Eliminating Anonymous Comments as of July 1st – Register as a user now

Right: Preview of login that will be required for “users” to post comments as of July.

I’m making a change that I know will be polarizing.

Starting in July, anonymous comments will no longer be allowed. New comments will appear under users’ first and last names.

That means commenters will have to first register as users. 

Users will also be required to enter an address and phone number when they first register. That data will only be used for me to attempt to verify identities.*

Once I accept your registration the first time, you simply have to be logged in to post a comment. (Those comments will still have to wait for my moderation as they have in the past.)

To avoid a delay in July, you can pre-register now. (Scroll down for details.)

Why the Change?

It’s not a decision that I came to lightly.

I know this will cause celebration from some readers who have pressed for this increasingly over the years. Based on the passionate arguments in favor of anonymous comments in the past, I also know it will also upset many other readers.

Some readers aren’t comfortable stating their views on political or controversial issues under their names. (Before I took over the blog, I used anonymous comments to pose a question that I worried would aggravate some in my social circle.)

I always believed that using the blog to air grievances and concerns was helpful in terms of readers hearing differing points of view. In the past, I believe it has helped to identify paths for compromise. It has also helped officials not be blindsided by voters at a Town Meeting. Usually the complaints made on the floor echo ones that have previously been raised on the blog.

Plus, I believe in the public’s right to criticize Town officials.

These are the arguments I’ve made to people who have urged me to eliminate comments since I took over the blog.

However, the amount of ire and kinds of accusations from anonymous commenters has gotten worse over the years. I constantly struggle with where the line is for fair game. (There are comments that I reject for going too far over the line.)

Over the past nine years, I’ve considered my work on MySouthborough something that started as a flexible job but turned into a passionate community service project. (I put in far more hours than the revenue generated supports – well below minimum wage.) For that, I credit engaged readers and regular commenters – including passionate, anonymous ones.

But the anonymous comments attacking other community members have often left me questioning how I feel about my contribution. When these comments are coming from aliases – my name is the only one people associate with them. (I also live in this community. If you aren’t willing to put your name behind your comments, why should mine be associated with them?)

Over time, I’ve come to feel that the cons of anonymous comments outweigh the pros. (Especially, as I’ve suspected an increase in commenters playing games with me to comment under multiple identities on the same post.)

In the past, I worried that if I tried to eliminate anonymous comments, there would be no clear way for me to identify that people are who they say they are. If people start posting under fake names that look real (which has happened), I believe other readers are more likely to take those comments seriously. At least when comments use headlines or nicknames, everyone knows those commenters weren’t willing to put their names behind them.

I decided to require commenters to input more data to help me validate their identity. But that was a fix that I was unable to properly make on my own. This spring, I contracted a vendor to help me fix some technical issues and make minor improvements to the blog. Making the transition to non-anonymous comments was the top priority I identified.

(For those who may wrongly assume I was publicly bullied into the decision. . . As I informed Chris Robbins in March, my decision pre-dated his public request for the change. At that time I was already in the process of researching and reaching out to a vendor. But I wanted to wait until I knew that I could implement a process – and when it would happen – before publicly sharing the news.)

Other improvements to expect include fixing the currently missing “Recent Comments” in the right column, an easier to find search field, a more responsive layout for mobile devices, and other minor changes.

The changes are scheduled to be implemented on Friday, July 1st. To avoid an extra delay in posting comments at that time, any readers can register below (or here) as a user in advance of the launch.

Request / suggest your username (please choose something simple, short, and without spaces)
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*Phone and address fields will not appear on the blog. I do not use the data for marketing purposes. And I won’t sell/provide your data to other entities. They are only for the purposes of helping me to vet users’ identities.

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2 years ago

I am aware of a new blogger that has recently quit her job who is planning on creating a competing blog who already has 2 major advertisers lined up. She is passionate about local government and wants to create a means of stimulating community interaction through her new website, and her expertise in social media across all major platforms. Is this the reason you are making changes all of the sudden?

Good Luck
2 years ago

Beth, I appreciate all the work you’ve done informing the community of over the years. The comment solution seems a little too “in the pocket” of town government for my liking. Therefore, I’ll wish you all the best and move on as a reader. My privacy is more important. Good luck!

Richard Snyder
2 years ago

I applaud your decision Beth. One of the unfortunate side effects of the internet in general is that it allows people to say things anonymously either on social media or even by email that they might not say in person . This is also true for your blog. I hope those people who have strong opinions will still share them along with their name.

Kate Noke
2 years ago

Beth: kudos to you for doing this. I have no issue whatsoever with having my name attached to the posts I submit. I believe that this step will help to remind folks to engage with each other in a constructive way

Alan Belniak
2 years ago

Beth, I applaud the decision. I also like how you explained it and that you didn’t come to it lightly. I look forward to the discourse, however spirited yet civil it may be!

2 years ago

Thank you Beth for publishing this blog for nine years! This blog is the first place people look to for Southborough news and information. I really appreciate how much time and effort you put into this blog!


Matthew Brownell
2 years ago

Congratulations, Beth!

Your decision to ban anonymous comments from MySouthborough is a great one.

It always strikes me as odd and hypocritical that those who are perfectly willing to post opines to the worldwide web are often the ones who express “privacy” concerns if they are required to self-identify and attribute authorship.

This is the way responsible journalism worked in the pre-Internet environment.
If one sent a “Letter to the Editor” , the author’s name and address had to be provided with the letter.

Alex Neihaus
2 years ago

I’ve never made a comment here praising much of anything in Southborough town government. After 30+ years in town, all I see are captive leadership, shockingly inept management, recycled people, rehashed ideas and wasteful spending.

But I’ve always used my real name to complain. It’s just basic accountability.

2 years ago

I still believe what is said is more important than who said it (and people should just learn to ignore/discount trolling comments/comments not even backed any reasoning at all). I would had much rather if you, Beth, exercised your power as moderator of this forum (and you do do that already since all posts need to be approved by you before it shows up for public) to enforce civility but I guess you felt that hasn’t worked.

I guess the best way to put my worries about sharing personal info is: credit reporting agencies… they (and others) get hacked and expose millions of private record with little repercussions. I’ll have to see how well you/your 3rd party vendor does when I see something I really want to comment on in the future once new policy goes in effect.

2 years ago

I get it…. but I won’t participate.

2 years ago

You may believe you’re being politically correct…

You’re NOT.

It’s your blog and you can do what you like with it, though you’ve now become an echo chamber for those, like yourself, who want to maintain the corrupt status quo.

Your initial act of censorship was to eliminate the population of the Recent Comments heading.

I look forward to reading and using the newer, competing blog.

Nancy Kolk
2 years ago

I don’t comment often, but I have always used my full name. I hope this change will lead to improved communication between readers. Name calling and other comments that people refuse to stand behind don’t carry much weight, and are distressing to read. At town meeting, any person wishing to speak must state their name and address; hopefully we are all adult enough to not vilify someone for speaking their mind.

2 years ago

I’ve never voiced it before because it’s a distraction but now I can comfortably say that I never used my full name because of fear of retribution by town officials. I have had relevant personal experiences and have heard others describe having experienced obvious “bias” from various departments. And by bias I mean lack of confidentiality, favoritism, targeted hostility, passive aggressive stonewalling, etc.

Most departments are awesome but some bad apples are to be expected in every bushel. It’s nothing new, or unique to the town, just an example of power corrupting. Happens everywhere but here at home it’s nice to have had the option to avoid being a target and still express a reasonable opinion.

To misquote Franklin and as I remember it from the movie 1776, “Those who give up a little bit of freedom in exchange for security, deserve neither freedom or security.”
I think being able to post anonymously is a freedom I shall miss and the security gained by others will stifle the conversation more than the anonymous comments they feared.

Happy Trials... or Trails.. or Whatever
2 years ago

Thanks for trying to explain your rationale Beth. Your biases and loyalties to the cogs in the Town House and government committees are pretty transparent and obvious with this change. It’s your blog which all can respect so I wish you and the blog a fond farewell. So long!

2 years ago

It is a sad day that you have decided to censor the people. There are so many reasons people post here anonymously. I will move on as well as the others. As far as the comment about people in this town not vilifying others by Nancy Kolk….good luck with that.

1 year ago
Reply to  resident

Not sure you know what censorship means.

Exposing Corruption
2 years ago

It’s sad that the loudest and noisiest self-righteous law breakers who USE their names are so ill informed and are blatant violators of state law. The EVIDENCE of this is public record. As just one example, go on the Attorney General’s website and see the numerous guilty violations of Open Meeting Law (OML). This is not nasty. This is not name calling. This is NOT negative. These are facts, a positive good faith effort, and HARD work (!) on behalf of the citizenry, all intended to IMPROVE COMPLIANCE with state Open Meeting Law and REQUIRED timeliness in release of minutes—on time and complete. It’s a BIG deal.

Compliance means NOT being misleading by playing games and/or hiding “irregularities” (including violating OML) under “Other Business” as the BOS regularly does. There is virtually no admission of WRONGDOING, never mind discussion or lessons learned. It actually takes the hard work of some ordinary joe to document the violation and get the Attorney General to publicly admonish.

Violations can happen particularly on agendas (so there is no advance warning to the public (which is required by law) that might have tuned in otherwise. But it has happened on minutes too. Take a look at the totally incredibly inept ZBA latest agenda and minutes, hiding discussion of Park Central under “Other Business”. It’s not “Other Business.” It’s “Park Central” and the public should have been notified in advance in sufficient detail, in order to tune in. Look at their minutes where they are debating whether or not they should meet with Town Counsel. Ask yourself why? Instead of relying on others to expose these corrupt morons with their shoddy delay in releasing minutes. It’s not the job of the residents to have to chase after REQUIRED release of minutes.

There are many “nice” people on this blog who have never done a public records request or bothered to figure out that there have been scores of Open Meeting Law violations, egregious violations of THEIR OWN right to know.

The game players. The deal geniuses who do deals that make no business sense. The DUPES, who are inappropriately star struck by the people who are so good at manipulating them. These zealous self-righteous individuals are the real threat to the truth and taxpayers. These individuals are ignorant of what is legal and right, petty, and absolutely engage in retaliation. The most disappointing of all ? The lawyers. Instead of following the law, they manipulate it or break it. They actually incentivize wrong doing by illicitly advocating illegal positions, against their own Code of Conduct. Case in point? Park Central. The case that the residents WON against a corrupt local government and corrupt “experts” and the Worcester Telegram calls “a waste of time” (and money) because the law was crystal clear. The case that never belonged in court.

Well, as others say here, good luck Beth. Would like to point out: how much of the above corruption is misunderstood by the noisy liars as “name calling” when it is anything but? It would be appropriate and appreciated if someone would just say Thank You for attempting to fix this crummy corrupt town hall. Thanks Beth, regardless of this change, for the blog. Suggest strongly that you reconsider this decision after say a month or so. It’s about the truth, the message, and changes that force this local government to do better by the taxpayers. It’s about positive change and freedom of speech. It’s about allowing a forum such as this to inform the public who is working too hard and may have a problem keeping up. Not anonymous bloggers versus name users. Please give it a month and reconsider. You will find that you were providing a service to the public that was and is indispensable in an era of low to no local press coverage. Thanks Beth.

Ray Jackson
1 year ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth, if you don’t want your name associated with content and comments you should probably rethink running a blog. Commenters are not trying to smear your name by commenting or making, as you call it “accusations” regardless of whether they name themselves or not. That is a very weak “swiss cheese” argument with all kinds of holes to justify your actions. Just do what you want with your blog and own it. No excuses required. Who cares if folks read it or don’t. Or if they comment or not. It’s a personal blog not the New York Times.

Tin Foil
1 year ago

People who see conspiracies luring behind every bush might want to start wearing a tin foil hat. An extra roll of tin foil is only $2.99 at Stop & Shop.

Sigh – I’m going to miss all the repeated posts under different names made by my favorite town meeting speaker :)

Best wishes to all for a safe and relaxing summer.

Plastic Rap
1 year ago
Reply to  Tin Foil

Since you seem to enjoy the snarky tin foil remarks, can we safely assume you didn’t agree with the majority views and votes at town meeting?

The voters were able to see behind the thin plastic veneer. Clearly the rest of the town has a problem with paying for someone else’s parking lot.

The best part of town meeting was Al Hamilton’s hilarious advice to BOS that “when you find yourself in a hole, just stop digging.” This moment was only topped by the unanimous town floor votes against the five lonely votes cast by the sad sack, in-denial BOS who just don’t know how to stop digging. You might want to take your own advice and hand out the tinfoil hats to BOS for next town meeting. If they use hangers on top, their reception to voters views that the represent might improve.

Sean Connelly
1 year ago

Thanks Beth! I look forward to civil discourse returning, as well as reading comments with out random capitalization.

Claire C Reynolds
1 year ago
Reply to  Sean Connelly

You wrote an excellent post explaining your decision. I agree that the Blog will be an even better resource and will bring back readers who dropped out due to the spiteful tone of anonymous comments.
You spend a TREMENDOUS amount of time reporting on Town matters and covering local activities. Your work should not be undermined by those who have complaints with Town leadership. There are several ways to constructively raise their issues.
I look forward to posting on your Blog as a registered user. Thank you for your dedication.

Julie Connelly
1 year ago

Thank you, Beth! Appreciate all you do to keep us informed and I think this will make the Blog an even better resource for our community.

1 year ago

Ray is right. It’s your blog. By the way public records are not accusations.
They are public records. Facts.

The reason many above are saying this is a shame and leaving is because they would rather expose misconduct via fact (like the public records of the attorney general mentioned above), not “accusations,” anonymously. Nothing wrong with public records. Nothing wrong with facts.

Some of the worst offenders use their names. They are bullies in their own right.

They are misguided in their own perceptions. Some of them jump around, on and off committees, with no attention to conflicts of interest and the State “forever” ban or one year “cooling off” period law. And actually accept money, get paid “consulting” fees. Also, keep minutes of committees they are no longer a member of? Why?

These are not civil people. They are not nice. They are not civilly minded. They are damaging to the town.

Ira Schild
1 year ago

I applaud this decision, Beth, and have registered. My comments to date have been few and always associated with my name, and I believe this is the most productive enabler of civil discourse.

Al Hamilton
1 year ago
Reply to  Ira Schild

I am not a fan of anonymous posting but I understand the reason why some may choose to do so. However, with freedom comes responsibility and unfortunately when freedoms are abused, they end up being curtailed.

I believe that this decision will improve the quality of discourse on this blog. Frankly, it has been heading South for some time. I know that some of our public officials stopped reading these pages and at least one person said to me that the blog had “become a bit of a cesspit”.

To our elected and appointed officials I encourage you to return to these pages to explain and discuss the important issues of the day. I look forward to a more civil discourse that is non the less vigorous and the participation of our community leaders.

I applaud Beth for what she has done for our community and for taking the difficult decision to require posters to identify themselves.

Calling the Kettle Black
1 year ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Really? Is anyone interested in what these public officials think, especially anyone who would call this blog a “cesspit?” If town meeting was any indication, with the majority of voters voting against the BOS, it’s clear that virtually all voters think they are in the wrong. This blog is clearly not a cesspit. Those who feel that way are looking to crybaby with crocodile tears in order to distract from “total lies and absurdities” as commented below, and gross mismanagement. Galligan has her contrast renewed? Purple and Galligan. Both need replacement, along with this BOS that is more concerned with how they look instead of the town and taxpayers best interests, the people paying for these fiascos.

As for the comments by Mr. Weishan below, if he isn’t a major case in point on petty and disgusting retaliation by Ms. Braccio and gang, I don’t know what is. He whistle blows on this park fiasco and misuse of taxpayer grant money and Chapter 90 spending on private property. Then comes the retaliation. The voters were robbed of two choices as candidates for BOS, as the BOS effectively knocked Mr.Weishan out. The defamation, libel, expensive attorneys, for no good reason—in fact, at least one BOS admits there should be a retraction. Unbelievable. This is precisely why many on this blog prefer pen names, with all due respect to Mr. Weishan. Hopefully the voters will make their voices heard when it comes time to remove these petty enablers of misconduct and mismanagement.

This blog is not a “cesspit.” Also, it is not the New York Times. It is a blog that is appreciated by local folks who want a voice but don’t want retaliation from petty or corrupt individuals.

Michael Weishan
1 year ago

Dear Beth,
Perhaps no one has been more excoriated in your blog over the last year than me. (Oh, dear, am I channeling Melania Trump)? lol) From Marty Healey’s total lies and absurdities, to Lisa Braccio’s brazen attempt to stifle a whistle-blower with mock ethics charges—something she and few others will soon regret as they face their own ethics “tribunals” (to quote Healey) for abuse of public funds to eliminate a political opponent, alleged fraud etc etc.) That being said, despite the agony and calumny, I wouldn’t have done this differently. The voters need to know who is talking to them, why, and how. If they don’t, it’s all a mysterious voice in the crystal set that quickly becomes propaganda, misinformation, and sometimes outright lies. We are still recovering from a massive fraud in the national arena under Trump. We don’t need that here in Southborough. So good bless you and godspeed. I have already registered, and damn the torpedoes. :)

Frank Crowell
1 year ago

Having everyone use there real name is for the best in this community. In the many years this blog has been operating, has anything changed? Was any school official held accountable for a $300K embezzlement? How about spending taxpayer money on private property? How about a town manger not writing reviews?

So I am sure as a community we will be much happier not having anonymous postings. The town is what it votes for where the results of those decisions are direct and indirect. Progressive liberal politics has its consequences.

Since I do not use my real name for all the same reasons others have stated, I will also not be participating any further. Good news for most I am sure. Best of luck to all.

1 year ago

Good luck going forward with your echo chamber comments section on the blog. Will be just like the Facebook page where everyone posting on the page thinks they represent the way the majority of the way people think in this town. When you have a different point of view, the masses will attack and what will remain is a conformity of opinions. You ought to just get rid of the comments section completely. You do a fine job reporting most of the time when you cover town government issues.

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