

Being a Gemini, I see both sides of this quite well. And after skimming the comments have found muself wavering back and forth as each poster has made their case. I don't care for the anonymous cloak myself, but it feels like a minor quibble in the midst of the blogging nation. Most important is the ability to swoop down and eliminate offending and trolling comments that the cowards leave behind.

Francy said...

I'm new to the computer/been writing/raising children/grandchilren and too poor to acquire a notebook. I'm also not a good typist so my five blogs are filled with typos. I have anon comments and real avatars of people joining who are unworthy /but who am I to say that a porn star can't read my shit. Anon is okay and I am finding myself taking the opportunity to writa all over the place/anyone's blog. I'm a real poetry reader and I just want to stay out of the bayou. Francy Stoller

Jil said...

I don't like the Anonymous option because if there's more than one signing that way I don't know if it's the same person or if someone else is chiming in. Anyone's name could be fictional but at least I can keep their comments straight. So I vote get rid of the Anonimousies...

Anonymous said...

Whether we should be or not, don't you think that people here are afraid to disagree with you?

Nathan Bransford said...

I'm sure some people are, but I think it's misguided. Regulars disagree with me when they disagree and agree when they agree.

It's not like I have some blacklist for people who cross me, nor do I want this space to be a place for lockstep agreement.

I don't bite, really.

Grapeshot/Odette said...

What "Next" said. Anonymity has its uses.

Anonymous said...

Have we become a nation of sissies who need to be "moderated" lest someone becomes offended?!

Newsflash: there are differing points of view in this world.

I hardly think generalizing the "chest-puffers" as anon 3:09 did warrants a protective attitude. This is a community of writers, and writers, by the very nature of their profession, will be subject to a heck of a lot more pointed criticism than that.

So I vote for keeping the Anon feature. Any posts that are ridiculously offensive (e.g. contain profanity or racial slurs, or spam, can be deleted, anon or otherwise).

Nathan Bransford said...


Thank you for illustrating the type of comment that will be deleted even if I retain anonymous comments. I'll leave that up there as an example.

gray said...

I would not allow anonymous posting hereafter. People are too enamored of their own words and too many succumb to their baser selves behind the cloak of cyberspace.

Nathan Bransford said...

And to further clarify, even if a comment isn't vulgar or attacking anyone in particular per se, I think there's a mean-spirited tone (e.g. anon@4:00) to some anonymous comments that just isn't really conducive to a discussion. Reducing people's good faith opinions to being indicative of a "nation of sissies" really isn't helping anything.

I think I'm basically arriving at the opinion that I'm going to leave anonymous commenting for now for the very good reasons that others have mentioned (professionals, work computer issues, laziness). But I'm going to be holding anonymous commenters to a higher standard that I hold people who post using their own name or a handle. If I feel like they're using it to espouse an attitude or attack that I don't think they'd have if they had to sign their name I'm going to delete. And I reserve the right to change my mind.

This has been a really interesting discussion, and thanks so much to everyone for weighing in.

Anonymous said...

I have strong feelings about this.
I once wrote an impulsive, anonymous, narrative rant on a public site. It made its way around the blogosphere ultimately resulting in a reporter requesting an interview. Said reporter (aka Satan) claimed that the 'story' was in my humor and the resulting web resonance; however, his article took comments out of context and portrayed me as someone I am not. (For the most part.) The AP picked it up and before I knew it, I was contacted from international media. (Thankfully, about ten minutes later, I was yesterday's news.)
In the meantime, hundreds of people posted comments about what an asshole I was. Now when my name is googled, there are pages and pages of venom. I am (or- I was) by no means, a public figure. Now, I have to be very careful about what I say 'publically’. Meaning, I don't say anything publically anymore.
My feeling is this: keep anonymous posting, but delete anyone who attacks one's personhood (as opposed to one's ideas.) Otherwise, I’m back to lurking.
Oh yeah, and I personally don't think anon 4:00 was out of line ...for whatever it's worth.

Rogue Novelist said...

I apologize for all the anon irresponsible comments on your blog. If commenter's choose anonymity over identity then stupidity reigns. A knight's shield must fall if he's to romance a prospective lover. Restrict anons.

Anonymous said...

In defense of anon 3:09, several people here are generalizing about anonymous commentors, and they are not getting picked on the way he/she is for generalizing about the blog visitors.

Lucinda said...

Hypothesis: If the anon feature was removed from Nathan’s blog, then everyone would be more responsible for their words.

Argument: First, it is virtually impossible to force anyone in cyberspace to use real, legal names. Rarely do I use my real name for safety reasons. There are just too many gremlins lurking around in cyberspace. But, I do choose a name and stick with it throughout any blog or forum I choose to participate.

Second, human beings need familiarity. When we choose a name, we should own up to our words by growing, learning, and even in bantering over controversial topics, control what we say. It is the adult thing to do. Being honest is not synonymous with being rude. When I come here and only lurk, I like to connect the names to the comments. It feels like getting to know someone.

Third, if the only way a blogger can respond is by using a company computer on company time, maybe they should reconsider personal work ethics. If work allows such usage, but the person wishes to remain untraceable, then pseudo-names can be used, but consistently. This also makes is easier to respond to responses within the blog instead of the anon @ (time). Names are sweet to the ears and the eyes; people like hearing their own names.

Conclusion: Yes, remove the anon option. All message forums I participate in require registration and no anonymous responses are permitted. It does keep it tidy and clean. But, this is never fail-safe because there will always be one who will use a fictitious name, plant a bomb, and then run and hide (but not too far away, they will lurk to watch the results).

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:00

LOL omg

J.J. Bennett said...


I really think that should be all up to you. I personally don't feel one way or the other. Maybe it's because I always sign in? I don't know? It does give people a way to post who don't take the time to create an account. People are always going to say rude things when they feel jaded. It's human nature... I'd just let it all slide off my back personally. Either way I'm cool with it. You choose. I'll support whatever the outcome.

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