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Requiring forum members to identify themselves
Feasible? Enforceable?

 9:18 pm on Jul 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Does anyone have experience with the pro's and con's of requiring forum members to identify themselves and not allowing anonymous posting at all?

I'm a volunteer admin for a private industry-related forum that sees some bad behaviour from time to time, mostly arising from tensions between competitors. The suggestion has arisen that forcing everyone to identify themselves in their profiles would improve the atmosphere because problem posters would behave better if they couldn't be anonymous. Some people also claim that they themselves could post more freely if they "knew who they were talking to".

I'm not convinced that attempting such a policy change would have any positive effect, among other reasons because I've never seen any consistent correlation between anonymity/identity and the quality of someone's participation, and even more because I can't see how such a requirement could be reliably enforced.

Any advice? What's possible? What's wise?



 9:29 pm on Jul 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Couldn't blocking/threatening to block a poster's IP work?


 9:57 pm on Jul 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've found that the strong the no-anonymity policy on a board, the higher the quality of its discussion.

Enforcing such a policy requires you to take certain steps in your registration process, however. (No posting w/o registration, verified e-mail addresses, etc.) But, short of requiring a credit card number when registering, there's no foolproof way of verifying that a registrant is whom he says he is. And even the credit card isn't 100 percent, unfortunately. But asking people to play under these rules usually does result in over 90 percent compliance. And critical mass takes it from there.

[edited by: jatar_k at 5:09 pm (utc) on July 25, 2006]
[edit reason]
[1][edit reason] no urls thanks [/edit]


 12:55 am on Jul 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

there's no foolproof way of verifying that a registrant is whom he says he is

That's the key problem.

Registration is required to even read, let alone post, and we do verify email addresses. The Terms of Service are clear that the forum is intended for people with a professional connection to the "fuzzy blue widgets" industry. The forum has over 2000 members, from widget retailers to manufacturers to designers of widget accessories to organizers of widget trade shows.

Some members identify themselves in their profiles; other don't. There haven't been many bans in the forum's history, but in every case when we've banned a member for bad behaviour it was someone whose identity was known. So identifying people doesn't guarantee a thing.

What we really need is a way to screen for idiots and airheads.


 11:18 pm on Jul 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

The closest I've seen to workable solutions are 1) requiring some form of payment by credit card or check, however nominal; or, 2) requiring sign-ups via an identifiable email address (no freebie email addresses).


 4:09 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Screening out free email addresses is good, but there are probably thousands of free email domains. In addition, on my forums some valuable members prefer to use such an address for a variety of reasons - not being allowed or wanting to use a "work" email for extracurricular activity, lousy ISP service, a desire for web mail vs. POP, etc. Internationals in particular have this issue.

On one forum, we do a detailed verification on a specific "expert" user group. We track back the specific email address to the organization and/or do a phone verification. That's obviously far too time consuming if you have a large number of members.

A cheap credit card payment would be relatively easy, though you would lose some members.

One other thought would be to have two classes of members, "verified" and "unverified", perhaps with different privileges.


 4:24 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Bucky, short of requiring disclosure this thread [webmasterworld.com] discussed some interesting and novel ways to "screen" members.


 12:21 am on Aug 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hi guys, one forum I've been posting on for the last 6 months has required you to add your real name when you register. It was kinda weird at 1st but I think it helps to keep the discussion on a personal basis... which seems to lessen the potential for heated discussions getting out of hand.

If you're already requiring registration to even *read* posts, then I don't think i's a stretch to require members to identify themselves.


 2:39 pm on Aug 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Rmjvol, is your real name visible with your posts in the forum? In your profile?

More importantly, what kind of safeguard do they have (if any) to prevent you from using a fake name?


 7:38 pm on Aug 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes. Yes. None. hehe, so much for the open-ended, community-building questions ;)

There are a handful of posters who don't list a real name. But 95% do. Its not foolproof but I'm actually thinking about implementing it at my board, just for the community building effect.


 12:03 am on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hmmm. I'd guess that that kind of "optional" identification would control minor offenses, i.e., a member might be less likely to make a crude or obnoxious remark under his real name. More serious troublemakers, though, might forge ahead with assumed identities.


 7:56 pm on Aug 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I always make my members register.

Allowing guests to post just attracts flamers that start trouble because they can hide behing their anonymity.
You don't need them kind of people around anyways ... they are a big head ache!


 8:46 pm on Aug 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Alle, the problem is that even registration doesn't provide much identification. A Yahoo or Gmail account, a few phony details, and the new user is ready to post...

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