Kathleen Old in today's print edition:
You've got to ask yourself: What are the motivations behind leaving comments on the Sandusky Register? It's different for everybody - but for a portion of the readership, they simply want to incite flame wars with other readers. Which is pointless to read, impossible to follow, and pretty much a waste of time for everyone involved.
I read alot of blogs on the internet and the ones that are most successful have a core readership who engage each other with a healthy amount of snark, but they know where to draw the line. The level of discourse would raise if before hitting "post" a commenter thought about the reason they're posting what they're posting. Saying something just to insult or hurt demonstrates how human beings would like to say hurtful things in person but don't because it would be socially unacceptable. Anonymity on the internet removes the social check on human behavior.
The commenting section can teach you a few things about human beings: This is what we think in secret. If you give someone an opportunity to say whatever they want without any social punishment for irrational, illogical or just plain old ignorant comments, you get to see a the "secret" side of a reader's thoughts. So in a way, it's a good thing because you really get a feel for what people think.
The quality of comments have improved since comment registration because a commenter can be watched for patterns of abuse. It's a whole lot easier to determine who is worth interacting with.
Honestly, if "Julie R." shouted on the street corner some of the things she writes on these threads, would you stop and listen to her for any other reason than morbid curiosity?
Because that's what this is. We're on a streetcorner and we're talking to our fellow citizens. If you take this opportunity seriously it could be used for something positive instead of something negative.
The possibilities with the internet are endless. It's an ever changing and relatively untapped resource (locally) if people were just more careful about their tone, their indignitaion would be taken seriously by people who are in positions to change public policy. if your ideas are shared in a persuasive way they could take root in the public consciousness and bring about real change in the way local government does business.