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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who said or what is said?

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There is an old saying which goes something like this: great people discuss ideas, good people discuss incidents, ordinary people discuss peoples. What it essentially means that irrespective of the persons involved or means of putting forward, idea is only thing worth discussing and should be judged on its merit alone. Yet, there are many many instances I’ve observed where otherwise sane and sensible people dismiss an idea purely based on how it is presented. I am particularly referring to derision for anonymous comments and posts in blogs and forums.

While it is correct that multiple anonymous comments makes referencing difficult and often these comments are vile without getting into sensible debate, some anonymous comments deserve respectable reply. Reasons for anonymous commenting can range from need for registering to be able to comment, to need to hide real identity in archive-able web, or to prevent discussion getting biased from identity of commenter. However, many a great bloggers too summarily dismiss anonymous views in light of argument that if a person doesn’t have confidence to give a name to his views, they don’t deserve a response. This point is fallacious on two count. First, history is replete with people who anonymously published great insights and discoveries to avoid prosecution while shaping the world at the same time. Second, what is in the name, after all. A person named ‘anonymous’ calling himself ‘Jack’ wouldn’t prove that he is really Jack, and if he is, so what? How many Jacks are there in the world. Even if you can pinpoint Jack living at so and so address, are you going to his house to fight it out?

Another argument that quickly derails the stimulating debate is the poor grammar of the commenter. Poor grammar is reflection of poor English, not poor intelligence. It is way too obvious to be reiterated that poor grammar and vocabulary don’t imply poor idea.

It’s disheartening to see people dismissing anonymous posters regularly in mailing lists, discussion forums, blog comments again and again even on most popular platforms frequented by otherwise intellectuals without any regard to message of the post. What should matter is what is being said, rather than by whom and how.