Discussion About Discussions Here


Since there appears to be interest in discussing the recent experiments here regarding the comments (see some of the comments on the “Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance” post), I thought I’d open up a separate space for that.

I’ve recently made two changes to comments here.

The first is requiring, on certain posts, that people comment under their real first and last names, rather than use pseudonyms. I’ve done this on the following posts:

I picked posts for this experiment that concern controversial political subjects because those types of posts seem most susceptible to various forms of bad commenting: knee-jerk responses, trolling, sea-lioning, personal attacks, and insensitivity to our fellow philosophers. You can check out the comments on those posts and see if they strike you as an improvement over earlier discussions in which the real name policy was not in place.

The second change was the removal of the comment-liking button and tally. I am trying this for a few reasons. The main one is that I think that for some people, the mere liking of a comment can substitute for them commenting themselves, and I am hoping for participation from more people in the comments.

Additionally, the tallies of likes might be giving visitors to the site a false impression. The like tallies indicate what’s liked by the kind of readers who use the like button, but it is not clear that that reliably reflects what Daily Nous readers in general like, or the opinions of the broader philosophical community (which is something some people form opinions about based on discussions here). I’d bet that the numbers sometimes line up (e.g., when David Wallace criticizes something I’ve written), but not always. This is related to the third concern about the likes, which is that it is not very difficult for someone to figure out how to like a comment multiple times. I think that the motivation to do that is higher, in general, when one is expressing an unpopular opinion. And so there is the risk that the like tallies were fraudulently misrepresentative.

I’ll likely continue with these experiments for a while. I’ve received some private messages about them (some in favor, some opposed) but I’m eager to hear what more of you think. At some point I will officially revise the comments policy, but if you haven’t read it in a while, please do so.

For discussion of this post, I will not be requiring real names.


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Dmitri Gallow
Dmitri Gallow
1 year ago

I’m strongly in favor of removing likes, hearts, or any other form of gamification from the comments section. A discussion should be an opportunity for everyone to listen to each other’s points of view and improve their own through the exchange. It seems to me that a displaying a running tally of the number of ‘likes’ a post receives has two effects which work against this goal. Firstly, because we’re social critters who seem the esteem of our colleagues, it incentivizes stating your opinions in ways that will garner more ‘likes’. This seems to lead to two outcomes. Firstly, making more popular opinions; and, secondly, framing your opinions in snarkier, more dismissive terms. (I’m just basing this on my experience of the intellectual wastelands of facebook and twitter.) The second effect of displaying a running total of ‘likes’ is that it instills in those who agree with the most ‘popular’ posts a false sense of intellectual security. Seeing that the posts you agree with got the most ‘likes’ reassures you that your opinion is correct, and encourages a lazy dismissal of the points made in the posts you disagree with.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Dmitri Gallow
1 year ago

For what it’s worth, I don’t think ‘likes’ at DN in particular favor dismissive and snarky posts; the reverse is true, if anything.Report

Dmitri Gallow
Dmitri Gallow
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I think that’s probably right. I was rattling off my reasons for being generally opposed to ‘likes’, ‘upvotes’ and ‘hearts’, and I was thinking in particular of my experiences on sites like twitter, facebook, and reddit when I was talking about ‘snarky’ and ‘dismissive’ attitudes. What I think ends up happening specifically on DN—though this is really just a vague impression, and I wouldn’t want to put too much stock in it—is that the ‘likes’ favor more pugilistic comments. They certainly put me in a more confrontational mindset when I find myself checking whether the side I started off agreeing with has garnered the most ‘likes’; and I find myself being unduly dismissive of the people who I disagree with once I see that they’ve received many fewer internet points than the ones I agree with. But I may be idiosyncratic in that regard.

(There is one important function that the ‘likes’ can serve, which is worth mentioning at a time when an alarming large number of philosophers fear that simply speaking their mind on a blog will lead to great professional harm: it allows those people to have some voice in the discussion. I think we should all be much more concerned about the prevalence of those fears and what it’s doing to our collective discourse. However, I’d personally rather give those people a voice by allowing pseudonyms.)Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Dmitri Gallow
1 year ago

To be fair, I haven’t looked at this systematically (and can’t now, since the removal of ‘likes’ is retroactive. I’m mostly going on personal experience: I’m basically never pugilistic and I’m pretty sure I hold the site record for aggregated likes. (Alas, my frail ego… the true ulterior motive for my objection to removing the ‘like’ function now becomes clear.)Report

Louis F. Cooper
Louis F. Cooper
1 year ago

I am opposed to the policy of forcing people to use their full names on certain comment threads. It runs contrary, in my view, to the spirit of the blogosphere (by which about 99 percent of all blogs, including this one, should be governed). While the policy might marginally improve the quality of discussion in some cases, I don’t think the benefits are worth the costs.Report

Cathy Legg
Cathy Legg
Reply to  Louis F. Cooper
1 year ago

“Like” 🙂Report

Mark Alfano
1 year ago

Something shy of the full name policy that aims to preserve its reputational-skin-in-the-game benefit has been proposed by Carissa Véliz in her paper “Online Masquerade” (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/japp.12342). She proposes sticky pseudonyms. The basic idea is that people have little incentive to respective conversational norms if they face no costs for violating them or benefits for visibly conforming to them. That can lead to things like trolling under multiple alt-accounts. If each contributor has only one pseudonym and readers are able to remind themselves easily how that pseudonym has behaved in the past, the reputational mechanisms remain in effect. You might consider having people register .edu or other institutional pseudonyms with you (and not sharing those with anyone else, of course) if you want to relax the restrictions slightly.

Separate from that, my impression is that the comments sections on the three experimental posts are much less toxic than those on previous controversial posts. That doesn’t mean that the new policy is the best possible, but it’s probably better than allowing full anonymity and gamification.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Mark Alfano
1 year ago

Being a philosopher in a precarious position but also who has a variety of heterodox opinions, I have long been grateful for the ability to use my (sticky!) pseudonym. When Justin requires real names, I simply cannot participate–too risky.Report

untenured
untenured
1 year ago

I understand the spirit and motivation of requiring real names on comment threads. However, one drawback that I see is that people who are untenured (like myself) would be less inclined to comment in general. This isn’t because I feel as though I have unpopular views or that I want to post insensitive things. It is just that having any sort of record of any opinion online I feel is not wise before having a more secure position.Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  untenured
1 year ago

A word of encouragement: getting a job is not about ensuring that everyone thinks you do good work and likes you. It’s about ensuring that at least one department thinks you do good work and likes you. That’s consistent with being thought poorly of by a large swath of the discipline. By contrast, if no one cares much about you or your work because you don’t have much to say, it may happen that no department prefers you to all their alternatives.Report

tenure-track
tenure-track
Reply to  Mark Alfano
1 year ago

Just to be clear, this is bad advice. If you are somehow in the position of being known about by “a large swath of the discipline,” and they think poorly of you, AND you don’t have a job already, there is no way you will ever get a job. Better to keep your mouth shut or use a pseudonym.Report

Professor Apricot
Professor Apricot
Reply to  tenure-track
1 year ago

Hear hear! Although the advice does work for certain entitled white men.Report

Bart
Bart
Reply to  tenure-track
1 year ago

It would be useful if something allowed us to see what the readership thought of the apparent disagreement between Marc Alfano and tenure-track. Perhaps a “like” function?Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Mark Alfano
1 year ago

When tenured members of the profession threaten you on Twiter, saying that they will destroy you or something similar, it can be rather challenging to find that one department that will like you, don’t you think?Report

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
1 year ago

I favor a real name policy for DailyNous, “news for and about the philosophy profession.”

A relevant definition of “profession” may help distinguish DailyNous from blogosphere norms: “an act of openly declaring or publicly claiming a belief, faith, or opinion: an avowed statement or expression of intent or purpose” (Webster’s 3rd.)

Perhaps consider adding “by” to the site motto to further highlight the nature of philosophy profession (pp) content and conduct to be expected here.

Or crib from the Gettysburg Address: “of the pp, by the pp, for the pp”Report

gradstudent
gradstudent
Reply to  Paul Wilson
1 year ago

I’m late to this conversation, but I have to point out that you’re equivocating here between different senses of the term “profession”. The one you provide is not the one being used in the title of this blog. I also don’tReport

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

I don’t care for the likes. They made me feel good when they worked my way, bad when they didn’t, and many times it was obvious that some upvoters had just found a way to game the system. It’s a terribly unreliable signaling mechanism.

The average quality of comments posted under a real name may be, on average, higher. Could you achieve the same gains while allowing pseudonymous or anonymous comments? You could, probably, if you had and enforced a policy prohibiting the sort of content that anonymous commenting fosters. This would, however, involve heavy moderation. I understand why you may not want to do it, Justin, and instead count on real-name posting to approximate that kind of quality control.

But here’s where I think the real-name posting policy is not fool-proof. Some influential commenters can use their reputation, position or authority to intimidate others who, under the guise of anonymity would have been willing to participate but won’t for fear of repercussions or loss of status (it’s plausible that many such commenters would have made a positive contribution but will no longer be in a position to do so). Some other commenters seem to have lost interest in preserving a good reputation and will recklessly cast vicious aspersions on others, anonymous or not (no need to name names here…). It’s perfectly understandable that graduate students, adjuncts, contract lecturers or untenured junior faculty may not want to take needless risks in provoking the ire of these commenters who, albeit seemingly oblivious to the reputation they’re building, nonetheless have an audience and powerful echo chambers. So, that’s the first failure of the policy. Real-name posting doesn’t, by itself, without strictly enforcing the sort of policy I alluded to, prevent vicious posting. The second problem is partly dependent on the first problem. Many good faith commenters will only comment anonymously or pseudonymously, for all sorts of reasons (say, they don’t want to lose their job because they said something controversial—as in ‘not perfectly aligned with the authorized majority opinion du jour’). What we’re gaining in average quality in the comments that do get posted we’re losing in potentially good comments that never get posted.

All considered, this may be a good policy. It’s hard to know, in part because we’ll never know what comments would have been posted were it not for the policy. But we do know it has limits. We know it will prevent many regular pseudonymous commenters from commenting who had been valuable contributors (I think consistent pseudonyms are much better than anonymous handles, because they create some accountability). And we know it will not prevent real-name commenters from commenting in ways that do not foster constructive, respectful dialogue. Having commented under my real name here for a couple years now, I’m glad I chose to lift the veil of anonymity. I’m more careful when I write and I’m, most of the time, fine standing by what I wrote. But this has some costs: I’ve been on the receiving end of at least one of said vicious commenters, who has tried to damage my reputation. I’m untenured and my immigration status remains precarious, especially under the current administration. I can’t blame those who choose to not take those risks.Report

Avalonian
Avalonian
1 year ago

“I picked posts for this experiment that concern controversial political subjects because those types of posts seem most susceptible to various forms of bad commenting: knee-jerk responses, trolling, sea-lioning, personal attacks, and insensitivity to our fellow philosophers.”

So I’m going to suggest that this cannot be the best description of the justification for the no-anonymity policy. This is because the comments policy already forbids most, if not all, of these behaviors . As I understand it, many comments are already deleted/not approved for fitting precisely these descriptions.

From where I sit, the real reason that anonymity is being suppressed is that many members of our discipline expect certain political messages to receive nothing more than enthusiastic assent. When such messages (or the manner of their delivery) are opposed, those members of our discipline feel personally attacked and undermined, and find further confirmation for their view that philosophy is an intrinsically hostile field full of people who secretly want it to be 1956 again. In a few select cases this response is clearly understandable: some anonymous commenters do nothing more than express barely disguised anger and seek to create a totally unjustified backlash against the marginalized and under-represented. The no-anonymity policy prevents this from happening, and that is a good thing. But I would suggest that this benefit must be explicitly weighed against the many, many voices–plenty of whom are from marginalized and under-represented groups–who will not appear on this page as a result of the policy. You will never know how many of these voices you are silencing, or how many alternative viewpoints will be suppressed, as a result of this kind of policy. But do bear in mind the strong possibility that certain members of our field are unjustly dominating the discussion by having their particular, idiosyncratic responses–not necessarily shared by other vulnerable members of the field–determine what counts as reasonable disagreement and what counts as an angry, alienating backlash.Report

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

Can we have an airing of the Alex Guerrero and Justin Kalef episode? It was very unfortunate and to be frank, I think, not handled correctly. Furthermore, the current result seems bad. The discussion in “Illusion and Agreement in the Debate over Intolerance” is less than complete if we’re not going to discuss the plausible case that’s sitting in our laps. Furthermore, that episode may be a harbinger of many more to come in our community if, once departments get back to normal, there are widespread, department-sponsored anti-racism workshops. It seems worth considering what the boundaries of acceptable discussion should be. And not just in the abstract. For instance, does raising the issue of “black-on-black” crime in a discussion of police brutality warrant ostracism? (Of course, this case is under-described.) This is a very uncomfortable discussion, but an important one, and one I would think adult philosophers can handle.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Ben
1 year ago

”It was very unfortunate and to be frank, I think, not handled correctly”

To say the least. A number of comments critical (but not containing anything rude or vulgar or threatening) of Guerrero were deleted, or not approved. Ask me how I know that.Report

Travis Timmerman
1 year ago

Is there a way to bring back the “likes” without letting (or while making it more difficult) for people to “like” a comment multiple times?Report

Adam Omelianchuk
1 year ago

I like the full-name rule as I think it leads to more civil behavior and encourages people to own their words. I miss the “like” feature because it helped represent the preferences of the lurkers. Overall, the change is positive, however.Report

Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

When I was a graduate student and later when I was an untenured Assistant Professor, I would regularly post under my own full name. I think there are strong reasons to have that as a default, and if there is the need to post anonymously, there should be a mechanism where a special request can be made. People trusted Brian Leiter to respect their anonymity and I imagine a similar setup could be put in place here. I appreciate this may be more work for Justin W., and would understand if that seemed ultimately not worth it.

The “likes” were often just manipulated (by people who either have more technical sophistication or time on their hands than I do), so whatever “signaling of the lurker” value they might have had, I think they in fact often served to distort perceptions of support.

Also, I’d be happy to talk more about sea-lioning and civility and evidence and discursive space and racism. I do want to stress, though, that this is no case of “ostracism” or “cancellation.” This is a case of someone taking their ball and going home.Report

John Schwenkler
1 year ago

I despair for online discourse and think that anonymity and pseudonymity tend to make it worse, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea to have a blanket policy of requiring commenters to post under their full names in discussions of issues in the profession. As others have said above, such a policy puts a significant burden on graduate students, postdocs, early career faculty, and anyone else whose career status is (or is felt to be) vulnerable, since the blowback for saying the “wrong thing” (in whoever’s eyes) can be real. I say this as someone who, like Alex Guerrero, used to post about controversial things under my own name even when I was a graduate student and before I received tenure. I’d do it all again, but I don’t think it should be required of everyone. Nor do I think the problem can be solved by special request, as Alex suggests, since this too incurs vulnerability and it would be a very hard policy to implement fairly.Report

someone somewhere
someone somewhere
1 year ago

I was (in recent memory) severely harassed by a powerful figure in the field, and every once in a blue moon, I feel moved to draw on this experience in public philosophy fora. I would not do this under my real name, as identifying myself means identifying my harasser. Nor would I trust Justin to protect my anonymity, by revealing my identity to him alone, which would also reveal the identity of my harasser. (Nothing personal, Justin. I just don’t know you.)Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
1 year ago

“I’d bet that the numbers sometimes line up (e.g., when David Wallace criticizes something I’ve written), but not always. ”

I suppose you could only restore it for my posts… but then, what about when I say something nice about you?

Seriously, I now think I see where you are coming from. I’m not sure I agree but I can at least understand the case.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

LikeReport

Greg Guy
Greg Guy
1 year ago

If likes are seen as important, then why not dislikes? or should it be hates? I’ve never seen a blog or online forum made better by making every post a popularity contest. However, discussion has always been improved when people are forced to explain why they like or dislike a particular comment.Report

Andrew
Andrew
1 year ago

I don’t care about the likes.

There are two potentially competing considerations with permitting anonymous/pseudonymous comments: (1) the quality of the blog/discussion and (2) the amount of work it takes from Justin.

Re (2), at one point, in 2014, Justin represented that the policy of permitting anonymous/pseudonymous commenting did not require significant work from him in terms of moderating. Maybe that’s changed and he is now spending more time than he is willing to weed out problematic comments. If that’s so, then I understand the move to a new policy. He is certainly not under any obligation to spend time and energy doing this work.

Re (1), though, I think it’s obvious that requiring the use of real names diminishes the quality of the discussion and value of the blog. Some members of the profession have the security of a full-time position, perhaps with tenure. For someone not in that position, though, it is obviously reasonable to be concerned about commenting on controversial issues in the profession. Tenure exists largely because the expression of views on controversial issues can threaten careers. It’s a bit rich for those with tenure to suggest that those without (or, even without a job) should boldly step forward and express views under their own names, particularly in light of the crap nature of the job market and what seems like a very charged atmosphere surrounding certain issues. Without anonymity/pseudonymity, I suspect many in the more vulnerable/less established portion of the profession will opt out. That will make the quality of the discussion worse and will diminish the value of the blog. It will move the blog in the direction of an echo-chamber for established members of the profession. I can’t see how that’s good.

Finally, though I certainly acknowledge that Justin is in the better position to make this judgment, I haven’t noticed that the anonymous/pseudonymous comments are particularly numerous or egregious examples of problematic commenting. There are plenty of examples of comments from philosophers commenting under their own names that are at least as problematic as any example of a pseudonymous comment.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

By the way, I recognize that I essentially said the same thing as “untenured” above (but, much less concisely). One nice thing about the ‘like’ button is that I could signal agreement without having to reiterate the comment.Report

Grad Student4
Grad Student4
1 year ago

I always post anonymously but have never trolled: seems mean-spirited, pointless, and a waste of time. But under a new policy I will never be able to comment. Too high risk, low reward. If just one person wants to paint any skepticism in some (even plainly unreasonably) unflattering light, they can. I could lose an opportunity for a job due to the most innocuous comment (take the recent instance in which several people who posted under their real name in an entirely collegial manner debating a topic of importance to philosophy were accused in a blogpost on the internet, now recorded possibly for perpetuity, of ableism). However low the probability you may think of something like this happening ( I think it is significant, but I digress), the propsective costs are so immense that the risk is not worth it. A big big cost times a small probability is still a big cost. It’s just not worth the risk, whether the risk ends up actuating at all.

This is most clearly attested to by the many clearly serious, productive commentators who post nonetheless anonymously. Some seem to suggest here that they/we are just being meek—irrationally cautious. We are to be comforted by the fact that some now professionally secure faculty posted as grad students. But that is merely anecdotal. If someone went golfing in a lightning storm and didn’t die, I still, I confess, wouldn’t throw caution to the wind. We are also assured that we need only one department to like us (as if it is not a very real possibility that 0 departments will like us, and as if the one that might would never google our name or read this blog with any frequency). I would encourage anyone to reconsider reliance on these kinds of claims.

Testimony, on the other hand, is a powerful form of evidence, especially coming from people who you have no reason to distrust and who have no incentive to lie. Indeed denying this testimony with 0 more concrete/reliable evidence to the contrary may even be morally problematic.

If there is a problem with trolls, then moderation would seem to be the answer. But then people may cry censorship. In my view, the alternative of removing the often productive and frequently requisite comfort of anonymity for commenting will be worse as it will result in an over-inclusive amount of self-censorship. And then our profession’s representatives in the comments of any contentious topic will be just be the tenured and the otherwise remarkably (recklessly?) bold. The denial of anonymity is a denial for the disempowered and powerless.

Trolls are trolls. We are all adults—if someone posts a trolling comment that gets 100 (fake?) “likes” in response to your comment, it has literally 0 material effect on your life, and even if it did you had good reason to expect this might occur and chose freely to post non anonymously. On the other hand, a default non-anonymity merely precludes me and many others like us from participating at all.Report

Jerome
Jerome
1 year ago

Thank you for your efforts Justin.

I support Mark Alfano’s proposal of permanent pseudonyms (with exceptions for the likes of “someone somewhere” above). It would make discussions more pleasant at little cost.
On likes, I had the same reaction as Andrew above!

Requiring real names is a boon for two groups:
1. the powerful (tenured professors, big names, etc.), because they suffer no material consequences for their speech and can use their large institutional and reputational resources to force dissidents into acquiescence;
2. those who toe the party line on controversial topics (race, gender, etc.), because these are the disagreements that incur professional retaliation — indeed, attacking these orthodoxies for any reason is seen as prima faciae evidence of ill will and bigotry. To forbid anonymity is thus to push the Overton window starkly in one direction.

As for “trolling, sea-lioning, personal attacks” etc., in my experience these accusations stem from disaffinity with the line of argumentation or the conclusion rather than anything substantive. The accuser just *can not believe* anybody holds x to be true. I suspect consensus would be rare if readers were asked to judge the good faith of any post.
And as per (1), what do the powerful lose by resorting to personal attacks? Recent and not-so-recent events have shown that senior members of the profession will, under their own names, disparage their perceived inferiors without second thoughts: hurling personal insults at them, calling their department head to complain about their online behavior, threatening their job prospects, etc.
Only those with skin in the game, i.e. the marginalized, will become more civilized.

However, I have sympathy with Philippe Lemoine’s point on twitter that anonymity is a collective action problem insofar as eliminating pseudonyms across the board would lower the material stakes through various mechanisms (foremost being: “I too could cancelled!”).Report

David Walsh
David Walsh
1 year ago

Likes are likes: it is a valid form of communicating, people can choose either to like or comment- there is no reason to deprive them of that choice. Your concerns about fake likes or people not commenting because they like seem unwarranted. The anonymity thing might be salutary at times but I favor full unpoliced openness. Length of posts should be restricted maybe- people are overindulging.Report

Murali
Murali
1 year ago

I’m not sure how I feel about requiring full names.

Experiments will have to be done, but I suspect that people with long and/or exotic full names are taken less seriously in informal settings than those with easily pronounceable names. My full name is Anantharaman Muralidharan, but I prefer to go by Murali in all aspects of my life. The only exceptions are government stuff, insurance, banking, utility bills and publications. Experience also tells me that non family members almost always pronounce my full name incorrectly at least at first without me correcting them. And correcting people about the pronunciation of your name is immensely frustrating. This has been true 100% of the time for those who are not of Indian ethnicity. And it’s not because people do not know how to roll their “r”s. At least half of the Indians i have met who are not family get my surname (Anantharaman) wrong because the English spelling is ambiguous between two pronunciations both of which are possible names someone might have. Basically you could pronounce the first A like ‘uh’ which is correct or like ‘aah’ which is incorrect.

Mispronouncing Murali is both less common and more easily corrected. One reason is because it’s shorter. The second is because lots of people are familiar with the cricket player who is also named Murali.

Another part of it is first name last name conventions. As you’ve noted my given name, Muralidharan, appears last as according to various Asian conventions. Moreover Anantharaman, my surname, is my father’s given name. It is common in America, the UK and Australia to address people by their surnames. But that is weird for me because that is literally my dad’s name. I want to be addressed by my name.

This last bit is especially relevant to commenting. It feels weird signing off my name at the end of a comment. In addition, even in emails where I do sign off as Murali, people who don’t personally know me will still address me as Anantharaman because that is what they see in their inboxes. So, it’s frustrating.

I don’t comment pseudonymously, but requiring full names is somewhat frustrating for me. And I suspect for other people in a similar situation.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Murali
1 year ago

This comment is a good example of why we need a like button. I know several people who live with the frustration of having their names repeatedly badly mispronounced by native English speakers. This annoyance, they tell me, is not the biggest issue in the world, but it does add up over time to be a negative experience of note for them. With a like button I have no doubt that Murali’s comment would have got several dozen likes. Seeing those likes would be reassuring to anyone reading this thread who faces the problem Murali mentions. It would indicate that many philosophers accept this as a legitimate concern and don’t dismiss it as a silly complaint about a non-issue (which is a fear that I have heard some people with this problem express). However, without a like button Murali’s comment got no response at all. Indeed, no one even replied “Like” as has happened with a few other comments here (I guess because although they support this comment it is not one of the handful of comments here that most standout to them). Therefore, the lack of an easy and quick option for expressing approval has led to a missed opportunity to show support for a minor struggle that barely gets any airtime.

Another version of this kind of phenomena is when someone reports a personal experience connected to the topic under discussion for which they deserve some sympathy. If their comment is neither controversial nor especially enlightening then they may get no reaction in the comments. Although this outcome is not terrible, it’s not a nice thing to share a difficult personal experience and get no expression of sympathy from the community you share it with. A like button helps to rectify this as any likes of their post (and their will certainty be some) will naturally be interpreted as expressing sympathy with their experience.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  JTD
1 year ago

LikeReport

Stephen R. Grimm
Reply to  JTD
1 year ago

LikeReport

Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

One reason that is good about having real names is it means one can be confident one isn’t wasting one’s time with some random person on the internet while trying to have a serious conversation about issues that affect professional philosophers, teaching philosophy, and the profession of philosophy. I think many professional philosophers and actual graduate students don’t have the time to engage with every random person on the internet.

So, I very much disagree that it’s “obvious that requiring the use of real names diminishes the quality of the discussion and value of the blog.” I think many more people would engage regularly on these discussion threads if one felt like one was speaking with actual members of the profession, rather than whoever in the world has the time or inclination to stir shit up in comment threads.

It is true there might be some topics where grad students are reluctant to speak up. I do think that Mark Alfano is exactly right when he points out that “getting a job is not about ensuring that everyone thinks you do good work and likes you.” Even so, I could understand some people wanting just to lie low. So, we might lose the commentary from some grad students. It’s hard to know how many. I’m not sure how to weigh that against what I think is the quite significant loss now from all of the members of the profession who can’t be bothered to deal with the comment threads as they are. There are like 15-20 people who comment regularly, and another 10,000 who rarely do. It seems we should be interested in working on that, at least on some of these issues that do have significance for the profession.

Also, there used to be the excellent blog, The Philosophy Smoker, which was entirely anonymous graduate students. That served a real function, and I would recommend such a thing to those graduate students who wanted to have their opinions known, but not under their own names. Obviously not ideal, but nothing is.

Just one more note. The comment threads here are even more overwhelmingly male than the profession is–certainly in terms of those who use their real names, but even with the pseudonyms chosen (of course, it is possible that is tactical, but that seems unlikely). That seems worth reflecting on. I’m not sure that dealing with anonymous commenters is to explain for that, but I wouldn’t be shocked, either.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

“One reason that is good about having real names is it means one can be confident one isn’t wasting one’s time with some random person on the internet while trying to have a serious conversation about issues that affect professional philosophers, teaching philosophy, and the profession of philosophy.”

I’m having trouble making sense of this comment. Who are the random people on the internet with no legitimate connection to philosophy who regularly comment at DN? I suspect that most commentators here are philosophy faculty or graduate students. But there are various other people who might legitimately comment–undergraduate philosophy students, people who previous studied philosophy but have gone on to other careers, people in closely aligned disciplines who keep an eye on philosophy, people who have developed a casual interest in philosophy later in life.

I think this comment actually highlights what is one reason in favor of allowing pseudonyms. Professional philosophy has an elitism problem. This is especially a problem at the elite US programs, but it occurs at other places as well. There are many people who consider themselves as belonging to the philosophical elite and, as a result, show a lack of interest in engaging with those in philosophy who they consider as outside the elite. These people would also say “One reason that is good about having real names is it means one can be confident one isn’t wasting one’s time with some random person on the internet”. However, by “random person on the internet” they would mean “a random graduate student who is not from an elite school and thus is going nowhere in philosophy”, or “a philosopher working at some no-name teaching school who wasn’t good enough to get a job in a top R1 school”. When most of the comments are anonymous it is not so easy for someone like this to dismiss certain commentators on status grounds.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  JTD
1 year ago

I’ll just say for my part I really meant people who have no or almost no connection to philosophy. These people often overwhelm philosophy interactions on Twitter and Reddit and it didn’t seem implausible that they might find their way here, even just through those venues.

I personally find the chance to hear from grad students, professors and instructors at every level and every kind of institution, former grad students who left the profession, and people from nearby fields one of the best things about this kind of forum. Even undergrads, for some topics, although they often have little awareness of the profession.

I can see stable pseudonyms being a good solution, if it turns out to be workable. I’ve come to know some of the people here without knowing who they are. It does help to know whether the person is a professor, grad student, etc., as that affects how one understands some of what they might say, how long they’ve been in the profession, etc. But even that’s possible with pseudonyms.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

It sounds like you’re pretty serious about public philosophy and philosophical outreach.

If the random internet people are saying things that are worth engaging with, why does it matter if they have tenure at Rutgers? And if you don’t want to engage with such people, why don’t you just quickly scan the thread for your friend’s names and engage with those? I don’t think saving you the trouble of having to do that comes even close to justifying a requirement that vulnerable members of the profession put themselves at risk to comment. Nor do I think it remotely justifies relegating vulnerable members of the profession who are reasonably concerned about commenting under their real names to another blog (the kids’ table).

Is this even a real problem, by the way? Justin already requires a working email address. Are we getting waves of people not associated with philosophy at all?

If we are, how is requiring a real name going to solve it? The proposal, as I understand it, isn’t to require some affiliation with philosophy, but to require a full name. If you’re thinking Justin should screen comments for connections to philosophy, what should count as enough? Undergraduates? Masters? PhD but no longer working in philosophy?

I also don’t see how implementing such a policy would lead to a large number of new commenters or correct a gender imbalance in the blog (assuming there is one). Why do you think that’s so? You think there are philosophers waiting in the wings who would comment if only they could be assured they wouldn’t accidentally interact with a non-academic? Are female philosophers in particular doing that? Are you thinking that it will improve the civility of the blog and thereby increase the participation of other philosophers and women in particular? Again, it seems false to me that anonymous or pseudonymous commenters are the most conspicuous offenders against civility. Maybe we could do better at improving the civility of the blog by banning those conspicuous offenders.

At any rate, I agree that stable pseudonyms is a reasonable measure. I thought Justin was already requiring that, though.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Much of the content of this blog has to do with the profession of philosophy: “news for and about the philosophy profession.” It’s not a place, predominantly, for public philosophy or for philosophical outreach. There are some posts of that kind. I’ve contributed to a few of the “philosophers on X” posts, but those are the exception. For those, it seems fine to allow anonymous comments, and I’m happy to engage at length with people with all levels of philosophical background, knowledge of the field, etc. I spend a lot of time doing this in various ways. I think it is super important.

But when we are talking about whether and how the philosophy profession should respond to racism inside and outside of academia, whether graduate programs in philosophy should use or require the GRE, whether sexual harassment is a problem in philosophy and what to do about it, whether we should consolidate the three APAs into one, whether the APA has too much “diversity” programming these days, whether we should somehow restructure philosophy publishing to put less pressure on graduate students to publish, whether and how we should rethink the philosophical canon, how and whether to teach courses that incorporate a more diverse set of authors and topics, and so on, we are not doing public philosophy or philosophical outreach.

I think a lot of people don’t participate here because they have no idea who they are spending their time arguing with or trying to convince. It’s not about civility; it’s about finite time and the question: is it worth arguing with “Mark” or “Ken” or “Tom” about this topic if (a) they don’t know anything about the issue (because they are not in any of the relevant roles) and (b) there is very little value in trying to educate them about the issue or convince them to see it differently (because they are not actually involved in the profession in any substantive way)?

I have also heard from many women and underrepresented minorities in philosophy who feel like the image of the field one gets from these comment threads is of a pretty reactionary, racist, sexist community. It would be useful to know if that is just an apt view of a community of commentators who are actually all in philosophy, or whether that is a distorted view with many people who are not in philosophy contributing to that image.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

”I have also heard from many women and underrepresented minorities in philosophy who feel like the image of the field one gets from these comment threads is of a pretty reactionary, racist, sexist community.”

Or in other words, ”a community dare to actually debate about issues that are currently considered sacrilegious to debate, in a discipline which debates about how can we know that we are not brains in a vat”.Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

“I think a lot of people don’t participate here because they have no idea who they are spending their time arguing with or trying to convince. It’s not about civility; it’s about finite time and the question: is it worth arguing with “Mark” or “Ken” or “Tom” about this topic if (a) they don’t know anything about the issue (because they are not in any of the relevant roles) and (b) there is very little value in trying to educate them about the issue or convince them to see it differently (because they are not actually involved in the profession in any substantive way)?”

Your framing is very telling here. When controversial issues come up in the professions you suggest that, for you and your allies, the main, or only motive for engaging with those who disagree with you is to “convince” or “educate” them about the stance they should be taking on these issues. If that is your only motive then it makes sense to be worried about wasting your time on people whose lack of status in philosophy means that successfully “educating” them would make no substantial difference to the philosophy profession.

Contrary to what you say, I would suggest that one of the main motives that all of us should have when we come to discussions of controversial topics is the intellectual humble one of hearing, with an open mind, the best arguments that can be made by those who disagree with us. When we do this we are more likely to recognize the various errors or weaknesses that may be present in the arguments we have based our opinions on and more likely to understand how reasonable people might come to different conclusions from us. Now if this is our motive, it shouldn’t matter what status our interlocutor has. If someone presents me with a challenging argument against my position on the use of the GRE in graduate admissions then I should respond to that argument without worrying about what status its author has. Discovering that the person making the argument is a plumber without any background in philosophy is irrelevant.

By the way, I just want to reiterate that I think your preoccupation with people from outside of philosophy coming to Daily Nous and posting here in significant numbers is a distraction. Several considerations speak against this claim. Philosophy is too small, too insignificant, and too esoteric a discipline to expect large numbers of people with an agenda from outside to come into our forums and try to influence the discussion. Second, the vast majority of anonymous commentators at Daily Nous demonstrate far too much “insider” philosophy knowledge for it to be plausible that they are not already part of the philosophy ecosystem (and this is even more so the case for those whose comments get the most traction). Thirdly, no one has yet presented any credible evidence that outsiders are coming here in significant numbers and joining our debates. Given these considerations I can’t help but wonder if the issue isn’t really one of not knowing the standing within philosophy of those who post anonymously rather than one of not knowing whether they are part of the philosophy ecosystem at all.Report

Alexander Guerrero
Reply to  JTD
1 year ago

Just wanted to say that I very much agree that “one of the main motives that all of us should have when we come to discussions of controversial topics is the intellectual humble one of hearing, with an open mind, the best arguments that can be made by those who disagree with us.”

I was writing too quickly and using “argue with” when I should have been saying “discuss with”–where the implication that one’s own mind might well be changed is clearer. You are completely right about that.

For my own sake, I would be perfectly happy with some system whereby there was a filter so that those commenting had some significant connection to the profession, but then it remained unclear (if a person wanted it to) what that connection was. I don’t know how many “outsiders” there are. We might disagree about that. Some seem to have insider knowledge. Others reveal that they clearly don’t. If there are very few such people, then the filter affects very little, but it would provide people reassurance that they weren’t just dealing with trolls or people trying to stoke flames.

But in a way, my point was less about me, and more about all the people who never come here, or never comment or engage in the comments. In the old days of Leiter’s blog, there were often good, long substantive discussions with a mix of anonymous (but people who had requested anonymity through Leiter, and been vetted as a person in philosophy, or at least a verifiable name) and non-anonymous commenters. Many of those were on controversial topics. Many different opinions were expressed, but people stayed on topic, were civil, didn’t derail or sealion, and the substantive quality was high. Many people–and not just men–from the profession commented. I think actual policy decisions were affected by those substantive conversations among people who actually were in positions to make those decisions. It would be good to figure out how to get back to that. Here’s an example (in which you can see both grad student me and grad student John Schwenkler, among many others, commenting under our own names): https://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2007/04/some_questions_.htmlReport

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

As a grad student abroad in the early 2010s, threads on Leiter’s blog offered a valuable insight into the profession, as practiced in the Anglophone world, and I often get back to some of these discussion—on editorial practices, refereeing, journal rankings, publishing, and so on. DN has also been very helpful in this respect. I don’t want to sound elitist, but it’s rare for the big names who were regular contributors to Leiter’s blog to come and comment here, and they only rarely comment there now. I think that’s a real loss, perhaps as big as the anonymous voices we may be missing out on. I guess many of those conversations are happening on Facebook or Twitter now, I don’t know; it’s not quite the same anyway.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

I’m not a grad student, and I am very much afraid to use my real name in these discussions because I believe that I could suffer repercussions in the sense of being denied some professional opprotunities, because I do not toe the party line about controversial issues, say race, gender. I don’t even live in USA/UK.

Basically, everyone without a tenure in the USA/UK has reason to be apprehensive of that.Report

Graddy McGrad
Graddy McGrad
Reply to  Alexander Guerrero
1 year ago

“One reason that is good about having real names is it means one can be confident one isn’t wasting one’s time with some random person on the internet while trying to have a serious conversation about issues that affect professional philosophers, teaching philosophy, and the profession of philosophy. I think many professional philosophers and actual graduate students don’t have the time to engage with every random person on the internet.”

One way to make sure that nobody wastes their time with random people on the internet without requiring people’s real names is by displaying labels next to usernames, e.g., “random person”, “lowly grad”, “tenured professor”, etc., which Justin could verify.Report

Rollo Burgess
Rollo Burgess
1 year ago

I approve of people using their proper names. There seems to me to be a basic norm of identifying oneself when speaking, and other than in specific and exceptional circumstances I think this is a good thing. (But of course I don’t work in academia and face no consequences from what I say on here. I will point out that if career prospects are genuinely threatened by comments people may post on a blog, unless these are illegal or otherwise absolutely odious, then the people management practices of academia suck. There are lots of things about working in a corporate business environment that aren’t perfect, but we don’t do this.)

Re likes, I think that a comments section should mimic the structure of a physical conversation, rather than an exchange of letters. If we were all discussing something in person, there are non-verbal cues that people use to show approval / disapproval which to an extent likes mimic, so I think there’s some justification for them. But I don’t think it’s a big deal.Report

kailadraper
1 year ago

If using real names would substantially decrease the number of participants in this blog, then maybe it’s not worth it. If real names wouldn’t dampen participation much, then I think the benefits outweigh the costs for reasons others have already mentioned.Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
1 year ago

I wonder if anyone, perhaps Justin, feels in a position to say what they have noticed so far, if anything, that has changed since the experiment has gone into effect. Are there fewer comments? Are the comments more measured? Has the tone changed in any noticeable way? Are there fewer self-described grad students or junior faculty speaking up?Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  David Sobel
1 year ago

Take a look at that thread about cancellations. How many people do you see expressing views not completely in line with the ‘liberal’ perspective on that? And now go read some older threads and compare that number there. My impression is that these non-orthodox voices have been stifled.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  krell_154
1 year ago

Quite a few, to be fair. The comments on that thread include an awful lot that are wholly or partially sympathetic to ‘cancel culture’ worries.

But (I think) they are mostly from people with tenure, or else non-academics.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

My impression, which I admit is prone to biases, is that there are less of those comments than one would expect given the way threads about these topics tend to go on DN, when pseudonyms are allowed. But sure, that could be a totally wrong impression.Report

r
r
1 year ago

I have, over the years, posted on maybe a dozen or so DN threads under a couple mostly stable pseudonyms. I wasn’t, and am not, interested in posting under my real name. For a while that was because I was concerned with my job prospects. But my reticence was only ever partially about jobs. I also just don’t want the stress of worrying over whether I’m putting my very best face forward when I post. In some ways, commenting under one’s own name at DN is a bit like chatting at a conference. Some people love conferences, including the informal chit chat. But others find them fraught–shot through with anxiety and various status hierarchies. Did you get a chance to talk to that famous person? What impression did you make? When that person pooh-pooh’d your idea, were they snubbing you, or were they just trying to usher the conversation along? Did you hideously embarrass yourself? etc. etc. Some of these stresses are surely pathological, but, nonetheless, I gather they are not that uncommon.

Occasionally I have some thought in response to a daily nous topic, and I’d really prefer just to work through it without also having to engage in the social-professional work of networking and presenting myself, which I find at best stressful and unpleasant, and at worst a morally suspect form of self-promotion. Anonymous and pseudonymous commenting allows one to work through a thought on its own, without dealing with any of that.

I’ll also register that I like ‘likes.’ I agree that gamifying social interactions has pitfalls, but I think that the informational and conversational purposes they serve outweigh that downside. They allow people to avoid redundant posts just for signalling agreement, they assess the views of lurkers, and they allow people to ration their energy by responding first to what seem to be the most popular lines or argument.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  r
1 year ago

LikeReport

Like
Like
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Definitely like. Even if there are a few people who are misusing/falsifying likes to make a post look more popular than it is, it flattens the discussion to not see how many people agree with a particular comment. And as a lurker (I think this is my first ever comment), it makes me feel like I can participate without having to invest hours of my time into making a comment that I have to put 20 min of work in to make it sufficiently distinct from someone else who is saying the same thing. Or I’m just going to start commenting “Like.”Report

Animal Symbolicum
Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  r
1 year ago

“Occasionally I have some thought in response to a daily nous topic, and I’d really prefer just to work through it without also having to engage in the social-professional work of networking and presenting myself, which I find at best stressful and unpleasant, and at worst a morally suspect form of self-promotion. Anonymous and pseudonymous commenting allows one to work through a thought on its own, without dealing with any of that.”

I second this. At least, it’s why I prefer using my (stable) pseudonym instead of my real name.Report

Rivka Weinberg
Rivka Weinberg
Reply to  r
1 year ago

Like!Report

Rivka Weinberg
Rivka Weinberg
Reply to  r
1 year ago

Like – and here’s another reason I like the “like” button: it’s easy. I meant to like this post and I see was posted as liking the subsequent one (which I also like since it was essentially a “like” of this postReport

Rivka Weinberg
Rivka Weinberg
Reply to  Rivka Weinberg
1 year ago

It happened again! This is why I don’t post! But I like to “like” when I like. Goodbye!Report

JTD
JTD
Reply to  r
1 year ago

Thank you r! This is an important point that I think many people, including myself, considering the pros and cons of various comment policies had missed up until you made it.Report

Animal Symbolicum
Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  r
1 year ago

I’d like to clarify:

Yes, the pseudonym allows me to work through ideas without the pressures of “presenting” myself to members of the profession. But more — for me, anyway — the pseudonym allows me to work through ideas without being labeled with or characterized by the ideas I’m still working out. (Maybe this is connected with r’s point.)Report

dcw
dcw
1 year ago

Just to clarify: What is the evidence that there is a problem with multiple ‘likes’ from single readers? I’m sure this happens – both accidentally and intentionally – but does it happen enough to make the ‘likes’ a totally unreliable guide to Daily Nous readers’ opinions? An answer to this would be helpful and might assuage fears that the evidence is merely that the ‘likes’ don’t track the expectations/desires of some segments of the profession (there are lots of jaded philosophers, after all).

Another question: Even if ‘like’ tallies are unreliable, does this outweigh the benefits of eliminating redundant posts?

Re: barring anonymous comments on certain posts – I suspect positions on this largely track views on the prevalence of self-censorship due to online mobbing, etc. Justin thinks that such worries are overblown, but reasonable people can disagree (and to varying degrees). I think it would be wise for DN to allow those that have reasonable worries a mechanism to participate without undue anxiety.Report

Lowlygrad
Lowlygrad
Reply to  dcw
1 year ago

5 likes from my bot farm.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  dcw
1 year ago

Yes. I don’t doubt that some posters game the ‘like’ system by (for example) liking their own comment, but if i were to guess i’d say this rare enough. Most likely(!) the like numbers do what they claim to do: they give a broad indication of the views of the readers.

Anyway, there are pros and cons to each of the options. One thing I would argue is that the likes on comments made prior to the new policy should be reinstated (assuming this is feasible i.e. that it wouldn’t involve a ton of work for Justin). You can’t re-write history etc.Report

Sarah Braasch
Sarah Braasch
1 year ago

How about Justin and everyone else on here who participated in the global vilification and defamation campaign against me that almost got me killed and destroyed my lifelong human and civil rights academic and legal careers apologize to me publicly? How about that?Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Sarah Braasch
1 year ago

Could you explain that in a bit more detail, please? I don’t know what you are referring to.Report

Sarah Braasch
Sarah Braasch
Reply to  krell_154
1 year ago

Here is the real story of what happened during the Living or Napping While Black Hate Crime Hoax at Yale, in case anyone still thinks Cancel Culture doesn’t exist. There will be a reckoning for the philosophy academic community, especially the online community. Make no mistake, everyone who participated in the global vilification and defamation campaign against me either knew or had every reason to know that I was the entirely innocent victim of a Hate Crime Hoax. They all knew that I am a well-documented and lifelong human and civil rights and anti-racism activist, including Justin and everyone who defamed me on Daily Nous.
https://medium.com/@sarah.braasch/my-six-years-at-yale-with-the-woke-intersectional-feminists-and-how-they-tried-to-destroy-me-my-bb9fae2fd386Report

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
1 year ago

Speaking of likes and dislikes, how about exploring the many configurable WordPress settings – and especially the numerous alternative WP Comments plugins*, some of which afford IP blocking, possibly disallowing multiple votes from the same IP? I remain neutral to negative on such in any case, but wanted to point out possibilities.

*
https://wordpress.org/plugins/comments-like-dislike/

Same tech has enabled Wikipedia editors to easily discover and destroy sockpuppets for years now.Report

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
Reply to  Paul Wilson
1 year ago

I hasten to add I am no WordPress expert and for all I know the abundant WP Comments possibilities have been thoroughly explored. Hundreds of Comments plugins exist:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/search/Comments/

The plugin linked in my initial post above may in fact be used now on DN – builtwith.com doesn’t dive that deep. As an open source plugin, it may be extended to allow only one like/dislike per comment from one IP. Well reviewed and maintained; it looks most promising, as does the technical acumen so far demonstrated by Justin.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
1 year ago

Would we be having this conversation about conversations if the conversations were going the way that Justin wanted conversations on his blog to go? I doubt it.

One reason why I wish that philosophers had a successful online space (something with clear, transparent, and content-neutral moderation rules) that isn’t controlled by a single individual is that we’re subject to the whims of the host. If Leiter doesn’t like you, you better believe that he’ll exercise his bully pulpit against you. Justin is quieter about how he uses the pulpit but it’s clear, to me and at least a few others here, that Justin will probably never devote significant positive (or even neutral) attention to specific kinds of philosophical issues.

That’s a shame, I think, because it’s a rhetorical use of his power and not a philosophical one. I get that this is Justin’s blog so he can, obviously, do whatever he wants with the content, the moderation, the like buttons, and so on. It’s less that I wish DN didn’t exist than that I wish we had generalist neutral ground where we could discuss things (generalist, in this case, meaning not a blog that’s devoted to a specific kind of philosophy). Leiter’s a jerk (even when I agree with him) so I’m loath to comment or even visit his blog, but Justin, while he rises to higher ethical standard than Leiter in terms of his own tone, is structurally no different.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
1 year ago

Here: you not approving a number of my comments in controversial threads, e.g. when that whole situation between Kalef and Guerrero was unfolding.

Nothing in those comments should have been construed as offensive by any reasonable person, I believe.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
1 year ago

Hi Justin,

Actually, I won’t name specific topics because it’s beside the point. There are topics that you are either unwilling to have discussed here or, if you are, you preface viewpoints that you don’t agree with with editorials of your own. It’s your blog. I’m not objecting to this. What I am objecting to is that we as a profession lack a non peer-reviewed venue to discuss the profession that isn’t run by a single individual who holds complete power over its content. The old Smoker used to serve as a similar kind of venue but even there you were subject to whims of the bloggers who ran and manged that site. An old-school forum would actually be an amazing outlet for the profession.Report

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
Reply to  Caligula's Goat
1 year ago

“An old-school forum would actually be an amazing outlet for the profession.”

Like. Decentralized discussion.

Old-school Forum plugins for WordPress:

https://wordpress.org/plugins/search/forum/Report

krell_154
krell_154
1 year ago

”The main one is that I think that for some people, the mere liking of a comment can substitute for them commenting themselves, and I am hoping for participation from more people in the comments.”

Here’s the deal, I would very much like to comment on those threads you insist we use our real names on, but I am very much afraid that by using my real name I would seriously damage my chances of, say, publishing a paper in a good journal, would I to send it there. Basically, something similar to what Sam Duncan talked about in that htread about cancel culture.

And echoing him again, I agree that more focus should be on the way in which cancel culture censures young and non-established members of the particular communities (say, the academic community) than on whether J.K.Rowling is a hypocrite or a transphobe or what have you.

And for what it’s worth, I really don’t think that my attitudes are hateful or discriminatory (at least ot without good reason), but yes, they would be offensive to some people, in a way that I’ve seen draws vitriol. So yeah, I’m afraid to say what I really think about sensitive issues.Report

Alan White
Alan White
1 year ago

Newspapers have long required real names and addresses in order to have letters to the editor published. I have over the years published dozens of them in many papers, most in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (or its predecessors). Mostly as a result of supporting the right to reproductive choice and gun control measures, I have received many anonymous death-threat phone messages by haters who trace my name to the reported city I live in. This is the world we have lived in for many years even before cancel-culture on the Net and the like. I support the long-time journalistic practice of requiring real identification for standing behind one’s publicly expressed views. Is that optimal for oppressed peoples’ opinions? No. But free speech I think should be assigned to identified speakers, even as Socrates paid that price for doing so. Otherwise we run especially now huge risks of voicing anonymous speakers who too often are trolling, faking, lying, exploiting, and more to accomplish goals that are far beyond the idealistic realm of what real free speech should be all about. I think the real-time forum of all voices, good, bad, and ugly, unfiltered and raw, is just an invitation for abuse by many more than those who it might serve in the spirit of free expression of ideas. I suppose this expresses my pessimism about my fellows’ motives. But I would say–look to the occupant of the Oval Office to see how confidant I am in the will of the people.Report

Greg Guy
Greg Guy
1 year ago

It’s obvious that the threads using real names have better, more thoughtful comments. There seems to always be at least a couple of people unafraid to take a controversial stance using their real names. As such, I don’t see the point of having an extra 20 anonymous comments saying exactly the same thing and not contributing in any clear way. Most anonymous comments look to me more like venting rather than thoughtful criticism. I suspect a lot of people posting anonymously have to high an opinion of their own contribution and too paranoid a view of what others think.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

That is not obvious at all. At least to me.

What is obvious to me is that threads requiring real names display less diversity in opinions than the threads allowing pseudonyms.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

It *may* be true but that’s not *obvious*.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

Nor is it obvious to me. Also, I resent your assertion that pseudo/anonymous posters have nothing to contribute. I definitely put effort into what I post on here pseudonymously, and it’s pretty irritating to think that you disregard all of that just because I’m not putting my neck out there professionally.Report

Wes McMichael
Wes McMichael
1 year ago

I like the new policy, and I’m not sure I understand some of the handwringing over it. If I understand it correctly, it will only apply to posts on “controversial topics,” which I take those to be mostly about race and gender issues on this blog (maybe 1 out of every 10 posts?). So is it *really* that important to some people to say things on those issues here that they don’t want their names associated with?

There is not a scarcity of platforms that allow anonymous comments. I take it that someone could open an anonymous Twitter account, re-tweet every post here, and express exactly how they feel on the issue. It may not get the same number of views, but there also doesn’t seem to be a scarcity of people who are willing to express some of those same controversial views under their real names.

Anonymous comments tend to be particularly nasty, though, and I worry about groups of philosophers, or would-be philosophers, who might come to this site, read these comments, and feel excluded from the profession. I think that outweighs the concerns of the few “vulnerable” people who want to say things here they know would reflect poorly on them professionally.

*Like* for keeping the policy in place.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Wes McMichael
1 year ago

”So is it *really* that important to some people to say things on those issues here that they don’t want their names associated with?”

Yes, it is very important.

”Anonymous comments tend to be particularly nasty”

That’s such an exaggeration, in my experience at Daily Nous discussions.

The thing is, in today’s climate, you could very well get fired for saying: ”IQ differences between races could have a biological explanation”, or ”Women are adult human females” (I’m pretty sure Byrne wouldn’t dare to publish that paper if he was an untenured young philosopher).

Are those claims really *nasty*? Why should that be forbidden to debate?Report

Greg Guy
Greg Guy
Reply to  krell_154
1 year ago

But there do exist people willing to make those comments using their real names, so what advantage is there having an extra dozen anonymous comments agreeing with them? Also, you are limited on commenting on the topics that are actually presented here. Very few are so controversial.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

”But there do exist people willing to make those comments using their real names, so what advantage is there having an extra dozen anonymous comments agreeing with them?”

I think that’s an implausible argument. First of all, while many people can post a comment similar to what i think, rarely it happens that someone posts something which is exactly similar to what I think. Secondly, so what? Maybe I do want to to say the very same thing that somebody already said. The advantage that a reader might get is seeing how many people support certain ideas (I agree that can be determined by checking likes, too).Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
1 year ago

On anonymity: the following can both be true at once (and, I think, are both true):
1) It is pretty unlikely that a graduate student or other vulnerably-placed member of the profession will be professionally harmed as a consequence of posting a public comment on a controversial topic
2) It is unacceptably risky for a graduate student or other vulnerably-placed member of the profession to post a public comment on a controversial topic

Relative stakes have to be considered too. Is a 1% chance of losing out on a TT job worth taking for the sake of a blog comment? Probably not for most people.

Of course, if you replace “pretty unlikely” with “ridiculously unlikely” in (1) then things change. But it’s difficult to sustain “ridiculously unlikely” at the moment, in the face of a lot of anecdotes and testimony to the contrary. Believing that testimony is most likely incorrect wouldn’t suffice: you’d have to believe it’s almost-certainly incorrect.Report

E
E
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I am not sure what point you are trying to make here, but the issue is not about the probability of harmful consequences. Compare public speaking. Some people have a fear of public speaking, and will avoid it whenever possible. Of course, in academia they would have to get over *some* of it for teaching, giving talks, and so on, but they nevertheless have that fear. You can talk about the likely consequences of public speaking all you want, but you are not thereby going to convince anyone like that to publicly speak.

Commenting on blogs such as this under one’s real name is a form of public speaking, at least in the mind of the fearful speaker. I know I am not going to comment publicly under my real name anytime soon, regardless of whether my opinion is popular or not. The fear is mostly a fear of being judged, not a fear of the likely consequences of being so judged. Of course, the fear is much greater when it comes to controversial issues.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  E
1 year ago

I think there are two separate issues here. Sure, one might be unwilling to comment under one’s own name on the grounds you give. Equally, one might be entirely unfazed by the public-speaking aspect, but make a rational decision that it’s too dangerous to post.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

LikeReport

On the market
On the market
1 year ago

I am someone who doesn’t and won’t post here under their real name. That this means I cannot participate in some discussions does not bother me much. My opinions are rarely unique and someone else usually makes a point in the vicinity of what I’d have to contribute. A more robust “like” feature would be nice for me in these cases to note that I share this opinion, but this is also not necessary.

I’d desire anonymity regardless of any potential risks or repercussions. I come from a society in which the right to be anonymous in public spaces is seen as a core civil liberty. Of course, this here is only in a very limited sense a public place. So the choice is naturally up to Justin and I don’t think he has any kind of moral obligation in either direction.

In any case, I have trouble understanding the desire for real names. I grew up alongside the Bulletin Board days of the internet where posting under one’s real name was an outrageous proposition. From my perspective, things online started to go south just about the same time as people *did* start using their real names, although this may be a correlation without causation. Nevertheless, my experiences support the claim that a well-moderated anonymous forum is the best option.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  On the market
1 year ago

But I take it part of the problem is that Justin – reasonably enough – doesn’t want to have to moderate DN 24/7. He has a day job!Report

On the market
On the market
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Yes of course. Other online communities solve this by having appointed moderators. I appreciate that Justin doesn’t want to do this (after all, this _isn’t_ an online community, but his personal blog).

That really is the central problem here, isn’t it? De jure, this is Justin’s blog. De facto, it is treated by many as a somewhat open discussion place (an online community). This tension has become unbearable and something will have to be done. I’m really not convinced that having people use their real names is the answer.Report

dcw
dcw
Reply to  On the market
1 year ago

This is absolutely right. The real question to answer is: What role will this blog serve in the philosophy community going forward? Once that question is answered, the relevant people can think about what policies re: ‘likes’ and anonymous commenting best serve that role. (And all the people who want something else from the blog can look for it – or make it happen – elsewhere, as has been suggested by some folks here.)Report

Paul Wilson
Paul Wilson
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Technical solutions to social problems are hardly perfect, but WordPress does afford shared moderation and automated moderation keys.

We might ask an expert. And helpers.

https://wordpress.org/support/article/comment-moderation/Report

Greg Littmann
Greg Littmann
1 year ago

I like allowing pseudonyms and I like the like button. Pseudonyms allow people to comment without facing potential backlash if colleagues don’t like their views. Likes give us some idea of what general opinion is among readers. I take Justin’s point that it’s imperfect polling, but it is better than nothing. Another advantage of likes is that it discourages people from posting if they have nothing new to add.Report

solution oriented
solution oriented
1 year ago

On the Market and others have convinced me that the trouble lies in the double nature of this blog as a personal blog and it becoming a focal point of philosophy debates. This is not so much about any person as about the conflict between a public forum and a personal page.

I propose a solution that meets the following requirements:
1) Disassociates the two characters
2) Does not increase workload for Justin as the blog hoster
3) Enables pseudonymous contributions while also having mechanisms for keeping contributors accountable

The solution is to disable the comment function for Daily Nous and instead create a forum with a thread for each post. The posts on Daily Nous can link to these forum threads. The forum will allow for pseudonymous registrations, but because it crosslinks the contributions by each forum member it also creates some accountability. The forum moderators will be distinct from Justin so that he no longer has to bear responsibility for both selecting posts and moderating discussion of them. One could also extend the forum to other philosophy blogs, if that is desired. I also believe that one could find forum software that support a polling feature (instead of or in addition to likes).

The solution requires:
1) Justin endorsing it
2) A group of moderators and technical supporters stepping forward to create the forum

I hope that the division of labour and the specialisation of tools can be a source of progress in this case. Of course, this is the solution that appeals to me and it might not be what people want for reasons I have overlooked.Report

Peter
Peter
Reply to  solution oriented
1 year ago

Like!Report

On the market
On the market
Reply to  solution oriented
1 year ago

I think this would indeed something very worth considering. I’ve seen other successful cases where a semi-official forum is combined with a personal blog that has gained larger relevance.

It would be most helpful if Justin could voice his opinion on the private blog / general debate platform tension, how he sees it (and if he even thinks its an issue).Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  solution oriented
1 year ago

Great idea!Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  solution oriented
1 year ago

This is indeed a really great idea. In that sense, it would work a bit like Insidehighered, which has its own forums associated with it.Report

Daniel Kodsi
Daniel Kodsi
1 year ago

Apologies if someone has already said this, but I would think that either the ‘like’ feature or pseudonymous posting should be restored. Getting rid of both seems to significantly affect, for instance, graduate students who would like to indicate agreement or disagreement somehow, but are risk-averse about contributing under their own name (even when, as is often the case for myself, they suspect that their own views are pretty unlikely to be the ones that are censured).Report

Milton
Milton
1 year ago

A few thoughts:

(1) I do not post under my full name for the simple reason that there are some really vindictive people on the internet, and although I try to express myself carefully and to hold only thoughtful, humane positions, I sometimes fail, and I don’t want to become the target of such people. (Alas, their vindictiveness can also lead them to misconstrue people’s words, such that even careful, thoughtful, and humane persons can become their target.)

Unlike some other commenters here, I don’t experience blog-commenting as akin to talking with a colleague at a conference; for me, it’s more like talking with a colleague at a conference *while that conversation is also broadcast on a reality television show that is watched by a sometimes-rabid fanbase that regularly tries to ruin people’s lives.* That’s a bit dramatic, of course, but the latter feels closer to the truth, for me, than the former.

(2) This is not a reason to keep them, but one function of “likes,” for me, is that it provides a rough guide to where the energy is on a particular thread. Without likes, longer threads feel sort of flat. Again, that isn’t a reason to keep them; I’m simply reporting one of the effects, for me, of getting rid of them.

(3) I’m not convinced that posting anonymously is meaningfully correlated with bad behavior on Daily Nous, especially in the case of commenters who use “sticky” pseudonyms. Plenty of people who post pseudonymously do so with grace and insight, and plenty of people who use their real names act like jerks. But there is an additional, possibly important, consideration in favor of the real-names policy that hasn’t been mentioned here (as far as I can see), namely, that anonymity may make it harder for readers to gauge just how *representative* a particular view is within the field.

Especially for students or persons who are just entering the field, it’s hard to know just how prevalent a view is, how seriously it is taken, etc., and in some cases, at least, the anonymity of a view-holder might add to the difficulty. Naturally, we could have a useful discussion here of the epistemology of representativeness, but it’s just human nature, I think, to perceive anonymous comments differently than those that we can attribute to particular sources. So, if someone new to the field hears a comment from a highly regarded philosopher, they might infer that that comment is fairly representative of the field (or, at least, of what the field would countenance); if they hear a comment from someone widely regarded as idiosyncratic or a crank, they might infer that that comment is not representative of the field. But if they hear a comment from someone who might be highly regarded, or might be a crank, or might be the person whose office is next to theirs–who knows??–they might not be sure what inferences to draw; this, combined with concerns they may already have about, say, the prevalence of sexism, racism, and classism in the field, may lead them to infer–or at least more easily imagine–that the field is indeed sexist, racist, and classist, and maybe even more so than they had thought. I’m not saying that this is a dispositive consideration, but I do think it’s worth considering as we think about Justin’s new policy.

Again, just some thoughts, for whatever they’re worth.Report

ehz
ehz
Reply to  Milton
1 year ago

Big like.Report

Peter
Peter
Reply to  Milton
1 year ago

I just wanted to chime in to agree, wholeheartedly, with this point:

“This is not a reason to keep them, but one function of “likes,” for me, is that it provides a rough guide to where the energy is on a particular thread. Without likes, longer threads feel sort of flat. Again, that isn’t a reason to keep them; I’m simply reporting one of the effects, for me, of getting rid of them.”

I would only add that I think this is a reason in favor of keeping them.Report

Shelley Lynn Tremain
Shelley Lynn Tremain
1 year ago

I think the comment thread of the recent post in which David Benatar detailed why a Black disabled South African woman student should not have been believed probably offers the best illustration of how both the “like” function and anonymity of comments on this site enable anonymous participants (and others) to engage in ableist, racist, and other oppressive acts without responsibility or remorse for these actions. The comment thread on a recent post in which I made entirely legitimate claims about disability is another example.

In the latter instance, furthermore, quite a few anonymous comments (and even some named ones) articulated uninformed arguments about disability and disability theory that garnered great assent here in the form of faceless and nameless “likes”. Such responses to these comments (and the comments themselves) were not surprising, given that most philosophers uncritically accept and reproduce dominant misunderstandings about disability. Indeed, these sorts of comments and the encouragement of them that a body of “likes” implicitly confers further entrench the oppressive structures of philosophy and society more broadly that many marginalized and underrepresented philosophers continuously struggle against in our work, in our public lives, our private lives, and so on. Neither the centrality of these uninformed comments to discussions here nor the likes that they garner benefit marginalized philosophers, regardless of the number of comments above that want you to believe otherwise. Many of these comments on posts are (contra Wallace) snarky and dismissive.

I agree with Alan White who (if I understood him) suggests that a number of the anonymous/pseudonymous comments in this thread have almost certainly been written by some of the same people who signed their name, or at least a name, to other comments. Finally, if anyone wants to be reassured about the virtues of anonymous and pseudonymous posting they might wish to recall the sewage that was generated on the metablogs and metametablogs of recent years.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Shelley Lynn Tremain
1 year ago

Agreed, the metablogs were indeed absolute cesspools, *but* they were exclusively anonymous and not moderated, so it’s not clear what they tell us about well-moderated stable pseudonymous posting on DN. You also note that even named comments can fail your standards.

I agree with you that likes are largely garbage.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Shelley Lynn Tremain
1 year ago

This comment is telling.

Here’s the Benatar thread to which Dr. Tremain refers:

http://dailynous.com/2020/04/30/benatar-responds-students-accusations-reporting/

Im not sure which is the other post to which she is referring, but I do recall a post in which her views about whether certain medical conditions were socially constructed in some sense were criticized by, among others, David Wallace.

Because I can’t find the latter post, I can’t say whether there were problematic comments from anonymous commenters, but I don’t recall anything uncivil or out of line. I can’t find anything remotely problematic in the Benatar thread.

What is common between the posts she identifies as exemplary of why anonymous commenting should be forbidden is that she and her views were criticized. It is the expression of the view to which Dr. Tremain is objecting. And the views in question are anodyne — that dinosaurs had cancer even when humans were not around to construct it and that perhaps David Benatar deserves an apology for the way some reported and rushed to judgement concerning the charges against him some time ago.Report

A Philosopher
A Philosopher
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Not to mention that a complete retelling of the events behind “why a Black disabled South African woman student should not have been believed” showed in excruciating detail that the student was in fact a lying psychopath and Benatar had been railroaded.

https://www.politicsweb.co.za/opinion/the-fallist-and-the-professorReport

Shelley Lynn Tremain
Shelley Lynn Tremain
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Andrew, I could have identified a number of others. The examples I gave came to mind because, in the first case, the ableism and racism of the comments on that post have never been subsequently addressed on this site. And I think they certainly should have been. I wish that I had done so sooner. (The ableist comment that has now been added to this thread indicates why the ableism of the post and comments should be addressed.) I think that Benatar’s reference to me in the post was silly, actually. I didn’t take it very seriously. Benatar claimed that I was “parroting” someone in my quote of their work, but that’s what literal quotes are, literally. I could have also or instead mentioned the many anonymous comments on here that have attacked Talia Mae Bettcher, Black Lives Matter, or any number of other events, people, or circumstances surrounding marginalized and subordinated groups.

In the second case, I was quite explicit that my objection with anonymous comments concerned the response in that comment thread to my claims about disability. So, I’m not sure what you think has been revealed by your comment. Unlike you, I do recall the thread; and I am quite sure that snarky and uninformed comments were made in it which delegitimize critical philosophical work on disability, are harmful to disabled philosophers and other disabled people, dismissive of my work, and lower the overall quality of comments on this blog. I have written [about that thread and about other commenting issues here in posts at] BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.

[Note from JW: I removed some material from this post.]Report

Bart
Bart
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Correct. And Shelley’s comments were also subject to criticism by disabled philosophers, some anonymously posting. I suppose, in her view, we should dismiss such comments, but this does not count as marginalizing or harming disabled philosophers. Only disabled philosophers who are able to post here with their full name count as marginalized.Report

Shelley Lynn Tremain
Shelley Lynn Tremain
Reply to  Bart
1 year ago

Bart, not all disabled philosophers have spent time critically examining disability. Not all disabled philosophers are philosophers of disability. Not all women philosophers have an analysis of gender, or sexism, or other forms of oppression or are feminist philosophers. I recall that in one instance, that is, one comment, someone who identified themself as a disabled philosopher and criticized the “social model” was in fact not very familiar with model nor the critical literature that surrounds it.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Shelley Lynn Tremain
1 year ago

I take it that Bart’s point is that these people are marginalized qua disabled philosophers and you’re setting too high a bar for their views to deserve a hearing.Report

Nicolas Delon
Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Here’s the other thread.
http://dailynous.com/2020/05/05/free-speech-oxford/
Note that there were in fact relatively few anonymous commenters, and that most of the commenters who disagreed with Shelley Tremain, and whom she later targeted for doing so, are writing *under their full name.* A few people came to her defense, some under their full name, others anonymously. Overall, the exchanges were respectful and illuminating, if perhaps unnecessarily heated. It’s really unclear what that thread is supposed to demonstrate about the best commenting policy. As for likes, they have now disappeared, but I understand Shelley’s frustration since I recall that most of her posts garnered zero to very few likes.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
1 year ago

Like.

Thanks for posting this. I think it’s a really good example of the value of permitting anonymous commenting. The discussion is substantive and interesting, involving both named and anonymous commenters, and I don’t see any evidence to substantiate Alex Guerrero’s concern that the discussion is overrun by people with no connection to philosophy.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

“I think it’s a really good example of the value of permitting anonymous commenting.”

Yes. Particularly since the comments critical of Shelley Tremain’s view that disability/disease are socially constructed – comments that look suspiciously like philosophy to me – are now being described as “ableist”. I think this is a good case study of the problem to which anonymous posting is seen by many here as a solution.Report

krell_154
krell_154
Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

Well said!Report

Academic Trans Guy
Academic Trans Guy
1 year ago

In the past, a few times, I have commented on posts at DN which are relevant to trans issues, because I am a philosopher of transgender experience and my history and status are not public, nor are they widely known by my colleagues. Unfortunately, requiring names would exclude voices like mine–an implication that is generalizable to people who are not out with regard to their sexuality, open about their disability status, and so on.

Further, given that there is a presumption that when speaking to any issue relevant to X group, commenters should explicitly indicate their relationship to X group (and often, a presumption that they must also be a member of X group), this puts people like myself in a bit of a pickle. Do I post under my real name, weigh in on trans issues, and earn the ire of people who presume a cis man has views about being trans? It is humorous when people tell me I should defer to trans people, or correct me about “the transgender experience,” but also a bit tiring. Or do I talk about my “trans friends,” and scholarship I’ve read, in which case I’m “co-opting” or “speaking over” people? Or must I disclose private information, endanger myself and my family (because, frankly, I do not find the environment for trans people very safe in many parts of the world) in order to be entitled to contribute?

My solution has been to remain relatively silent, as I’m also unsure about the merits of a lot of online conversation. However, I do think that maintaining an option for stable pseudonyms linked to email addresses, as others have mentioned, is a good partial solution to some of these issues, for people like myself.Report

Conor Mayo-Wilson
1 year ago

Likes: On the various stack exchanges, one must typically be registered to upvote/like a post, and on Quora, a user can see *who* upvoted/liked a post. Some of those forums combine pseudonymous commenting with upvoting/liking, so that likes/upvotes can be tracked to a repeated user who is nonetheless anonymous. I conjecture that some of the problems with the previous “liking” function might be ameliorated by adopting similar policies, though I don’t have the expertise or bandwidth to think through the relevant issues carefully.

Names: I favor pseudonymous commenting. In that past, I have learned tremendously from pseudonymous commenters on philosophy blogs. When I was on the job market, I read the PhilosophySmoker blog frequently for career advice. My graduate school, CMU, was wonderful in many ways, but I definitely didn’t understand the culture of many “mainstream” philosophy departments when I graduated. In one or two cases, I posted anonymously on the smoker blog, seeking feedback or help. Although I agree there were some unhelpful and mean-spirited comments (some of which were borderline bigoted), there were also healthy discussions among people who were trying to navigate a very difficult part of their career.

Many of the norms of academia and professional philosophy are difficult to understand; some those norms are morally problematic. Many young and marginalized people post on blogs like this to understand, question, and critique those norms. Yet virtually any comment on a popular blog like DailyNous — from a trans person expressing discomfort about some feature of the name tags at the APA to a young white man expressing worries that conservative students are fearful of speaking up in the classroom — is likely to rub some reader the wrong way or reveal information about oneself that could hurt one’s job prospects. I support policies that allow members of marginalized groups and younger members of our community to test out ideas without fear of retaliation, and I think pseuodnymous commenting allows for that. It is not at all irrational, in my opinion, to believe that one’s comments (no matter how seemingly anodyne) on a popular blog like DailyNous might negatively affect one’s career prospects..

Concerning policy decision generally for a blog like DailyNous: One could design a poll that requires a registered academic address and ask what readers think. This thread contains a lot of thoughtful ideas, but if you want to get an idea of what the overall impression is from folks who don’t have the time to write a comment here, a poll might help.Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
1 year ago

Repeating what others have said: pseudonymous posting allows or encourages more people, and a more diverse group or people, to contribute. And “likes” are often evidence that what some would have us think all or most philosophers believe isn’t in fact that. Justin himself gives an example: he’ll post something sympathetic to what some of us find an illiberal view, David Wallace will reply, and David’s post will get many more likes than anything Justin follows up with. That’s evidence of where the bulk of philosophical opinion is, or least the bulk of opinion among DN readers. The worry that likes are unrepresentative? Well, how representative are the comments/commentators here, and how representative would they be if only those with fashionable opinions and/or a secure academic position felt comfortable commenting?Report

Bart
Bart
Reply to  Tom Hurka
1 year ago

LikeReport

DoubleA
DoubleA
1 year ago

As a pseudonymous poster, I find it pretty funny that people like Guerrero think there are hordes of non-philosopher trolls who bother to post here. This blog, and indeed the academic discipline of philosophy, just isn’t that important. I seriously doubt thousands of the unwashed who aren’t worth the time head on over to the Daily Nous to check out the new editor of NDPR. This blog isn’t an accurate depiction of the discipline because a great many philosophers don’t care about most of this stuff or at least have many other more important things to do. Not because some representative sample is being drowned out by trolls. I’d wager philosophers with heavy teaching loads, philosophers with large families or young children, etc are vastly underrepresented in the comment sections. That’s just the nature of a blog like this. It might be helpful for some folks, but it’s never going to be some hub of the entire discipline.

I share the silencing worries about requiring full names. But requiring full names has some advantages, especially for posterity. For example, I do enjoy looking at some old threads at Leiter’s blog and seeing how dramatically some philosophers’ views change once they get their TT gigs–take a look at how many (well-published) early career philosophers thought publications should be extremely important in hiring, and compare that with their current view. This is a nice reminder that one shouldn’t take most of the self-serving bluster on blogs as anything more than what it is.Report