Beginning Nov. 22, there will be some important changes to The Fray. For one thing, we've cleaned up the design to make it easier to read. You'll also have to register, using Microsoft's .NET Passport system, in order to post messages. (You can always read messages without registering.) The first time you try to post, you will be prompted to log in to Passport and then choose a Fray nickname.
What you need to do:
Thing 1: Get a .NET Passport. If you have a Hotmail or MSN account, or are able to sign in to MSN Messenger or Windows Messenger, you already have a .NET Passport. Otherwise, you can get a Passport here. It's free, and to get one, all you need is an e-mail address.
Thing 2: Choose a nickname. You'll be asked to choose your nickname the first time you try to post. You can change your nickname at any time, but that change will apply to all your posts, even old ones. You can include letters, numbers, underscores, and hyphens in your nickname, but no characters beyond that.
Why we're doing this: We hope that requiring registration will improve the level of discussion in The Fray by making posters less likely to fire and forget (or post and run, or shoot and scoot). No one will be able to exactly duplicate your name, so outright posing should be a thing of the past. The first time you pick a nickname, we will suggest the one you've used most recently in The Fray. In fact, that name will be reserved for you, and no one else will be able to use it until you give it up. (Tell me more.)
Another benefit of registration is that you'll be able to sign up for MSN Alerts, which notify you whenever someone responds to one of your posts. (The notification will only apply to direct responses to you, though; you won't hear about responses to responses.) You can also be notified when Slate posts a new piece by a particular writer or in a particular department. For more information about MSN Alerts, read this "Slate Fare."
Yet another benefit is that all your future posts should appear under a single "More By This User" even if you post from more than one computer. Now that your posts will be identified by your Passport and not an evanescent cookie, you will still be you when you post from work, from home, or from the nephews' house.
Benefit for star posters: The Passport system should keep your stars from falling off—even when you are posting from the library nearest your share in the Hamptons, even when your employer's overzealous IT folks clean house. And the star should automatically port over to your nickname (even when you choose a new one).
There will no doubt be unintended consequences. I will do my best to rectify them quickly.