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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?
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]
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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.
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.
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.