By Scott Tibbs, July 16, 2009
J.J. Perry had an interesting editorial on Monday about upcoming changes to Herald Times Online and new features the website will have. One change I would strongly and enthusiastically suggest is eliminating multiple usernames in the comment sections. Right now, someone can add as many comments as he/she pleases using a different username for each comment. Too many people change their handles frequently. If a unique username was assigned to each account, it would improve the quality of the discussions by adding some degree of accountability to the site. It would prevent people from "hiding" behind a string of pseudonyms and eliminate confusion as to who other users are addressing.
I would prefer a requirement that each poster use his/her real first and last name like in the letters to the editor section. I have become increasingly weary of anonymity over the last couple years as I have seen far too many personal attacks on real people by those folks with so little integrity that they must shoot from the shadows. Having a real name attached to each post would also improve the discussion by adding another layer of accountability. I understand many people value anonymity, and that there will be a backlash if this change is implemented.
With or without anonymity, assigning a unique username to each account would be a welcome and needed change.
Of course, there are instances where more than one person has access to the same account. One example is a scenario where a husband and wife both read HTO using the same account. I know there are couples where both people comment on stories. For those reasons, perhaps there could be "sub accounts" that are still tied to the same account. Perhaps you could allow two (or even three) usernames per account, though any more than three would make the restriction meaningless.
I think it would also be a good idea to improve the tracking feature, allowing users to search comments by specific users much farther than the current "recent comments" link allows. I have often wished I could see my own comments going back farther so I could see of there are responses I have missed.