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A New Approach to Comment Chaos: Make Them Identify Themselves and Pay a Toll

The Sun Chronicle would love for you to read their web site. You can also pick up it’s paper in and around Attleboro, Massachusetts - but if you aren’t a local and you want to read their content, you’ll have to go to their web site. While reading a newspaper is somewhat of an isolated experience, reading an online newspaper can be incredibly interactive allowing you to comment on local politics, national issues, and all sorts of fun stuff. The Sun Chronicle would love for you to comment on its offerings, too. And if you’d like to, that will cost you 99 cents, please – oh, and those cute little pseudonyms that you hide behind? Yeah, forget about that. On July 4th, the Sun Chronicle posted its new policy for the ability to comment on its site, participate in discussions and discourse, and spout one’s opinions in general. You can read the full policy located here, but you can see a bit of what they're going for in the following snippet:
…all posters will be required to register their name, address, phone number and a legitimate credit card number. The credit card will be charged a one-time fee of 99 cents to activate the account. The poster's name as it appears on the credit card will automatically be attached to the poster's comments, as will the name of the community in which they live. Registrants will also be required to acknowledge they understand that under existing state and federal laws they are legally responsible for any comments they post. Registration under the new policy will begin at noon Wednesday.
It’s no secret that commenting and forums on the Internet still operate a bit like the wild west with Moderators racing around like Wyatt Earp to maintain some semblance of control, with a plethora of anonymous folks who seem to develop the inability to put a break on their expounding when a keyboard and a cutesy name is hides who they really are. Lest you think that this approach of stripping anonymity from Commentators is the province of a small local paper, the company Blizzard Entertainment (who runs this little game you may have heard of, World of Warcraft) caused a firestorm of attacks and criticism the same week when it announced its intention to identify all forum posters with their real identities and not anonymous pseudonyms or character names.
"Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven't been connected before," the post continued.
As Facebook gets everyone used to being “open” about everything they write (though, as Failbook proves, identification with your “real self” doesn’t necessarily translate into less stupidity), is this the next wave of internet communities? Would you pay to post or comment on a blog, or would you pass it by? Would you comment on blogs or forums if they required you to take ownership of your words? How about your own sites – would you charge your visitors or require them to identify themselves in the hopes that comments and discussions would be calmer, and spammers would be stopped at the gate? And if you forget who’s lurking out there, visit this slideshow entitled “It Takes a Village Idiot: The Jerks of Online Forums” from PCWorld. It’s at least good for a chuckle.


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