Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Value of Anonymous

The serious, social issues strain of the Swim Brief took a nice holiday break. Now, with 2012 upon us and me holed in a hotel room during a Florida cold front, we are back. Today I want to discuss something that was going on in the background of my ongoing discussions with USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus. As I posted my series of blogs, Chuck requested that I disable anonymous commenting for the blogs. I refused. Here's why:
It occurred to me that we have never really adequately explained a commenting policy for this site. It's primarily because we don't have one. Over the time this blog has existed, I can't recall deleting a single comment, even though I admit I wanted to sometimes. And I won't commit myself or the other bloggers here to not deleting comments. In fact, we probably should delete more, or respond to more so that people dropping by to read the site don't interpret any endorsement by us of all the comments that appear here.

That said, I think that anonymous voices have a lot to offer you, even when they say something that makes you very upset. As an employee of Georgia Tech, I am subject to semi-anonymous review by all the athletes on our team. I say "semi" because I know each comment comes from one of forty eight athletes, just not which one. For the most part, the evaluation is fairly straightforward. But every year, somebody takes their opportunity to vent.

Last year, I got a full five paragraphs from one person on how unfit I was to coach swimming. I have to admit, reading it the first time made me upset. I thought a lot of it was petty, and untrue, or distorted. But as I reflected on it, I realized that I definitely have something to learn from that comment and others like it. There was a huge gap between what I perceived that I was doing and what one person thought I was doing. These things happen, but you can always improve. 

In much the same way, the anonymous comments on this and other websites are opportunities for evaluation. While there may be some misinformation out there, and people can be unfair, I consider it valuable to understand what somebody would say about me behind my back. It doesn't mean that I have to have a dramatic reaction or base my life around it, its just information. If you refuse to look at the anonymous information because some of it is bad then you miss out on the parts that are good.

I still think it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness. 


  1. I think I finally understand why USA Swimming can't protect athletes. USA Swimming waits until offenders are legally prosecuted and then it's easy for them to ban individuals.

    The other day, a student who swims with a masters program on a University campus told me that the coach she really likes is not technically suppose to be coaching because of things that happened on his club team, but because he dates the collegiate teams coach he is able to help out.

    The accused will have their accusers as well as their advocates which allows coaches to move freely between teams.

  2. They should like anonymous comments, then they don't have to worry about not responding to them the way the don't respond to member emails (almost a month waiting for my response).

  3. Edward Killeen FTW! They have an excuse to ignore anonymous comments. Once everyone attaches their name to their comments, THEN watch the fire and fury flame!! Everyone attaching their real names to their comments would create a revolution, because people would be more confident to speak out in person, at meets.

    BTW, just noticed on the globe at right that our friends at USA Swimming just logged on! Welcome back, guys!

    I normally comment with my name, but I'm making a point ;-).

  4. Un ****** believable!!! Southern California Swimming appointed, to the LSC Board of Diretors, a woman who participates in illegal activities, is a LIAR and condones cheating. What the hell is the matter with people. Let's reward unethical behavior!!!

    Why is it a big surprise that college swim programs are being cancelled? For a sport where fractions of a second can make or break an athlete, there's a hell of a lot of cheating going on. I am so frickin tired of the liars and cheaters in this sport!!!!!!

  5. Kind of like students and their grades (Palos Verdes High School students arrested for grade tampering - just changed their grades slightly to get A- in course) least the kids are being held accountable!!!