Why We Turned Off Anonymous Talkbacks

by Bruce Stewart

Until today, you could participate in the online discussions on any of our sites anonymously, with no requirements to register, log in anywhere, or otherwise identify yourself. We know many people appreciated the ease with which they could comment on our articles and weblogs, and in many cases anonymous posters had great things to contribute to these discussions. But in the face of dramatically increasing spam and growing abuse of our system, we've now disabled the ability to post comments anonymously.

This is not a decision we've come to lightly. We've weighed the pros and cons, and we understand that by adding a registration requirement for commenting on our content, we're limiting the number of potential participants. But in the end, we feel that the high quality of the discussions on our sites is valuable, worth protecting, and more important than easy, anonymous access for comments. After devoting significant resources to purging offensive and inappropriate comments from our sites, we've come to the conclusion that we can't have both high quality discussions and unfettered access to participation.

Don't get me wrong--we're not putting any serious obstacles in the way of participation. O'Reilly Network registration is free and easy: just go to http://www.oreillynet.com/cs/on_reg/register/ and give us your name, email address, and your desired O'Reilly Network username and password. Nothing else is required, and your personal info won't be shared with anyone or used for any other purpose. (See our privacy policy for more details.) You'll also be able to sign up for any of our free email newsletters so you can get weekly summaries of the content we're publishing online, as well as news about our upcoming books and conferences.

We hope this move won't be too much of an inconvenience to those of you who want to engage in discussions around our weblogs and articles. If you haven't done so already, please do register with us. We want your participation.

Please register and give us your feedback.


2004-01-20 16:51:30
I'm a firm believer that criticism of one's posting should never be done anonymously.
Nice move.
2004-01-20 18:46:17
Easy indeed
Logging into the O'Reilly network as a registered user is indeed very easy !
2004-01-21 01:18:23
Too bad ...
Too bad it had to come to this, but I agree it's needed ... and registration is easy!


2004-01-21 03:25:23
I attach my name to my thoughts, and so should others. :)
2004-01-21 03:45:10
Well said. If you're so afraid of what others think of your opinion that you don't want it known who you are there's no reason anyone should have to hear/read it in the first place.

The only times I've posted anonymous were when I had forgotten to log in, but since login is now persisted between sessions that's harder to do.

2004-01-21 05:41:15
As a writer...
I'd also like to make it impossible for anyone who isn't logged in, to email me. 98% of the spam I get is through O'Reilly's site, since there was no system of challenges.
2004-01-21 07:38:52
I'm sorry...
That some of you are so very proud of being online every second and dorking out together, but some of us don't want to remember ANOTHER password, or go through the annoyance of clearing the cache, etc. on a public computer.

Besides, if you live in the States, the Patriot Act (and version II) makes it easier and easier for corporations and the government to get your subscriber lists. Every little breadcrumb.

2004-01-21 11:38:37
Support the decision - sad but necessary
There are several free email sites (hotmail, etc)out there to use for registration. Anyone who feels they must post anonymous to discussions on THESE forums (this a technology and resource web site, not AA or for political asylum) either has nothing to say of value or has nothing to say period.
2004-01-21 11:48:35
Support the decision - sad but necessary
That is your opinion, even if it isn't a good one.
2004-01-21 13:01:29
Yeah, right. You're either with-us or against-us ;P

But what of dissent? My handle is Adpsk. Maybe, if you catch on to my silliness, you see that it's just pun on my name, Adam, and you acknowledge that I must be one of the guys. You don't care about race, religion, age, disability, whatever. You find you're comfortable talking to just about anybody about anything.

Maybe you don't think of yourself as homophobic or, if you're a guy, a misogynist ;)

I'm sure most people reading this understand that anonymity is a vital component to any open discussion. Unfortunately, as with most anything, it has it's bad side. I'm sure the good folks at O'Reilly will resume some form of "anonymous" posting as soon as it's technologically viable. Until then you'll just have to create dummy accounts with silly names to post "anonymously".

Actually, I think the biggest problem I see is that the quality dialog will diminish drastically because most people posting won't bother because they have to go through yet another, albeit rather easy, sign-up process.

2004-01-22 02:20:56
Suggest an improvement to the login system?
I don't mind logging in, but the little dance you have to do on O'R is annoying. You click to comment on an article, then you're asked to log in, then after logging in you find yourself at a dead-end screen thanking you for logging in. Back, back, back...ah, here we are.

It's not hard to code up supplying the login page with the page you want to be redirected or linked to after the process.

Maybe this doesnt happen to everyone; my browser allows session cookies only.

2004-01-22 02:41:28
In addition to mandatory user loggings, I would like to suggest that O'Reilly stop the trackbacks. Unfortunately, most of the articles or weblogs I have read in the past couple of months are littered with trackbacks from other websites, with the text "X wrote Y, check it out in O'Reilly...". This level of noise is too high.
2004-01-22 14:57:09
Suggest an improvement to the login system?
I think there is a compatibility problem with your system -- our login page does redirect users back to the comment form for the article they started at in most cases. If you could post the details of your platform/browser version here, or email them to me at bruce@oreilly.com, I'll follow up on your specific problem.


2004-01-23 09:32:25
Your last assertion doesn't make any sense. Quantity of comments may decrease, but quality should rise, or at least maintain its current levels.

There's a whole spam issue here too, as Bruce and others mentioned. As an O'Reilly weblogger, I get an email, which by my own design, comes right through my filters each time someone posts a comment. Over the last few months these automatic notifications have started containing ocassional spam-- all from anonymous posters.

In general this should reduce spam, noise and abuse.

2004-01-24 20:11:49
I was convinced that unregistered anonymous comments were a bad idea after I saw a sane and sensible post by Andy Oram covered with over a hundred dumb anonymous trolls.

There's a difference between absolute anonymity and effective anonymity. If you want effective anonymity, you can come close to it by registering with O'Reilly with a throwaway webmail account.

If you need more than effective anonymity, then perhaps you should rethink posting on public message boards. Yes, I'm serious. There's no doubt some people need absolute anonymity. This has always been true and always will be true. What has also always been true is that absolute anonymity requires some effort and some discipline on the part of those desiring absolute anonymity.