Today Salon is rolling out some long-promised improvements to our letters to the editor system.
Starting Wednesday afternoon, readers will be asked to register before they submit a letter or comment to Salon. You'll be asked to provide an authentic e-mail address and to choose a permanent screen name.
Premium members who have been writing letters will notice very little change. You'll be asked whether you want to keep your existing screen name or choose a new one, and then you'll proceed into the system. For letter writers who aren't Premium members, this will be the first time we've asked you to provide an e-mail address and choose a fixed screen name. As a result, you'll be able to collect and display all your Salon letters and comments, a benefit until now available only to Premium members. A link to the page where your letters and comments are collected will appear with your screen name when you submit something new. Once you register, you will still have the option of sending letters anonymously.
We think this change will improve our letters system, and it's something many users have requested. Recently we've seen an uptick in complaints about people "borrowing" the screen name of other frequent letter writers; that won't happen anymore. We also think requiring an e-mail address and a fixed screen name will cut down on drive-by insults, off-topic postings and strictly ad hominem attacks. We won't sell or otherwise distribute the e-mail addresses we collect from you, but they will make it possible for us to contact a letter writer if questions arise, or even to encourage a letter writer to develop an idea and submit a longer piece to Salon.
The timing of this change may make it look like a response to the issues I raised in my piece last week about the Kathy Sierra mess. It isn't; we've been working on these changes for a while, and are simply rolling them out now that they're ready. We'll be adding more in the weeks and months to come.
So tell us what you think, about this change and others you'd like to see. Use the comments section of my blog, or if you'd rather not publish your thoughts publicly, send me a note here. We're listening.