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OPEN thread on "Why we need to get rid of anonymous comments".

Original post made by anonymous, another community, on Mar 10, 2011

Seems some folks just detest free speech delivered in an anonymous fashion. So much so, in fact, that when said folk opens a similarly titled thread, the person CLOSES it from many anonymous posters ("Comments on this topic have been limited to registered users who are logged in.")

Why does it bother you so?

You keep coming back to it so often.

Discuss.

Comments (59)

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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Comments are welcome on the thread that I opened - you simply have to register to comment. Too high a standard - tough.


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Some of us have children and family members who have been persecuted because of postings here.

That's why I will always remain anonymous.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

RS is a registered user.

Outside Observer,

You could register with the name "Outside Observer, a resident of another community" and we still would not know who you are.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Pete:

Is it the anonymity, or do you just want folks registered?

Please make up your mind about what distresses you so....


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Rather than being called a coward, I think that perhaps it gives people courage to be able to say what they really think without any repurcussions. It is like being able to vote for the person or cause you want without having to justify yourself to anyone.

For exactly the same reasons that being anonymous on a forum like this which is moderated to keep out the foul language, the extreme views, and of course anything else the editors don't like, it does give any poster the freedom to be able to state their own opinion completely freely. Of course it allows the nutters to be nutters, but the editors could choose to keep them out too.

I think that the majority of anonymous posters here are saying what they think rather than what it is expected for them to think. I agree it is easy to say something too harsh about someone, but at the same time it is usually about an issue which is important or relevant. It may be a good idea if we could have a cooling off period before our post appears, or if we could see the post in its finished form before submitting, which may alleviate that problem.

But as far as whining about Palo Alto issues, it is often a good indication of what people are really feeling. Obviously if someone is taking the time and trouble to post then they are doing it for a reason. Even the trolls are doing it for a reason. Generally speaking, I think it is pretty easy to sort the wheat from the chaff here and with editors doing their usual deletions, we end up with a pretty civil forum, much better than some I have visited.


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm

RS,

I'm sorry, but the PAPD has a history with the media:

Web Link

With anonymity, and IP spoofing, I can make sure none in my family will be victimised.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2011 at 9:16 pm

RS is a registered user.

Actually no, internet security is what I do. That won't keep you anonymous and quite frankly you have never said anything on PAonline to warrant that level of bother. No one has that I have seen.


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2011 at 9:36 pm

RS,

Seems we've had this very same conversation almost 3 years ago:

Web Link

I'm not going to go into detail for the obvious reasons, but members of my family have been persecuted, and perhaps I should have concluded my last posting with "Victimised again".

If you would like a prime example that was in the press, Please google for "Pat Briggs"

As for IP spoofing, yeah, there are ways to get back to the MAC address, but if the MAC address can't be traced, then the path ends.




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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2011 at 1:58 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Perhaps allow one comment anonymously, then allow only ID'd comments.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

svatoid is a registered user.

"Pete:
Is it the anonymity, or do you just want folks registered?
Please make up your mind about what distresses you so...."

Peter does not like criticism of his comments. he feels that "anonymous" criticism is somehow wrong. As with many current and former PA officials, any criticism is considered to be a "personal attack" (remember the incident involving Aram James criticizing Frank Benest--Birch gavelled him out of order and Jack Morton called the police!!!!).
Best to ignore Peter's comments and not even address them--especially since he labels anonymous posters as "cowards".


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Posted by parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:32 am

I comment anonymously, too, and if that were taken away, I wouldn't comment here. I do try to keep the same moniker, although sometimes I see people posting with the same one (it's generic). I've used my initials, but then other people were posting under those initials on those threads, and some people in the community thought those were my comments, so I stopped.

I think the Weekly is able to track if one source is posting under a lot of names, because I've seen them stop discussions and require registration for that reason. I like that feature, especially for discussions like high speed rail that seem to attract, frankly, manipulative out-of-town trolls.

These posts are indelible. People need to be able to say their real opinions and be free in real life to later change their minds, learn more, and develop more complex opinions. Our sound-bite culture has a way of nailing people so they can't do that if there are statements made in a forum like this. Keep the anonymity. Learn how to calm people down if you don't like heated discussion. (Hint: dismissing the views of other people because you don't like the tone of their post does not help. Finding common ground and acknowledging people does.)


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:08 am

"Pete:
Is it the anonymity, or do you just want folks registered?
Please make up your mind about what distresses you so...."

Waiting.

I'm sure someone who throws around the word "coward" and "tough" so cavalierly, must just be taking his time to format a response.

Walter:

What is the thought behind your suggestion of a single posting? Not sure I follow.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpentet
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 11:59 am

Anonymous - my reply was posted on the original thread days ago.


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Posted by Peter Carpentet
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Anonymous - my reply was posted on the original thread days ago.


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Posted by Peter Carpentet
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Anonymous - my reply was posted on the original thread days ago.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Pete:

Oh, you mean on the dead thread that has only 2 comments besides yours, probably because of it's closed, elitist nature?

I read it, but it did not seem to address the question posed on your first response in this thread: which offends your delicate sensibilities more - anonymous names, or just the lack of registering?


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Anonymous states:"I read it, but it did not seem to address the question posed on your first response in this thread: which offends your delicate sensibilities more - anonymous names, or just the lack of registering?"

Your question was exactly answered - you may not like the answer but that is your choice.

Bully - you chose your anonymous name and it is perfect - for an anonymous person calling himself bully to be calling someone who posts in his own name and who is accountable for his posting a bully is the ultimate hypocrisy.

See my original post which quoted an excellent article on this issue and then ask yourself why you don't address the issue but simply, once again, chose to attack others - sad:
" Anonymity has long been hailed as one of the founding philosophies of the Internet, a critical bulwark protecting our privacy. But that view no longer holds. In all but the most extreme scenarios�everywhere outside of repressive governments�anonymity damages online communities. Letting people remain anonymous while engaging in fundamentally public behavior encourages them to behave badly. Indeed, we shouldn't stop at comments. Web sites should move toward requiring people to reveal their real names when engaging in all online behavior that's understood to be public�when you're posting a restaurant review or when you're voting up a story on Reddit, say. In almost all cases, the Web would be much better off if everyone told the world who they really are."

"What's my beef with anonymity? For one thing, several social science studies have shown that when people know their identities are secret (whether offline or online), they behave much worse than they otherwise would have. Formally, this has been called the "online disinhibition effect,"


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Peter

I respect your point of view, and hope you will respect mine.

Do you, for instance, also disagree with the secret vote in our elections? Do you, for instance, disagree with being able to register to vote without registering party allegience.

The fact that electoral votes are secret is similar to being able to respectfully post anonymously online.

As long as someone is respectful in their disagreement, it should not matter one iota whether or not their real name is attached to the posted opinion.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Resident - I welcome respectful dialogue, unfortunately because of the online disinhibition effect discussed above many of the anonymous postings are not respectful.

As I have stated elsewhere on this forum "The people who post on this forum anonymously do so, by their own admission, for the very reason that they wish to hide something (definition - 1. without any name acknowledged, as that of author, contributor, or the like: an anonymous letter to the editor; an anonymous donation.

2. of unknown name; whose name is withheld: an anonymous author.

3. lacking individuality, unique character, or distinction).

What exactly they wish to hide can only be guessed - it may be their name, their actual place of residence, their occupation, their experience or lack thereof, their otherwise known biases and conflicts of interest or the fact that they have also posted under numerous other noms de guerre. What these anonymous individuals opine must then be filtered though the lens which they themselves have created. In a discussion such as this one about the airport it is always helpful to be able to assess the knowledge base of the poster - which is difficult to do if we have no idea who they are or of their competency on the subject matter. Each reader must therefore use their own judgment in evaluating such postings.

I therefore judge each anonymous poster by what they say since I have no idea about their source credibility (with the exception of a handful of anonymous posters who ALWAYS use the same name and whose track record can therefore be evaluated)- and sadly many of the anonymous comments are simply attacks on other posters because of where they live or their know personal history or even attacks on their family members. I have lots of examples of such attacks and hence I tend to be very skeptical of such posters.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Pete:

Your: "...then ask yourself why you don't address the issue ..."

You copy and paste all over the place (a half dozen times?) a "meh" article that you insist is excellent. Since you copied it as gospel, allow me to post part of the very first comment to that article:

"I disagree with the premise that anonymity in and of itself inevitably leads to "trolls" and useless comments. Ever look at the anonymous comments underneath a Slate article and compare them with, say, the anonymous comments underneath a Yahoo article? The anonymous comments on Slate tend to be reasonably articulate and polite..."

Your "excellent" guy got thrashed by the very first ANONYMOUSLY posted response.

But we're thrilled you deign to humble yourself among the mere hoi polloi on this open (and active) thread.

Come back, the free speech crowd welcome you.

Even if you haven't used your registered account, and have misspelled your name on this thread.

We don't mind.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Anonymous (one of at least five different posters using that handle) - You and I simply disagree. I welcome YOUR thoughtful comments on the referenced article. And I note that you continue the practice of personal attacks rather than dealing with the topic being discussed - a perfect example of online disinhibition. You have made my case.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm

What attack?

I josh you about your frequent "holier than thou" attitude. That's not an attack, since you so clearly display it, and it's been acknowledged by so many. It's you, babe, live it, relish it, take glory in it. You may not believe it, but some folk are attracted by it. Much the way you can't ignore a discussion of anonymous postings. ;-)

You DID misspell your name, or someone else did, since it wasn't the registered Peter Carpenter.

As for cases "being made", hmmmm, my response:

So happy you are here with the great unwashed masses in an OPEN and free forum, rather than the closed, dead thread.

It's so much better, don't you agree?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Peter

I respectfully asked you a question. You replied to my post but not my question. I am being respectful and I have discussed things, even being on your side before. I disagree with you and the article you cited. My opinion has been stated.

You may not understand my desire to be anonymous, but as long as I am respectful and support my reasons, I see no reason for you to take my opinion as being less valid because you have no idea who I am. If I said I was John/Jane Smith, would it make any difference? You still would know nothing about me.

Please answer my question about whether you think that being able to vote secretly and anonymously and without party allegience is something you agree or disagree with and why? Do you see any similarities between voting your choice and posting in a forum - both done anonymously?


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

"It's so much better, don't you agree?"
No, both threads suffer from a lack of thoughtful commentary - which I believe is the result of this forum being devalued by the lack of accountability. All but two of the anonymous comments on this thread are directed at me NOT a discussion of the issue - online disinhibition at its best or worst.

Wouldn't it be nice if posters addressed the issue?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Peter:

YOU brought up the issue. For the umpteenth time.

This time in a CLOSED forum. That was/is virtually ignored, on both sites, even by YOU.

Yet you HAPPILY come over here and debate ad infinitum with us po' folk.

Curious.

And you engage with great, hearty vigor, yet claim it's not thoughtful.

(the lady) doth protest too much, methinks

On second though, NOT curious.

Downright funny.

Thanks for the laugh.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Wouldn't it be nice if posters addressed the issue?


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm

curmudgeon is a registered user.

As I asked on the restricted thread, what's to keep crackpots from hiding behind the names of respectable citizens who don't care to bother reading these forums, as I suspect often happens?

Registration is meaningless; they don't check your passport or driver's license or birth certificate when you sign up.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

"As I asked on the restricted thread, what's to keep crackpots from hiding behind the names of respectable citizens who don't care to bother reading these forums, as I suspect often happens?"

Actually the editors DO follow up when someone uses someone else's name and they generally ban further postings from the IP address involved.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2011 at 5:38 pm

What Peter just wrote above doesn't happen unless an editor has a reason to check it out. People can easily register a name which isn't theirs & use it til the cows come home & it renders them anonymous to us readers. We're just more honest w/not pretending to have a real name connected to our posts.

Bottom line: my need for safety trumps Peter's need to "confront" his online critics who don't use their real names. He made his choice, we made ours.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 5:43 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

I always confront my online critics - they just don't happen to be accountable.

We all make our own choices and I am comfortable with mine.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Yeah, I get it - I just said my need for safety trumps your more frivolous need to know who people are. I'm comfy w/my choice, you're comfy w/yours, I'm comfy w/yours but you're not comfy w/mine. Yep, you have a problem that isn't likely to be solved any time soon.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 6:12 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Hmmmmmmm - I accept your choice and believe that it has devalued this forum - but that is YOUR choice and MY opinion.

How many topics on this forum has actually involved an intelligent discussion of ANY topic? I cannot point to on, can you?


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Yes, there have been a number, Peter. The thing is, not all of the comments are intelligent or insightful, but many of the discussions, overall, have been intelligent. Many, many, incl ones re Atherton PD, heavy storms, some but of course not all of the stories involving crime, people posting a question or topic they feel is relevant, Parking Nazis, redev issues, traffic problems, profiles of locals, the murder of David Lewis & arrest of his accused murderer and plenty more.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Hmmm - you consider these topics as intelligent discussions, I do not. Which of them clearly stated an issue and then discussed the pros and cons of that issue? None in my opinion.

Once again we simply have different assessments of what is intelligent dialogue.


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 11, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Peter carpenter claims my comment that he is a bully is the "ultimate hypocrisy". In actuality peter carpenter is the perfect example of the "ultimate hypocrisy ". It is either his way or the highway. Peter states he confronts his online critics-why the need to confront honest criticism? Why the need to stifle disagreement with your view? Claiming that everything is an attack devalues others opinions. Peter needs to learn respect of other opinions.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Bully- For opinions to be considered for respect the opinions ON THE ISSUE must be presented. Can you address the issue or are you only willing to criticize others? Please defend the proposition that anonymous postings contribute to intelligent dialogue.

The forum encourages respectful and truthful postings - an interesting challenge.


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Considering that you are constantly criticizing others, this is another example of your "ultimate hypocrisy". I do not need to defend something because you demand it. Having read this forum for years, I know that most of the anonymous posts are contributing to intelligent dialogue. Some do not, but to proclaim that all anonymous postings do not contribute to intelligent dialogue is ridiculous and indicative of thee lack of respect that peter shows to other posters. I also know that some non-anonymous postings do not contribute to intelligent dialogue-i need not give any examples-they are evident. Time for peter to get off his self important high horse.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:46 pm

RS is a registered user.

Peter,

The problem with actual names is that I can get the phone number and address for anyone that uses their actual name here. Its not clear to me that everyone that participates on or reads this forum, I trust to have my phone number and address. I obviously dont mind registering as long as I dont have to use my real name.

The other problem with real names is one might not want to have their opinions impact them outside of this forum, or follow them around until the end of time. I have usenet posts I made in the 80s that are still out there. Fortunately they are all benign, but still its not clear I want an opinion I expressed once upon a time to follow me around for life.

Now a few of this forum's non-anonymous posters are quite harsh and one even risks slander in almost every post he makes on this forum. The fact that the posters are easy to find in the real world has not inhibited the tenor of their posts in the slightest.

Conside that it might be the nature of the topics in this forum rather than the anonymity of the posters that contributes to disrespectful tones.


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:50 pm

PETER also states that NO topic on this forum EVER involved intelligent discussion on any topic!!! Yet peter continues to post on this forum!! Not talk about needing to get off your high horse!!


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 6:39 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

RS states:"The other problem with real names is one might not want to have their opinions impact them outside of this forum, or follow them around until the end of time."

Precisely - that is what I mean by the lack of accountability. If you don't have to/want to stand behind your words then why should others place much credence in those words.

Bully - I await an example of a topic on this forum that involved a clearly stated question, a balanced discussion of the pros and cons and any sense of agreement ( including as an option agreeing to disagree).


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2011 at 7:39 am

Peter-another poster has provided examples of good discussions. But what is the point of giving examples of such discussions, you have made a definitive statement regarding threads on this forum. So why waste time playing your games. You are not pqfnh to other opinions our points of view. Every criticism of your comments are perceived as an "attack" by you. My question is if you hatred this forum so much, why are you posting here? You obviously have let your self-proclaimed position as a watchdog go to your head and you feel that everything needs your overview.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 7:47 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

I asked for specific examples of topic on this forum that involved a clearly stated question, a balanced discussion of the pros and cons and any sense of agreement ( including as an option agreeing to disagree).

I don't 'hate' this forum - that is actually I word I seldom use - but rather would prefer it become "a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion." Do someone just walk away from things that aren't working well or should they try to fix them?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:02 am

Peter

I tried twice to have an intelligent discussion with you after stating that I didn't agree with you or the article on the subject of anonymity. I followed by asking you a question about secret voting and twice you have ignored me.

If this is supposed to be your definition of me attacking you, then I don't think we agree on what civilized discussion is either.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:07 am

"Precisely - that is what I mean by the lack of accountability. If you don't have to/want to stand behind your words then why should others place much credence in those words"

So maybe I dont want the opinions I had when I was 20 to impact me when I am 50. People evolve, but the net never forgets.

Maybe I dont want to be judged by a potential future employer that reads an opinion out of context.

Why should I place much credence in anyone's words because they put their name on them? A good thought is a good thought, a bad thought is a bad thought independant of the ability to attribute it to someone. I dont see comments by an ex-palo alto employee that appear sometimes in this forum as more credible because he is willing to give up his real name.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:18 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

"Why should I place much credence in anyone's words because they put their name on them?"

Do you give more value to what someone with known expertise says than to that of a stranger? Do you give more value to a teacher that you know than to an anonymous person?

The words themselves must have value but that value can then be weighted based on the known characteristics of the speaker - if the speaker is not known then the words can and should be taken at face value unless you have reason to believe that the speaker has a hidden motive or bias.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:24 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Resident - your first posting was well stated and did not ask for a reply. On your second posting I DID reply:
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, 17 hours ago

Resident - I welcome respectful dialogue, unfortunately because of the online disinhibition effect discussed above many of the anonymous postings are not respectful.

Re your question on secret voting - in doing so you are expressing your preference but not either attempting to persuade someone else of the validity of your vote or challenging their position. This forum doesn't take votes, it asks "thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion"


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:37 am

People are wasting their time trying to have a discussion with peter. He has clearly stated his feelings about this forum and anonymous posters. He does not believe in any opinion but his own. The editors of this forum are generally satisfied with the way it works. Peter cannot stand that-people openly disagreeing with him. He had become the self-appointed watch dog of this forum. Agree within our sider the consequences.


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:39 am

Whoops that last sentence should be "agree with him or suffer the consequences"


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:40 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Resident - Let me also apologize for not responding earlier to your voting question.

I responded to the first part of your posting but I missed responding to the voting question and I do have a responsibility to respond given that I am advocating that the forum be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 8:45 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Bully - you are fully entitled to your opinion and I to mine. I find no need to attack you as your opinions speak for themselves.

But why are you so compelled to misspeak for me - "He does not believe in any opinion but his own." Why not put forth persuasive arguments as to why anonymous posting, particularly by unregistered users, add value to this forum being a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion?


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

"Do you give more value to what someone with known expertise says than to that of a stranger? Do you give more value to a teacher that you know than to an anonymous person?"

Just because someone uses their real name here, does not make them less of a stranger. You use your real name and I dont know you from Adam nor do I really know thats really your real name. ;-)

If I used my real name how would that make me less of a stranger? It just gives you a convenient way to associate all my opinions. Besides you might be able to figure out I am really just some Stanford student's AI experiment. ;-)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2011 at 9:24 am

Peter

I agree that this is not a place where votes are counted.

I chose voting in elections where all voters are anonymous as an example where there is a strength in the fact that we do not have to stand behind what we say. If, for example, we had to sign our names on our electoral votes, perhaps we would be voting differently than when we have anonymous votes. For instance, if there was a means to look at the voting record of everyone living on our street and finding out who or what they voted for, I suspect that those who voted for McCain/Palin (as an example) would be looked down on by the majority of Palo Altans. This may prevent those people from voting altogether or even to vote for someone else.

This shows that there are times when being able to put forward an anonymous opinion is a strength, not a weakness. I also happen to think that there is a strength in this Forum that people can put out their own ideas without fear of repurcussions and can actually change their minds on a topic when reading other opinions can bring forward ideas that they hadn't thought of. It is possible that people can change their minds on a topic just like people can change their minds on which party to vote for from election to election.

So now I have taken the discussion out of the realms of this forum into a bigger stage. That is how discussions develop.




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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:02 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Resident - very helpful comments.

I see voting as a system wherein each vote has equal value and hence there is no need to 'weigh' the experience or qualifications of the voter. When it comes to opinions then I think that the strength of the argument as well as the source of the opinion are relevant to evaluating that opinion - someone with a vested interest in X may make a strong argument supporting X but their argument needs to be considered in light of their vested interest - that is hard to do if X's vested interest is hidden behind an anonymous name. And with facts there is a need to document those facts; just because someone calls himself truth that does not mean that everything that person says in truthful. And if someone calls themselves Bully then might one begin with the assumption that there is a reason that they have chosen to so describe themselves?

For example, if someone offers an opinion on the challenges of instrument flying then it is useful to know if that person has any source credibility - with a known poster their FAA privileges are a matter of public record but with an anonymous person you have to reserve judgment.

As for changing ones mind I often change my mind and am seldom embarrassed when I have done so in response to new information - why should my prior position bind me forever holding a particular view? You suggest that being anonymous allows you to change your position but implying that once you state your name that you can never change your position - the only difference is that a known person may have to eat some humble pie but an anonymous person can simply change their name every time that they want to change their position - hardly a way to gain source credibility.


Thanks for engaging in a thoughtful discussion.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:07 am

Been thinking about the teacher question while I was showering.

I think that if I as an adult were to sign up and pay for a class, I would be very keen to know the credentials of the teacher, who he was and what experience he had in that subject. I was presumably hoping to be taught facts and although I would welcome his educated opinion I would want to be able to discern between the facts and his opinions and hope to be able to form my own opinion. Alternatively, if it was my child being taught in a public school, I would expect the teacher to be teaching facts to my child and leave out most of his opinion. So yes, knowing the credentials of a teacher is a good thing.

Perhaps a different scenario would be if I was looking for a church to attend. First I would look to see what different churches were in my neighborhood and what they called themselves and what were their afilliations. I would visit several churches, find out about their doctrine, listen to some of the teaching. If it followed my own ideas on what I believed then I would attend on a permanent basis. If it did not, I would find somewhere else.

Both these scenarios, in my opinion, are different from having a civilized discussion with another. Whether I was having a discussion with a neighbor (someone we just happen to know) or a friend (someone who we choose to spend time in the company of) makes little difference. If I choose to enter a discussion here on Town Square, I do not expect everyone to agree with me. Actually that would make very dull reading. I do expect to find some thoughtful opinions, ideas different to my own, a side to the topic I hadn't thought about, and expect my ideas to be treated with the same courtesy that I give to the others. I don't think the fact that the person's name being there adds more or less credibility to the worth of those opinions in this Forum. I am not paying for them as in a class, and I am not expecting to deepen my faith as in a church. I am choosing to enter a dialog with complete strangers as a means of stretching my mind in a safer setting than standing up on my soapbox on a street corner.

This is a great discussion but now I have to get on with my day.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:16 am

Peter

I now begin to see where you are coming from

I do take more credence on the posts where you have spoken about flying because I do believe that you have experience in this topic and it makes so much more sense to me than those who are obviously completely ignorant. In that respect I respect you for signing your name.

I agree that on some emotive issues, people who hide behing a moniker like "Bully" takes away from what they are saying even if you happen to agree with what they are saying.

I also agree that it is easier sometimes for a person to invent another name for themselves to (a) make it look like there are more people agreeing with a topic than there really are (it is easy to use more than one computer to do this e.g. at work, the library, etc. and (b) change one's mind without appearing to have done so by using a different name.

In that we are in agreement.

But I tend to use the same name and I know others use the same name also. If we are having a useful dialog/discussion does the fact that I call myself "resident" as opposed to "John/Jane Smith" make any difference to the discussion itself? In some cases perhaps I agree with you, in a techinical field, for example (see you are beginning to alter my thinking), but not always.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:25 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Resident states"I don't think the fact that the person's name being there adds more or less credibility to the worth of those opinions in this Forum".

Perfect, because this is where you and I disagree. I try to evaluate each opinion or offered 'fact' first on its own merits and then on the basis of the source. I give more credence to what someone says about firefighting if I know that they are or have been a firefighter. I am less concerned about the posters credentials if we are discussing matters of belief or religion. If someone whom I know offers me an opinion then it is much easier for me to evaluate that opinion than if it is an opinion offered to me by a stranger. There are thousands of examples on this forum where posters have stated facts without any documentation of the source of those facts. If a know the poster (either by virtue of their real name and their known and public record or, as in the case of POGO, because they are a registered anonymous poster who ALWAYS uses the same name and who has a long track record of postings that define his credibility, then I can decide how much validity to give those undocumented facts. But if the poster is anonymous without a long posting track record using the same name then I am not inclined to accept their proffered 'facts' at face value. If someone uses an anonymous name that has never appeared on this forum before (like Bully in this thread) then I have no way of determining their credibility.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:43 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I still go for a split forum - One for names and one for anonymous.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2011 at 10:44 am

Peter, more thoughts.

I have read your posts about flying and from the beginning, you said that you had expertise and your posts showed that. As a result, each time you posted using your name I knew exactly what my thoughts on you were and I respect you and your opinion on such topics. I have said that in discussions with regards to flying.

If, for example, on a topic about rocket science, I was to call myself John/Jane Smith, Rocket Scientist, and then proceeded to show through my posts that I know nothing about rocket science, I would not have much credibility even though I had posted my name and my presumed expertise. Likewise, on a topic about education, if I call myself "Resident, a parent of a Paly Student" and then prodeeded with information and opinion that supported the fact that I was indeed a parent of a Paly student, would it detract from the fact that I was not posting my name. I think, or would hope, that my knowledge and opinion would stand up much more than the name John/Jane Smith.

I do thank you for posting your name and your expertise in topics dealing with flying and yes they do carry more weight as a result. But if you were to post about an issue in regards to Paly I would take your name as of little relevance unless you were also able to prove that you were more knowledgeable than me, particularly if we disagreed.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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