Vincent Heeringa – Publisher, Idealog

“I have mixed feelings about anonymous comments. On the one hand, the traditional approach with publishing a letter in a magazine or a newspaper is to acquire the identity. Even if you published it anonymously, you needed to know that it was a genuine letter. I suppose what’s happened is that we’ve learned to live with anonymous comments. It’s amazing how the community vets its own commentary. Anonymity gives a certain confidence to people to engage in a debate that perhaps they can’t have. In one case, for instance, the company accountant, under an anonymous nom de plum, was able to reveal a whole lot of information about a company that went bust that we were writing about, that probably he would never have done.

Often you’ll get a troll that will really abuse the opportunity. We’ve had it where 30 of the comments we discovered were all coming – really fast, every five minutes – and you congratulate yourself on having a great debate. In fact, it was all from pretty much the same domain and gave us a clue that this person was a real troll. That’s rare though to be honest. People want to talk and they talk around the water cooler, now they’re just talking on a forum. It’s kind of humbling as a publisher. You’ve got to stop and say, “Ok, why would you want the debate to stop. Why wouldn’t you nurture it? We can’t have defamatory stuff, but why wouldn’t we let people talk about the stories that we’re putting up there?”



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