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They won't be silenced Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Oct 01 2011 12:00 PM

When two weeks ago I wrote about The Union-Tribune's decision to change over to a Facebook verification system for posting comments, I thought I was done jabbering about it for a while.

I was wrong.

I was emailed a link alerting me to the whereabouts of the jettisoned anonymous commentors, the "outcasts, people on the edge, trolls and crazies, with a few normal people thrown in for good measure."

Signedoffsandiego.com was born about the same time the UT's new policy came into play and nearly 8,000 comments have been posted in the last two weeks.

The site's creator says its purpose is to give a forum to people who don't feel comfortable voicing their opinions without anonymity.

Good for them.

Some people want to vent and don't want their families, friends, co-workers to know what's really on their mind.

I get that. People, including families, friends and co-workers can be intolerant, petty, vindictive or unforgiving when they learn your opinions are different from theirs.

There also had been occasions in which insiders, be they government workers, private sector employees or "people in the know," have posted tidbits of information about a particular story that provides further detail or insight. Whistleblowers (for lack of a better term) rightfully don't want to jeopardize their safety or careers for making public comments that could get them in trouble.

And still, there were other occasions (that seemed more often than not) where people just wanted to make outrageous comments for the sake of getting attention. Well, what can you do about that?

While I understand the UT's right, as a business, to run their outfit however they see fit, I don't agree with their reasons for doing so.

The change came about, in part, because, as the paper's executive editor said, online exchanges could degenerate into "childish, hateful or racist speech."

Again, as a business manager, if Jeff Light doesn't want his company associated with that kind of behavior, OK.

But if the news organization was also making the changes to protect its readers from hurt feelings and offensive comments, well, thanks for nothing.

Last I checked no one was forced to read the comments. Years ago I resigned myself to the fact that most comments, anonymous or otherwise, weren't worth my time. I stopped reading them.

But never did I consider or hope that the "outcasts, people on the edge, trolls and crazies," be outted or simply forced into extinction."

I'm glad they found a home.

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obmama Says:

Thu, Oct 13 2011 02:17 PM

Hi Carlos, signedoffsandiego has expanded to include a thread for Orange County Register readers who protested OCR's switch to Facebook. The following comment was sent to OCR's editor . . .

Hello Martin,

I just received your test poll asking which political party is smarter. The real question is: Who's smarter, the Orange County Register's editor Ken Brusic or someone called "balboabolt" at a site called www.signedoffsandiego.com?

When the San Diego Union Tribune implemented the policy of requiring their readers sign up for Facebook to post comments, "balboabolt" started a site for U-T readers who refused to go along with that BS. When balboabolt and others at signedoffsandiego heard there were LOTS of OCR readers who weren't going along with the OCR's Facebook nonsense, they were kind enough to invite us over and even added a section just for folks from Orange County (ex OCR readers.) You
can go to www.ocunregister.com to get there. You should
check it out. It's the exact opposite of the OCR site. The posts are
intelligent, witty, very well-written, often hilarious and we get to say ANYTHING we want!

I've already cancelled my decades-long subscription to the OCR, I don't visit the site anymore and I won't be taking part in your polls. Please remove me from your email list.

obmama Says:

Wed, Oct 05 2011 09:44 AM

Hi Carlos, Seems the OC Register has chosen the Facebook route as well. I posted a link to signedoffsandiego and your column, with the hope our anti-facebook trend will continue. Thanks for your follow up story, we all appreciate it.

obmama Says:

Mon, Oct 03 2011 01:21 AM

Today signedoffsandiego celebrated 10,000 comments posted at our new site.

We were offended that frequent posters who were not representative of "outcasts, trolls and crazies" were not recognized and wanted to change the atmosphere we had grown accustomed to. But, we kind of liked UT's picture of a "gritty neighborhood bar where the drinks aren't fancy, the lighting is low and the regulars all know each other by nicknames."

We brought the theme to our new place, a metaphoric depiction of Cheers on-line, where the regulars gather to banter, spar and trade one-liners. We sip our drinks, and look around to see who's having the most fun or talking about a topic of interest and join conversations, without leaving our bar stools. We still discuss current events, and visit the neighborhood media sites to read and comment on news stories. We have a game room, casino and sports bar, are open 24 hours and welcome new guests. Most important, we are all having a good time.

countrygirl1 Says:

Sun, Oct 02 2011 02:14 PM

Thanks for the follow-up about the U-T's decision to link itself to Facebook and the option many have taken to join the more welcoming site at Signedoffsandiego.com. It's often not about anonymity alone- I simply will not join Facebook, especially just to be allowed to comment on a story. Many of my personal friends , etc, already know my handle and my views, just as the UT did. Jettisoning it's previous commenters certainly hasn't cleaned up the comments at the UT site, just made them boring and uninformative.

Balboa Bolt Says:

Sat, Oct 01 2011 07:06 PM

Well I'm glad someone in the newspaper business gets it. And I might add we are providing a much more intelligent and meaningful discussion. Were not all crazy over there

evoc Says:

Sat, Oct 01 2011 06:22 PM

Carlos, thank you, and God bless you.

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