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Anonymous Blog Comments

This is something that comes up quite a bit on certain blogs, especially with Alt.NET types (before he (un)fortunately (unfortunately because he was the source of a wealth of unintentional humor, fortunately because his blogs were usually stupid), Scott Bellware was a typical example, Chad Myers is a current example if only because he's open and honest about it, to his credit), but I finally remembered to make a public note about it.

Some people seem to think that the value of a comment on a blog posting is related to whether or not it is anonymous.  There is an obvious reason for this.

If, to use an example, Ayende makes a comment about some topic concerning programming, the natural tendency of anyone who knows him and follows what he blogs/comments about is to assume that he is right, or at least to give extra credence to what he says because it is said by Ayende.

If, to use an example, jdn makes a comment about some topic concerning programming, the natural tendency of anyone (or at least, anyone within Alt.NET) who knows him and follows what he blogs/comments about is to assume that he is wrong, or at least to give lesser credence to what he says because it is said by jdn.

This is a natural psychological fact.  It is also right up there on the list of Logic 101 Fallacies. 

The truth/validity/coherence (all different things) of a statement is, logically, completely disconnected from the person who makes the statement.  There is no debate about this, by the way.  It is very hard sometimes to reconcile the nature of human psychology and the facts of logic.  If I have a question about a topic concerning programming, I will, naturally, give more credence to something Ayende says than something some anonymous person says.  It is still a logical fallacy to do so.  Similarly, to take into account the anonymity of a blog comment (or lack thereof) is a logical fallacy.

posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2008 7:39 PM Print
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
Scott
8/19/2008 8:57 PM
I think you put too little faith in the community. Sure there will be some that see a comment from a "celebrity programmer" and take it at face value, but the reality is, for me at least, if you are going to say something with conviction (which you typically do) I want to know who I'm talking to. It's human interaction at it's simplest. If you say nothing of substance (whether I agree or not) I wouldn't pay attention name or not.

If we are to have a dialogue, let's do so as identifiable people.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
jdn
8/19/2008 9:25 PM
@Scott

I agree with you that in terms of having a dialog, that makes sense.

But, I still hold, and it is still a matter of logic, if you had made the comment that you made, but logged it as 'joeschmoe', that would not have lessened the validity of what you said.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
Jimmy Bogard
8/20/2008 9:27 AM
It certainly does lessen the validity. By and large, the anonymous comments left on my blog (and I mean anonymous, they don't provide a link back to an internet presence; or don't use a real name), are the most incendiary comments left.

In psychological terms, anonymity looks similar to mob behavior; that is, once you remove identity and accountability, you're more likely to chuck the rules of society out the window. Anonymous commenters are more interested in inciting a reaction, than actual dialogue.

Ayende is a special case. His name is Oren Eini, and has this on his website. He was originally anonymous because when he started his blog, he wasn't allowed to (in the Israeli army). He kept the name, as it is a well-known persona.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
jdn
8/20/2008 9:59 AM
Jimmy:

It can happen that way but there is no logical connection between anonymity and the truth/validity of what someone says. Back in the day when all we had was Usenet, where there weren't blogs to link back to, there was a much richer (and also much mor incenidary when it got to that) coversation online, and the fact that some people used real names while others used pseudonyms (I use 'jdn' because it is my initials and I was mocking jms...but that's another story) was something we all accepted (where are you now 'H.West'?).

That is Ayende's cover story yes. He's actually a robot you know.

Regardless, the logical fact remains, there's no connection between validity and non-anonymity. I've seem many calm, rational, comments labelled 'blog bile' just because they disagree with the blogger's opinion.

Plus a lot of garbage too, I'll admit to that.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
Sergio Pereira
8/20/2008 3:55 PM
You guys didn't get it yet. Ayende and Oren are two different people. They're twins that are awake in alternate shifts. At least they are both good twins.
I think Bellware has a blog (http://blog.scottbellware.com/) but hasn't blogged as frequently or consistently as he used to.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
Brian
8/20/2008 7:02 PM
Funny...I give jdn much more credence than I give Ayende. In fact I don't give him any.

I think jdn works in the real world, and maybe that's why I give him more credence.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
jdn
8/20/2008 7:10 PM
Well, I'd disagree with that. Being jdn, when it comes to real programming knowledge, always give more credence to Ayende (who does work in the real world, but at a level only few attain).
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
jdn
8/23/2008 4:48 PM
Scott's new blog is interesting, but still contains gems like:

"There's oscillation at every level of performance, and each level's oscillation is the tattle tail of a bottleneck that obstructs the team from working to the extent of its potential."

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have need of an editor ("succint"...what does that mean?), but seriously, Scott's penchant for obscuring the meaning of his points behind incoherent verbiage is a sight to behold.

One of the reasons why his BDD article was so good was IMO because he had an editor that forced him to say in clear terms what he wanted to say. And so, he said it well.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
anonymous
8/29/2008 1:17 AM
i would like to say something interesting but i've got a feeling i will be ignored.
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# re: Anonymous Blog Comments
Invilidusername
12/14/2008 10:44 AM
Same here.

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