Starting next week there's going to be a change in site policy. Registration will be required to comment on the site.
I will be frank with you. I have resisted this change as hard as I can and even now I don't like making it.
First and foremost, my bias is to make it as easy as possible for anyone to participate. When you walk into a coffee shop you don't necessarily have to give your name before you join the conversation and I like having it that way here. We're not hurting for participation, anonymous or otherwise, so I think that model makes sense.
Second, I always loved listening to Art Bell when he was on regularly overnight and the thing that impressed me most was that he never screened calls. I liked the exciting atmosphere that engendered. Allowing anonymous commenting here was my small way of paying homage to that.
Finally, when I took over the site a lot of people told me that I should cut off anonymous commenting because as the site got more popular we'd get trolled to death by hit-and-run commenters. In my mind I firmly resisted that assumption. I trusted you and that trust has been repaid a hundredfold. If you look around blogs with a reasonable amount of traffic you will find that this one ranks pretty darn high in terms of the quality and friendliness of its comments. The advice givers, though well-meaning, were mistaken. You guys are amazing, registered and anonymous folks both.
So why, with all this, is the anonymous commenting getting the heave-ho? As we mentioned in a poll last week, it's the stupid spambots. If you peruse the back pages of the blog (beyond the 12 most recent posts) you will begin to find dozens of auto-generated spam comments. In many cases they make it impossible to read anything other than the original post. Somebody linked to the Ten Commandments post I did a few weeks ago and I had to delete 70 spam comments to make it presentable. If the spambots were registered I would have their source IP address and could erase and ban them with one click. As it is they're all anonymous and I have to delete them one by one at three clicks a piece. (Delete this? Do you really want to delete this? Confirm that you really, really want to delete this.) Multiply that by 70 and consider that's only one post and you begin to see the problem. It's gotten to the point that I've simply given up. It's become a time and energy issue. Blogging is not my job. I have to do it in the spare corners of my time. That means that hours I spend keeping the back pages clean are hours I can't write or research new stuff. I'm having to make choices between posting and spam control. That's no good.
The change has nothing to do with any individuals, nor the quality of posting as a whole. It is something I don't like having to do, but I do have to do it anyway. Starting next Monday, the ability to comment anonymously here will be turned off.
On the bright side, registration is free and easy and I promise that I won't ever use your information for anything. There's absolutely no harm in it. And besides, everyone seems to be having so much fun with the contest thing that it'll probably continue, and registering means you're already signed up for that kind of thing.
All of you Anonymous Heroes can enjoy your last few days of under-the-radar existence. I hope each and every one of you will come up with a clever login name by Monday. I look forward to continuing the discussion with you all.