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What should Pulse do about anonymous comments?

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Pulse has always been an open forum for GPs. We take pride in being a place where the profession comes to take stock, debate and share ideas.

I am often pulled aside at conferences by someone who is eager to tell me how much they enjoy reading our website. And that includes the active discussions below the line, where GPs often astutely cut through the artifice of management speak and baldly ‘say how it is’.

Rambunctious and amusing, I often find the comments section on PulseToday more informative than the articles themselves. They are a vital way for the profession to show its strength of feeling, when policymakers often only listen to ‘yes-men’. With such a diverse profession, the comments often bring multiple perspectives to an issue and have a wildly anarchic logic that ensures a wide range of opinion.

However, there is a dark side. Occasionally the comments section can turn sour. This is not just a problem for Pulse’s website, but I have had GPs refuse to write for us, because they are concerned about the reaction they will receive. Others have complained that they can be attacked anonymously. 

The facility for anonymous comments on PulseToday is there for a good reason – to enable GPs to express themselves without fear of reprisals. As public figures, and in order to protect patient confidentiality, GPs sometimes need to be able to voice an opinion without being identified. But sometimes it can feel like a wall of faceless criticism being directed at those who put their heads above the parapet. It can have the effect of stifling, rather than helping, debate. As with the rest of the internet, there is the potential for more moderate voices to be drowned out.

At Pulse we are constantly looking at how we can improve the experience of GPs on our website, and as part of this we are looking at how our comments section works. But before we make any changes I am keen that we listen to what you think. How do you think the quality of debate on PulseToday could be improved? Do you value the option to be anonymous? 

It is really important that we know who is on our site and that we preserve it as a place for GPs to debate and express opinions, but some of you have asked us to deal with the issue of non-GP commenters skewing debates on the site. Do you see this as a problem? Would you like comments to be restricted just to GPs, or do you find other voices valuable? Should all users be validated?

Please leave your comments below or email me at editor@pulsetoday.co.uk. And please be assured that whatever happens, our aim is to extend the discussions on Pulse rather than restrict them. Now – perhaps more than ever in Pulse’s history – GPs need the freedom to express themselves and debate the future of the profession. 

Nigel Praities is editor of Pulse

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Readers' comments (61)

  • I would support user names. This works very well on patient.co.uk where I can post my views as a patient and hold discussions with other forum members without disclosing that I am a GP. On that site I want to be able to give my view as a patient, sometimes as a parent, sometimes as a supporter of ideas, sometimes as a critic.

    I don't always want to speak as a doctor - that's my day job, but there is more to life than that. There wouldn't be many reflections from people who have been through the wringer of the GMC, revalidation and CQC on these pages if posters couldn't shield themselves behind a nom-de-plume.

    I despise the trolling that sometimes appears here, but it runs through the fabric of social media and cannot be avoided. A facility to like or dislike comments and rank them (like the BBC site) allows readers to select the popular posts and then either ignore or wince through the opposing views as they choose. Sometimes its fun to read what the nutters are saying as well as the sages.

    I enjoy hearing from the anonymous voices rather than just those who are beyond the clutches of the GMC (emigrated retired or non-medical) and those who are too bullish or foolish to worry about the consequences of posting a negative or controversial view. Those who wish to 'own' all their comments could use their real name as a username

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  • I concur w/ the various above writers' recommendations that the option of anonymity be retained but w/ the use of validated user name which can, of course, be different from the writer's real name.
    Also agree w/ the recommendation that we, the readers, be able to reply directly on the site to a previous writer's comment.
    It is extremely tedious and hard to follow when one has to write or read a reply to "LW @ 2:22 AM." Too much scrolling.

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  • GMC would travel this site daily looking for anyone to string up in a high profile court case. Removing anonymity is likely to lead to your readership numbers dropping significantly.

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  • If you want to see the effects of not having anonymity just check out the comment forums on GP Online.They're dead

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  • "Anonymous | GP Partner22 Jun 2016 8:33am
    If you want to see the effects of not having anonymity just check out the comment forums on GP Online.They're dead"

    Agreed, lose anonymity and Pulse on-line comments will disappear altogether just like GPonline

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  • Anonymous posting

    pros

    - you will get an honest opinion
    - entertaining and brings in readers
    - can provide valuable insight

    cons

    - gives cover for bad behavior
    - can't follow conversations

    some ideas

    - unique usernames
    - have a system that only allows doctors to comment - i suspect some of the offensive comments are made by non-doctors / trolls.
    - perhaps add in forums to allow debates/discussion
    - robust policing of comments to remove litigious or offensive comments with the option to suspend users or ban users

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  • also agree if anonymous comments go then i won't bother posting. a username is acceptable and making it so that doctors only can comment.

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  • I am so regulated that it has become difficult to express an opinion. It is similar to a three line whip in parliament. I have my own views on euthanasia , end of life care, legalising all drugs which I think will stop a lot of criminality and legalising prostitution. All of which would be too liberal...

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  • To GP Partner, 21 June | 4:43 pm:

    Well said!

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  • A vote for user name
    I usually post in my own name but there are sometimes not.

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