Survey: One year retrospective of SunJournal.com's real name commenting policy

LEWISTON — One year ago today, the Sun Journal began enforcing a strict no-pseduonyms policy. Want to comment on SunJournal.com? You now need to use your real name and list your city or town of residence in your profile. And we call you to check.

On Feb. 1, 2011, 600 people signed up with real names. We were amazed, because privately, we thought the system would be a success if only 60 individuals signed up.  Today, a year later, more than 2,200 people completed the process of filling out their profile and waiting from a call from a Sun Journal staffer to confirm their contact information. 

The change in policy came after we put a poll to readers asking: "Do you think mean and nasty comments are a problem?" The majority of the community said yes. And they said down with anonymous comments. And, also, please don't make us sign in with Facebook or Twitter.

In the time since we changed our policy, the number of comments that were removed and users who have been banned have decreased dramatically. But then, so have the number of comments. Conversation has been quiet, or non-existent on news stories, but a small community thrives on editorials and letters to the editor

So we want to hear from you. Has it been a success? Please take our survey below, and, if you're around, participate in our editors-readers chat on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

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In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

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Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

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Comments

 's picture

Real Names or Not

I'm a bit late to the party, but better late than never.

I'm truly ambivalent about the policy. On the one hand, it's easy to see where people might feel uncomfortable expressing their opinions on subjects that provoke passions if they know their view might be seen as at odds with an employer or some other person in their extended family. They might even feel fear over posting a comment that might upset someone with extremely passionate beliefs in opposition. It happens, believe it or not.

On the other hand, I moderate an online Civil War forum, and you might be surprised at the intense passions that subject still provokes. Our forum has STRICT rules of etiquette and discourse which match the rules here. We don't have a "real name" policy though sometimes I wish we did. Trolls are always lurking under the bridge. Luckily, our forum is relatively small, so it's easy for me or one of the other moderators to monitor posts, delete the offensive ones, and warn or ban offenders. That's likely not practical here.

There must be a middle ground. Maybe first name and middle and last name initials, such as AndrewJH. Personally, I have no problem with my real name being posted. I'm not ashamed of my opinions. I try to be polite -- though forceful -- even when my dander is really up.

Jennifer Chretien's picture

I personally like the current

I personally like the current set up. I wouldn't be opposed to the PM feature, I assume you could have to choice to opt out if you weren't interested. I think that all comments should be posted even if some feel they are inappropriate. On yahoo if a comment receives a large number of dislikes then it is still there but hidden and you have to click on it to read or respond to it. I honestly don't know how that is determined as far as how many dislikes it needs to be hidden. If you have to have your full name posted then I don't think your comment should be removed, you're taking responsibility for your comments by your name being public so say what you want and take your chances on potential backlash. The feature of 'hiding" a comment warns people they may be offended and can chose not to read it.

 's picture

opinoin

opinion's are like a**hole's everyone has one its a 50/50 shot if its good or not. the world is not going to change and nobody can do it. not mike or tina which they are at there throats down below in comments.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Jim do you have a problem

Jim do you have a problem with a good healthy debate? Seems like you don't understand that Mike and I have many heated debates about issues. And who does a debate hurt? If you don't like it then don't read it!!!!

 's picture

tina

i dont have any problems with people like you and mike all i stated that the world is opinionated and have a right to do what they choose to do. You Do Your Thing....... I'll Do Mine

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Gee Mike....you and I in the

Gee Mike....you and I in the same sentence....now that is good for a laugh

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I have no problem with it.

Sure I could go out and climb up on a soap box and spout whatever it is that I spout (I would need someone to lift me up onto that box) This just makes it easier. I enjoy reading all the back and fourth that goes on hear. I don't see where knowing who is saying what really matters. The funny thing is , that alot of people on this forum and thousands more in the Lewiston Auburn area already know me, and have known me for years and don't even know it. Fourtunatly for everyone I'm terrible with names. I may recognize your face, but names forget it.
The bottom line is , its not who's saying something, its what your saying.

Mike Lachance's picture

In addition to my comments

In addition to my comments below, it would be extremely useful to have a SJ private message feature where users could send private messages to other users. While this could potentially increase db size, it isnt anything a good webserver cant handle. Ive wanted to contact other members in private a number of times and such a feature is safe, secure and private while keeping user safety intact. We could choose to ignore users or other features that would prevent abuse.

I run a web community that has thousands of users world-wide (a forum-based community) and the PM feature is very manageable. The software I run is nearly 10 years old and still handles the tens-of-thousands of posts and thousands of private messages easily.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Mike, while I agree to your

Mike, while I agree to your idea of a private message feature I must disagree with banning the so-called trolls. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, whether we agree with them or not. All of us are smart enough to figure out who is who and what is what and to form our own opinion, or at least we should be. There have been times when I have become upset with you as I am sure there have been times when you have become upset with me. I do, however, believe that the SJ comes down on some harder then others. The rules need to be the same for all and not just for a certain few. For example, Dan seems to be warned consistently but others who put him (or anyone else) down do not get the same warnings consistently.

Maybe SJ should forbid us from using the words Democrat and Republican in our comments and then we can all get warned (lol).

 's picture

Trolls

I have to agree with Mike. I moderate a forum with international reach, and I am VERY familiar with trolls. Trolls are not expressing opinions. They are deliberately provoking discontent and angry responses by using ad hominem attacks and other cowardly tactics. They stifle real argument by deliberately poisoning the atmosphere and driving away those with views in opposition to theirs. They can, and happily will destroy a forum in quick order. They must be kept at arms length. Their intent is malicious.

Mike Lachance's picture

Tina, I would never conside

Tina, I would never conside ryou a troll... just to be sure about that. As far as your example of the victimization of poor Dan... while most who put him down do so in self defense. 99.9% of the time. There is a huge difference in defending oneself from unwarranted attack and instigating, mocking, antagonizing, provoking and deliberately ridiculing anything and anyone on the SJ website. This goes from articles written (attack the message) to commenst made (attack those who hold an opinion)

There is no "so-called" about it. I've been on the 'net since 1994, and have administered discussion forums, online communities and message boards of several websites with international audiences since 1998. A troll is a troll.

Regardless, I still owe you that lunch. And apparently that is unacceptable to some. (If we become friends it might destroy the antagonistic powers of those who agree with you more than they do me!

And by all means keep on posting Tina, you keep us on our toes, and the back and forth is healthy.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Mike, I told you all I eat

Mike, I told you all I eat for lunch is peanut butter and strawberry preserves on wheat bread. I save what food I have for my kids and I eat very little. And just an FYI Mayor Macdonald had a piece in the Twin City Times that I bet you and I would disagree on.

And becoming friends with someone doesn't mean you have to agree on everything and if I lived my life on worrying about what others think of me then I wouldn't still be here today because I am not normal in my way of thinking and tend to explode before I can verbalize my legit arguments on something.

I am still waiting, however, for an answer to previous posts on other articles on some thoughts I had that I thought were valid. I.E. If the legislature passes the current MaineCare budget items and Maine does NOT get the waiver then will we end up owing the feds even more money? Would that put us in an even worse position then we are now? Wouldn't it be prudent to know the answers to these questions before deciding if this is the best course for the people of the state of Maine?

Mike Lachance's picture

I have read one of Mayor

I have read one of Mayor Macdonald's TCT article... I'm not sure if it was the one you're referring to. Let me know which issue so I can read it. Maybe we'll disagree, maybe not, but I'll definately read it. (I usually catch the TCT every week but have missed a few weeks lately)

I agree with everything you mention here about Private Messaging (PM) feature. You are exactly right, and thats the biggest benefit. So much we often would like to discuss but dont due to side-tracking topics and time issues. Oftentimes these comments can spur serious thought about issues (on either side of a debate) and these things can better be hashed out via PM. Makes for evn more honesty and saves alot of needless back-and-forth on some hot-button issues.

I'm very interested in the "new deal" that the REP and DEM factions say they have agreed upon regarding the DHHS budget. How great can it be? We'll see I suppose.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Mike it is in the TCT issue

Mike it is in the TCT issue that came out yesterday. It concerns the 606 people in Lewiston that lose TANF benefits as of May 31. And I have no doubt that we will disagree on it.(lol)

I wish they would give us the details on the new compromise now and not make us wait to see. It is like they are doing things in secrecy and hope to sneak it in. I will say I did not like the tone of the Governor when he blamed the Democrats of stalling. If they came up with a compromise then some of them had to be actually working and he just sounds so negative all the time. Almost like he sees everything as half empty and not half full.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Don't they have airport bathroom stalls . . .

. . . for "private messages" to other users? I say take your wide stance right here in the blog. Or go to eHarmony for your "extremely useful" clandestine correspondence opportunities.

How about free beer for us regular bloggers? Seems fair. Good. It's settled then.

DONALD FERLAND's picture

Kris, most of us do post our

Kris, most of us do post our opinions on this blog. However, there are times when I would like to actually discuss things with another blogger. I would like to personally speak to some and get into a heated debate that may not be appropriate for a public site. There are times when I have questions about what some say are facts and there are times when I would like clarification of things. Waiting for people to respond to blogs can take time and I, for one, end up forgetting what I wanted to ask. We are adults and if we want to talk public we can and if we want to talk private then we should have that right as well.

And just an FYI, beer kills brain cells and if you get free beer then I want a free maid to help clean my house and that won't kill my brain but allow my brain more time to blog. (haha)

Mike Lachance's picture

Kris, is there a

Kris, is there a problem?
...or are you just in a mood to be rude for no real reason?

It never ceases to amaze me how some here feel the need to behave like angry children over absolutely nothing. If you dont agree simply state your reason. Otherwise youre just adding to the troll issue.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

I call it as I see it, man.

Mike, you desire to get, shall we say, closer to some of the strangers in here -- for what, I can only imagine. That is mock-worthy in my book. I ain't here to sing Kumbaya, you know.

Mike Lachance's picture

Kris, are you saying we need

Kris, are you saying we need to all MUST remain complete strangers? If you're uncomfortable with a Private Message you could block that person and never hear a word from them again. Now, apparently you seem to have an issue here that isnt being addressed? Tell me why *I* would want to private message someone. Since you *know* it is mock worthy, please do tell us all why *I* would want the SJ to enable that feature. Otherwise the mockery is only in self-doubt and insecurity. Please do tell.

You'll have to be specific, we really dont know what you are concerned about or specifically talking about.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

If you can't see your well, er, ah, umm, innuendo . . .

. . . in "extremely useful" "private messages," I can't help you, Mike. But there are certain types of chat rooms all over the web where you might make those certain connections you apparently crave. I think the SJ blog's set-up is just fine the way it is, thanks.

Please feel free to have the last word on this. New day, new topic for this "angry child." (Mom said no snacks today, gosh darn it!)

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Kumbaya, my Lord . . .

. . . Kumbaya.

Mike Lachance's picture

Kris, what are you talking

Kris, what are you talking about. "certain types" and "certain connectins" I "crave"? You need to be more specific, as no one knows what youre talking about. Man up, what the heck are you talking about?

 's picture

Favor real-name policy

I definitely favor the real-name policy and again applaud SJ for adopting it. SJ is the only paper where I feel comfortable commenting.

But please note that under the survey questions there is some sort of video (I guess that's what it is) which is just a a black box on my screen. I have no idea what I might see in it if I had high-speed internet connection, so I don't know whether you are losing any part of my response. We've run into this problem before. High-speed connection is expensive. Please make your web pages accessible to all of us.

Phyllis Hyde's picture

I like the system as is

I am also a commenter on the Kennebec Journal/Waterville Sentinel/Portland Press Herald site, where pseudonyms are allowed. Some days, it's like a "free-for-all" name-calling contest. Yes, it's a lively website for discussion, but the comments can be quite negative, and sometimes nasty. I like the civility of the Lewiston Sun Journal's comments.

I think people should be held

I think people should be held responsible for what they say. People tend to be more negative when they don't have to answer for their comments. Therefore I believe LSJ should continue with their policy as is.

If there was a way for LSJ to verify a person's Facebook account accurately portrays a real person, then integrating their Facebook log-in with LSJ's might be acceptable.

Mike Lachance's picture

Many of us are not fans of

Many of us are not fans of facebook. I applaud LSJ for NOT integrating with facebook. I am 100% satisfied with the format and engine behind this comment feature. However, I wish the trolling would be enforced more strictly. There are a few habitual trolls that seem to get a pass. It can be a fione line, but sometimes there is no fog at all.

Phyllis Hyde's picture

???

I have no idea what you're talking about -- trolls? get a pass? fog? Can you interpret for me? Thanks.

 's picture

ruby

we have a facebook page for my cat, ruby. we really do. we set one up for her (with a yahoo acct. for email) for games like farmville. can she comment?

 's picture

Amount of Comments

I don't really have any problem with the current system. The only major downside is that the amount of comments on most articles is very minimal. There also seem to only be a few different viewpoints because it seems like 90% of all posts are made by 10% of the users. The only time an article gets a lot of comments is when the usual group starts going back and forth about Republicans and Democrats - and you could just cut-and-paste their comments into any article. Are we really achieving better quality posts like this?

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

You have a good point

Scott,
I think you summed it up fairly. People who really, really want to have their voices heard can. But the question is always do we want to hear the same old songs all the time again and again. It's a difficult choice to open it up and return to a sewer-like environment that the SJ staff is tasked with cleaning up and policing. I do like the idea of allowing users to block the comments they don't want to see and a positive ranking system that would move popular or at least well-liked comments higher. We are in the midst of a grand experiment with how we interact with our audience and how they interact with each other. These are fun and interesting times for journalists and we love our work. Especially when we KNOW there are smart, thoughtful and considerate people who are interested and concerned about our communities and each other.

 's picture

I agree with Pare.

Same posters with the same perspectives every day. To me the comment section has become B-O-R-I-N-G. It's clear that the SJ prefers the current method. I'm sure it's a heck of a lot easier for Pattie. I'm not sure I can take much more of the same old posters. I've taken to reading and posting on Yahoo. I like the volume and varied points of view. Every night they send me a log of likes and replies to my comments. Cool feature.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

no pseudo-nyms

I am not interested at all in reading anonymous posts. For one thing I recall that some of my 11 year old students loved to post anonymously on these things. While I am interested in their opinions I like to know when I am speaking with a child about national policy. Also it is interesting to read multiple posts by the same person. It gives you an interesting insight into how they are thinking or not thinking about things. Finally, I think the anonymity of the internet already encourages dishonesty and brings out the uglier side of many people. I don't think it has a valuable place in serious public discourse.

 's picture

Primary offenders

I definitely do NOT think requiring a commenter to use their real name is a good idea. I think that information should be on file with the paper, but I do NOT think it should be public knowledge. All the commenters and those in authority know who the primary offenders on the site are. There are very few who consistently are a problem. My main complaint is that although those people are cautioned and even blocked on a temporary basis, they always are allowed to resume and never learn their lesson. I honestly think the very worst (and we all know who they are) should be permanently banned when they have shown they are unwilling or unable to refrain from being the constant negative they are. How many opportunities they are given is something that would need to be decided by the paper. Perhaps a system of banning for longer periods for ongoing offenses would be a possibility, until ultimately the ban would be permanent. Please notice I did NOT name any names.

Mike Lachance's picture

Martha, while I support the

Martha, while I support the real name policy, I agree with you 100% about the lack of banning users who are habitual trolls here. We know who they are, SJ knows, and they themselves know. Problem is, like most things, "sensitivities" prevail at the expense of policy enforcement and common decency. SJ needs to get rid of the abusers.

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Your offer no reason.

Why are real names bad? You provide no reason why you want names private.

I say put your money where your mouth is. If one casts an opinion in the SJ, it's their (free) forum, and one should own up to one's opinion in said forum. It's called accountability.

My final take: Anonymous comments are worthless -- and gutless. And they demand too much policing from the SJ staff, which has better things to do than monitor meat heads.

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

Good suggestions, good ideas

Martha,
I like your thoughts and ideas. And wonder if there is a common ground we can get to. But we worry that, as you point out, the people who are prone to abuse the rules and the system would only be more inclined to do so if they could mask their identity from the other members in the conversation. We will chew on your idea. It's a good one.
Scott

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Good post, Martha.

Good post, Martha.

SCOTT THISTLE's picture
staff

Thank you

Pirate and parrot,
Thanks for staying with us through it all. Your sense of humor is always appreciated. And while I don't always like everything you write -- I'm sure you don't like everything I write either -- I do like your loyalty to our community and your style and you do make us laugh. You're a case study in the transition from the land of the unknown to this thing we have now. Your notoriety and wit have long prevailed. "There are good ships and wood ships and ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may ours always be." That's probably not an acceptable pirate toast, but nautical at least. Cheers.

 's picture

names

Dan...

Roger Moulton's picture

yaaaaaay

Couldn't agree with you more. I would even buy a subscription to the printed Sun Journal if they would remove Dan. lol

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

The no pseudo-nyms policy

has worked very well in my opinion. Dissent with civility is the result.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

At last, a common thread.

At last, a common thread.

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