On the Internet, Everybody Knows You're a Dog

top-dog-venn

I can't say with certitude that isn't me.

Anthony Weiner

As a former Representative Anthony Weiner of New York discovered the hard way, if you're going to send pictures of yourself in compromising situations from your Twitter account, you're going to be unmasked for the wienerdog that you are. But what sucks for Anthony Wiener has been great for conversations on the Web. 

Anonymous comments and posts have too long stood in the way of a real dialog between authors and their audiences. With the rise of authenticated platforms, this is changing.

When comments on the megapopular TechCrunch blog were tied to real Facebook profiles, the experience went from a juvenile insult-fest to a civil value-add information exchange. Tumblr has motivated readers to publish their reactions to their own tumblr, making every reader an author and every author a reader. SoundCloud adds music to the experience. Twitter allows spontaneous ad hoc discussion groups on any topic at any time, simply by @'ing a Twitter author – which thanks to the public nature of the platform immediately makes the responder a public author as well. And on xojane.com, editor-in-chief Jane Pratt can annotate articles with a highlighter – and authors' responses to reader comments are also highlighted and elevated so they’re an ongoing part of the conversation.

Of course, we still have a long way to go. There's too little connection between content we consume and participation. You can "like" an article, tweet it, email it, add a comment, etc. And yet all these widgets still feel like they're held together with duct tape. But with authentication and social platforms, we're getting glimpses of what the future holds: low-friction ways to connect your opinion to a piece of content, easier ways to see what your friends care about, and better ways to add your own point of view with text, video or sound.

As this happens, the walls are coming down and more productive and lasting discussions are happening all over the Internet. Comments systems are being transformed from bulletin boards that can be glanced at (or not), into places for considered conversations among identifiable people – conversations that are publicly available for continual refinement.

So while we here at Dogster think it's perfectly fine to be a dog on Internet, if you are one, everybody will know.

By Ted Rheingold, top dog and founder of Dogster and Catster – both part of the SAY Media family. Follow him @tedr, @dogster, @catster and @snuzzy.

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