Anonymity versus Attribution. Which would you rely or act on?

Home Forums Citizen Engagement & Customer Service Anonymity versus Attribution. Which would you rely or act on?

This topic contains 17 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Stephen Peteritas 7 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #158539

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    Arguably there are appropriate times for posting comments or information anonymously or with attribution. However, the trend seems to be an increasing tolerance for allowing anonymous public comments and online posts. Which one’s information would you most rely or even act on? If we created a list of attributes for each word, what would those lists look like? Any suggestions?

  • #158573

    Stephen Peteritas
    Participant

    Sadly I catch myself not really differentiating between the two. I think that’s a symptom of the “instant gratification” world we live in. If I’m looking for an answer I don’t really care where it’s provided or who it’s provided by but only the fact it’s provided and quickly.

  • #158571

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    Stephen – Thank you for the comment. Your response is, well, surprising to me –I think that’s the word I am looking for. I certainly appreciate the need for rapidity in today’s communication and information exchange society, but decisions, especially those on public policy that impact small or large groups of citizens should, IMO have some validity to them. Whether it’s knowing that through public or constituent comments or through testimony or documentation from subject matter experts. I may have misunderstood your response. Do you think your opinion is shared by a majority? I’m interested. Thanks, Dan

  • #158569

    Stephen Peteritas
    Participant

    I think my opinion resonates more with a younger generation more so than the older but I can’t really comment on generations and how they think as a whole. But step back and think about wikipedia a site that anyone can edit and is taken as truth now a days pretty much the same way the bible was in the middle ages. While wikipedia does police itself and has the public policing it as well, think about how many discrepancies are out there. You might whole heartedly think Elvis was born in Nashville and I might know he was born in Tupelo (no idea if that’s even 100% right) but I think that’s my point is that the only way to be 100% right is to check the birth certificate which is something that neither anonymous or attributed commenters are doing.

  • #158567

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    I’d also say sometimes they are a blend of too as well – love this A VC article – http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/08/are-real-names-required-for-real-socializing.html

    I’m all for real names if people want to use them. I use “fredwilson” on every web service I can and that is almost all of them. It’s a vanity thing for me more than anything else. I want to get to the service early enough that I can grab that handle.

    But not everyone wants to use a real name. There are all sorts of reasons for that. This post on the EFF blog, which kicked off the twebate between me and Jeff, lists a bunch of them.

    This community is a perfect example of the value of anonymity. Kid Mercury, FAKE GRIMLOCK, Prokofy, JLM, etc, etc. They are some of the most engaged community members. We love them (at least I do), and I could care less who they are in real life. What I care about are their ideas, their voice, their participation, and their energy. If anonymity brings that out in some, then bring it on.

  • #158565

    There is a huge difference in the tone and tenor of websites that require you to interact via an attributive profile (like GovLoop, LinkedIn and Facebook) vs. an anonymous response (most news sites like Washington Post, CNN, etc). The conversations on the former rarely devolve into the kind of thoughtless, accusatory banter that you find in the latter.

  • #158563

    As a rule, I generally ignore the comments sections on most news sites, mainly because of the point Andy brings up: anonymous commenting can lead to some pretty poor behavior. I do treat information on sites like Wikipedia differently, though. I studied journalism and history in undergrad, so I just got into the habit early on of fact-checking and finding more than one source for everything. Wikipedia can be useful, but I always look closely at where, exactly, the information is coming from before I use it in my own work.

  • #158561

    Allison Primack
    Participant

    Here’s what people have been saying on GovLoop’s Facebook when asked if “do you find that you trust anonymous sources and information online as much as those which are attributed?”

    • Elliot Samuel Volkman It depends on where the content is published. If it is a well established news source that has built credibility, sure. A blog? Not a chance.

    • David Kelley What Elliot said. So tired of the “I heard it from a dude who knows a guy who is friends with someone who works at X”.

    • Gayla Pickett Schaefer Absolutely not.
  • #158559

    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    I ignore anonymous anything. I’m not all that keen on online comments with attribution, unless I know the commenter. If other people want to grant credibility to people they know nothing about, that’s something they need to think about. And, as for the effect on democracy….

  • #158557

    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    These days even attibuted blogs are almost worthless. I’ve caught huge factual errors even on Harvard Business Review blogs. When HBR is full of errors, what can we say about other sources?

  • #158555

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    Dorothy (thank you for commenting) and Stephen – Since you both mentioned Wikipedia in your responses, I remember hearing the quote “Wikipedia is the best place to start and the worst place to stop” your research. That may have been attributed to Jimmy Wales, who is attributed with starting Wikipedia in 2001. I’m not 100% sure of the source but I do remember hearing the comment. This addresses the rapid way we can seek out information on a topic. At the same time, we need to verify (or should want to verify) before we repurpose that information in another communique. Perhaps, Robert, that is where HBR sourced their misinformation. 😉

  • #158553

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    Robert – Perhaps HBR relied on Wikipedia for their source. See my response above to Dorothy. And thank you for commenting. Dan

  • #158551

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    Steve and Andrew – I think its important to distinguish what the use of that input is going to be. For example, ideas, critiques, even praises from anonymous sources versus statistics, historical events, legal findings that may be used for making policy are two different matters. Call me a romantic, but the idea of someone advancing a thought or countering another’s (especially when they are in the minority) and stands behind it with attribution shows character, responsibility and ownership. And Andrew, you are correct on the tone and tenor displayed on these sites.

    Finally, what would you think of our Declaration of Independence signed by “MADDOG1534”, “LLT23”, “Grimly”, “LostSoul” and “AlwaysDrunk”?

  • #158549

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    I agree with you on the generational argument. Familiarity with, and experience using electronic forms of communication and information sharing, especially social media, definitely a strong factor.

  • #158547

    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    I hear AlwaysDrunk was quite the political theorist. I agree with both points. There’s good reasons to want to be anonymous. Anonymity, for some, can increase legitimacy. It doesn’t necessarily make them cowardly or afraid to take credit, rather the ideas supersede the author and thus it doesn’t matter if it’s attributed.

    On the other hand, it is comforting to be able to check the credentials of the person who posted the content. It of course increases accountability and gives incentive to be factual.

  • #158545

    Daniel Bevarly
    Participant

    Corey. I think it was “3Sheets” who was the theorist. Yes. You make excellent points that address the pros and cons of this issue. It reminded me of a local community that had a water issue and one of the council members only wanted to allow city residents to be able to comment online (and I suspect at public forums). The solution was provided by a local professor who had been contacted anonymously by a someone (a scientist was suspected) in Australia after he read an online article about the city’s problem and had faced a similar one in his country. He tracked down the professor after being unable to to comment online without a local address.

  • #158543

    Dick Davies
    Participant

    Anonymous data should be publicly repeatable. Anonymous opinion comes from the sewer.

    Social media simplifies the process of gathering support for a good idea. If a good idea has no starting point, it doesn’t have much use.

  • #158541

    Dick Davies
    Participant

    I once received an anonymous voicemail:

    “Journalism is about facts

    Fiction is about truth”

    Liked it so much I posted it.

    We are in a period of generating a lot of new culture. New culture comes from old culture (which gets into copyright theory). I appreciate the web practice of linking back to sources, even when building something new.

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