Comments and Anonymity at Daily Nous

I am grateful that people take the time and make the effort to comment on the posts here at Daily Nous. I try to post about news and issues that are important to or of interest to other philosophers, and the discussions that the posts generate is one way of gauging success at that. Some of these discussions have been informative and helpful, occasionally provocative, and I’ve learned from them. I take it that if Daily Nous has any value to the profession, a big part of it comes from it providing a forum for members of our community to discuss issues, share news and perspectives, learn from one another, and enjoy the virtual company of other philosophers.

Daily Nous has a comments policy. You can read it here. It’s short. Its main ideas are (a) keep things in perspective, (b) do a good job at trying to have a productive conversation.

I have been fairly liberal in my moderation of comments, as any fair-minded observer can see, and a wide variety of perspectives are represented in most comment threads. For the most part, moderation has been fairly easy. Commenters, aware of the comments policy, have largely done a good job of self-governance. I really appreciate that, both because it helps maintain Daily Nous as a site worth reading and because it saves me time. Yet lately comment moderation has become more difficult. In part this is owed to the nature of some of the topics discussed here recently. But part of it has also been owed to an apparent increase in anonymous commenting.

Daily Nous allows anonymous commenting. Daily Nous also allows (but does not recommend) anonymous commenting from parties who will not even supply an accurate email address with their comment (the email address is not published, fyi). I allow anonymous commenting because I understand that people are sometimes fearful that others in the profession who are more powerful or more popular might condemn or shun them (or their associates) if their identity became known, and I do not want to discourage participation from those who consider themselves particularly vulnerable. Lately, though, more and more people have been using the cover of anonymity in ways that I consider to be at odds with the comments policy and the goals of the site, including speculating about people’s motivations, making unfounded accusations, getting engaged in trivial disputes, hurling insults, raising tangents, reposting anonymous comments made elsewhere, being unnecessarily hostile, etc. When such comments dominate a thread, it is tiresome to read, at least in my opinion.

So, I am asking all prospective commenters to try to keep the comments policy in mind when deciding whether and how to comment here. I am asking prospective commenters to use anonymity sparingly and only for comments that both meet the spirit of the comments policy and about which one could sincerely and reasonably fear significant negative professional or personal repercussions if posted non-anonymously. (By way of encouragement, let me say that I suspect that contributions to discussions will be treated more thoughtfully and respectfully if they are posted non-anonymously, and in turn protected from unnecessarily anonymous commenting.)

From now on I am going to try to be a bit stricter with the approval of comments, particularly anonymous ones. It’s a matter of judgment, of course, and I am fallible. I am well aware that the results will not be perfect and that some readers and commenters will be unhappy. That is where keeping things in perspective might come in handy. I’m not saying don’t complain about the moderation. But I ask you to think twice about it, out of consideration for my time and out of recognition of the limits of my abilities. I wish I could make you all happy. And I wish I could do it with a blog. That would be awesome. But I can’t.

Thank you for reading this, and for your continued assistance with making Daily Nous worthwhile.

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