I announced Wednesday that we are changing one of the key rules for commenting on our website, sunjournal.com.
I can now report that while we have received criticism from some current commenters, the response to the new format has been overwhelmingly positive.
The new system, to begin Feb. 1, will require people commenting online to use their real names and home towns.
Previously, commenters have been allowed to use either their names or pseudonyms. Most commenters have chosen to be nameless.
The new rule corresponds to our requirements for letters to the editor and guest columns in the print newspaper.
Since Wednesday, 273 users have applied to become online commenters under the new system and 41 of those already have been verified and approved.
We were not expecting such a large response right off the bat, and our verification process takes some time.
So, if you have not been called, don't worry. We promise to eliminate the backlog by the time the program begins in February.
Online, the reaction from anonymous commenters has ranged from supportive to withering.
The people opposed to the change make some good points. They fear personal reprisals if they say something controversial and they predict the online discussion will be timid and less colorful.
However, for many years, letters to the editor writers have had their names and home towns go online after their letters appeared in the newspaper. We have done this hundreds and hundreds of times and we are not aware of any safety problems that have resulted.
We also understand that some of the commenting may not be as dramatic or entertaining after Feb. 1.
We hope instead that the comments are a bit more constructive and thought-provoking.
Perhaps we are bucking an inevitable trend toward more and more incivility in public discourse. And, perhaps, we are being unrealistic by trying to apply old ethical standards to a new electronic delivery system.
However, the Web is still a young, developing medium. Thousands of websites are trying new and different things every day.
This is also an experiment, an attempt to build a better online community with more illuminating discussion.
With your help, I think it will succeed.
(To register as an online commenter under the new system, please go to www.sunjournal.com and click the "Register" link at the top of the page.)