On my own website, I encourage people to be rather open with at least basic personal information. Age, sex, country, and even the 'temperaments' of their personality are shown on every comment, meaning you can get an idea of the 'sort of person' commenting at a glance without actually knowing them personally...
But it seems that this is rare, and most sites don't even list gender or age except perhaps on profile pages that you have to manually navigate to, and even then you can never be sure.
Coming to sites like this one after spending much of my time on my own makes me feel almost 'blind' or something, not being able to see that information without visiting profiles. Some people don't even have that information on their profiles.
I personally think that every community would be improved by making this kind of personal information open and clear and displaying it readily and frequently, such as on every comment.
Some might think that that would lead to shallow judgements... and yes, it most certainly would. It would also probably lead to people not listening to the words of others based on this data alone... 'I don't really care what an 11-year-old has to say' and so on.
In this modern, politically correct world where we're all to be seen as complete 'equals' in every conceivable way, to suggest that such knee-jerk judgements are anything other than evil would probably be heresy or something, but I think it's rather a *good* thing to be able to sort of filter people out... or to be able to give 'context' to the words that someone says.
'Age is just a number! People shouldn't judge me by it!' is something I hear from people who refuse to input any age at all on websites. It irritates me since it seems sort of... pretentious, or something; not accepting that they don't have full control over their place in the world, or something like that.
I'd not really want to interact with such a person since it seems like right from the start, they're being dishonest and paranoid, which says a lot about them... probably.
It also feels like how it might if you talked to someone in person who wore a mask and a burqa, and talked through a speech synthesiser, because you should 'only judge them on their words, not their physical attributes'. Wouldn't *that* be unsettling? o_O
We've evolved to assign great weight to certain characteristics such as age and sex though, for good reasons, and they play a big part in bonding and communication. They help immensely in knowing what to talk about and how to word things.
I can understand how girls online may tire of the constant attention from perverted, lonely males, so hiding their sex to prevent that isn't something that I see as a terrible thing... Still, though; I'd prefer it if we didn't have to keep any information secret.
Anyway, when reading comments on my own site, I do find the context of this information very important. I can forgive younger people for appearing naive, for example, or not knowing any better, or I can understand that someone could be saying what they're saying from years of experience if they're older, and would give it more weight as a result. I find it interesting to compare the outlooks of females and males, of the old and young, and people of different temperaments; extroverts and introverts often leave very different comments, and I can 'excuse' certain things from each of them because I know it's just how their personalities work (such as 'choleric' types being blunt and brash and using imperative language; normally it frustrates me, but knowing it's 'just how they work' helps to make me more 'understanding' instead).
They're not all equal; I'd not really want to read the words of a 10-year-old, for example, but I'd rather skim over it *knowing* it was a young child than get frustrated by the apparent stupidity of the person, *wondering* whether they're a child or just an idiot.
I'm interested in other peoples' thoughts on this, though.
Do you think that deviantART, for example, would be improved if your age and sex were displayed on every one of your comments? Would you like to see the age and sex of peoples' comments on your own stuff? Or maybe you feel it'd violate peoples' privacy and leave them wide open for criticism or dismissal or things like that?