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It’s Time To Take The Lead — Let’s Turn The Lights On Now

Growing up I remember the almost genteel civility practiced by my grandparents and their generation. Topics that today would more likely than not incite harsh tones and words, were discussed, even debated without rancor or a mean spirit. I handle myself with their model in mind. Sometimes my calm demeanor based upon rational thought triggers those who aren’t happy without either drama or the spotlight, to turn up the heat.

When this happens ‘in person’ I’m almost always successful in steering the conversation to calmer waters, or to its end. If it’s a phone conversation, I still succeed at that more than not, but less than face to face.

Anonymity in my experience can tell much about a person’s character. I was raised the old fashioned way. In our family you were just as likely to be scolded or given a quick swat on the butt by your aunt as you were your mom. We were taught that the true test of character is what you do when nobody’s watching. Of course with five ministers in the family, we all pretty much believed we were never really unobserved. :) We behaved — even without witnesses. The lesson? Good character isn’t good only when the camera is on.

Which brings us to blogs. I’ll be brief and to the point.

Anonymity breeds false courage in some. They use this ability to become invisible to say things in print they’d never dream of in person. Most of them in real life have been dealt significant disappointments, mostly in real estate apparently. They fancy themselves as Lone Rangers fighting the good fight, fearlessly lobbing grenades at people whose good character allow them to write their thoughts (posts) in a public forum — and sign them with their real names. Their blogs not only identify who they are, but generally have an ‘about’ page which goes into more depth. In other words bloggers as a group, at least in real estate, are pretty transparent. Many even have their pictures on their blog’s home page. Character, pure and simple.

I’ve tried Grandma’s approach. Treat bullies and cowards with respect she taught us, and they’ll respond in kind. As a child I saw her do it many times. She was amazing. I wonder how she’d handle a comment that was purposefully insulting, meant to incite, without a shred of respect, and vulgar? Nothing empowers a coward more than the cover of darkness. By definition a bully is a coward. The problem is no matter how harshly they are confronted, since they’re totally protected by the guarantee of anonymity, which of course a blog provides, they know they can never be held accountable for their cowardly behavior.

I believe it’s time to take the lead, and require commenters to be fully identified. I encourage all real estate related blogs to do the same. Enough is enough. Cowards contribute nothing of value, so we’d be adding by way of subtraction. With the light turned on brightly only the cockroaches will scatter.

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  • 21 comments

    21 Comments so far

    1. Kris Berg January 29th, 2007 10:09 am

      I agree with the concept, but here is the problem I see. There are the unsavory sorts that you speak of, but there are also those that have grown weary of being “sold”. Anonymity assures one that they will not be added to an email drip campaign and that they will not be otherwise contacted as a result. You and I do not subscribe to this sort of thing, of course, but many in our industry sadly do. For those whose calls have been “1-800 captured” too many times, requiring full identity disclosure would risk stifling discourse. IMO

    2. NYCJoe January 29th, 2007 12:12 pm

      Jeff,

      Let me add on to Kris’ point.

      As I’ve said several times, I would be more than willing to post under my actual identity the moment that Bloodhound posts its privacy policy indicating how my identity data will be handled.

      This is what modern, state-of-the-art blogs and websites do. It’s not enough to just say “we’re gonna stop allowing anonymous posting and make you sign your real name” without doing something to reciprocate the trust that posters would be placing in you.

      Now, if this policy is already posted somewhere on this site and I’ve missed it, then my bad, but I haven’t found it. Posting this is more than just good business practice – it demonstrates that Bloodhound is willing to accept responsibility for the proper handling of its posters’ personal data.

    3. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 12:13 pm

      Kris – Your point is well taken. I’m open to ways in which I might make folks secure and less suspicious about identifying themselves.

      My tech guy has told me I can eliminate future comments from bad guys – which he’s already successfully demonstrated to me. Maybe that’s the way to go.

      How does that sound to you?

    4. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 12:21 pm

      Joe – Another point well taken.

      I know for a fact Greg has a strict privacy policy, and would never even think of using info given by a commenter for anything — period. I don’t know if that is posted or not.

      My blog’s policy, which I will very soon make prominent, is that any time I email anyone it’s with their permission, or in rare circumstances privately between me and the author of a comment.

    5. Jim Duncan January 29th, 2007 12:27 pm

      I, too agree in theory, but in practice, anonymity breeds honesty and candor as well as vitriol.

      If all commenters at least used the same “handle” for all of their comments, that would allow for easy tracking and identification. I have found that most anonymous, but good contributors do in fact follow this practice.

      Of note is today’s WSJ (sub req) that talks about online privacy:

      Be especially careful about disclosing personal information in discussion groups, chat rooms or blogs. Limit exposure to spammers by not including your email address on Web sites. If you do include it, try to present it as a button or some other graphical element — regular text can be read by automated programs (“bots”) that scour the Internet looking for information.

    6. NVmike January 29th, 2007 12:46 pm

      Obviously, I disagree with your fundamental investment philosophy – especially the way you do not address the risks inherent with leveraging – but I consider my criticism of you to be civil, professional and factual.

      If you belive I’ve somehow personally insulted you, I’m sorry. You have my e-mail, contact me off-line.

      Cowards contribute nothing of value, so we’d be adding by way of subtraction. With the light turned on brightly only the cockroaches will scatter.

      “Cowards?” “Cockroaches?”

      I don’t recall any poster here calling you anything even remotely like that. Did I miss some posts that were deleted?

    7. Jeff Turner January 29th, 2007 2:34 pm

      Jeff, there is a new Internet term, you probably have already heard it – Courage.com. As in, “Man, you sure got a lot of courage.com. Bet you wouldn’t be saying that to my face.” I don’t have to quote David Pogue’s article with that in it, because he was quoting my neighbor, who wrote in and he was quoting me. And I can’t remember where I originally heard it. But I’ll point to it anyway:

      http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/12/21/21pogue-email-2/

      Personally, the anonymity can be freeing for some and certainly encourages open discussion, especially from those who might be concerned about their personal information being shared. I’m not sure I agree 100% that there is nothing of value gained. We can sometimes learn from the seemingly irrational rants of a few misfits.

      That said, I do agree with your values comments. We need more civility.

    8. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 2:45 pm

      NVmike – I don’t recall any time you’ve done anything but disagree with me. We obviously come from differetn schools.

      As far as ‘not addressing the risks inherent with leveraging’ is concerned I have two comments. First, commenting on the risks of using leverage is like saying flying 500 mph at 35,000 feet is dangerous. It’s self evident. What’s also self evident is that there are ways to fly and use leverage which are much safer than other ways.

      Second, when a prospect is in my office they hear about leverage. By the time I’m done with them they could hold a seminar on the subject. :)

      In my memory, at least as it concerns your comments on my posts, you have nothing for which to apologize.

    9. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 3:03 pm

      Jim – I understand the evil doers out there snatching our info, and making our lives more difficult. There’s no getting around your point.

      That said, I’m open to any suggestions to rid ourselves of the poor guys whose lives are so miserable they feel they have to spread it around.

      Any suggestions?

      Jeff – The info sharing is a huge problem. There may not be an easy way around it, though I’m looking for the genius with the simple solution. :)

      When I speak of no value added, I’m speaking only of the toxic comments sent in by the poor, miserable folks the post is about. I feel sorry for them, as their comments are so obviously a cry for attention, even if it’s negative.

      There is value added by anonymous readers. But just like our food supply which always has a certain amount of bacteria in it — once that bacteria hits critical mass the food becomes poison.

      I’m looking for the antidote. :)

    10. Jim Duncan January 29th, 2007 3:12 pm

      Jeff –

      The only things I can think of are:

      - Ignore them and let the community ignore them.
      - Actively ignore them via a moderating system like slashdot uses, whereby they can be moderated down to troll status where they belong.

      Your comment level seems to have reached a critical mass where this may be necessary. Or, stop being so provocative. :)

    11. Greg Swann January 29th, 2007 3:23 pm

      Jeff,

      I modified the policy slightly on our About page:

      Comments policy: Everyone disagrees with us about something, and we welcome this: It’s how we learn. We encourage a free and spirited debate about the issues we raise here. We police comments with a very light hand, deleting comments only for extreme obscenity, flame-baiting, plagiarism, impersonation (sock-puppetry) or copyright infringement (a fair-use quotation with a link is fine).

      Privacy policy: Email addresses or other contact information collected by BloodhoundBlog is kept in the strictest confidence. Contact information is never shared with third-party vendors, other web sites or telemarketers, nor will anyone from BloodhoundBlog solicit your business in any way. We hate spam more than you do.

      Policy on anonymous comments: If you don’t have the courage to stand behind your remarks with your own true name, don’t be surprised if contributors and visitors to BloodhoundBlog assume you are sniveling coward. This may not be the truth of your particular circumstances, but it fits our past experience to a fault. If you want to be taken seriously, comport yourself accordingly. If you don’t need to be told not to act like a jackass in public, we like you already.

      I’m not ready (yet?) to forbid anonymous comments, but I’m rarely away from the eject button for more than six hours at a time.

    12. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 3:37 pm

      Greg – Thanks for the clarification. But could you be a little less ambiguous? :)

    13. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 4:13 pm

      Jim – Those are ideas to seriously ponder. I’ve committed to having a new policy for my blog by the end of next week.

    14. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 4:24 pm

      Jim – I’m too provocative? Yeah, right. Next to those guys I’m as provocative as chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream. Woohoo! :)

    15. Kris Berg January 29th, 2007 5:40 pm

      G- Best policy on comments I have ever read. Hysterically funny. If it wasn’t for the “plagiarism” crack, I would have right-clicked-borrowed it for my own site already.

      Jeff- I think it is the nature of the beast. I’m with Jim on the “ignoring” them approach.

    16. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 6:11 pm

      Kris – It’s always better to let Greg come in on his own time – always more entertaining. :)

      Ignoring them works, and the delete key works even better.

    17. sdcellar January 29th, 2007 6:50 pm

      Jim and Kris have it right on the money. There are several valid and good reasons for people to post anonymously (and by that I mean with the same handle).

      Privacy concerns are legitimate and go well beyond what the blog owner might do. I trust Greg. He has my email address and I’m not worried that he’ll take advantage of it. I do worry about what other net denizens might do. It’s not surprising that WSJ would report on that.

      It’s also not surprising that real estate folk have no issue with stating their identity on real estate related blogs. Heck, most of them link to the website they do business from. Makes sense and I have no issue with this, but don’t condemn others who choose not to do the same. For me, the distinction is that my views are personal and have absolutely nothing to do with my profession. I choose to eliminate the possibility that they connect in ways that neither I nor my company would really care for. When I post professionaly, I too state my name.

      Finally, I assume discourse is welcome. Nowhere in the definition of discourse do I see the word agree. As long as people are respectful, I find contrary opinions on subjects can be very enlightening. So what if someone disagrees with you? If you believe in your message, it just presents you with another opportunity to educate and inform.

    18. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 6:59 pm

      sdcellar – As you can readily discern from many of my comments above, I don’t disagree with your take on this at all.

      People disagreeing with me are, as you say, giving me the opportunity to put forth my views. The objection of course, is when they disagree as an anonymous thug.

      You and I have disagreed, but I don’t recall any behavior from you that could be construed as inappropriate.

    19. Greg Swann January 29th, 2007 7:15 pm

      > So what if someone disagrees with you?

      The best gift a contrary opinion can bring me is the opportunity to discover that I, myself, have been wrong.

    20. Jeff Brown January 29th, 2007 8:33 pm

      The best gift a contrary opinion can bring me is the opportunity to discover that I, myself, have been wrong.

      Amen.

    21. jf.sellsius January 30th, 2007 6:40 pm

      This is a great topic.

      I am in Jim Duncan’s camp. Either deal with anonymous comments & debate them or ignore them. But censorship for any reason other than slander, personal attack or incitement to riot is unAmerican in my book and contrary to every principle of free speech. And Jim is right—if you’re controversial, provocative or take a hard line position, which allow no room for exception, you invite pointed objection. Don’t stifle debate just because you can’t identify the person. It makes no logical sense to me. From what I’ve observed of the anonymous comments at BHB, most are intelligently expressed. I’d welcome them. The few virulent ones are obvious to pick out.

      If you can stand behind your statements, what have you to fear from the anonymous debater. Your ability to turn their arguments against them (if you can) will unmask them. That’s what free debate is meant to do.

      Consider if you will the KKK. They wear hoods when they argue their hateful case. So I guess you’d have to decline a debate with them if you insist on identity disclosure. It is a red herring of the highest order. It is the speech, not the hood, that matters. And what makes anyone think that people cant hide behind a phony or temporary email address.

      It’s not anonymity we should fear, but the censor.