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Anonymity when posting on food and wine boards


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My opinion is thus. I don't care what your name is. It's all about the content. There are various points to be made in either direction, but I think that by registering our identities with the eGullet staff, we have done enough. I adore "insert many names" all equally. And, not knowing Melkor's name gave me less impetus to stalk him, his life being so attractive, after all. :cool: Also, I'll cop to my delight in my online name, Rebecca263. Easy to pronounce, easy to remember, nothing of note other than gender. As you see by my new signature, my last name is many things; easy to pronounce it is NOT. Yes, yes, I know, no bologna here, it's just us Salames.That, BTW, is NOT the pronunciation. And, on an online forum about food, well, it just begs to be thought of as a nom de plume. I've recently dropped the 'when I was married' hyphenate(a nice Russian name), which I had always liked, because the last name was, albeit long, easier to pronounce properly. And, also, I've been stalked, it wasn't pleasant either time, but I don't think that internet presence had anything to do with it, either time. Some of us simply have the kook attracting factor. Hmm. Perhaps because I AM a kook, therefore I attract the kooks? So, here's MY name(and there's my opinion), bring it on, cosmos!

More Than Salt

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It would seem to me that there are room for both, as jamiemaw said.

But when someone starts discussing another persons professional business (restaurant, book, writings, cooking class, whatever) it would seem important to disclose anything that *could* be taken to show professional involvement in the field or connection to the person being discussed.

That way an closer analysis can be given to the opinions being espoused.

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I agree with all the concerns regarding privacy. However, I can see the significant downsides to anonymity as raised by Michael et al.

I have updated my sig line with my first name. My handle isn't a million miles from my surname, but I don't want my eG or other fora views popping up in Google searches. I'm in an industry totally unrelated to food - apart from eating lunch - and I don't want what I say on here, on my blog or elsewhere, being confused with what I do professionally. If you want my surname, PM me and I'll happily give it to you.

However, I am slightly wary of the pious quoting of the UA etc that recommends the use of real names. I've noticed some odd activity in the past couple of days with some strange names popping up in the 'Users Active' section. Notably, I spotted Test Member in the thread on the Timing of update.... This member has only posted once, although I couldn't view what that post was and bizarrely they have the status of Specialist and as far as I can tell, they're not on Marlene's list of specialists. When I PM'd this member, they logged off rather quickly.

I might be wrong, but I'm guessing that this member was made-up by the mods, to check that the board was working well, afterall, I notice there are similarly named members, such as Test Participant. It would therefore seem that admins and or mods are using log-ins other than their own, to disguise their presence. This may be the rantings of a paranoid fool - or it might not?

I appreciate that it will be straightforward for the management to say they can't reveal members' details which is fair enough. But can the management & admin team confirm that they only ever log-in as themselves and never use their administrative access to hide their presence? Afterall, if they want us to be as open as possible, we need to see them leading by example.

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We have a very strict policy that says our staff may never log in annoymously. When you see Test Member, or Test Parcipiant or test specialist it means one of our tech members is testing the functions and accessibly of that group. No one is hiding.

You'll occassionally see Daily Gullet Staff signed on. All articles are posted by the Daily Gullet staff group rather than a single person.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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However, I am slightly wary of the pious quoting of the UA etc that recommends the use of real names. I've noticed some odd activity in the past couple of days with some strange names popping up in the 'Users Active' section. Notably, I spotted Test Member in the thread on the Timing of update.... This member has only posted once, although I couldn't view what that post was and bizarrely they have the status of Specialist and as far as I can tell, they're not on Marlene's list of specialists. When I PM'd this member, they logged off rather quickly

I have been using the Test Member ID to verify the functionality of the ImageGullet software which we have been having some problems with this week (and is not yet completely fixed). We have simulated users for every access level to test how the board software works in various scenarios. I had been using that account for about a half hour until I realized that I was still logged into that account when you sent me that PM. Thanks for the reminder. :)

I can assure you there is no nefarious motive behind using the test IDs. I think everyone can agree that we wouldn't want our tech staff testing functionality and throwing all kinds of software toggle switches using actual member accounts!

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I know it's meant in jest, guys, but I can assure you that most stalking incidents are not the least bit funny to their victims.

I greatly enjoy using and posting on eGullet and other boards, but I will never, EVER post my real name, here or anywhere else. As a single woman who lives alone, my privacy is more important to me than some potential journalistic need to quote me. I post in a respectful manner, and hold myself accountable for how I interact with other people, both online and in person. I willingly use my real name in PM's to other users.

I understand that while some people may feel that using their own name is necessary for their professional integrity, I am a private individual, so there is absolutely no need for anyone with access to a computer to know who I am. Unlike the example of dozens of one name coming up in a New York phone book, my name is unique and I can easily find my own name, address, and phone number in several different Internet phone book listings despite not being listed in the actual local phone book. For $40, I'm assured by these jerks that any user can access even more personal data, including my address history and social security number.

I am currently being harassed by someone who got my name and address from an Internet interaction due to a purposely violated privacy policy. This happened on a local website, so this person is within 15 miles of my home address. It's not pleasant to fill out a police report, or inform my building neighbors, landlord and employer to the situation, in case this a**h*** comes after me in a more physical manner as he has threatened. I didn't enjoy buying that mace which I now carry with me. I'm pissed that I had to place fraud alerts on my credit reports because it looks like he's going to rachet it up and go after my finances.

The Internet is a fabulous place for those who use it with good intent. Unfortunately, it's an even better place for those who don't. Purposely post my real name? It'll never happen.

Edited by lala (log)

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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I know it's meant in jest, guys, but I can assure you that most stalking incidents are not the least bit funny to their victims.

The Internet is a fabulous place for those who use it with good intent. Unfortunately, it's an even better place for those who don't. Purposely post my real name? It'll never happen.

So what you're saying is that you're not actually Bob Seeger? :shock:

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I know it's meant in jest, guys, but I can assure you that most stalking incidents are not the least bit funny to their victims.

The Internet is a fabulous place for those who use it with good intent. Unfortunately, it's an even better place for those who don't. Purposely post my real name? It'll never happen.

So what you're saying is that you're not actually Bob Seeger? :shock:

Nah. I just like the possibilities inherent in that lyric. There are sadly, not enough times in my own life when it's all up to me to decide. :smile:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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It would therefore seem that admins and or mods are using log-ins other than their own, to disguise their presence.  This may be  the rantings of a paranoid fool - or it might not?

I appreciate that it will be straightforward for the management to say they can't reveal members' details which is fair enough.  But can the management & admin team confirm that they only ever log-in as themselves and never use their administrative access to hide their presence?  Afterall, if they want us to be as open as possible, we need to see them leading by example.

Running a site of this magnitude requires extensive testing. Therefore it is commendable that the staff tests the site from the view of a general member. If there were posts made under that name it would be a different issue, but as I see it it is just basic site upkeep. IMHO

Edit: any member who wants to "hide their presence" can log in as an anonymous member.

Edited by M.X.Hassett (log)
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I'd personally like to thank everybody on both sides of the pseudonyms issue for a lot of thoughtful and respectful input. I hope everybody has at least developed respect for the policies we pursue here, even if you don't agree with all of them. But now this topic, like many others where the subject is Society management and policy, is starting to lose focus and stray into absurdity.

Jason could just as easily log in as Test Member such that nobody but an administrator could see it. The notion that something nefarious is going on is risible. If this topic is going to turn into a bunch of impertinent and scandalous accusations of fraudulent conduct, it's not worth continuing. We've taken great pains to respond to member queries comprehensively, at a cost of several hours of our time that we could be spending on tasks that other members are complaining we've been too slow to complete, but we are not going to waste our time answering this sort of drivel. Nor are we going to rehash the history of why any individual member's post was deleted or why we chose to take a given moderating action in one instance or another -- this topic is not to be used as an end run around our system of administration.

The topic on the table is the use of pseudonyms. We're happy to let that conversation continue.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Let me give you an example: In the field of Communications, it is now a proven theory that people who watch television in any amount above the miminal have a view of the world that is different than those who do not watch television. <snip> People who watch television have views of the world as a much more terrible place than people who do not. They mistrust everything on a much higher level, imposing this mistrust on even the innocuous that might not deserve it, in life.

So I'm seeing a new eG posting requirement: either a plus (+) or a minus (-) sign next to one's handle to signify whether one is above or below the minimal TV-watching level ... more revealing than even one's real name or full disclosure ...

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. . . .

On occasion, people make inappropriate use of their pseudonyms. We handle that not by public witch hunt, but quietly, behind the scenes -- remember, the management team knows who our members are, so it is not accurate to say they're anonymous. Members alert us all the time to situations of suspected disingenuousness and we look into them as best we can. Sometimes we find that the member under suspicion is totally legitimate; sometimes we uncover disingenuous conduct and we confront the member; sometimes we can't figure out what's going on -- such is the nature of the medium.

. . . .

Witch hunts are offensive whether in public or private, and a witch hunt can be conducted in private as well as in public. When decisions are made quietly behind the scenes they may simply deny the public much wanted information. It seems just a bit disingenuous to say that the management team knows who the members are, when you also admit that sometimes you can't figure out what's going on. The nature of the medium is such that management probably can't have the resources to be absolutely sure anyone is who they say they are.

When trolls, shills and slanderers are removed quietly behind the scenes without a public trace, the membership is less able to recognize that voice should it appear again and less able to judge the veracity of what they write elsewhere. It can weaken the strength of the truth and strengthen the liar's voice.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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When trolls, shills and slanderers are removed quietly behind the scenes without a public trace, the membership is less able to recognize that voice should it appear again and less able to judge the veracity of what they write elsewhere. It can weaken the strength of the truth and strengthen the liar's voice.

Agreed. What also bothers me is that this behind the scenes policy towards trolls, shills and slanderers makes them appear the same as perfectly legitimate former members.

In an ideal world I completely agree that we should all be forthright about our identities. Sadly, I don't live in that ideal world. I support the need for pseudonyms on the internet...which doesn't solve the very real problem of what to do when an anonymous poster obviously has a definite personal agenda that disrupts a thread. In the past this has often been handled quite well by the membership. This is a sharp bunch! I've seen the membership question and reveal shills dozens of times. It was never called a witch hunt! Why is this situation so different?

Edited by IrishCream (log)

Lobster.

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It occurs quite often in organizations that members of the organization are not fully informed as to "what is going on" by management. This provides the opportunity that management desires to *be* management. The ultimate question that arises to those who are *not* management in each case where this happens is: Do I trust this management?

If so, if the trust is there, there should be no worries.

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I'm not sure what's being advocated here. I suppose we could have a "hall of shame" forum or thread saying, "Member XXX is now a legacy participant because he persistently violated copyright provisions, despite multiple warnings by the staff." Is that what people are asking for? What benefit would it bring, other than humiliation to the member concerned?

Perhaps some forums work that way; we don't.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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It isn't my sense that most of the people on this thread are speaking about any one person in particular - seems to me that in general the discussion has a good full range of concerns within the topic. Most of the posts have been oriented towards attempting to define what anonymity "means" to the person posting - and whether it is something meaningful in their own lives as tool of whatever shape.

Personally I don't care about the specific individual case that has popped up here and there for discussion. My concerns are more broad-based. It *does* worry me that my concern for the more global concept *was* at one point assumed to be "incident-specific". It can be worrisome to be gathered into a grouping of people without having made specific claim to *be* part of that grouping.

Part of the problem within this media is that assumptions can be quickly made without the more accurate information that *is* provided in the more traditional method of communication that is person-to-person.

Again - yet another reason that I, personally, am *for* the idea of creating a place where accountability of source could be called upon in matters of conflict where reputation is involved.

Of course that is only my opinion and it certainly is not in any way my call, anywhere except the places that I am responsible for within my own scope of administration.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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I don't think that wanting privacy in a forum that can be read by anyone in the world is unreasonable...After I posted on this thread yesterday, I did an auto-Google just to see if anything came up.  My married name got zero hits.  My maiden name got a few, all in another country.  I like it that way. 

My situation's a bit different. Googling my real name brings up lots of hits, and even a few photographs because of the sort of work I do. So I can't actually argue that I'm afraid of stalkers based solely on whether or not I've got any web presence, as it would be pretty easy for some random yahoo to decide that he suddenly needed to know me really really well and eventually track me down (though I do take pains to make sure that my home address and phone number are protected).

But in fact it's unlikely that some random yahoo would develop an interest based on what's presently out there under my name, as it is, in a word, boring. The sorts of information that many posters here share is of much broader interest, and include so much personal detail that it would be easy for said yahoo to not only decide that we should meet, but actually feel entitled to do so, given that he already "knows" me.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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If I told you Rocketman's real name, let's hypothetically call him Bill Magruder, what difference would it make? What difference would it make if he signed his posts that way?

no, but i can think of a couple of other names that might make a very big difference in this specific case. maybe that's not what happened here at all. maybe this rocketman is nothing but a troll--they've certainly turned up on other online fora i've been on. but we have no way of knowing that. and sorry fat guy, but the fact that YOU know who it is does not provide the kind of transparency that would reassure me.

again, maybe the real answer isn't the forbidding of anonymity, but the moderators taking a more active role against anonymous slagging. if you prefer to post anonymously for any of the reasons that have been discussed, then that is your choice. but i would think that good manners would dictate that you would then temper some of your comments.

Ah, the crux of the matter.

Russ was right that this thread came about because of a single poster—but there are more components than that, which he rightly brings up here.

To put it more explicitly: say, hypothetically, the person calling themselves rocketman were in fact Michael Psaltis—let me continue! This is only hypothetical. Well if it were or if the brother of the maligned/defended chef were posting through a pal, it would very much change the meaning.

One person who monitors this thread, comments at length on it, and has the ability to edit and censor, namely Fat Guy, happens to be the client and friend of Michael Psaltis—this is a clear conflict of interest in a thread devoted to Michael's brother.

Combine this with comments I’ve been hearing off eGullet from current and former eGullet team members about unfair censoring (and an unexplained deletion of a comment of mine that I’m sure Steven didn’t care for, one supporting something russ had to say)…well, I smelled a skunk. But more important: if this could happen, what else could? If the eGullet ringleaders knew someone to be a shill or a slanderer, would they still allow them to continue to post? Will a friend of Steven Shaw who wants to promote his book on egullet be more likely to have it done than someone who doesn’t know him or Jason or whomever. And if Steven doesn’t like someone, say he’s annoyed by some of the things I say, is it less likely I’ll be able to have eGullet excerpt my next book if I ask for consideration?

I don’t know how management makes decisions but I’ve heard enough upset people who care about egullet and felt my own radar on high enough alert, to need to be skeptical and to want to know how it works.

I’ve never argued that people should be forced to reveal themselves (this stalking issue is unnerving), but perhaps there are some instances in which managemnt might require people to use real names. Those who for whatever reasons wish or need to maintain anonymity would have to watch from the sidelines in those rare instances. Anonymity comes with a price too.

Perhaps those who post on tendentious issues, shouldn’t be allowed to moderate and censor as well.

Steven’s most salient point in all this was his comment that this is a new medium. Indeed it is and I want it to work and develop meaningfully. I don’t think you need a Public Editor, but maybe some sort of cyberspace version of it.

I’m grateful for all these posts, too much to comment on--smart and interesting comments for and against anonymity by so many people.

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ne person who monitors this thread, comments at length on it, and has the ability to edit and censor, namely Fat Guy, happens to be the client and friend of Michael Psaltis—this is a clear conflict of interest in a thread devoted to Michael's brother.

There are 4 people that were authorized to moderate that thread and Steven was not one of them. In one case and one case only, he did so, and that was only because none of the rest of us were around and he was monitoring that thread at my request while I picked up my son.

And if Steven doesn’t like someone, say he’s annoyed by some of the things I say, is it less likely I’ll be able to have eGullet excerpt my next book if I ask for consideration?

Absolutely not. Steven does not make any of the editorial decisions for the Daily Gullet. The Daily Gullet operates independently with it's own editorial board, and those people with Dave Scantland leading them, make the decisions on what to run or not. If you were to ask for consideration, that request would go to the editorial board, not Steven. the request would be considered on it's own merits, not because of who you know or don't know. The Daily Gullet is interested in talent.

.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Anonymity.... gosh... that's a tough one.

I guess for me it comes down to vested interest. If someone has a personal stake at hand and is posting with that in mind, then hell yah, I wanna know who they are. If it's just your average joe or jane blow (like me) then who cares?

I'll leave it at that.... I had a whole post written out about conflicts of interest but as it was completely OT (unless replying directly to the previous post about the Daily Gullet would be considered On Topic), I should really just zip it up! :biggrin:

sarah

Always take a good look at what you're about to eat. It's not so important to know what it is, but it's critical to know what it was. --Unknown

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Sorry if this was already discussed but...........

What if a post contains a blatant lie, will it be deleted? Will the poster be reprimanded in any way?

I ask because, the moderators/management know the real identity of who is posting and have control over this. For example, in the Psaltis thread (which sparked this thread) a poster claims to have been a member for sometime but always "lurked". Thereby negating the comment that he/she recently joined in order to post on the thread. The mod's would obviously know if this was true or not.

There could many examples of people posting misleading and false comments, that could be controlled because of the moderators knowledge of their real identity. How are these situations handled?

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[. . . . ]

To put it more explicitly: say, hypothetically, the person calling themselves rocketman were in fact Michael Psaltis—let me continue! This is only hypothetical.  Well if it were or if the brother of the maligned/defended chef were posting through a pal, it would very much change the meaning.

One person who monitors this thread, comments at length on it, and has the ability to edit and censor, namely Fat Guy, happens to be the client and friend of Michael Psaltis—this is a clear conflict of interest in a thread devoted to Michael's brother.

[. . . .]

I don’t know how management makes decisions but I’ve heard enough upset people who care about egullet and felt my own radar on high enough alert, to need to be skeptical and to want to know how it works.

I’ve never argued that people should be forced to reveal themselves (this stalking issue is unnerving), but perhaps there are some instances in which managemnt might require people to use real names.  Those who for whatever reasons wish or need to maintain anonymity would have to watch from the sidelines in those rare instances.  Anonymity comes with a price too.

Perhaps those who post on tendentious issues, shouldn’t be allowed to moderate and censor as well.

Steven’s most salient point in all this was his comment that this is a new medium.  Indeed it is and I want it to work and develop meaningfully.  I don’t think you need a Public Editor, but maybe some sort of cyberspace version of it.

I’m grateful for all these posts, too much to comment on--smart and interesting comments for and against anonymity by so many people.

Michael, you have had your say. Now it's time to move on. We are not going to continually rehash the handling of any given topic or the deletion of a post. Not only has all this been explained to you in private correspondence, but it is a never-ending process that we don't permit, for reasons we have explained many times.

For the record: we have thoroughly investigated Rocketman's identity. He is not a chef, not a sous chef, not Michael Psaltis. He does not appear to be involved in the culinary community in any way, except by acquaintance. He is surely a friend of one or both Psaltises -- but then, you don't need to know his name to determine that, do you? We know his name (a rather common one), his address (a big city) and where he works (at a desk job unrelated to the culinary world). Knowing any of this wouldn't change a thing, and we are going to maintain his anonymity per our policies. If he violates the member agreement, we will delete his posts (and have on several occasions), just as we will delete any post that violates the member agreement. The issue of Rocketman is closed. It is inappropriate -- not to say inconsiderate -- that we have had to speak so specifically and publicly about a member in response to these incessant harangues.

Of course we know there's a potential conflict of interest whenever a member of management is close to a debate. That's why we don't allow those conflicts to affect our moderating policy. A manager -- even the executive director -- who gets close to a debate is required from the point of their involvement to act as a participant.

Everybody who has had a point to make in the Psaltis discussion has had the opportunity to make it -- repeatedly -- including you, Michael. You are still complaining that your post about anonymity was removed, even though you were allowed to start this whole, lengthy topic on the subject. Likewise, the purpose of this topic was not to rehash the Psaltis affair but, rather, to discuss the phenomenon of psuedonyms and what they mean for online discussion. That discussion is worth pursuing. From this point on, rehashing of: any specific topic; any decision to delete; or any member's status will be removed without further comment. And no, Michael, you won't receive an explanation. You should be smart enough to know that when a moderator says stop and you continue, your post will be removed.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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This has been an interesting thead to read through. I tend to agree and prefer to see people's real names. It tends to make for more interesting discussions frankly, when I can take into consideration not only people's viewpoint's, but also their backgrounds, if relevant to the subject at hand.

Having said that, I can also appreciate the needs of those who do prefer anonymity for safety or work/privacy issues.

That leads to a most interesting comment at the bottom of Michael's last post,

"I’ve never argued that people should be forced to reveal themselves (this stalking issue is unnerving), but perhaps there are some instances in which managemnt might require people to use real names. Those who for whatever reasons wish or need to maintain anonymity would have to watch from the sidelines in those rare instances. Anonymity comes with a price too."

I think this is something worth discussing. The Psaltis thread for instance could have been deemed, 'no anonymous posting allowed', based on the content. When you are discussing a person or restaurant and the issue is controversial, as in this instance, I don't think it is fair to comment anonymously, and to hide behind that wall of protection. In this scenario, who you are does become relevant, depending on what you are saying, and if in fact, you are a shill, or close friend of the person under fire, or enemy or whatever. Full disclosure is the only fair thing.

So, maybe it could be looked at on a case by case, thread by thread basis, as needed.

And I do agree with those who have said that posting under your own name, tends to raise the level of discussion, keeps it more professional, or at least makes people think twice before posting something inflammatory.

:) Pam

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