We seem to be entering the second age of online commenting. The first age brought up commenting networks like Disqus and IntenseDebate. Those networks standardized commenting between websites, encouraging users to leave their thoughts.
Now, we have seen two recent developments in the world of commenting that seem to point to a new future: a push for the end of anonymous posting, and a pay to play model that is radically different than anything we have seen before. Websites in the past have usually worked to encourage their readers to leave comments as they drive discussion and enrich content.
Not so for everyone anymore. The Sun Chronicle, a newspaper in Massachusetts, is reopening their commenting section of their website, but with two twists. Everyone must use their real name, and pay a $1 fee to turn on their accounts. In short, the newspaper is ferreting out the trolls and making the rest jump over a hoop to get in on the commenting action.
If you are active in the world of gaming, you will know about the wildly negative feedback that Blizzard, makers of the upcoming Starcraft 2, have received for announcing a similar move to end anonymous commenting on their forums. Users are not happy at all with the idea.
Now that content production and consumption on the internet have matured, it seems that the publications are asking the same of their readers, and that the readers want nothing to do with it. Whether the Sun Chronicle succeeds or not in its bid to clean up its previously defunct comment section remains to be seen, but we have to applaud them for taking a move to make things sane, whether the move seems extreme or not.
In the future all commenting may be exposing, much to the chagrin of trolls everywhere. What do you think?