Thursday, January 24, 2013

Disqus Data Refutes Harry Maryles, Yaakov Menken and others who diss anonymity

Well, it looks like my intuition was correct: According to Disqus, the massive commenting system, people using pseudonyms leave the best comments:
The service gives each user the option of commenting with a Disqus account, a social media identity or anonymously. It says 61 percent of commenters use pseudonyms, 35 percent choose to be anonymous and 4 percent use their “real identity” verified by Facebook. It also says those with pseudonyms post the best comments, while anonymous comments are lower quality. One theory: People don’t mind being accountable online, but they don’t want it to blow back on their work or personal lives by using a real identity. A pseudonym protects them while providing a measure of accountability.
To summarize their methodology: Disqus knows if the person leaving the comment is using a real name or using a pseudonym  Disqus also keeps track of "positive" signals such as "likes" and "replies" as well as "negative" signals such as flags for spam or deletes by a moderator. As a result, its a simple thing to determine which type of comments receive which types of signals.

According to the data, pseudonyms receive the best feedback --suggesting that the people behind them are adding the most value to comment threads.

So let's retire the claim that people are ruder and more disruptive when they don't use their real names. Or, let's at least admit that rudeness does not necessarily damage the overall quality of a thread, as rudeness and passion often go together. If nothing else the data shows that, in general, whatever those of  us who are using pseudonyms are doing is, in fact, making comment threads better for most people.

Feel free to link to this post as a rejoinder whenever you come across someone claiming anonymity hurts commenting.

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