POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

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Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

YES - I think forum members should be required to identify themselves by providing either their NSS number or their first and last name (for non-NSS members) in order to post. All forum members should be able to read anonymously
20
42%
NO - I think posters should not be required to identify themselves in order to post. All forum members should be able to both read and post anonymously
28
58%
 
Total votes : 48

POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby NZcaver » Apr 27, 2009 1:56 pm

(And yes, you can answer this poll anonymously!) :wink:

Whether you are a regular poster, occasional poster or somebody who lurks in the background, please take a moment to cast your vote. Non-posting lurkers wanted - your opinions matter too!

This issue was just brought up again recently, and I'm curious to know how our current forum community members feel about it. Please be honest. This poll is unofficial and any results are intended to be informational only. It is not public - you need to be signed in to see it.

Here are a few optional discussion points. In your opinion, does being able to join the forum and post anonymously (or semi-anonymously) significantly encourage unacceptable behavior such as baiting, trolling, personal attacks, and other violations of our Terms of Service? Hypothetically, do you think introducing a requirement to provide each poster's real name and other details would be a positive force to encourage more NSS members to actively participate in the forum? Or do you feel it may have the opposite effect by discouraging more people from joining and participating, and/or by stifling some of the lively debate which goes on?

When judging the value of a person's opinion or comments on the forum, do you give more credence to his/her online record and personality, or to who the person is in the real-world and what his/her credentials are? How important to you is a person's online and real-world identities, versus the content and tone of their posts? Do you consider it disingenuous for anybody to post here without using their real name? Are you concerned that if positive identity measures were introduced, this may alienate some of our active and respected forum members who choose not to share their personal information?

Feel free to comment if you wish. Thanks!
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 2:01 pm

I think the word "compelled" has a very negative connotation that could bias the poll results. How about changing it to "required"?

And the wording of the NO option also seems to me to have a slightly suggestive tone, especially in light of the strong language of the YES option.

A less-biased alternative might be:

YES - I think forum members should be required to identify themselves by providing either their NSS number or their first and last name (for non-NSS members) in order to post. All forum members should be able to read anonymously.

NO - I think posters should not be required to identify themselves in order to post. All forum members should be able to both read and post anonymously.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby NZcaver » Apr 27, 2009 2:12 pm

Bill,

An excellent suggestion, thank you. I agree my poor choice of words could have biased the results, and that would not have served any useful purpose. I have changed the poll to reflect your recommendations.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Wayne Harrison » Apr 27, 2009 2:53 pm

The other question that goes with your question, NZ, is WHO is going to police the names, numbers given? If you require names on the forum, who will check to see if the name is legit? Is someone going to look up NSS numbers for every post to see if they match the name given? What if someone uses someone else's name/number? We looked at this before and decided against it.

I can see requiring names and NSS numbers opening up a whole new can of worms. I don't know of any Internet forums that require real names to post (I'm sure there are some). It's a bad idea, IMO.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby graveleye » Apr 27, 2009 3:00 pm

we can probably get the DHS to do background checks on new members.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby NZcaver » Apr 27, 2009 3:28 pm

Hi Wayne - long time no hear. Welcome back! :bow:

Wayne Harrison wrote:The other question that goes with your question, NZ, is WHO is going to police the names, numbers given?

Why you are, of course! :tonguecheek: You can be the new "Identity Czar." Thanks for volunteering. :clap:

Yes indeed, the potential for enforcement challenges did not escape my attention. Even if this hypothetical change was predominantly honesty-based, checking IDs and trying to force compliance would still undoubtedly add a huge workload to the forum staff. However right now I'd like to side-step those concerns and simply learn how the "average member" (if there is such a thing) feels about the fundamentals of anonymity here on the forum.

graveleye wrote:we can probably get the DHS to do background checks on new members.

...and then cross-match people's poor forum behavior and subversive posts to their files in the national database. :kidding:
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 4:54 pm

I'm sure that without much trouble we could set something up that would be similar to the NSS number and zip code check used to access to the business section of the NSS web site.

And don't tell me that's no good because it could be spoofed - I know that. Any system we could set up here can be spoofed, but that's a red herring, since the present set-up has no validation whatsoever and anyone can pretend to be someone else any time. It doesn't have to be foolproof - cavers do have some honor and a sense of fair play, and we can trust members to behave appropriately. Some will not, but abuses will eventually be discovered and handled as they occur, just as they are now.

Also, after an initial flurry of activity as current members re-register to post, the demand on a verification system will drop to the order of the steady-state new member activity level.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 5:04 pm

NZcaver wrote:Yes indeed, the potential for enforcement challenges did not escape my attention. Even if this hypothetical change was predominantly honesty-based, checking IDs and trying to force compliance would still undoubtedly add a huge workload to the forum staff.


I think you guys are worrying way to much about a non-issue. We don't try to act as the speleo-police now - what makes you feel that we have to if we require people to identify? Trust people to do the right thing. When problems come up, deal with them. If something gets out of hand, clamp down just enough to address the problem, and then go back to normal. That's what the moderators do now.

The existence of rules does not mandate heavy-handed enforcement or the existence of some galactic overlord repressing the people. Given the opportunity, most folks will do the right thing and behave reasonably.

The problem as I see it, is that the present system offers no real disincentive for bad behavior, and that discourages participation by third parties. Requiring at least some minimal form of identification will discourage misbehavior and make the forums more polite, comfortable, and useful for everyone.
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The jackal can roar,
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 27, 2009 5:44 pm

LOL

What color is the sky in your world Bill? :big grin:

In virtually the same breath you say to trust people to do the right thing (which I agree with) but as a supporting argument for how easy a mandated validated ID system would be? (which I don't agree with) In fact, your description of how to handle violations is EXACTLY what already happens (as you stated) and thus you seem to have made the case against your position quite well.

I'd say there is plenty of disincentive for blatant abuse as evidenced by the virtual lack of it here. If you think having their names listed will keep people from flaming others when they make controversial comments or claims they disagree with...your simply wrong. That might work for politicians who don't have beliefs only poll trends, but we are mostly plain ole' cavers. If you suck on rope we'll gladly tell you. Blatant personal attacks which you are seeking to prevent...are already rarer here than WNS survivors in NY.

I don't know what kind of sensitive, conflict averse third parties your trying to woo over to CaveChat, but I've never seen any discussion venue anywhere, real or virtual, that was honest, effective, AND polite and comfortable for everyone all the time. In the marketplace of ideas....Sometimes your the windshield, sometimes your the bug.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Rick Brinkman » Apr 27, 2009 7:19 pm

What if I don't HAVE an NSS #???? Would I not be allowed to post? This board has ALWAYS allowed newcomers, NSS member or not, just as it should.

Don't know what started this line of questioning, but leave it as is. Don't like what someone posts?....don't read or respond to it. :bananawhip:
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Wayne Harrison » Apr 27, 2009 7:34 pm

Bill Putnam wrote:The problem as I see it, is that the present system offers no real disincentive for bad behavior, and that discourages participation by third parties. Requiring at least some minimal form of identification will discourage misbehavior and make the forums more polite, comfortable, and useful for everyone.


I also have to disagree with you on these points, Bill. The present system does offer disincentive for bad behavior (violation of the Terms of Service)... up to and including banning the person form the forum. This has been rarely done that I'm aware of and it is usually someone who is not a caver spamming the forum. Suspensions of increasing lengths work quite well -- also rarely needed.

If anyone can register -- including non-NSS members, so how does that discourage third parties from participating? (or perhaps I misunderstood your point).

Isn't Cavechat polite, comfortable and useful now? I don't believe in the entire history of the NSS forum that real names and NSS numbers have been required to participate.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. :cavechat:
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 7:47 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:LOL

What color is the sky in your world Bill? :big grin:

In virtually the same breath you say to trust people to do the right thing (which I agree with) but as a supporting argument for how easy a mandated validated ID system would be? (which I don't agree with) In fact, your description of how to handle violations is EXACTLY what already happens (as you stated) and thus you seem to have made the case against your position quite well.

Todd,

Let me preface these remarks with the disclaimer that I do not intend to attack you personally, and that I am not disparaging you or dismissing your comments. On the contrary, I tend to take them too seriously - more seriously, I suspect, than you actually intend for me to. And I do respect your thinking and your skill as a writer and speaker. So I hope you are not offended by the following.

I have no hope or expectation whatsoever that I would ever be able to convince you of anything. If you don't see the differences in the arguments and situations above, and choose to oversimplify them and make facile comparisons and equivalences, you are clearly not trying to understand my point of view and are simply not interested.

I have read enough of your posts to understand that you enjoy the contention and conflict here. You seem to thrive on it. I feel that you have a vested interest in keeping things just as they are. I suspect that you can't imagine things any other way - or perhaps you can, but would be bored by the lack of conflict and drama. This is all just entertainment to you - like watching television.

You are quite skilled at belittling and demeaning your opponents and their arguments within the bounds of forum etiquette - more so than I am. You clearly enjoy it, and work hard at it. Unfortunately, you seem more interested in tearing things down than in building anything. I wish you would put your obvious rhetorical talents to more constructive use. The net is home to many, many very smart, very talented, very literate people like you, who regard it and the rest of us as vastly amusing playthings.

Frankly, I wonder whether anyone has ever convinced you of the validity of any point of view different from your own. I certainly will not try to do so. I have at least learned that lesson very well.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 7:55 pm

Rick Brinkman wrote:What if I don't HAVE an NSS #???? Would I not be allowed to post? This board has ALWAYS allowed newcomers, NSS member or not, just as it should.


You didn't ready the posts carefully enough, Rick. Members could provide their NSS numbers, and non-members could provide their names. Either would be sufficient to obtain posting privileges. You would not have to be a member to post - you would just have to identify yourself. You could still read anonymously.

And remember, this is the NSS forum - sponsored and operated by the NSS, not the US Cavers Forum or the North American Cavers Forum or the Worldwide Cavers Forum operated by the caving community at large. There are other venues not hosted and supported by the NSS that will always be available for anonymous interaction for those who prefer that.

My point is this - I would like to have at least one place for NSS members where people know who they're talking to. I don't want them all to be like that. You guys, on the other hand, seem to be insisting that all forums must be run your way.

Who is actually being intolerant here?
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The jackal can roar,
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 8:10 pm

Wayne Harrison wrote:The present system does offer disincentive for bad behavior (violation of the Terms of Service)... up to and including banning the person form the forum. This has been rarely done that I'm aware of and it is usually someone who is not a caver spamming the forum. Suspensions of increasing lengths work quite well -- also rarely needed.

If anyone can register -- including non-NSS members, so how does that discourage third parties from participating? (or perhaps I misunderstood your point).

Isn't Cavechat polite, comfortable and useful now? I don't believe in the entire history of the NSS forum that real names and NSS numbers have been required to participate.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. :cavechat:


I am contending that it is broken. The evidence is before you - click the members link and sort by number of posts. Note the large number of members and the relatively tiny group who account for almost all of the posts. Note that of 12,000 NSS members only a small fraction are members, and an almost insignificant number are active contributors.

Why is the NSS sponsoring and hosting a forum that its members do not use?

Or looking at it another way, why do most NSS members not make use of a facility provided for them by the Society?

And don't try to tell me that it is because they don't have time. People make time for things that are useful and enjoyable.

It is my contention that Cavechat is neither useful nor enjoyable to the vast majority of NSS members. Some among those of you who are defending the status quo are part of the reason for that.

Look at the treatment I have received here over the last two weeks. Do you really believe that I am such a stupid and terrible person that everything that has been said to and about me was true and well deserved? Can you explain why I have been pilloried when other BOG candidates have gotten essentially a free pass on all the issues and debate by covering up and keeping quiet? How about the fact that the BOG has been stonewalling us all and promising a letter and a response that still hasn't come, and you guys have forgotten all about it in your zeal to crucify Phil over the IP address gaffe. How about the way Lee was treated regarding the Kentucky office proposal before this election brouhaha ever started - that was just as outrageous.

I could go on and on but I don't want to be whining. I am saying that some of you guys are vicious to new people and outsiders in devious and sophisticated ways that escape consequences because you're good at it and the moderators are so reluctant to crack down on anyone.

That's what keeps people away. That's what keeps the forum from being useful and enjoyable to many people. And you make fun of them because they do not like to wallow in the mud with you.

The thing about wrestling in the mud with a pig is that you have to remember that the pig enjoys it.
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The jackal can roar,
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The lion is not fooled.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 8:19 pm

A few of you were indeed complaining recently that BOG members and candidates don't participate in the forum. Lee and I have told you why. I am still here participating because I care about the forum and the Society and what I would like to see them become. Lee has chosen to withdraw, for the most part. Frankly, I suspect he has made the wiser choice. Other BOG members and candidates have either minimized their appearances here or avoided them entirely.

You guys are blaming that entirely on them. But that is not correct.

You are also to blame. In fact, you are probably more at fault than they are. One cannot really blame them for withdrawing in the face of unpleasantness. Your behavior and your treatment of them (and me, and others here) is a major factor in the reasons they do not participate.

Don't take my word for it - look at Lee's posts, and those of others before him. Email or call them and ask them.

I do not believe that you will do that. I believe you already know the answers.
Bill Putnam, NSS 21117 RL/FE
Chairman and Chief Troublemaker
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The jackal can roar,
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The lion is not fooled.
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