Sunday, November 12, 2006

annals of anonymous comment

I deleted an anonymous commenter who earlier posted some stupid, abusive spray of assertions about the intellectual worthlessness of sociology, its failure to achieve social justice, the hypocritical privilege of academics, etc., etc.. I'm not sure if this is the same anonymous commenter who wrote the rambly self-righteous thing toward which I was supposedly "smug and condescending" yesterday. Anyway, now I have an anonymous commenter (same one? different? who knows?) telling me:
if you can't take the heat get out of the kitchen...sociologists typically do not solve social problems, they just write about them, so it is to be expected that they will engage in all kinds of "we're not upper-middle class", "you should be so happy we let "coloreds" and "little women" into our field
I just thought, rather than delete this or keep it only in the comments field, I would put it out here in the open so y'all would get to see the joys one gets to deal with when one allows anonymous comments. Perhaps one can also see why, by the time sociologists are five years out of graduate school, they commonly exhibit a certain dismissive weariness toward some of the "angrier" persons floating around the periphery of the enterprise. If this be smug and condescending, then Jeremy Freese: smug, condescending.

Regardless, I'm reluctant to turn anonymous comments off, because the majority of people who comment anonymously do not abuse the privilege, and I think I get many interesting and thoughtful anonymous comments I wouldn't otherwise get.

As I responded to the commenter, though: this is my house, and so I would rather this person leave my kitchen. If not, and they want to keep say provocative, albeit maniacal, things calling out myself and/or my profession, they should stop posting anonymously and use their real name, the way everything I say--which includes things other people don't like--goes out under my real name. Given the nitwitness of the person in question--for all I know it could be some 14-year-old dittohead who stumbled onto my blog and has decided to pull our collective chain, which would explain certain things about quality of the writing involved--I suspect to hear from her/him/it again.

Meanwhile: I am way too busy with urgent forthrushing deadlines to be wasting cognitive space on this. Anybody want to guest post for a few days?

Update: Reality check from a conversation with a friend just now on the phone. I'm turning anonymous comments off at least through my return from Dallas/Tulsa on 11/21. I invite reasonable people who presently comment anonymously to create Blogger accounts to comment. The sign-up screen can make it look like you need to set up a blog yourself to comment, but you don't.

16 comments:

A+ said...

Allowing anonymous commenters can be a real mindf*ck. You never know if the anonnies are, like you say, some dumb kid you don't know, or, creepily, some dumb kid you do know. Anyway, I support your decision.

Collin said...

I always get a kick out of seeing anonymous commenters accuse others of not being able to take the heat.

Personally, I like the anon option on a site like yours, where I'm interested in what you talk about but don't have the same disciplinary background as (I assume) your other readers. It makes it easier to drop what might seem a silly or basic question. That being said, though, I don't blame you at all for wanting to keep the trolling to a minimum...

tina said...

It seems that the current (temporary?) system allows people to hide their identities by creating pseudonymous blogger accounts easily enough. If someone could tell me the advantages of anonymous commenting over pseudonymous commenting, I would be interested in hearing that argument.

Brayden said...

The thing about anonymous comments is that they're not as anonymous as you think. Most blog systems allow you to check the locations of your users. Matching the time stamp of the commenter and the location of the commenter is a pretty easy thing to do. Anyway, just saying this because I think that making caustic comments anonymously or otherwise is always a risky thing to do.

nina said...

You get more anons than anyone I know (or at least whose blog I read). Stick to names and pseudos beyond 11/21 (even without the drama of it all). It's much more satisfying seeing identities, fake or real, behind comments. Otherwise you tend to suspect it's all just one person. It's harder to stay in character over time if you're faking more than one character. I liked clicking onto your comments and seeing nakes, by golly, real (so to speak) NAMES!

nina said...

UPDATE: nakes is a pseudonym for NAMES.

christopher uggen said...

too bad. after some prolonged nastiness, i turned mine off as well. there are many good reasons for commenting anonymously, so i'm hoping to bring 'em back again soon.

Anonymous said...

I spent about half my day thinking up clever and not-so-clever ways to respond to that post--my thinking ranged from how Mr. Rogers would respond to how Rowdy Roddy Piper would. But I think your decision to take it down was better. Responses encourage that kind of stuff, and I don't really see what they are supposed to accomplish.

But generally, I think the anonymous posting has some good to offer, especially when the blog gets into some topics that people might feel threatened by bringing up--which is why I'm going to allow it on the White Cards discussion board. And, I think you can see some interesting anon posts on Jeremy's blog that might not be there without the anon option. So, I hope he'll bring them back at some point.

It does get tiring though, so I also support the idea of taking a vacation from them once in a while. Maybe when they come back some people can consider trying to be a little less abusive. This is a great forum Jeremy has going--we ought to thank him for doing all the work that creates the audience. And if he ever gets a little smug about the success of this blog--it's ok by me!

Winston said...

It seems there's always a handful of sickos hanging around in the shadows. These are people (I think) who harbor so much anger that they can't even remember its original source. Today their harpoons are aimed at sociologists. Tomorrow it may the psychiatrists or engineers or telephone repair persons or house painters.

I've had a couple of them drift by my blog and camp out for a day or two, spewing filth and raising hell. Then they move on, as surely as the homeless never stay long in one spot in our cities.

Do what you have to do to discourage them. Unless you turn comments completely off (please don't) the more determined among them will find a way to pester you. But their attention span is short, memory weak, and cognitive ability nul.

monkeyman said...

I also have commented on your blog anonymously. From what I can tell, most of the anonymous comments are fair and reasonable. I suspect that many people making anonymous comments, like me, just aren't very techno-savvy (and that impedes their ability to have a blog identity).

But I can understand your desire not to waste your time with people who use anonymity to spew forth unfair comments that they wouldn't be willing to make if they were in some way identifiable.

I'm not a sociologist, but an anthropologist (assoc. prof.) in a soc/anth department. I enjoy reading your blog on occasion. It feels voyeuristic in a way, to read stuff from someone I've never met. But I keep doing it because it helps me to better understand my sociologist colleagues, and it is diverting.

Eszter said...

I agree that there are upsides to allowing anon comments. That said, I also know how unbelievably annoying it can be to put your thoughts out there with your name and then have people come and dismiss you without the courtesy of claiming their own opinions under a name.

I recently received a nasty note on my blog. I don't think the person realized that the IP address was recorded and I know what campus they were posting from, which certanly narrows down the possible suspects.

jeremy said...

All: Thanks. I do think turning off anon comments is a good idea, especially since this next week is going to be insane for my psychoequilibrium anyway (esp. on top of last week). That said, I'll also admit to being a little embarrassed at having let a troll commenter get under my skin.

Anonymous said...

OK - so here's my question...

Despite the bad attitude and poor spelling and grammar, the troll might have a point. What does sociology ofer to non-sociologists?

It's always seemed to me as if sociology is one of thise self-perpetuating fields of study. That is, people study sociology in order to become sociology professors so that they can teach more people sociology so that those people can become, etc... Unless someone has opened up a sociology factory out in Sheboygan and didn't bother to tell anyone.

Not that I have anything in particular against purely academic fields of study, but it would be nice to know that what you do *means* something outside of the Ivory Tower.

Gwen said...

You can use a soc degree as preparation for social work, law, various types of counseling, marketing/advertising, lots of government jobs where you analyze data (Census, etc.), work for non-profits, community development, to enter the ministry, or do any of the types of jobs that people with 4-year degrees in English or History or whatever do--meaning, nothing that really has anything to do with their major, but just requires a degree.

I know this because I was in charge of freshman recruiting this year and had to make a big poster telling students what they could be.

I was, however, distressed to find out that Robbin Williams was a soc major.

Anonymous said...

A very nice statement on the usefulness of the sociology major is available on the Princeton University website at:
http://sociology.princeton.edu/UndergraduateProgram/

Would that all departments had a spokesperson as articulate as Mitch Duneier!

A+ said...

I'm tempted to say something here. But I won't.