Tweaking Knobs


Before becoming a graphic artist, I spent a number of years managing small, specialty retail businesses including a music store, an art supply store, and a fly fishing outfitter. I think it was in those businesses that I learned to enjoy researching and testing new products. It was also in those businesses that I learned the importance of trying new things to keep a business healthy and running smoothly. Of course, not every new idea works out, but even when they don’t, there’s usually something to be learned in the process. It’s not so different here on the blog, where we do a fair amount of knob tweaking to see what works and what doesn’t.

On the subject of trying new things and tweaking knobs, as part of our ongoing effort to create a nice place for transpo bicyclists to share ideas and learn from one another, we recently asked our commenters to use their full names when submitting comments. The idea was to encourage greater accountability and transparency among discussion participants. Many people expressed their support for the idea, but a fair number also expressed concerns about privacy.

It’s been 3 weeks now and the general consensus is that the disadvantages of the new policy outweigh the advantages. Along with the privacy issue, at least 25-30% of the comments submitted didn’t include a full name anyway. This created a bunch of extra work for us, and a big hassle for our commenters—precisely the opposite of what we were trying to accomplish. So, with that in mind, we’re going to hit the “reset” button and revert back to our old policy of requiring only a first name with your comment submissions. For those who have been using their full names in the comment field these past few weeks, many thanks for working with us. And for those who have been hesitant to post because of privacy concerns, welcome back and thanks for your patience… :-)

15 Responses to “Tweaking Knobs”

  • Larry Guevara says:

    Alan for President.

  • Ron Whitmire says:

    @ Larry
    Or at least Governor.

  • Everett Keyser says:

    Maybe this reset will be all that is needed to drive away the trolls. Just a couple weeks of discouragement every few months as if to say, “Hey, we’re paying attention: behave yourselves!”

    FWIW, I didn’t mind the whole name requirement, but I also don’t have any concerns over being associated with posting here either.

  • bongobike says:

    Privacy may be a thing of the past, bu I prefer it this way. Thanks!

  • Alan says:

    Thanks, guys. Sometimes you just have to try something out to see what happens. Either way, we’re fortunate to have such a nice community here.


  • Bob P. says:

    Aren’t we all trolls? I find the word troll used frequently to label someone who disagrees with the sentiments of the blog and the supportive comments. But what are comments for, other than to test our preconceived notions? I like heated rhetoric, it is an opportunity for us to learn. If we can’t learn, how do we teach?

    I follow a blog until it becomes boring. I add new blogs based on my interests. Today’s trolls are tomorrow’s regular readers.

  • Pete Pesce says:

    Good! Now I can go back to being Surly and un-Civia-lized!

  • Alan says:

    Hi Bob,

    In my view, trolls are those who are rude and combative simply for the sake of disrupting a conversation. This is far different than someone who respectfully disagrees with the OP or politely argues a point with one of their fellow commenters.

    I think Wikipedia’s definition is a good one:

    “In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”


  • Pete Pesce says:

    Troll has an overwhelmingly negative connotation. I’m not sure if it is derived from the “living under a bridge” usage or the “dragging a hook through the ocean hoping to snag something” usage, but both seem to apply.
    I also think that “heated rhetoric” can be hard to pull off successfully in written form. It’s really hard to convey the right level of “passion” without crossing the line, so it’s better for all to be overly polite and diplomatic. Likewise, I use a lot of irony in normal conversation, but find I can’t do the same in text because it doesn’t translate, and I end up sounding like a jerk and having to apologize…!

  • Bob P. says:

    Thanks for the clarifications on the definition of a troll. I haven’t seen any of that in comments here, but sometimes I don’t make it to the comments.

  • Reuben says:

    I think you’re making a really great decision here. Thanks for having such a great blog.

  • John Pelletier says:

    I was fine with it, of course I missed the memo so I was one Alan had to email for a post that didn’t comply (sorry!!). My thoughts on it are that John_in_NH is something I have used for years, on blogs and other sites, its something that links together who I am and what I say. I also now work for a city, as a paid intern, in community development. While I rarely say anything out of line or (too) controversial online, the ability to use a username instead of my real name, makes me feel a little better, and worry less.

    To be fair the comment section auto-fills for me, so its 6 in one half dozen in the other really ;)


  • Garret says:

    It didn’t bother me. If got nothing to worry about you got nothing to hide.

    I was a graphic artist for 28 years; I didn’t know this was your profession.

  • Alan says:

    Hi Garrett,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I dabbled in graphics all the way back to the days of Leroy lettering (that dates me), but I’ve only been full-time for the past 12 years or so.


  • John Lascurettes says:

    I’ve only ever put in my full name anyway. If I’m not willing to back up what I say behind a real name, then I shouldn’t be saying it anyway. But it’s your site and your decision. I’ll still put my full name. :)

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