The debate between the value of anonymous comments and their role in facilitating trolling will probably never be resolved. We have a discussion going on about removing the ability to comment entirely, but this story about Huffington Post moving away from allowing anonymous comments to forcing commenters to provide their identity got me thinking about making transitions between rules of community interaction without removing them entirely.
On the one hand, not facing consequences for comments tends to facilitate some truely toxic behaviour in many online communities. Trolling, vulgar or bigoted language, and general mean-spiritedness tends to occur more often when the poster does not feel any sense of responsibility for their comments. Commenters on YouTube as well as players on XBox One and League of Legends are notorious for this kind of behaviour.
On the other, anonymity and pseudonymity have always played a vital role in the development and spread of the internet since its early days. There's a strong argument to be made for allowing some degree of anonymity to allow for honest discussion of sensitive subjects or to give people the space to discuss experiences or opinions they would feel uncomfortable having be common knowledge. On a news based community like Huffington Post I could see this being a core need. In less dire terms, the ability to have different "brands" of yourself online is tied to the ability to create a new persona for yourself and is commonly employed by entertainers, writers, and musicians.
It's worth noting that removing anonymity doesn't stop trolling or stop people from embarrassing themselves with ignorant or racist posts. And that many communities which support anonymity do not turn into troll pits. Neither option reliably results in an absolute outcome as far as I can tell.
Has anyone had the experience of moving from anonymous comments to verified comments? What about vice versa? How have the values and interests of your community informed your decision in that regard? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on dealing with this.