Should we allow anonymous comments?

I’m been thinking about the comment section on Mumbrella.

As you might have noticed, it’s been lively of late. To date we’ve published about 1900 comments since we launched a little over three months ago.  With the right topic, a single item has been known to generate 40 or 50 comments in a day.  

So it’s a shame to focus on the few comment that don’t add to the debate. But I have noticed a handful that have bothered me.

However, when a piece of advertising creative goes up and people discuss it, it does seem to draw more vitriolic, anonymous comments. I realise it’s something that we’re not alone in experiencing. This week Adam Hunt pointed to the similarities to the Campaign Brief blog – where it’s long been a topic of debate.

But  here’s what I reckon should be Mumbrella’s approach. If you want to stay anonymous, that’s okay. But you should be aware that people will give your comments less weight than someone who puts their name to them. At the very least, think about giving yourself a nickname, and use it consistently. It allows regular users to recognise your point of view if you return.

But I would also ask yourself – what do you actually have to lose when it comes to putting your name to your views? This is an industry where standing for something counts for a lot, even if not everyone agrees with you.

But particularly where comments are anonymous, I’m going to be tougher on editing or deleting comments that criticise a person rather than an idea. So it’s okay to say something is a poor execution – particularly if you explain why. It is not fine to say that somebody is a dick. And if you don’t put your name to it, I’m not likely to let you question someone’s motivations or biases.

Our comment system picks up IP addresses, which means that if someone does post an abusive message, from then on I’ll filter and pre-moderate postings from that address.

 But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk frankly about bad work

 That’s not something everyone agrees with. After I said I was thinking about our comment policy, the academic Laurel Papworth put out a Twitter message over the weekend suggesting that Mumbrella should rethink its “snarky” tone. And in the debate over Saatchi & Saatchi’s (in my view) embarrassing reworking of the Cadbury’s gorilla with a John Farnham soundtrack somebody angrily posted: “Woo, lets shit all over some Agency to win some extra blog hits.”

But I do see one of Mumbrella’s roles to offer criticism where we feel it is due. And to let others do the same. Nobody should be afraid to discuss or criticise a bad (or good) idea. Should they?

None of this is particularly revolutionary as far as comment policies go, but do tell me what you think.

(Update: The Washington Post’s Doug Feaver has an interesting opinion piece arguing in favour of allowing anonymous comments. He argues: “I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it.”



Tim – Mumbrella


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