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Alison Michalk

Rich what are your thoughts about the level of anonymity that is acceptable by Community Managers and Moderators? Is a first name only ok? A username only?

As you would know there is always a fringe element of any community who you simply don't want to risk with your personal information.

This is a topic we're discussing at an upcoming Australian roundtable, so we'd love your take.

Richard Millington

I don't believe in anonymity on the internet. If you do it, they do it and nobody knows who anyone is. It's part of a thinking that states the internet is a place we go to, rather than a process we go through. We should act the same online as we would meeting in person.

In 8 years I've never had a problem giving my full name. Do you you get some abuse? Yes, but none more than every community manager gets. Certainly not more than the poor chaps from customer service.

But the chances of it going this far are remarkably slim. In 8 years I've never had a problem with using my own name in a community, nor heard of any community manager that has been in any danger.

Michael E. Rubin

Dell handles this in a similar matter as you suggest with regards to Twitter. If you search for Dell people on Twitter, you find:


And so on and so forth. That way, there is a personal connection as you suggest and also a direct connection to the brand they represent.

I agree with you about anonymity, by the way. I have long advocated that community managers should not be afraid to leave their full name out there. In fact, I go completely in the opposite direction. See my sig below. Even when I'm engaging detractors elsewhere in the blogosphere with people who are crying for my head, I'll leave my contact info out there with an invite for anyone to contact me offline. Having it out there -- and offering anyone the chance to use it -- makes you a real person instead of a mere cipher.

After all, it's hard for people to make a connection or be upset with "Mary Jones". It's all too easy for them to be upset with "Large Anonymous Corporation".

Great topic.

Michael E. Rubin
847-370-3421 // // twitter: merubin
Start here:


But isn't that putting too much power in one person's hands? If that person falls or leaves or something else then the entire effort of creating the community goes waste.


You hit the nail with with this one Rich. People are more comfortable in relating to other people, than relating to a company. For example; we always relate to "people" in other companies as "I got a contact at XYZ". It's the people who hold the community together.

A similar idea is presented by Rohit Bhargava in his book "Personality Not Included". Although he doesn't talk about communities in particular; what he says is every brand should posses a "human face" for customers to relate with. People don't want to engage with faceless corporations anymore!

Richard Millington


No more so than an account manager can leave with your biggest clients. The solution is two fold. Either hire the best and do what it takes to keep them. Or have as many staff as possible engaging in the community. One staff member leaving shouldn't be a problem.

Personally, I favour the latter.


I absolutely agree people prefer to relate to other people, than a company, no argument there.

In my case I'm talking Mods not CM (just to be clear). So I can handle abuse but my Moderators are volunteers so I like to limit the chances of abuse, especially IRL. And it does sometimes happen with our community.

With such a large community (and small country population wise) there's every chance your child's school teacher or the local librarian could look you up and find out personal information from your previous posts. As such they don't like to disclose much. I can see their might be some benefits, but for years preceding my role it was customary to only use your username and perhaps first name.

Rich can you see that it would be any different with family-orientated - or say relationships - communities?

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