What separates blogs from passive content is the ability to comment and counter-comment on any written article. These comments often serve to illuminate the reader and allow him or her to add to the discussion, providing clarification, counter-points and all kinds of additional information. These systems only work when maximum participation is encouraged.
There's some sure-fire ways to discourage participation as well. The smallest of these is to disallow anonymous commenters. I can understand why someone would do this. Most folks looking to post anonymously are usually looking to troll. (Witness how bad they'll get over at The Utah Amicus and Senate Site and you'll be rushing to lock them out too.) This is legitimate because the signal-to-noise ratio on these individuals is often so low that little or nothing is lost by keeping them out of the conversation. While forcing them to fill out an e-mail address and a name is no real deterrent (pseudonyms and fake addresses have been used here more than a few times), it seems that psychological barrier keeps most of the snide remarks to a minimum.
There are a lot of sites in Utah's blogosphere that go a step too far: they require registration to even participate. This sends a message to potential commenters that if what you say isn't well-liked enough, you could find yourself shut out. By putting up that barrier, it also prevents most folks from considering participation. I didn't leave comments at Wasatch Watcher for a very long time because of the forced registration and I haven't left many since because I keep on forgetting my dang password. Other Hall of Shame members include Holly Mullen, Democracy for Utah (the irony) and Utah Senate Democrats. A dubious distinction goes to Dave Fletcher, a blogger that chose to turn off comments entirely. I don't know the rationale behind such a thing, but it defeats the purpose of having a blog to do so. I can't figure out if that qualifies for Hall of Shame status or not.
I'm willing to give the guys at Wasatch Watcher half a free pass because the blog platform they use seems to be a bit on the bizarre side. Democracy for Utah also seems to be in the "oddball platform" camp, so it might just be technical limitations. (I don't count Blogger/Blogspot users that require registration because one account gets you access to hundreds of thousands of blogs and it integrates with existing Google accounts.) Holly Mullen and the Senate Democrats, however, have no excuse. They both use WordPress. I use WordPress. I know what the system can and can't do better than many other users. It's easy to set it up in such a way that spam is blocked and legit comments get through. Exerting that much control over the conversation leads to a bunch of preaching to the choir and squashes free speech.
So what do you think? Is forced registration antithetical to free speech? Does it discourage you from participating? Is there anyone who should be on this particular Hall of Shame that I missed?
UPDATED 9-5-2007 12:30PM: Utah Rattler is also on the Hall of Shame.