Discussion Forum
Definition of permitted
anonymity - please?

From Patsy F
Monday, 26 March 2007

Dear Webmaster/Moderator and all contributors

I don’t usually write lengthy postings - just haven’t the time, but I read HebWeb/M'royd stuff at least once a week - more often if something like clamping or nasty planning application threads are ongoing. But I’m taking time today to write as I would like to have clarification (for myself and any other similarly-puzzled contributors to the Discussion Forum) of what constitutes privacy of identity.

A while ago you published a contribution from someone as 'A Resident' who pointed out the dangers of losing one's cool when phoning the HB Group Practice where all phone calls are recorded, and gave the case-in-point of someone known to them who had blotted their copybook in some way - and you attached a note saying that: (We normally don't encourage anonymous postings but we make exceptions if there is good reason: this was sent by someone known to the Hebden Bridge Web, a respected member of the Mytholmroyd community - webmaster)

I don’t argue in the least with your judgement when in certain cases you publish a posting anonymously - in fact I value your discretion in protecting people who feel the need to have their say, but in confidence. However, whilst waiting for a phone call last night I amused myself by taking a second look at some of the postings on various threads. I’ve noticed that most contributors fall into rough groups.

One group of people use their (presumably) full and real names when posting their opinions. Another group uses first or nicknames only - I usually belong to this group, calling myself Patsy or PatsyF. But then there's a third (quite small) group which uses full but exotic-sounding names - and some use Hotmail addresses into the bargain. This third group intrigues me as some of it's members seem to love the 'sound' of their own 'voices' - and yet don't seem to have the courage to publish their real names. Of course, I may be totally wrong about these exotic names as some people do change names by deed poll, but..........??!!

My daughters travel a lot and find Hotmail addresses extremely useful as they can email home from all parts of the world - and they chose weird and wonderful Hotmail 'names' to make the process more fun - one can be very exotic using Hotmail! In fact I've been sorely tempted to get one or two fantasy Hotmail addresses myself, but Dolly Parton and Marilyn Monroe seem to be oversubscribed - and who wants to be dollyparton345678 - it lacks credibility, doesn’t it?

Now, I feel that some contributors - who can be entirely correct in pointing out the difference between subjective and objective or illogical and logical arguments, but write in such a way as to appear to talk down to, and wind up (sounds daft, but they can be done simultaneously!) other contributors who happen to feel so strongly about a particular issue that they become frustrated and emotional. Frustration can lead the best of us to emotion and into forgetting to remain objective.

I get the impression that some ‘noisy’ contributors from the third group can't have much else going on in their lives, have a lot of time on their hands, and therefore have to get their kicks by posting onto threads in which they have no real interest - other than the need to ‘correct’ other people, argue for argument's sake, and satisfy a somewhat needy desire to be noticed. That's fine by me - it's a democratic country (so far!) and everyone is entitled to their point of view - etc., etc. But I wonder if postings from these types need be quite so abrasive, cleverer-than-you, and patronising? They’re like snipers shooting from concealed rooftops at honest souls who’ve declared their identities, points-of-view and feelings.

But, hey! - what bothers me more is that these same frequent and noisy contributors don't seem to have the courage of their convictions (and business sense - I’ll explain later) to add their real names to their postings, seem to hide behind Hotmail too - which to my mind undermines even more any sensible contributions they make.

Now, to the lack of business sense. Do our ‘always-right’, strangely-named, fellow contributors realise what a golden, money-making opportunity they’re missing? Just look at that pathetic dinosaur Bernard Ingham - famous for being in reflected National Limelight for a few years, many years ago - but still living it up in the Home Counties and augmenting his pension by being a Professional Yorkshireman - all that gruff, no-nonsense, curmudgeonly, so-called charm -ugh! - like a stage-Yorkshireman version of the false stage-Irishman of years ago - Begorrah Bejabers! Real Yorkshire people are warm, generous, friendly and lovely - I should know, I am one! So I find B Ingham’s brand of Yorkshireness offensive - trading on the false Northern image, but he does very-nicely-thank-you with the proceeds of books, personal appearances and deliberately wind-up newspaper columns in which he’s - wait for it - always right! But he wouldn’t make a penny if he didn’t give his real name (and, heaven-help-us, his photo) on everything. Geddit, geddit?

So, dear, darling, much-appreciated Webmaster, the point of all this woffle is to ask for your definition of anonymity - and which contributions warrant it. Are the unusually-named correspondents with Hotmail addresses all personally known to the HebWeb - and so that's all right then? If not, could you persuade them to come out from cover and reveal themselves - they’d have much more credibility!!

Regards to all, dollyparton345678 - aka Patsy Frederiksen XXX

PS: To all the Colden Eco-Homes Application objectors - after a pleasant and very informative chat with two of you in the HB Square several Saturdays ago, I kept my word and wrote my objection letter to Calderdale MBC in good time - and kept my objections utterly objective! Good Luck XXX

Posted by Andrew Hall
Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Patsy, I don't think you need be too concerned about anonymity on this website.

Anonymity allows people to reveal their true colours and speak their minds without fear of recrimination. It makes for lively and controversial conversation. And it gets us all thinking about the true identity of the posters (which is quite fun - I've sussed a couple already!)

Well, that's my view, anyhow. Others may think that anonymous posters are cowards, lurking in the twilight, and happy to hurt, gainsay, and annoy, sometimes just for the sake of it. If there are such posters, then they should take a long hard look at themselves.

Being a moderated site, I don't think our webmaster would allow anything that could possibly cause offence.

Yes, I think we'd all prefer everyone to put their money where their mouth is (or their name where their postings are). I always give more credence to postings from people who use their real name (something to do with standing up and being counted, I think). But if people choose to be anonymous, then so be it. Without them, this site would be the poorer.

Posted by Johnny Marascalco
Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Since I have been accused many times in the past on the forum of writing under a psuedonym and since I have a Hotmail email address, it seems that despite referring to a group, this thread is directed toward me as an individual.

Several people appear to be posting on this forum under assumed (or not clearly identifiable) names. Take Mr. Standfield for example. No Standfield appears on the voters role or has a telephone for Hebden or the surrounding area. It would also be nearly impossible (except for those who know her well enough) to determine the identity of PatsyF. This person is as anonymous to me, as I may appear to them. Do you understand? It makes no difference whatsoever to what occurs in the discussion forum.

Many thousands of people have written, composed music and produced wonderful works of art under assumed identities. Sometimes out of fear, and perhaps more often to simply experience a greater sense of artistic freedom. This is merely an example of why people may choose anonymity, and is not mentioned because my ego wishes to be aligned with this particular group. I do not believe What a person contributes to the world they live in should be judged according to who they are, nor do I believe that in these circumstances a persons standing should lend their words greater credibility. If this were a forum dedicated to discussing Nietzschean demolition, it might be appropriate, but not here. Given the salaciuous treatment of Mr Plantgagenet's personal life on the forum, it would appear obvious that the aim here is not to lend credibility, but to undermine it and seek to defame the character of those whose views are a challenge to the status quo. Presented with such a malevolent vindictive attitude, only an anonymous poster with a masochistic streak a mile wide and no sense of self-preservation whatsoever would reveal their genuine identity.

From my point of view, I have regularly been the subject of (carefully rendered) derisory comments, patronising attitudes and mockery. As a result, it is often very tempting to sink to the same level of communication and fight fire with fire, as it were. With particular regard to the discussion surrounding clamping in Mytholmroyd, I regularly invited a challenge to prove me wrong other than merely try to discredit me. Nobody stepped up to the plate. And that makes me wrong?

Even in this very thread, it seems to be suggested that I am somehow pathetic because I choose to take time to contribute (sometimes at length), and more often than not these contributions are in direct response to challenges made by others on the forum. What makes my contribution any more pathetic than those by people who are talking loud and saying nothing? In any case, why does no one seem to find it appropriate to hold a mirror up to the individuals who contribute nothing other than prurient gossip and ineffectual nonsense? This discssuion forum deserves to be more than a just a stage upon which a small, like-minded clique gather to congratulate each other on how wonderful and clever they are.

Posted by Jacob
Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Well said Johnny and, congratulations on your investigative prowess. What, though, makes you think the thread opener is directed at you?

Regarding Ian Plantagenet's personal life, I would suggest that pointing out something that is in the public domain and comes up in a Google search is, while not appropriate to the debate about the planning application, quite harmless.

Posted by Johnny Marascalco
Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Well Jacob, apart from the obvious fact that I am one of only two people currently on the forum who is using a Hotmail email address;

"full but exotic-sounding names" - I use my full name, and my surname is unusual or "exotic" sounding.

"some of it's members seem to love the 'sound' of their own 'voices'" - I have been accused of posting too much.

"don't seem to have the courage to publish their real names" - I appear to be the only person who has been openly accused in the forum of writing under a pseudonym.

"some contributors - who can be entirely correct in pointing out the difference between subjective and objective or illogical and logical arguments" - I have regularly pointed out the flawed reasoning of posts.

"other contributors who happen to feel so strongly about a particular issue that they become frustrated and emotional. Frustration can lead the best of us to emotion and into forgetting to remain objective" - I have pointed out that people are becoming emotional or upset in a discussion, and have lost their objectivity as a result.

"I get the impression that some ‘noisy’ contributors from the third group can't have much else going on in their lives, have a lot of time on their hands" - Again, I have been a regular contributor, and though the term being used here is derogatory and patronising, the meaning is the same since someone cannot be actually be noisy in a discussion forum. I have been told to "get a life" rather than contribute.

"other than the need to ‘correct’ other people" - I have frequently corrected people's misrepresentation of facts, and where necessary, uncovered lies.

Posted by Joseph
Wednesday, 28 March 2007

I found the public outing/mocking of the Colden "Eco developer's" values much more insidious than any of Mr Maralscano's (sp)posts, which if read properly just encourage debate and a bit of rigor in the argument.

Mocking someone for their beliefs and failure to have found a partner is pretty distasteful, and perhaps why people choose some level of anonymity on these forums.

Posted by Anne
Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Hear, hear Joseph!
If the majority of posters on this forum were property developers and they had a go at the personal life of a green campaigner, they'd be considered bullies!

Posted by Tom Standfield
Thursday, 29 March 2007

Anne and Joseph, lighten up. If someone puts information in the public domain they will expect some ribbing. And I wasn't attacking his new age beliefs. I was attacking the hypocrisy implied. When the rich use their money to destroy communities and countryside, one of the few weapons the rest of us have is: take the piss.

Quote: No Standfield appears on the voters role or has a telephone for Hebden.

I work in Hebden - I don't live here. But we are in fact ex-directory because as some of you will know members of my family have at times had a lot of trouble from the authorities for trade union activities.

Patsy wrote a good message, and Andrew gave a good response. That could've be an end of the matter but JM always has to have his say. Then gets prickly, indignant and paranoid when people disagree with him. Oh no! I've set him off again.

Posted by Larry Kin
Thursday, 29 March 2007


Is it possible to set up a metacommentary forum where people can comment on the way in which people comment in this forum? Then this forum could be reserved for commentary proper rather than inane complaints about the way in which people comment. Prolonged metacommentary is rather tiring and boring to read for those other than the metacommentary perpetrators, it detracts from the commentary proper and has the effect of reducing the number of non-metacommentary perpetrators reading the thread and putting off any new-comers to the forum.

Note that this post is metametacommentary and so entirely immune from the above criticisms.

I anxiously and eagerly await the metametametacommentators who will scour my previous posts and show how I too am guilty of metacommentary thereby commenting on the way in which I metametacomment.

Posted by Johnny Marascalco
Thursday, 29 March 2007

Posts in both this and the Colden Eco Homes thread during the brief flurry of activity from Patsy were designed to patronise and mock me very directly. The initial post in this thread is clearly directed at me but posed as a general enquiry. Targetting a single individual on the forum for derision in this manner could easily be construed as bullying or intimidation.

Since the post was undeniably about me, there is nothing paranoid about my responding to it. And what is prickly or indignant (although I may well be entitled to be both) about my response? And you ignore the most significant contribution, pointing out that anonymity is completely subjective given that people on the forum often use only first names and many do not publish their email address at all.

Whether the information exists in the public domain is irrelevant, it is how that information is used by others which is important. And hypocrisy? That'll only get me started on psuedo hippy self-serving eco fascists. Destroy communities? Hyperbole, pure and simple. Given the divisive "us and them", "rich and the rest of us" comments I get the impression of an extremely jaundiced inverted snobbery from this post, and looking back through the forum, this also seems to colour many of the previous contributions.

But what do I know eh?

From Patsy F
Friday, 30 March 2007

As I said, I don’t often have time for long posts (the weather’s been gorgeous for a few days so why hunch over a keyboard if you can avoid it?) but you can blame the rain for the following.

Honestly, sometimes this is like revolving doors. You read/write something, go around in the doors a bit, stagger out onto the pavement - then in through more doors to another thread and the same lot you met before! Dizzying or what?

Oh Larry, I’m your biggest fan - that was genius! Love your post - even though you referred to mine as inane (what a cheek!) Was trying to be funny, but didn’t succeed as well as you! (Webmaster, could you move Larry’s piece down to the bottom so he gets a well-deserved last laugh?)

Quote from Andrew: ‘Others may think that anonymous posters are cowards, lurking in the twilight, and happy to hurt, gainsay, and annoy, sometimes just for the sake of it. If there are such posters, then they should take a long hard look at themselves.’ Precisely. Although I disagree with you that the forum would be poorer without them.

Now Johnny - calm down, dear! (never thought I’d quote Winner) I wasn’t going to add anything else but feel a heavy responsibility for having initiated yet another episode of The Johnny Marascalco Show.

Why drag poor Nietzsche into this? The last time I had any contact with old Friedrich was thousands of years ago when I smoked Gitanes, wore lots of black eyeliner, white lipstick, baggy sweaters, drainpipe jeans, and carried Thus Spoke Zarathustra everywhere in the vain hope that people would think me intellectual. Only 2/3 years ago (on a train) I saw a very intense-looking boy using the same ploy - bless! - could’ve hugged him! Gosh - it couldn’t have been you, could it??

I adore your - ‘Presented with such a malevolent vindictive attitude, only an anonymous poster with a masochistic streak a mile wide and no sense of self-preservation whatsoever would reveal their genuine identity.’ Wow - great stuff - you surpass yourself! I’ve been called a few things before, but malevolent and vindictive? Makes me feel like the Evil Queen in Snow White! (Self-memo: check on Hotmail for available name) Johnny, what do you think people would do if you revealed yourself? - stab you in the Waites’ queue? Or offer a nice, red, poisoned apple?

As you say you search the phone book and the, quote ‘voters role’ (which I take to mean the electoral register) I fail to see how you can claim that it would be, quote: ‘nearly impossible (except for those who know her well enough) to determine the identity of PatsyF’. Are you losing your investigative skills? I’m blessed/cursed with a Scandinavian name (rare in these parts), have lived here for 35 years and can be checked via the phone book, electoral register, and even Google shows a couple of modest entries. So your argument: ‘this person (PatsyF) is as anonymous to me, as I may appear to them.’ is way beneath your usual standard. Oh! a plus in being identifiable: this week I was stopped in the street by someone and congratulated on starting this thread - there, that could never happen to you because we don’t know who you are!

Johnny, as you’ve set yourself up as the anonymous, self-appointed arbiter of affairs on the forum, you can hardly blame people for poking fun at you now and again. To paraphrase what I wrote before: you sometimes write valid and sensible stuff, no denying it - but please cut down on the abrasive and downright rude attitude to honest people who have the guts to put their true names to their contributions. I’d bet a lot that if the forum guidelines changed (and I’m not suggesting they do) so that every contributor had to state their true indentity, we’d hear a lot less from you.

Finally, to all fellow-contributors who have yawned through this thread because they think it boring and inconsequential, I truly apologise. In our garden wall we have lots of big tunnel-web spiders who are fun to tease. The spiders hide out of sight but if we gently vibrate their webs the spiders leap out - instantly, guaranteed every time! They gave me the idea to instigate this thread - and make what I think is a serious point. I should imagine there'll be yet another broadside after this, and then if nobody else adds anything, it’ll all stop. Then, I suppose, we gird our loins for the next diabolical planning issue - one is bound to be along very soon.

Posted by Anne
Friday, 30 March 2007

Tom and Patsy - I take your point about lightening up and I will try to do so - my comment about bullying was a bit over the top! I simply observe that it seems to be perfectly OK to make wild assumptions about individuals, and draw attention to personal details, completely out of context, if that person is a property developer (or, come to think of it, if they are anonymous) whereas I don't think it would be quite as acceptable if they had a different occupation or if they were open about their identity.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Sunday, 1 April 2007

Sorry, folks, but anonymity or nonymity (is there such a word?) is no protection. I mean, here I am, upfront about who I am, and John Morrison thought I was fictitious!

So why didn't anyone give me a better part? Or is being Bishop of Hebden Bridge as good as it gets?

Discuss! :)

Posted by Andrew Hall
Monday, 2 April 2007

The self-appointed Bish of HB said:

"So why didn't anyone give me a better part? Or is being Bishop of Hebden Bridge as good as it gets?"

Oh Tony! What could be more wonderful than ministering to such a diverse and interesting group of people, as is found in a place like the Upper Calder Valley? And not only that - you've also a guaranteed seat 'up there', with as much Warstein as you could possibly pronounce!

But that, hopefully, is a long way away. In the meantime, if services permit, why not pop up to the Pace Egg plays in Heptonstall on Good Friday? If I see you, I'll buy you a pint of Taylor's Landlord to prove to you the indisputable superiority of fine English Ale over your preferred Teutonic brew.

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Hi, Andrew
What a nice man you are! I'm usually in Heptonstall, doing a Good Friday morning service in the Methodist chapel, then coming along to the Pace Egg play with a team of folk giving out free hot cross buns. So just watch out for the collar and the hairy face, and I'll happily share a pint with you.

And as for being "Bishop of HB," yes, it is certainly a fascinating place to minister. Nobody would ever get bored in this job!

From Patsy F
Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Andrew and Tony -

Now lookee here boys, it's great to note your social arrangements - but Tony, aren't Methodists supposed to be anti the demon drink? Andrew, if I were you I'd buy him a bitter lemon.......

From Adam B
Wednesday, 4 April 2007


You do realise you've sparked a mass Vicar-fancy-dress effort at Heptonstall on Friday. I will be there with a bit of Fairy Liquid bottle stuck around the top of a black shirt and I will expect my pint


Posted by Andrew Hall
Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Adam - you are obviously a child of the Blue Peter era. Fairy liquid bottle, and no doubt a bit of 'sticky backed plastic'. I bet you have a 'Tracey Island' nestling in a cupboard somewhere.

However, my spies from the Trades tell me that our reverend friend is unique. He certainly can't be cloned or imitated. And, what's more, I understand the Cross now charges £2.50 a pint for Landlord. Much as I'd like to buy all the pseudo Buglass's a pint, I'm afraid finances only permit the real thing. And who knows, the Hebweb may be on hand to record the happy event!

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Thursday, 5 April 2007

Hi, Patsy.
I think I can safely say I'm against the demon drink. If I ever find a drink that's a demon, I'll exorcise it at once!

As for Methodists not drinking at all, well, John Wesley himself wasn't a teetotaller. His instructions for chapels to which local preachers may have walked miles across the fields to take services included offering them refreshment - his advice was some bread, cheese, and a tankard of ale. Never yet been offered a pint in the vestry...

Our churches are now alcohol-free zones, so that anyone who does have a problem knows they can come to communion without fear. It wasn't always like tha: I remember talking to a very old retired minister who said it was usual to be offered a sherry before the service, and in a wealthy church it might even be a whisky. Explains the hell-fire preaching...

Posted by Kathy
Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Today's Guardian tackles this subject - put so succinctly by Patsy at the beginning of this thread.

"... On the issue of anonymity ... if you're called Daffy-Duck you can insult whoever you like. If democracy means anything it means accountability - and that should include accountability for our own words...

One suggestion is a system of comment credits, earned by the ratings of other users. High credit would give you an enhanced standing online, perhaps pushing your comments to the top of any thread. If other users deemed you out of line, your status would fall.

Full article

I'm not suggesting it can be done by Hebweb - goodness knows Hebweb serves us brilliantly already, but it's an interesting read.

As is this: Trolls don't build bridges by Melissa McEwan

Posted by Johnny Marascalco
Thursday, 12 April 2007

I also read this article, and interesting as it was, I failed to see how the kind of behaviour it described related to this thread. Unless, Kathy's second name is Sierra and I missed the thread where she was "the victim of a violent and threatening campaign of cyber-hate". There is no "serious vitriol", no "torrents of abuse", and no "misogynistic anti-semite" behaviour. Why? Because all posts are vetted before being published.

Patsy's opener may be succinct, but it fails to address the fact that anonymity in this forum is completely subjective. In this forum, unless a user recognises who is posting either by their first name or their email address, they are as anonymous to the user as someone who really is posting anonymously.

Later in the thread, Patsy suggested that Googling would help someone find the full identity of a contributor. Who could be bothered to waste time doing that? And how successful would this search be in reality anyway, with only a first name and an initial for a surname to go on?

The more important question is of course, what would motivate someone to doggedly track down a contributor, anonymous or otherwise? To send them flowers thanking them for their contribution? Not likely. I for one would prefer to preserve a users right to hide or disguise their identity from others, rather find some deranged psycho waiting outside my house to settle a grudge because they didn't like what I had to say.

That is why allowing anonymity (in whatever form) remains important, and consistent, fair moderation the only real solution to preventing the kinds of abusive behaviour mentioned in the Guardian article.

Kathy seems to have a real issue with supposed trolling, having asked us to read an article about them and previously asked the users of the forum not to feed them. Personally, I have yet to witness genuine trolling behaviour on the forum, and am fairly certain that such behaviour would be moderated if it did occur. Especially since Hebweb serves us so well.

If this is just about "point-scoring males" then there are plenty of those populating the forum, but they are generally as harmless as the point-scoring females.