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

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

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 8:26 pm

Oh, and one last thing - how will your poll analysis account for the effect of non-participation by people who do not frequent Cavechat because they do not like the way it is run? Won't they be underrepresented? Of course they will.

And how will you reconcile the results, whatever they are, with the results of the older poll that Scott pointed out?

Have you never heard the stories about early political polls conducted by telephone, in which the results were horribly skewed because the posters did not account for the fact that many people who shared strong similarities of opinion tended to either have or not have telephones, or be home during the day to answer them.

The poll has a hidden assumption that will inevitably bias the results - that respondents (who are of necessity Cavechat members) are representative of the community as a whole. That assumption is patently false. When respondents are self-selected, as in this forum, that is almost never the case. That's why real polls use random sampling.

This entire discussion is pointless. You guys have exactly what you want, and you're not going to change it no matter what some "outsider" says - even if the outsiders outnumber you and pay the bills. They don't care enough to get involved, and you don't care about the fact that they're not getting involved. No problem! Everybody's happy, right? - or are they?

It reminds me of the old saying that people get exactly the government that they deserve.

We each create our own version of Hell.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 27, 2009 8:31 pm

Bill,

I do tend to let my sarcasm get the better of me and for that I apologize if I offended. I will try to make my responses more considered. I also have no qualms about arguing for or against a given topic but I can and do change my opinions based on supported evidence. Thats why I usually don't argue with EK. :big grin:

This topic asks the simple question of whether anonymous posters are bad for the forum. firstly it is an opinion poll which anyone can have without any need for justification so vote your heart. But in arguing for a name/NSS number ID system the first question I have is where is the problem? The second is would this proposal solve that problem if it existed?

I suspect this poll itself will go a long way towards defining the perceived scope of the problem. Then we can discuss whether a solution is needed or not and what that solution should be.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 27, 2009 8:34 pm

wyandottecaver wrote:I do tend to let my sarcasm get the better of me and for that I apologize if I offended.


Hey, I'm not offended. I'm just tired of arguing. You win.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 27, 2009 9:02 pm

As for reconciling the two polls they ask two different questions. I think most people would still participate in the DB if they had to use real names even if they preferred not to. I would. This poll asks if the policy of not using real names/NSS # is bad for the forum. They are not mutually exclusive.

I also agree with you that those BOG and officer members who don't comment here are spared a critique of their positions because at least in terms of Cavechat they don't have any. Gordon may be the one exception who has received flak for NOT posting. The fact remains that this is a voluntary venue and if people choose not to participate then :shrug:

You imply that the ratio of NSS Members to CaveChat Members and of CaveChat Members to active members implies something is broken. I also agree. But I think it is the same broken that results in 10-12% of members voting, even fewer contributing to the NEWS, the frequent plea for people to run for positions, and the number of folks actually reading the Business Pages. Like lots of organizations everywhere there are a few very active, interested folks and a lot of people who pay their dues, browse the NEWS and ignore everything else.

I will also agree that people sometimes receive a negative response to posts and that may well deter some or many from more active participation. That simply can't be avoided if you want to have a discussion board where things are discussed among people of varying viewpoints. I have seen DB's where the moderators took a much firmer stance regarding what constituted an "attack". They generally are much more polite and have very little discussion.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Wayne Harrison » Apr 28, 2009 8:18 am

Bill Putnam wrote: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.


I've found the ratio of posters to members who don't post is about normal for most of the forums I've managed or participated in. Look at the same ratio on the other caving Web sites you mentioned. You'll find it mirrors the ratio here. The majority of people lurk and don't post on forums. It doesn't mean they're not interested in reading the posts. They are, in fact, a lot like you, as you wrote:

I do not generally participate actively or regularly in these communities - I read and think about the material, and talk about it with friends, and post an occasional announcement or comment, but I do not often engage in a dialog in the online communities. I tend to be, for the most part, one of the "lurkers", watching from a distance, and emerging only infrequently to participate briefly before retiring to the shadows.


Look at the ratio of NSS members who vote in BOG elections or who attend conventions or who volunteer for NSS positions. I wouldn't single out Cavechat as being "broke" just because you chose to focus on it and ignore the rest.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 28, 2009 8:41 am

Wayne Harrison wrote:I've found the ratio of posters to members who don't post is about normal for most of the forums I've managed or participated in. [...] The majority of people lurk and don't post on forums. It doesn't mean they're not interested in reading the posts.


But how do you explain the fact that such a tiny percentage of NSS members even read Cavechat, moch less post here? I'm suggesting that they do not find it interesting enough or useful enough to be worth the time it would take to read or participate. I mean, most NSS members do not even read the NSS news and announcements sections. Don't you percieve that as a problem, or at least a situation to be considered and addressed?

Look at the ratio of NSS members who vote in BOG elections or who attend conventions or who volunteer for NSS positions. I wouldn't single out Cavechat as being "broke" just because you chose to focus on it and ignore the rest.


My point is that the whole Society is broken, at least in that regard. Low participation levels can have many causes. It is my belief that the low level of participation and declining membership that the NSS has been experiencing are symptoms of broken leadership. That is one of the reasons I got into this election saga.

Low participation in Cavechat is also symptomatic of a problem - readers do not feel it is worth their time to post, and most NSS members do not feel it is worth their time to even read. The problem I am pointing to is not illustrated by the ratio of posters to lurkers, it's demonstrated by the ratio of Cavechat members to NSS members, and the ratio of Cavechat posters to NSS members.

We can all come up with rationalizations for doing nothing - for maintaining the status quo. That's easy. It's comfortable. It's familiar. It doesn't require us to do more work or wrestle with difficult issues or confront difficult choices. It's also stagnant, and ultimately self-defeating.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 28, 2009 8:54 am

wyandottecaver wrote:I also agree with you that those BOG and officer members who don't comment here are spared a critique of their positions because at least in terms of Cavechat they don't have any. Gordon may be the one exception who has received flak for NOT posting. The fact remains that this is a voluntary venue and if people choose not to participate then :shrug:


OK, then - you seem to be saying that it's appropriate to bash those who post here and forget about those who don't. So our leaders who post here know they will get raked over the coals, and our leaders who don't know that they will escape scrutiny.

Now suppose I'm an NSS officer or BOG member considering posting an announcement or comment or response on Cavechat: let's see - post and get eaten alive, or don't post and walk away unscathed... "Tough choice, Howie, but I think I'll go with number 2, there."

Civility promotes positive interaction. Societies with reasonable rules, manners, and civility prosper. Societies that abandon these fundamentals decline and decay into anarchy and collapse.

You imply that the ratio of NSS Members to CaveChat Members and of CaveChat Members to active members implies something is broken. I also agree. But I think it is the same broken that results in 10-12% of members voting, even fewer contributing to the NEWS, the frequent plea for people to run for positions, and the number of folks actually reading the Business Pages. Like lots of organizations everywhere there are a few very active, interested folks and a lot of people who pay their dues, browse the NEWS and ignore everything else.


And you feel this is a good thing? Desirable? What? I see it as a problem. Noting that it is a common one in organizations does nothing to address it. An analogy: most dogs have fleas, but my dog does not, and I don't want him to. I work to keep it that way.

I will also agree that people sometimes receive a negative response to posts and that may well deter some or many from more active participation. That simply can't be avoided if you want to have a discussion board where things are discussed among people of varying viewpoints. I have seen DB's where the moderators took a much firmer stance regarding what constituted an "attack". They generally are much more polite and have very little discussion.


I don't object to negative responses - they're part of life. I object to anonymous negative responses, particularly when they are persistently negative and critical, as opposed to constructive. Even a broken clock is right once in a while, but if it posted on Cavechat you'd never know it. Posting on Cavechat is like swimming with sharks. I'd rather be swimming with dolphins. You guys are saying it would be the same as swimming with manatees. It's all about nuance and distinction. Not every problem is a nail, and not every nail requires the big hammer. On Cavechat, everything and everyone gets whacked with the big hammer.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby caverdan » Apr 28, 2009 9:39 am

All I have to say is......Thank you Bill for answering all my questions with honest and thoughtful answers. :cave softly:
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Wayne Harrison » Apr 28, 2009 10:34 am

Bill Putnam wrote:
You imply that the ratio of NSS Members to CaveChat Members and of CaveChat Members to active members implies something is broken. I also agree. But I think it is the same broken that results in 10-12% of members voting, even fewer contributing to the NEWS, the frequent plea for people to run for positions, and the number of folks actually reading the Business Pages. Like lots of organizations everywhere there are a few very active, interested folks and a lot of people who pay their dues, browse the NEWS and ignore everything else.


And you feel this is a good thing? Desirable? What? I see it as a problem. Noting that it is a common one in organizations does nothing to address it.


Low participation in Cavechat is also symptomatic of a problem - readers do not feel it is worth their time to post, and most NSS members do not feel it is worth their time to even read.


Do you have some inner knowledge of how many cavers lurk on the site -- who visit but don''t post? You're stating something as fact that you'd have no way of knowing.

It's the $64 million dollar question for most organizations and Web forums. If you come up with an successful strategy to up that ratio, you'll be a millionaire. One way to find out why people don't participate is to poll them, but I bet you'd find most members wouldn't bother responding to the poll. So where does that leave us? There's no evidence that changing the forum to require real names would increase participation. Some cavers are well known by their monikers and are proud of them. They don't hide behind them to jump on other posters. I say let them be.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 28, 2009 12:50 pm

Wayne Harrison wrote:
Low participation in Cavechat is also symptomatic of a problem - readers do not feel it is worth their time to post, and most NSS members do not feel it is worth their time to even read.


Do you have some inner knowledge of how many cavers lurk on the site -- who visit but don''t post? You're stating something as fact that you'd have no way of knowing.
I beg your pardon, Wayne. I presumed that readers could distinguish fact from opinion on their own.
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For those who are unable to distinguish without written disclaimers, my statement above is only an opinion, not an actual fact, and should be regarded as such. Statements of personal belief not supported by facts are called "opinions." This particular statement is my opinion. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my personal opinion, and may or may not be shared or accepted by anyone else. It is based upon my own personal observations and discussions with a select and non-representative sample of NSS members and Cavechat members, and is not presumed or warranted to be representative of all NSS members or Cavechat members.The opinions expressed in this and other posts here and elsewhere are subject to the terms of this disclaimer. Your mileage may vary. Batteries not included. Tax deductible only to the extent allowed by IRS rules and applicable US and state law. Consult your own independent attorney or financial advisor. The author would like to emphasize that the opinions herein are not warranted as useful of fit for any purpose whatsoever, and may actually lead to or result in substantial loss of property, injury, grievous bodily harm, or even death, not to mention public ridicule and embarrassment.

There's no evidence that changing the forum to require real names would increase participation.


Of course not. It hasn't been tried here, so how could there be any? And despite the earlier poll showing that most members would be OK with identification, the operators elected not to try it. As I said above, you guys are happy with things the way they are, and you fault the non-participants for their lack of participation, and rationalize the result as inevitable and acceptable.

"There's no evidence that it would make things better. That proves that we don't need to try, because if we did it wouldn't work, and there would be no evidence that it would make things better." Imagine that!
Last edited by Bill Putnam on Apr 28, 2009 1:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Bill Putnam » Apr 28, 2009 1:14 pm

Wayne Harrison wrote:Some cavers are well known by their monikers and are proud of them. They don't hide behind them to jump on other posters.

No reason why they can't or shouldn't continue to use them. I'm not suggesting that posts display the author's actual name - just that it (and/or their NSS number, if they have one) be visible on their profile, so that those of us who care to can look it up. What's so terrible about that?
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Wayne Harrison » Apr 28, 2009 3:07 pm

Bill Putnam wrote:
Wayne Harrison wrote:Some cavers are well known by their monikers and are proud of them. They don't hide behind them to jump on other posters.

No reason why they can't or shouldn't continue to use them. I'm not suggesting that posts display the author's actual name - just that it (and/or their NSS number, if they have one) be visible on their profile, so that those of us who care to can look it up. What's so terrible about that?


There's nothing terrible about that, Bill. Posters can display their NSS number in their profile if they wish. It's voluntary. Some do. Others chose not to, for whatever reason. Perhaps it has something to do with whether they have a high or low number. In any case, I jumped in here because I don't think it should be mandatory -- especially since non-NSS members can post here and there's no way to determine if they registered with a real, or fake, name and location.

And I should add I'm also giving my personal opinion. I am no longer connected with Cavechat. I'm happy helping out on OnlineCavers.com. Giving your name/NSS number is voluntary there, too.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Apr 28, 2009 4:26 pm

I don't know how you could enforce the rule. I could lie and give a wrong ID. I'm Susie Smith, not a member of the NSS, and I could use a neighbor's computer. Or I could go to a library to post. Sure, you could do a bunch of ferreting out the truth and hunt them down and ban them. But what a lot of bother for little gain! I just become Sally Sunshine and use my other neighbor's computer.

We moderators do try and keep posts on the level. If a post is a personal attack, we try and delete it and moderate the situation. As long as people don't go too far, I don't object to some lively debate.

Personally, I see more harm in dragging on threads endlessly. :beatinghorse:

I prefer when people identify themselves. I think it's goofy for someone to try and hide. But I can see that some people might not want to be identified. I tend to respect people more if they are identifiable. But depending on the circumstances, that is negotiable. I'd rather judge the quality of what someone writes than their name.

However, I really oppose people who impersonate someone else. Like the poster who pretended to be someone from out of the country with English as a second language, but it was really someone else who was a regular. I also object to one person having multiple logins. (except that sometimes moderators need to be able to see what regular users see).
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 28, 2009 5:29 pm

IMHO

Would using real names increase forum participation? no.
would using real names increase the "politeness"? no.
would using real names accomplish anything beyond allowing potential abuses of privacy? no.

The group most likely to be a problem (hit and run posters vs regulars) are the ones most likely to spoof the system.

The answer to the problem of flagrant attack posts (if that problem exists) is stricter moderation not stricter identification. Less tolerance by moderators for "lively" discussions would tone down rhetoric. Some of the gaming forums are run like dictatorships. It would also tone down discussion. its all a tradeoff.
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Re: POLL: Do you think anonymous posters are bad for the forum?

Postby Phil Winkler » Apr 28, 2009 6:37 pm

Stricter moderation? Er..uh....

I really think that peer pressure is the most effective way of moderating discussions. Each person respects the other's point of view until some societal line is crossed.

In many technical forums which, by definition, are fairly narrowly based where topics are concerned, there is little or no acrimony or personal attacks such as we see here occasionally. And, the large majority of them require full names be displayed or in a profile. Sure, you can deceive, but what's the point? In the long run you won't persevere.

So, my vote is to have real names. It works. It is social as opposed to antisocial and, after all, it is our forum (NSS) to do as we wish.

Why many cavers including directors don't post is anyone's guess. Still, it would be refreshing. As it is now it just appears they are hiding. Directors don't respond privately or publicly.

What are we to make of that?
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