Civil, anonymous notes to anyone, that everyone can read.


Updates and Observations

The Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives

Guest Article by Susan Hurtubise

Politics? In 2012 America some of the problems we are facing are Health Care, Social Security cut backs and the ever over powering Budget Deficit. The threats loom over us like black storm clouds that we are unable to do anything about. This is the main difference between Liberals and Conservatives today. Liberals feel that it is their responsibility to make decisions for the American people, while Conservatives believe that the American people should be empowered to solve their own problems.

The Liberals want Government controlled health care. The Conservatives support a competitive, free market health care system. Liberals believe that undocumented aliens (“illegals”) have the right to the same benefits as citizens. Conservatives do not. Liberals believe that the Social Security system should be protected at all costs whereas the Conservatives feel people should be allowed to handle their own savings.

Conservatives liken Liberals AKA Progressives to a person who goes in and tears down a house, leaving the tenants homeless, with no ideas for rebuilding. Conservatives are full of ideas but have been unable to rally enough support to initiate any of them. When it comes to taxes, Conservatives feel that the people are pretty darn good at handling money and that tax cuts increase revenue and the spending power of the American people increasing Government profit. Liberals on the other hand feel that in the people’s hands money is not well spent and that the Government should regulate it, redistributing it where they see fit.

To quote paleoconservative Pat Buchanan, with regards to the bailout, “What we are witnessing is what happens to a prodigal nation that ignores history, and forgets and abandons the philosophies and principles that made it great.” While on the other side of the fence, what seems a rather unflattering statement is what the Liberals are saying about President Obama, “Obama Sounds Like a Fool Because He’s Just So Darn Brilliant”, referring to his “Intellectual Stammer”. “Understand – “ Obama said, “raising the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills that Congress has already racked up.”

To be a Liberal is to defend the freedom -- the Liberty -- of all people who make up our great nation. Conservatives overwhelmingly believe if you go around and work hard and persevere, you’re going to get ahead. As you can see the differences are many. What matters most however, are not the differences, but whether or not they can put their differences aside and do what is right for America.

All in all, it would appear that Liberals, though they seemingly believe in securing Liberty for all Americans, want to do so while still being in control of the apron strings. Conservatives on the other hand, seem to follow the ideal that the American people should make their own way in this world; their Government standing ready to support them when needed. In the end this writer hopes that whatever their differences, the Liberals and Conservatives will unite to bring forth a once again, ”United Nation”.

Susan Hurtubise
January 20, 2012

Why Pseudonymity Is Such an Important Concept by MARK SUSTER

Fred Wilson wrote a blog post yesterday called “Real Names” in which he talked about a commenter on his blog who preferred not to comment because he didn’t want to use his real name. It’s all told through a graphic & very short so worth your having a quick read. It’s a powerful concept.

What really forked me off was that some people wrote such nasty things about me as a person without knowing me and they did it all veiled behind fake names. They did the same over at HackerNews.

My immediate reaction was “Chicken shits! If you want to have a public debate then at least have the decency to do it using your real name! I’ve used mine.”

That was before I really understood.

I’m glad the whole incidence happened. Though the more honorable people who didn’t choose to use their real names they explained that they didn’t feel free to use their real names in public debates because they feared the reaction of their employers. I guess by 43 I’ve found myself in a situation where I worry about that a bit less and I trust myself to skate close to the line but not cross it (too often).

As I did a deeper dive reflection on the topic I started thinking I wanted: Anonymity + Authority. In other words, it’s fine to not use your real name but I wanted to know that you were an honorable person and not a troll. I was thinking it would be awesome to have systems that could help track this so more authoritative people who were anonymous could rise to the top.

All of this has become a lot more relevant lately given social networking.

Think about it. Friendster started and was the place you had to be yourself. MySpace flourished and left Friendster behind in part because they didn’t care about your identity. Some people jokingly referred to it in its early days as “Fakester” in contrast to Friendster. Turns out anonymity mattered.

Along came Facebook. They wanted to know who you were. You originally had to have a .edu email address to even join. They work hard to this day to try and filter out people they think are fake. Of course they can be duped.

And any even casual follower of the tech industry knows that Google Plus has been criticized for cracking down on anybody who wasn’t a “real person.”

Yet … Twitter doesn’t care. You can be whoever you want on Twitter. They’re fine with Fakesters.

So who’s right? Obviously neither are. It depends on the circumstances.

And my eyes really lit up today when I had a great chat over tea with Dmitry Shapiro, one of the better & more philosophical thinkers about technology that I know. He has founded a new social networking site called AnyBeat to take on this issue. I’ve played around with the beta version the past few days and am already impressed with their ability to ship technology. [no, I'm not an investor in the company]

What Dmitry told me is, “It’s not really about anonymity, it’s about pseudonymity.”


“Well, it’s not that you want to interact with ‘anonymous’ users, you actually want them to have an identity. It just turns out that often it’s better if that identity is not your real one. That way you can be yourself.”

“But I’m happy being myself. And, harrumph, do I really want to go to another fucking social network. I’m already overwhelmed. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Quora, Tumblr. My head’s going to explode!”

“Exactly. That’s because those are all efforts. They’re all work. You’re constant interacting professionally and building up your online profile. We want you to come to AnyBeat to have fun. We want it to be a place where you meet people you don’t know. Where you can talk about topics that it might not be appropriate for a VC to discuss in writing. Your views on politics, religion, the world. We want you to play games. Let your hair down.”

“Isn’t that what Wii is for?” :)

“Well, think about it. You’re old enough to have established your reputation and you know right from wrong. Perhaps you’re not trying to find your true North anymore. But 22 year olds might like to be able to make their views on the world known without having it follow them around for the next 40 years. It’s scary. Social networks are like Iran. You can say anything you want, but in the morning there will be consequences.”

It hit me. He’s right. PSEUDONYMITY. You heard it here first. I think it’s a big concept. Pseudonymity is the combination of anonymity and authority. It is an alter ego name that follows you on the Internet. It allows you to interact with people in different ways.

And as we went on to debate use cases it became clearer to me that there are concrete times where you want to be yourself and where you don’t. But total anonymity is a waste. I don’t see any redeeming value relative to pseudonymity. And to make a good social network based on pseudonymity work you obviously have to have an authority / rating system built in.


1. Job Search – You’d mostly want to be yourself, thus we have LinkedIn. A place were it makes no sense to be anonymous. But you might like to start interviewing for jobs or posting on job sites without using your actual name. That can create some awkward moments with your boss.

2. Social Capital / Earned Media – For many people keeping a blog is a way to build up “social capital” or as it’s sometimes referred to as “earned media.” Other than for people like Fake Steve Jobs where the intent is parody then you’d obviously want to use your real identity.

3. Marketing – There are times where you market as an individual and times where you want to market as a brand.

4. Games – Here is where it gets more interesting. In games you may not want people to know who you are. You might not want your work colleagues to know you play World of Warcraft or Call of Duty in the evenings. Even more so if you play in the day time:) In an identity world like Facebook it has been hard to play MMO (massive multiplayer online) games because there isn’t a forum for hanging out with people you don’t know. Facebook is for people you do know.

5. Dating – Dating is a place where anonymity can be really important to people. They might like a chance to get to know somebody a bit better before opening up their real identity. I could also see some sites wanting to argue the opposite – we’ll only let you chat if you agree to say who you are.

6. Political Discourse or Understanding the World Around You - Want to debate gay marriage, polygamy, the death penalty, whether a country has an oppressive regime, religion – whatever. Pseudonymity.

We then went on to film an amazing 90 minute discussion afterward for This Week in Venture Capital. It hasn’t been processed yet but when it is I’ll be sure to post it here. We talked about this concept and also: online video, lawsuits with big media companies, the value or not of circles in Google Plus, the economic reasons behind the NetFlix decision, social TV startup Chill and much, much more.

Mark Suster
Both Sides of The Table

Mark is a 2x entrepreneur "who has gone to the Dark Side of VC." He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner after selling his company to He focuses on early-stage technology companies.
September 21, 2011

Guest Post from Andrea Weckerle, Founder of CiviliNation

For some people, the word civility conjours up images of being asked to become Miss Manners, or the male equivalent. And while etiquette and good manners have an important place in society, they shouldn’t be the focus when we talk about cybercivility.

As the ongoing events in Egypt point out, having access to the Internet is critical. U.S. President Obama recently said

“The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights....I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions that they've taken to interfere with access to the Internet, to cell phone service, and to social networks that do so much to connect people in the 21st Century.”

Free speech entails the ability to actively engage online, without fear or threat of a being the target of abuse, harassment, or lies. And as President Obama indicated, in today’s modern world, being able to participate online is a human rights issue.

But there’s an epidemic of online hostility going on - ranging from Google and Twitter bombs and Facebook attacks, to personal abuse and attacks on reputations, to online lynch mobs and human-flesh searches - that undermines people’s ability to freely express themselves and fully engage.

Poking a little fun at things we see online or blowing off steam every once in a while is ok. Certainly calling out things that we disagree with is important. But when we ruthlessly attack others online, when our actions hurt people emotionally, physically and reputationally, when they feel anxious, fearful, stressed, helpless, hopeless and depressed, it’s gone too far - we’re effectively shutting others down and taking away their voice.

Spirited debate and passionate dissent are what make a free society go around. Thank goodness we’re able to do that in the United States. And we better make sure we protect that by honoring the principles that underlie democracy. Let’s make that happen.

Andrea Weckerle
Founder of CiviliNation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization taking a stand for civil discourse.
February 10, 2011

Facebook Says Anonymous Comments are Necessarily Bad.   We Disagree.

They also say they have the solution.   We disagree with that, too.

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed piece from Julie Zhuo, a product manager at Facebook. Ms. Zhuo writes about the problem of people posting inflammatory and derogatory comments in public forums on the Internet. She suggests that being able to post comments anonymously is one of the root causes of this problem.

I’m a little surprised the Times ran the editorial, since it is so self-serving for Facebook. In the piece Ms. Zhuo refers to the “public commenting widget” that Facebook is developing. Apparently, when other websites use this product, people would have to use their Facebook IDs to post comments, and their pictures and profiles would be displayed beside their comments. She suggests that this would solve the problem of uncivil posts.

This suggestion is ironic, coming from Facebook, since they don't do anything to verify identities. Anyone can go to Facebook and create an account using any name, with no external verification.

Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, recently wrote about how he created a fake Facebook page for Eric Schmidt, the head of Google. A recent story in the Times provides another striking example, where a 9th grader’s friends maliciously impersonated him on Facebook for months. It took months more, and getting legal authorities involved, before the boy and his parents could get the Facebook page removed.

If you search for “fake Facebook profiles," you’ll see people suggesting that anywhere from 10% to 40% of Facebook profiles are fake. That is, they’re pseudonyms, impersonations, or completely ficticious. So, a good question for Ms. Zhuo would be: “How would requiring unverified and unreliable Facebook profiles make comments on websites civil?” I can’t think of a good answer to that question.

What’s worse than having no information? It’s having misinformation – information that is wrong or unreliable. That’s the primary reason why Fastnotes must be anonymous. We have not found a good, practical way to verify identities on the Internet. We don’t want anyone to pretend to be writing for someone else.

This editorial is also ironic, coming from Facebook, since they have done so little to control civility on Facebook pages. Whoever creates a Facebook page has editorial control over it. They can block other writers and they can remove content. Or not.

Facebook users can decide to post and display just about anything. And if you think something on someone else’s Facebook page is particularly disgusting, false, malicious, or evil -- good luck trying to get it removed.

I will grant Ms. Zhuo one point. If everyone posting content on the Internet had to use real names and identities, there would be less “bad” content on the Internet. Of course. But would it solve the problem of uncivil and offensive content? Of course not. Many people are quite willing to write truly horrible things using their real names.

There’s another problem to her solution – worse even than the fact that it wouldn’t work. If people were required to use their real identities, there would be a lot less posting and interaction on the Internet overall. A great many good, interesting, well-intentioned comments are posted anonymously on the Web. Those comments are anonymous because that’s how those writers choose to post them. If we followed Facebook’s logic, many of those comments would go unsaid and those voices would be silenced. In a society that values free speech so highly, how can that be considered a good thing?

Richard Shaffner
December 13, 2010

RSS Feeds are Now Live

Users have told us they wanted to have RSS feeds for new notes to people and organizations on Fastnote. We added this today. Just look for the "RSS" button at the top of any page of notes to an individual or group. You will also find the RSS link at the top of any Community page, when you are viewing the Recent Notes for that Community.

If you have a website or a blog and you’d like to have Fastnotes to certain people or organizations appear on your blog, you can use an RSS feed. For example, if you’re writing a blog about politics with a focus on the President, you can now show all the new Fastnotes to the President right in your blog.

Richard Shaffner
December 3, 2010

Now You Can Comment on Fastnotes

We added several new features to Fastnote today. When you read a Fastnote, of course it’s easy to vote “agree, disagree, funny, or well said”. You’ve told us that you also wanted to be able to make a comment – perhaps to ask the writer for a clarification or to let the writer know why you disagree. It’s now easy to write and read comments with a note – just click the “Comments” link right below each note.

We’ve also made it easier to see details about the people and organizations on Fastnote. Just put your cursor over any name you see on Fastnote and the details for that addressee will pop up.

In addition, we've simplified the Navigation Bar and the the find a name process on the Read and Wrirte pages. Don't worry, the Advanced Search and all the other functions are still there -- we've just made it easier to new users to get understand how to use Fastnote.

Richard Shaffner
November 22, 2010

Our New Community Pages

We just introduced our new Community pages. Fastnote is primarily organized based on whom the notes are written to, and these Community pages are structured the same way. On these pages, it's easy to find the names of people and groups that are linked to each Community, and see all the Fastnotes written to them.

We’ve started with college communities, and it’s easy to add more. We also plan to add business and government communities. Click the Community tab in the top navigation bar to see more.

Richard Shaffner
November 12, 2010

"How do I know they'll see their notes on Fastnote?"

That's a common question. We’re confident most people will read their Fastnotes, for several reasons.

  • When we pubilcize the site, many people will hear about it, use it, and share it.
  • Everyone looks for their own name on Fastnote. It’s only natural, to see if your name has been entered and if anyone has posted notes to you.
  • People share everything on the Internet. When someone has public notes posted to them Fastnote, sooner or later they’ll find out -- someone will tell them.
  • Fastnotes are already showing up in search results. Everyone searches for their own names. When they do, they’re likely to find the notes posted to them on Fastnote.

Plus, Fastnote gives you lots of ways to let someone know about notes to them on Fastnote. Every note has a “share” link right next to it. That makes it easy to email a link to the note to whomever you’d like to reach. There are two ways to do that – you can send the note from your own e-mail. Or, if you don’t want the person to know who sent the note, you can have the email sent from us anonymously.

In addition, it’s easy to share Fastnotes with whatever social media service you like -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, StumbleUpon etc.

And finally, on Fastnote you know your notes can be seen by everyone. So even if that politician, celebrity or boss doesn't see their notes right away, you know that others will. They can agree or disagree and share your notes with others.

Richard Shaffner
November 3, 2010

The First Month of the Beta

It’s been a month since we opened the Beta for Fastnote. What’s been going on?

First, let me say “Thanks!” for all the feedback from everyone who has been trying Fastnote. We’re listening and you’ll see changes to the site based on the feedback.

One of the most important things is that Fastnote continues to be clean and civil. We’ve had a few people write some notes that didn’t belong here and I’ve been pleased with how quickly our users reported them.

Please keep telling us what you like and don’t like about Fastnote. You can write us on our Fastnote page.

Richard Shaffner
October 15, 2010

It’s not Facebook.   It’s not Twitter.   (And it’s not trying to be....)

On Fastnote you can do some things that you cannot do on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere else.

Facebook, Twitter, email, texting – these are great communication tools. You can share updates, photos, jokes, status updates, tell others what you’re doing, etc. They are all great ways for connecting...with one’s friends.

But what if:

  • You want to say something to someone who’s not one of your “friends”?
  • You want to share your opinion with someone famous, like a politician, celebrity, or athlete?
  • You want to share your feedback with a company, school, team, class or TV show?
  • You want to say something candidly and anonymously to someone – like your professor, your boss, a co-worker, a classmate, a neighbor, a friend?

And what if you want your comment to be open to the public, so others could see and react to it? (So they could agree or disagree with you or respond with notes of their own.)

You can’t do any of those things on Facebook or Twitter. But you can do ALL of those on Fastnote.

  • You don’t have to be on the same network.
  • You don’t have to create a profile page.
  • You don’t have to be a “friend” or “follower.”
  • You don’t need their email address or phone number.
  • You can write anonymously (no one will know you wrote a note, unless you tell them).

Fastnote was not designed to replace Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of communication. It was designed to give everyone a new way to share their comments, and to learn what others have to say to them and people they care about.

You can write notes to anyone on Fastnote, and everyone can read them. Short. Civil. Anonymous.

Richard Shaffner
September 29, 2010

Anonymity is Not the Problem – Uncontrolled Content is the Problem

There’s an old joke about someone writing an online message saying,
“But on the Internet, how do I know you’re really a dog?”

Anonymity is a fact of life on the Internet. The key to keeping a website civil has nothing to do with whether it allows anonymous content. It comes down to whether the site is properly monitored to control that content.

Many popular sites, including many respected news sites and blogs, allow anonymous comments from their users. Many other sites require email addresses or user names for posting comments, even though they may have nothing to do with one’s real identity. (Those writers are effectively anonymous.)

These sites have not created the problems that Juicy Campus and other "slander sites" created because these sites are moderated. That is, the sites have rules against offensive content. Users and staff monitor the content to keep it clean.

All notes on Fastnote must be anonymous. We have that rule for several reasons. One is that there is no reliable way to verify identities on the Internet. We don’t want anyone to pretend to be speaking for someone else.

Also, there are benefits to being able to write someone anonymously. There is the obvious benefit of candor – people are more likely to say what they really think. Another benefit is that writers are treated equally. All writers have an equal opportunity to have their comments “heard” on Fastnote.

We also have rules about what is and is not allowed on Fastnote. Offensive and obscene comments are not allowed. Harassment, accusations, and malicious rumors are also not allowed.

Even though all notes on Fastnote must be written anonymously, Fastnote is actively moderated. Our users and staff monitor the site. We remove bad content, and repeat offenders have their writing privileges revoked. Many other sites do much the same thing (YouTube is a well-known example).

We are completely committed to making Fastnote a clean and civil site – one that everyone will feel comfortable using.

Richard Shaffner
September 25, 2010

It’s not Juicy Campus or College ACB.   (And it never will be.)

Several Internet sites have encouraged users to say whatever they wanted about anything or anyone. All comments were allowed – no matter how obscene, offensive, or libelous they might be. And in most cases, there was nothing an offended reader or injured party could do about it.

The most notorious of these sites was Juicy Campus. It closed in February 2009, and since then College ACB and others have taken its place. These sites also feature anonymous postings, since that is important for encouraging people to write that kind of content.

At Fastnote, we have no desire to follow that failed model. We also have a very different goal – to make Fastnote a civil site, one that promotes candid, open and constructive comments.

All notes on Fastnote must be anonymous, but that does not mean writers can say whatever they’d like. We understand that some will be tempted to say things they shouldn’t, so we have taken many steps to control the content posted to the site.

For example:

  • We have clear rules that are posted on the site and in our User Agreement.
  • To add names and write notes, users must register and they must agree to follow those rules.
  • Users must sign-in to write notes (so we know which user has written each note).
  • Users must also sign-in to report and moderate notes (so we can learn which users are helpful, and which ones are not).
  • New content and reported items are reviewed regularly by our volunteer moderators and our staff. When they decide that content should be removed, it is removed immediately.
  • Users are notified when their items have been removed, so they are reminded of our rules and encouraged to follow them.
  • Users’ writing privileges are suspended with repeated offenses, and they can ultimately be blocked from the site.
  • Our staff can also review all of a user’s names and notes, to remove bad content and suspend or block a writer.

In short, we have developed a comprehensive system for maintaining the quality of the content on Fastnote.

You have our word – Fastnote will be a clean and civil website. We would rather shut it down than let it turn into another Juicy Campus. We have the tools we need and the commitment to control it. And we will!

Richard Shaffner
September 18, 2010

Launch Day Message from the Founder

Welcome to Fastnote!

We are pleased to introduce Fastnote, the web site where you can tell anyone what you think and you can see what people are saying to you and others. Please take a look around, find a few names and read a few notes. When you're ready to add names and write some notes of your own, just register and sign in.

We will be using this blog to tell you about what’s going on with Fastnote. We will also discuss key issues and topics that affect the site, and we will share creative and innovative ways that people are using Fastnote.

We are very interested in what our users have to say. Please share your feedback and suggestions with us by posting a note on our Fastnote page. Or you can write us using our General Contact Form.

Thank you for coming to Fastnote!

Richard Shaffner
Fastnote President and Founder
September 15, 2010