It appears I have my very own troll, how sweet, who has worked him/herself up into a lather about comments I made about Bode Miller yesterday. I deleted 3 of the comments last night because they were not really comments but rather long strings of profanity. Now I can admire the ornamental use of profanity as much as anyone, in fact I consider it an art form that I am still building proficiency in after many many years of dedication to the craft, but there is a difference between peppering your posts/comments with profanity and them existing entirely as profanity, which is neither interesting, humorous, or insightful.
The more serious thought about this that I had is on the nature of anonymity on the web. We, as an industry, have spent a lot of energy combating spam of all flavors, including automated and man-made spam. It is largely working, I don’t get much comment spam coming through, certainly a far cry from the days when I had literally thousands of comment spam messages to weed out.
The bigger issue now has to do with civility as opposed to outright spam. One of the interesting results of requiring real first/last name for registration and online id’s in forums is that the nature of the debate becomes more rational and less emotional. When people are trading on their real names they tend to be more thoughtful about what they write.
The downside to a pseudonymless system is that anonymity can actually be a useful stimulus for engaging in online conversation. Some people aren’t comfortable exposing themselves by name, others may have concerns about posting something concerning their employer, or for any number of other reasons, all of which are valid. The only real problem with pseudonyms is when they are used, as my troll is, to make the “drive by” comment, which is drop in and pepper spray a bunch of profanity and then go away.
When I faced the issue of how to moderate comments on SAP’s internal blog network I had to balance the need for identity with the desire to stimulate conversation. So what I decided to do is basically what I am doing on my public blog, enable anyone to comment without moderation and to not require registrations. What this means is that anyone on our internal blogs can post a comment as anonymous and it will be posted immediately. Over time I would like to introduce a registration system, ideally it would be integrated with our single-signon system, but it’s not my intention to do that until there is a significant amount of online conversation going on in the blogs.
At the TiE event last night Charlene Li said, and I am paraphrasing, that identity in web 2.0 was one of the more significant technologies to develop. When we invested in Ping Identity we did it on the belief that identity has to be federated and that consumer grade technologies would permeate the enterprise. In retrospect, perhaps we were being too limiting by thinking about the big silo’ed applications instead of thinking about identity in the context of social applications.
As for my troll, I am keeping him.