Topix.net just posted some fascinating learning from taking down registration for comments on their site. The number of posts exploded but the proportion of bad posts shrunk. Counterintuitive? What isn’t about the web? They point to this post with explanations:
# Registration keeps out good posters. People with lives will tend to ignore forums with a registration process.
# Registration lets in bad posters. Children and Internet addicts tend to have free time to go register an account and check their e-mail for the confirmation message. They will generally make your forum a waste of bandwidth.
# Registration attracts trolls. If someone is interested in destroying a forum, a registration process only adds to the excitement of a challenge. Trolls are not out to protect their own reputation. They seek to destroy other peoples’ “reputation”.
# Anonymity counters vanity. On a forum where registration is required, or even where people give themselves names, a clique is developed of the elite users, and posts deal as much with who you are as what you are posting. On an anonymous forum, if you can’t tell who posts what, logic will overrule vanity.
I don’t 100 percent agree, based on my experience at Advance.net and comparing the comments here and at HuffingtonPost with those at Comment is Free. There are a lot of other variables at work — including the content that attracts people, the size of the community, the means and speed with which you react to bad posts, and the personalities involved. But in general, yes, I agree: more conversation is better than less.