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Washingtonpost.com Wants Identities of Posters

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the solved-problem dept.

Privacy 336

mytrip recommends a News.com account of a panel discussion in which the Washington Post's online executive editor Jim Brady argued against anonymity on his site. He's welcome to try to carve out a space for civilized discourse, but it seems that he can't help alienating the Net-savvy whenever he opens his mouth to speak of it. "... he would like to see a technology that could identify people who violate site standards — and if need be — automatically kick them off for good. ... Brady also lamented that closing user accounts doesn't keep bad eggs off a site. They just come back and create new ones ... Brady believes that in the next five years people will be required to identify themselves in some way at many sites. 'I don't know whether we do it with a credit card number, a driver's license or passport ...'"

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Yeah, great (4, Funny)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320062)

We all know that the best Slashdot comments come from anonymous cowards, right? This guy is nuts to require registration!

Re:Yeah, great (5, Informative)

simcop2387 (703011) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320124)

he's not wanting just registration, he's after complete identification of the person, so that you can't just keep registering new names, something that shouldn't happen, since the only way to do it would basically require people to have a license to use the internet (or at least post on it). [note that this doesn't really require a license, but registration with a central authority where you'd give some kind of personally identifying information, which as we know could NEVER be abused].

Re:Yeah, great (4, Insightful)

mlts (1038732) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320244)

What my concern is with sites which demand so many registration details... what happens with that info, and where is it stored?

If this guy wants paid registration, he should just say so and have that, where people cough up $10 a year or something for access to the site's contents.

Instead, perhaps he should do what a lot of websites do -- require either a "non-free" E-mail address, or manual approving for a user account if its a Yahoo/Hotmail/Gmail account. This is not a 100% measure, as there are lots of people who pay for their Yahoo or Hotmail accounts, but its a measure good enough to do what this guy wants. Should a non-free provider start having abuse problems, add that domain on the "manual approve" list, and call it done.

Re:Yeah, great (5, Informative)

el americano (799629) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320388)

Does he think he has no competition? If they require "real id" and other sites don't, then that's where the traffic will go. I'm already skipping news sites that require registration. I'm sure he remembers what that transition was like. Maybe he thinks he can wear us down with incremental changes. That is truly clueless, because he'll never get to where he wants to go. You were right about charging a fee,. That would identify most people, and it would probably be more successful than just asking for my CC number and not charging it, which seems damn suspicious. Just say, "we need $5 a year", and see how many people bite without thinking of privacy.... oh, and good luck with that ;-)

BTW, those bastards are letting the googlebot freely roam their pages, but when a user follows the resulting link, he's slapped with the registration page. It's dishonest if you ask me. I don't even click on a New York Times link anymore. Mind you, I know I can just select the googlebot in my User Agent Switcher and get right in, but I don't need them to get the news, and I want them to know that.

Re:Yeah, great (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320436)

requiring real id wont affect the quality of the news, that's what news sites compete upon! If it was a blog, youd have a point, but its primarily a news site.

Wow some admin is fed up of trolls, big deal, Its been suggested that you have to login to post on slashdot too (youd still have anon tho), how is this that different?

Re:Yeah, great (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320294)

That depends on your modifiers. :-]

Re:Yeah, great (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320332)

I couldn't agree more!

Re:Yeah, great (2)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320350)

I would have modded you funny if you were an AC ;-)

Re:Yeah, great (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320356)

We all know that the best Slashdot comments come from anonymous cowards, right? This guy is nuts to require registration!
You forgot to check the box...

Re:Yeah, great (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320574)

Hes clearly forgoten the 1st rule of dealing with trolls, do not talk about the trolls. Seriously dont feed them, dont talk to them & dont talk about them and silently implement some measures to get rid of them.
Dont IP-ban, just IP-"oops all your posts go missing"
Delay all non-logged in posts, even trolls arnt going sit around for 3 hours to get a response.
Hell I dont get why slashdot allows AC to view at anything less than 2/3 tbh, its just not as fun trolling if you cant see any reaction.

Sure i hate the GNAA & the rest of the trolls as much as anybody else, if it there were no consequences id require that you have to give you name & address to post just so I could go round and shut those stupid little twats up, but what hes talking about would stop 90% of posts and its just not worth it.

Re:Yeah, great (1)

DeVilla (4563) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320690)

Hes clearly forgoten the 1st rule of dealing with trolls, do not talk about the trolls. Seriously dont feed them, dont talk to them & dont talk about them and silently implement some measures to get rid of them. Dont IP-ban, just IP-"oops all your posts go missing" Delay all non-logged in posts, even trolls arnt going sit around for 3 hours to get a response.
*snip*

So, these are the trolls you are talking about, right?

It can be done, easily (2, Funny)

cjb658 (1235986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320070)

Just require people to come down to the Washington Post's office and deliver messages in person.

Good for the gander (5, Insightful)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320072)

So I guess the Wapo won't be quoting anonymous sources anymore.

Re:Good for the gander (2, Informative)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320118)

Nah--they'll just go back to the "Making shit up" school of journalism."

Re:Good for the gander (5, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320142)

When did they stop making shit up?

Re:Good for the gander (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320158)

Please mod parent up for the accurate correction of my error. :D

Re:Good for the gander (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320190)

Nah--they'll just go back to the "Making shit up" school of journalism."
I thought that was the NY Times?

Re:Good for the gander (2, Informative)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320210)

I thought that was the NY Times?
Google "Janet Cooke".

Re:Good for the gander (4, Funny)

amccaf1 (813772) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320214)

So I guess the Wapo won't be quoting anonymous sources anymore.


Sure they will! But from now on everything will be attributed to "DeepThroat69".

Re:Good for the gander (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320264)

Precisely! This makes no sense coming from a newspaper. It would be like a librarian asking for censorship.

I disagree (4, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320288)

It would be like a librarian asking for censorship.

No, it would be like the librarian asking for quiet in the reading room. It's not the dissemination of ideas or the idea of anonymous communication that bothers him. It's the disruption of discourse by people who refuse to adhere to simple rules.

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320482)

It's the disruption of discourse by people who refuse to adhere to simple rules.
Well, there's the simple response... MIASU.

Re:I disagree (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320614)

No, it would be like the librarian asking for quiet in the reading room. It's not the dissemination of ideas or the idea of anonymous communication that bothers him. It's the disruption of discourse by people who refuse to adhere to simple rules.
You can kick someone out of the library without knowing who they are and you can keep them out, because you know their face.

That doesn't work online.

For his plan to work, he'd need a database to check "a credit card number, a driver's license or passport" and we all know what a bad idea that is. Fraud would still be stupid simple.

Instead of a library, it's more like a drivers license.
You can take it away, but they can always borrow someone else's.

Or maybe instead of making analogies, we could discuss the situation for what it is: The WaPo doesn't like getting flamed and can't handle trolls. You can't have an 'open' dialog on the internet without allowing in the troll corps.

Solution: only PAID subscribers can post. (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320092)

Now, that's not a GREAT solution, by any stretch, but it beats the crap out of his scary and stupid ideas.

RS

Re:Solution: only PAID subscribers can post. (1)

phalse phace (454635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320146)

People actually pay to read the WaPo?

Re:Solution: only PAID subscribers can post. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320366)

IDK if payment is required as of now. but the GP is suggesting free (as in beer) access but payments required to post.

Re:Solution: only PAID subscribers can post. (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320626)

works for me.. but nobody would pay if that were the case...

Re:Solution: only PAID subscribers can post. (4, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320204)

But that's just it... For the same reason that paid registrations are not common, all of his proposed authentication schemes won't become common. Registration is onerous and invasive. At a minimum, it's a hassle to have to provide information. Worse, you have to pay a price, whether it's with dollars or personal details (which, as we all know, have great value to companies). Even people who are not privacy nuts dislike having to give out their name and email address just to view some online content or post a comment.

So what will happen? Sites are welcome to create more complex authentication and registration schemes... but as long as other sites don't have such schemes, online participants will naturally gravitate to the sites that have the lowest barriers to entry. So the successful sites will be those that make it very easy to participate.

Of course, we already see this online. Wikipedia and Slashdot are two examples of sites that don't try to prevent anonymous contributions... instead they rely on community self-policing to filter the useful contributions from the trolls. Ultimately, that's the solution: it keeps the barrier to participation low (so you can build up a thriving community), and the mechanism of burying crappy contributions inherently highlights better contributions.

The reason that many sites don't like this answer is that it is hard to generate a useful community (for one thing, you can't treat your users as merely cattle to squeeze money out of--you have to actually build value to keep them visiting your site).

It would make Slashdot polls scientific finally! (4, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320098)

One user = one login. It is the stuff of internet legend.

Re:It would make Slashdot polls scientific finally (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320246)

I know you're just joking... but online polls still wouldn't be scientific. Preventing people from voting multiple times is only part of the problem. Self-selection is a big problem, too: the people who chose to vote on a given topic will usually have some statistical bias in their opinion of that topic. Truly scientific polls require sampling randomly from the target demographic.

There is also the problem of getting people to vote honestly. This is of course a problem with offline polls, too. (Conceivably, though, people take online polls less seriously than offline polls, and thus lie more frequently...)

trust him with my details? (3, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320102)

this is the death blow for any forum, NO ONE is going to give you their CC or drivers license (atleast their real one)

Re:trust him with my details? (1)

jeiler (1106393) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320144)

I've had times where I could almost understand where Brady is coming from. I never wanted details on the person--I simply wanted to make sure that some rat-bastard spammer I just kicked off the forum wouldn't come back with a new user ID before I could even get the administration page closed.

Re:trust him with my details? (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320346)

Ban the IP, unless there are a bunch of legit users that use that IP.

Re:trust him with my details? (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320486)

Mhmm... what about dial-up users? and what about ISP's that have a free-floating range of IP's for a single modem... BAN RANGES...oh yes... then when thats not good enough, ban the ISP...w00t... ban the country!

Re:trust him with my details? (1)

kcbanner (929309) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320518)

Like I suggested, ban IPs only on a "personal" basis. If you can read logs and see that a certain IP is causing trouble and isn't used by any other visitors then ban it for a while.

Re:trust him with my details? (1)

antic (29198) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320692)

As well as IP bans, I also log post IDs in a user's cookie and then block access based on those. That way, someone can reconnect to their ISP but still be blocked unless they think to clear their cookies. A lot of troublemakers aren't that technically minded and this stops people when an IP ban won't or can't (e.g., a whole company or ISP).

Other things worth trying are suspending posts from new/anonymous contributors or sharing the moderation workload (whether you moderate by approving held posts or removing auto-live posts).

Re:trust him with my details? (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320582)

Then they switch proxies and come back.

Re:trust him with my details? (2, Interesting)

JoelKatz (46478) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320384)

Nope, they won't. This is a fairly fundamental problem and one that I've struggled with for about ten years now. You want to enable people who have valuable information to contribute it while protecting their identity, but you also need to keep out people who have malicious intent from disrupting open communication.

There does not seem to be anything remotely approaching a complete solution. There are easy ways to increase the cost of disruption that don't increase the cost of cooperation too much. A CAPTCHA is the most obvious example.

A 'probationary period' is another way, where you have to post a dozen or so insightful posts before you are gradually allowed to make more posts without them waiting for approval (you crowd-source the approval to your own users, much as /. does). This way it takes effort to get the ability to be disruptive, and that ability is then quickly lost.

It's still a tricky issue, especially in forums meant to be very fast or very distributed (such as USENET and IRC).

Of course, this guy is off the deep end.

Re:trust him with my details? (2, Interesting)

77Punker (673758) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320432)

How about Something Awful? I've got an account over there which I actually paid tenbux for and it's easily the best forum account I've ever had. I can post on almost any topic, and the moderators are very quick to delete bad threads and ban bad users. They've got 100k registered users, so there's something to be said for paying to post in a really good forum.

The Communist Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320468)

all your identities are belong to us

Awww, they're losing control over what's "news"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320106)

Breaks my heart.

No it doesn't.

Ummm.... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320112)

He's welcome to try to carve out a space for civilized discourse, but it seems that he can't help alienating the Net-savvy whenever he opens his mouth to speak of it.

Maybe I'm not as 1337 as "the Net-savvy" but what on earth is wrong with requiring registration, logging IPs and banning abusers?

I appreciate the submitter's generosity in allowing him to try, though.

Re:Ummm.... (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320136)

"requiring registration, logging IPs and banning abusers?"

none of the above does anything to stop abusers.

Re:Ummm.... (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320390)

You're engaging in Nerd Logic -- the fact that a sufficiently motivated abuser could get around any of those things isn't the same as "none of the above does anything to stop abusers".

Re:Ummm.... (1)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320492)

stop verb (used with object) 1. to cease from, leave off, or discontinue: to stop running. 2. to cause to cease; put an end to: to stop noise in the street. If there is even one abuser that can get around those simple methods, abuse has not stopped and it is therefore possible to say that "none of the above does anything to stop abusers" as the abuse has not yet ceased.

Re:Ummm.... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320604)

i'd rather engage in "nerd logic" than no logic at all.

it only takes one asshole to ruin a forum, if you have a problem you need to be able to stop them ALL.

No Problem (4, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320120)

He can simply require anyone who wants an account on his site to present themselves at his office with three pieces of photo ID and a completed application form. He can then interview them, check their references, and decide whether or not they are acceptable.

Re:No Problem (1)

n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320642)

Your funny but that probably is what he wants. He wants knowledgeable, accredited comments. Its print, you dont want every joe everyman reposting the same stupid viepoints over and over. I can kind of see it, it wouldnt work though. Accreddited people want to get paid. Go to any online newspaper site and the comments are generally horrible. 50% is just politics, or spinning every story politically, semantics arguments, etc...

What a crybaby... (3, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320128)

He wants to take economic advantage of the Web, but doesn't like the way people use it??? "WAAAAAAAH!!!" "MOMMY!!!"

We know how people will use the web, and how they won't. If he can't adapt to the technology, he should stop bitching and get the HELL off the web, and go back to what he knows: newspapers. If he can't make it there these days either, then... "WAAAAAH!!!" yet another company fails to adapt, and everybody will go on to the next. He will be a bit less rich next year. Am I supposed to feel guilty? Strange, but for some reason I don't feel anything like that at all.

Re:What a crybaby... (1)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320364)

He wants to take economic advantage of the Web, but doesn't like the way people use it??? "WAAAAAAAH!!!" "MOMMY!!!"

Exactly.

Just get rid of your user comments. Solves everything.

This guy is a NIGGER (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320152)

Only a NIGGER would want this. NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER!! hahahahaha!

Re:This guy is a NIGGER (3, Funny)

zegota (1105649) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320648)

Kind of insightful, actually, when you think about the topic.

What the hell does he expect? (3, Insightful)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320154)

"Brady also lamented that closing user accounts doesn't keep bad eggs off a site. They just come back and create new ones..."

Hey, that's life. I wish I could figure out a way to keep every kook and asshole from coming near me but it's impossible. Why is it any different on the internet?

It's completely different (1)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320302)

I wish I could figure out a way to keep every kook and asshole from coming near me but it's impossible. Why is it any different on the internet?

Please. You mean to tell me you've encountered as many kooks and assholes in your entire life as you have in one day of reading c|net comments, Digg, and Slashdot?

Re:What the hell does he expect? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320588)

It doesn't bother me if they are near me. But why do they have to drive in front of me?

Surely it is up to them... (1)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320172)

Seems to me that they should be free to require any identification that they like in order to gain a posting account. If you do not like the policy, then don't post.

Re:Surely it is up to them... (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320272)

Seems to me that they should be free to require any identification that they like in order to gain a posting account. If you do not like the policy, then don't post.

Who says they aren't free to do such a thing? We are discussing whether or not we like this policy.

Don't worry, no one's freedom is being impinged.

Re:Surely it is up to them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320334)

Yeah but how are the editors going to justify the "your rights online" section of Slashdot otherwise?

"INTERNET! SOMEBODY IS DOING SOMETHING I DON'T LIKE! BACK ME UP IN SAYING THIS ISN'T FAIR!"

Not everyone has figured out user moderation (4, Insightful)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320178)

Oddly, this guy has a point. Most reasonably popular unmoderated forums quickly degrade into meaningless flames, trolls, and drivel. All it takes is a few bad apples to turn the rest of the barrel rotten, as the saying goes. Funny enough, I think Slashdot has the most effective and elegant user-moderation system I've seen. Sure, it's not 100% perfect, but more times than not, the random trolls and other crap are already modded out of my viewing range by the time I get to an article.

Most people associate bad Internet behavior with anonymity. That's true to some extent - obviously people are much less civil when dealing remotely and dispassionately with other people. Put a random Internet troll in a biker bar, and I guarantee you he'll be *much* more polite to his fellow patrons. But Slashdot has proven that you don't need to lose anonymity to create an effective flame and troll filter. Let your most trusted users do it.

I'm always surprised that more sites don't copy this system. Or maybe someone has, and I just haven't heard of it?

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320216)

I disagree that the Slashdot system works very well. Sure, it has kept the site going, but is it working well? I would argue no, because the problem with the Slashdot system is that too many people get modded up or down for "political" reasons: "I disagree with you, therefore I will mod you". Or because the modder did not understand the post: I have seen many satirical posts modded down as "troll" and "flamebait", simply because the modder did not get the joke.

We should distinguish between something that works, and something that works well. Slashdot works.

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (4, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320386)

I disagree that the Slashdot system works very well. Sure, it has kept the site going, but is it working well? I would argue no, because the problem with the Slashdot system is that too many people get modded up or down for "political" reasons: "I disagree with you, therefore I will mod you".

You haven't read digg recently, have you? Slashdot is in Valhalla compared to digg's moderation system, and that's because moderation merits in Slashdot are hierarchical - the first moderators were wisemen chosen by the Mighty Taco Himself. Besides, anyone can metamoderate. If they don't it's their problem.

In contrast, digg is open to hordes of uncontrollable moderation, and this is specially true when a scientology article gets modded down by the Hubbard hordes.

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320416)

Have you even been on Slashdot long enough to participate in the moderation system, Miss 7-digit UID?

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320622)

Since you asked, I was on Slashdot for a number of years, then left for a few, then came back. Old number gone. Care: not.

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (4, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320544)

Having been unfairly modded down a few times myself by people who merely disagree with me (and conversely, occasionally modded up for no reason I can figure) I agree, it's not perfect. But it's good enough for everyday use, and that's good enough for the average blog-comment. We're not writing Great Literature here; we're yakking in the local coffeehouse or bar. And that means we'll have the odd spilled cuppa-joe or obstreperous drunk. It keeps the bouncers off the streets. ;)

hehe (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320226)

And I have even seen modding down for typos that lead to "all bold"... :0)

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320318)

I'm always surprised that more sites don't copy this system. Or maybe someone has, and I just haven't heard of it?
It doesn't scale cleanly enough. Slashdot has a large base of long term users who can be trusted to moderate. New forums don't have that user base and the system will not work.

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (1)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320510)

Smaller forums (at least in my experience) typically don't need heavy moderation. And for newer, larger forums, it seems like a good moderation system will quickly determine who are the long-term positive contributors and who just likes to stir things up. It's all speculation on my part, of course, but I don't see how things wouldn't shake themselves out pretty quickly. Obviously, the first moderators would simply be chosen at random. But it seems like the system would eventually reach a reasonable equilibrium.

Re:Not everyone has figured out user moderation (1, Flamebait)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320572)

>Funny enough, I think Slashdot has the
>most effective and elegant
>user-moderation system I've seen. Sure,
>it's not 100% perfect, but more times
>than not, the random trolls and other
>crap are already modded out of my
>viewing range by the time I get to an
>article.

        You have a bit of a point in terms of trolling, etc. BUT, Slashdot has developed a *hyper*-liberal monoculture, where people moderate to death anything that doesn't meet the party line - valid or not.

          Brett

end of days (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320180)

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. Rev. 13:16-17

Hits too close to home? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320208)

I'm not sure how anyone can have any issue with what he's discussing. Accountability on the Internet is sorely lacking, and it shows. Users have to sift through so much garbage to find anything resembling discussion because we're so concerned about making things 'democratic.' The real problem is there are usually only a few points to be made, and the rest is mostly noise punctuated by flawed analogies, poor logical reasoning, and tired memes. But, somehow, users just HAVE to get their two cents in -- regardless of whether it is actually a point for discussion or for the sake of talking. Sadly, even lack of knowledge of what one is talking about is not considered grounds for shunning because there are so many users.

Moderation systems merely measure how far opinions deviate from the norm. They do filter out some noise. However the collateral damage from them tends to be high, and legitimate points get lost because there's no way to tell if moderators are intellectual weaklings who can't stand to evaluate their own beliefs.

The world needs a site that is ruthlessly moderated by people committed to facilitating discussion. Too many Slashdot threads are little more than idiotic "rah-rah root for the home team" banter in the flavor of corporations. So much for nerds being above fashion, eh?

I look forward to the Web 2.0's notion of "user-generated content is valuable" being exposed for the sham that it is. A very small percentage of user content is valuable. Random users do NOT need to comment on every little page on a site. Usually, they have nothing worthwhile to add and they often add things that are just plain rude.

Cell phone number (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320222)

The easiest way is to authenticate by cell phone number. When you register for a site, your password is sent to your cell phone as an SMS message. One registration per cell phone number. Yes, it's possible to buy multiple SIM cards to get more phone numbers, but they're not free.

This costs the site about $0.05 for each message sent. For sites that derive some value from having members, it's worth it.

Slashdot would have paid about $50,000 or so in SMS fees by now.

Re:Cell phone number (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320240)

And it eliminates everyone who does not have a cellphone.

Re:Cell phone number (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320276)

And people who use a computer where they can't use a cell phone.

Re:Cell phone number (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320284)

In my experience, more people have mobile phones than home internet connections, so I don't think it would have much negative impact.

Re:Cell phone number (1, Interesting)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320524)

Cool, so I can be blocked from signing up to my favorite gaming website because I refuse to buy a cellphone*? Awesome, thanks, asshole. It's really not worth it to limit based on that. Also, depending on the site's popularity, they may spend more on SMS in a month that they would get through advertising (especially if it is an infant site). *Nothing about being able to be tracked or anything, I just don't like the idea of carrying around a $40/month (at least) device that will make me available to anyone and everyone (turn it off, they say; then why get one, I say). My pockets aren't that big =P Besides, I have an answering machine, leave me messages there.

Re:Cell phone number (3, Interesting)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320682)

you wanna voluntarily give your phone number to a company in an industry known for rather aggressive telemarketing practices? (you know that they'd have some fine print somewhere that says you OK them calling.. even to your cell phone)

Won't work as intended (4, Insightful)

MadAhab (40080) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320252)

Sadly, sites that adopt this will still be cesspools of hateful comments. Because, ultimately, they don't have the courage to edit fairly and won't adopt ./-style moderation.

So... newspaper cite will still be cesspool of hate. Fair-minded users who value privacy will still ditch. Phhht.

The real lesson is that old-media sites still haven't learned what makes internet comment boards successful, and they revert to old-school control tactics that won't help and will harm.

I have the only fool-proof way to stop forum abuse (1)

Perseid (660451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320268)

Shut down the forum, which is what they might as well do if they start asking for real verification. Would YOU give the Washington Post your credit card number? Or your driver's license? Also, they would have to actually check the validity of the info, which, in the case of credit cards means they need accurate billing info. If they don't do this I can use a credit card generator to make a number that will pass any passive verification they could use. Trolls on forums are a fact of life. Deal with them.

Moderation is the only way (2, Informative)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320274)

You really must have some form of user moderation. Slashdot is one example, but I know it confuses less savvy folks. The Houston Chronicle has finally gotten what I think is a reasonable and yet simple recommendation system ( http://www.chron.com/ [chron.com] ). It's amazing how I've come to expect user comments after stories. Sometimes they're even quite informative, insightful, or whatever. Sometimes in local news the people involved or witnesses may even post about inaccuracies in the article.

Re:Moderation is the only way (1)

malilo (799198) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320330)

Oh no, not the Houston Comical! How do you stand the general level of intelligence of those comments? It drives me insane. There are about 3 or 4 types of people on chron.com and 3 or 4 of them annoy the sh*t out of me. type #1 : douchey, gun-toting, semi or even overtly racist texan type #2 : crazy nut job conspiracy theorist that uses the word "sheeple" way too much and drags iraq and bush into things on the thinnest of connections type #2b : crazy nut job conspiracy theorist that uses the word "sheeple" and can't distinguish between a democrat, a socialist, and a communist. type #3 : angry female type, sometimes bleeding for some "poor" person in a story, but otherwise suggests inane solutions to problems type #4 : rarely, a voice of reason will appear that can actually type and use grammar. very rarely observed.

Being an Online Editor seems Impossible (5, Insightful)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320278)

"I think part of the problem is that people aren't held accountable on the Web," Brady said. "People say things online they would never say when disagreeing with someone at the dinner table. I think heated debate is fine, but when there are (flame wars), many people won't take part for fear they will be attacked and bashed over the head with the (Internet-equivalent) of a steel pipe."

My experience goes, the reason people don't some things at the dinner table is fear they well be attacked and bashed over the head with the (real-life-equivalent) of a steel pipe. In real life, people can't readily speak their mind at times. Now, perhaps this can be viewed as a good because it keeps descenting views quiet. Me? I'd rather hear the KKK and neo-Nazi members speak. Sure, there's the risk that they'll be able to recruit more members. But, history has shown that desegregation and other *real-world* things are what have life-changing effects on people's opinions on things.

Now, maybe the internet is really so revolutionarily different that there is no history to extrapolate from. But, if that's the case, it still seems the case that the good would intrinsically outweight the bad. Will people's feelings be hurt? Will there be trolls and flamers who are more interested in creating dischord than having actual discussions? Sure. That's the reason for things like moderation, editors, etc. The only thing attaching real-world identification to a username will do is either (a) keep the threat of steel pipes to the head from other users running so high that we're back to the self-censorship that leads nowhere (and open up places the Washington Post to wrongful death suits) or (b) keep the threat of editors and their reign of power so high that some people will stop posting entirely.

In short, being an online editor against a seemingly endless flow of trolls, spam, etc seems impossible. But, instead of trying to revert back to the comfortable and easy, perhaps more consideration should be done on tackling the problem by engaging it the hard way? Ie, hire more editors and stop treating online posting as some quirky, cheap add-on that you can control with a few lowly staff or some magical technological fix.

Ever read washingtonpost.com's comments? (5, Interesting)

aengblom (123492) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320282)

Ever read washingtonpost.com's comments?

Guess what they're anonymous and they're basically worthless, consider the lack of any meaningful moderation system ala Slashdot. Comments in articles quickly become long, barely threaded and filled with idotic or worse comments.

It's the rule of internet forums, without some party moderating the debate, the troll wins and the comments suck.

Slashdot's answer is to allow the mob (users) to moderate, but Brady, since he's from the more traditional media, is wary of the mob. The mob has all sorts of biases and tends to reinforce its beliefs. It may be interesting discourse, but it can be difficult to get a balanced discourse -- and this is something the Post is committed to, for better or/and worse.

End result: The Post has moved slowly on user moderation and tried to keep moderation in the hands of a limited number of editors, which becomes overwhelming with so many posts and so many trolls.

His answer, is to require require people's ID to post on his company's web site. Throw in a little potential shame of trolling and see worthless comments decrease -- certainly people will think about them more.

Honestly, I think Brady's wrong on this point, I think the right answer is closer to Slashdot than what he envisions, but it's silly to try to slur the man as an enemy of free speech. Remember he's talking about the policies of the Washington Post on the Washington Post web site, not for the internet as a whole.

The biggest enemy to free speech can sometimes simply be too much noise.

Oh, and on a related note, you may be interested in reading an article Brady wrote on the event that CNET describes as a "notable history." It's available here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/11/AR2006021100840.html [washingtonpost.com]

Re:Ever read washingtonpost.com's comments? (1)

Repton (60818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320608)

It may be interesting discourse, but it can be difficult to get a balanced discourse -- and this is something the Post is committed to

Yeah? They're more noble than our newspapers. Both major news sits in New Zealand have recently allowed user comments and the end of some articles. The comments are mostly on-topic at the moment, but whenever the site reports on reader feedback, they are only interested in those comments that promote their own sensationalist angle. Try to inject reason or fact into a debate and they're uninterested..

Re:Ever read washingtonpost.com's comments? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320680)

The biggest enemy to free speech can sometimes simply be too much noise.
What you call "noise" I call "other people's free speech".

Just because it's offtopic and distasteful doesn't mean it is a lower form of speech.

newspapers war on the internet (0)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320306)

mark my words - big newspapers and publications are going to start their attack on the internet very soon

Re:newspapers war on the internet (1)

iamstretchypanda (939837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320638)

Awesome. Why?

Have your cake and eat it: (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320312)

I find it amazing how naive some people really are. How can you be in a role like his and not grasp thje fundamentals of the internet and how things work.

Some of the comments he says are just gems:
We don't want our site to be sanitized, but we have the right to create a different kind of community
Right, so you want people to not swear and not have to ask them not to swear?

I don't know whether we do it with a credit card number, a driver's license or passport, but I think making people responsible would raise the level of discourse.
Of course, because no-one knows how to enter in a fake passport or credit card number.

People clearly as uneducated and internet-NON-savvy should not be in any sort of role that contains something related to internet - like "executive editor of The Washington Post's online division" for example.

Give the bumbling fool the same job in printed media and he would probably do a better job - maybe people could send him mail via little notes with name tags stuck to them, or he could have caller ID on his desk phone so that he saw the bad people and didn't have to pick up.

/. is ok, but not great (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320314)

The best solution is to embrace political cliques. Do I hate MS with my dying breath? No. So when I post something that could be anything but an extreme dislike for MS, I'm modded troll.

A better solution, especially for Washington Post, where emotional politics are the norm, is to embrace different views.

You're new to the site? Ok, you see everyone's comments -- stupid, insightful & hateful. Add a button where you can choose them as a friend, or never see their comments again. Once you've got enough friends built up, you can switch to a friend view, where you don't see anyone BUT your friends -- maybe you can add an option for occasionally putting non-friend, popular comments into your view.

This solution enables the nutcases to talk to each other and the reasonable people to talk to each other -- all at the same time, but on different "channels", if you will.

(By the way, MS sucks and I hope they DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!!)

Rules of the Internet (1)

grimwell (141031) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320328)

Maybe someone should clue him in on the rules of the internet?

#8 There are no real rules about posting

Jim Brady should talk to Sarah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320340)

A 5 day waiting period before being allowed to take home a 1st Amendment tool would solve his problems. After all, there is no more violent crime in America thanks to Sarah Brady!

He should talk to the editor of the print edition (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320362)

Newspapers have dealt with provocative letters to the editor for years: the editor reviews comments and tosses the worse ones into the waste basket. A good letter with a poorly thought out comment may receive some editing. Works well, and it allows both sides to talk without this tit-for-tat.

But this idea is almost forgotten in the modern cult of efficiency. Why have an editor review a comment when a computer (with the comprehension of a lump of silicates) can do it for you? An ideal breeding ground for flame wars. Yes, there are moderated lists out there. But they are relatively rare.

The right way to do this... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320446)

OpenID, so that people actually care about their identity, no matter who they choose to be -- while still allowing somewhat anonymous cowards.

Then, block IP addresses and OpenID providers.

Honestly, if the entire Department of Energy is behind one gigantic NAT, that's a retarded design. It doesn't have to be permanent, and I suspect the number of readers you'd lose by requiring driver's licenses is far greater than the number of readers you'd lose by blocking a rather large NAT.

One more thing: This guy should read Slashdot, if only to see how it works when it's done reasonably well.

Refuse to show ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320478)

Always. Never show ID for credit card purchases, ticket pickups, etc. If everybody does that, they will stop asking for IDs.

Venture Capitalists Take Note (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320488)

Sounds like a fantastic extension to an already existing business idea. Get some venture capital together and start realid.com.

More likely is that someone like Paypal, Amazon, eBay or Facebook should / will jump on this one.

My Identity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320500)

Dear Washington Post,

In order to comply with the standards of identification for posting on your site, I submit to you my e-mail address:

hAx0r7331@washingtonpost.com

Please allow me to post. I promise not to troll.

That's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard (1)

somecanuckchick (708401) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320554)

Using government issued ID to comment or otherwise utilise a web site would only increase identity theft. There are already web sites that require OpenID which is more than sufficient.

They can have my ID when they pry it from.... (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320564)

my cold dead hands.... er, something like that. If I wanted to be identified on the damn site, I'd have applied for a job as a journalist!

Guess where I won't be commenting from now on? I'm willing to bet a couple pints that I'm not the only one. Apparently, he does NOT get IT... meh, there will be plenty of sites to replace that one.

Yeah, don't tell me that it's special because of it's history. There are plenty of things that had a great history but went down with a bang.. or worse.

IMO, either you get it or you are dieing and don't know it yet. If you don't have the pride of putting something out there and letting it stand, modifying as needed to suit the audience then you don't have anything. That, my friends (except you AC) is what IT is about. This is a brave new world (so to speak) and if you are not going to participate on it's terms then you are not participating, but merely slowing the inevitable death you are going to die.

It is not about ID, it is about participation. When there is credit to be gained people do ID themselves, mostly. When it is just noise there are few that will ID. Letters to the editor do little good if anything other than letting the writer vent, and who needs ID for that?

ID does not work as a means of control on an anonymous medium.. .hahahahahahahaha a sure sign that they have no clue. oh well, hope the wake is fun.

./Ad-Revenue (1)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320578)

Watch and laugh as his site traffic slips to nothing. Good by Ad-Revenue jerk. Maybe he's thinking that this print-media thing is bound for a "come back".

Sure, I'll register (1)

Repton (60818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23320624)

My name is Benjamin M. Duckworth [fakenamegenerator.com] . I live at 1594 Sweetwood Drive, Greenwood Village, CO 80111. My credit card number is 5312 0830 9546 2162, expiry 10/2010, SSN 522-68-2397. HTH!

Are anonymity and accountability incompatible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23320666)

Sounds like what they're really looking for is some system for providing accountable pseudonyms [bford.info] - "user accounts" that can't actually identify the user (even if the service is hacked or malicious), but nevertheless ensure that one user gets only one account. That way users could be really anonymous but outright trolls could still be banned without them just coming back under another identity. The gmail-style one-account-per-cell-phone method provides some approximation to this, but still associates the user's account with their cell phone number and hence their identity, and thus fails to provide the real anonymity that many users would want in a forum that might try to discuss sensitive topics.
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