Kathy Sierra, Digg, Comments Policy

March 27, 2007

Kind of sad situation going on, which I’m just catching up on now, but blogger Kathy Sierra has encountered negative comments directed towards her on various sites, leading her to cancel speaking engagements and perhaps give up on blogging. Several notable bloggers may be behind the comments, lending an additional air of distaste.

A big part of the problem is the perceived anonymity that comes with the Internet. Many blogs allow anonymous posts and comments. I used to spend a fair amount of time in the Craigslist and Usenet forums and inevitably, the base comments would be from anonymous users.

Check out some posts by other bloggers regarding this situation: Engtech, One By One Media, Doc Searls, Robert Scoble, Mathew Ingram, and the TechMeme cloud.

Some thoughts on the matter:

  1. It’s simply unrealistic to expect humans to behave like saints. There are uncomfortable situations and evil minded people in real life, and unfortunately they’ll appear on the Internet.
  2. The net can seem impersonal, but on the other side of the screens are real people. What might seem like fun and games to one person can easily be blatantly offensive to another.
  3. Perceived anonymity may also arise when a community gets so large that it’s difficult or impossible to police with human moderators.
  4. Anybody who posts blatantly offensive or slanderous material should understand that everything done on the net can be tracked through IP addresses or other means. It doesn’t take long to track stuff down with every blog being indexed by Google and so many sites having basic search features.
  5. Lastly, building a reputation online means everything you’ve ever written and posted, including comments on other blogs and social websites, can easily come back to haunt you. The anonymity is an illusion.
  6. There are huge benefits to creating and maintating an online reputation, but there is accountability. We’re actually participating in a “Big Brother” atmosphere. And if this bugs you, take it off-line.

Lastly, I’m curious about technical solutions. What are some of the most common plug-ins for WordPress to disallow anonymous comments and require email confirmation? What could be done on digg?

And as a final thought, what can we do as bloggers to raise the level of conversation for the community as a whole?


  1. Craigslist is a huge site and always something new happening.