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January 26, 2010 3:37 PM   Subscribe

A suggestion for AskMeFi: rather than (or in addition to) anonymous postings, why not give everyone a few throwaway accounts?

(Apologies if this has been asked before, I looked but found nothing).

It seems like most anonymous AskMeFi question up there is missing initial information that the poster doesn't think to add, and it results in the same unanswerable flurry of questions ("Where do you live? How old is she? Are you only topless at night or during the day as well?"), unless a mod is kind enough to repost for him/her. And some answers only come to light if that back and forth takes place.

So why not a few anonymous accounts in which the poster can make up a name on the fly, but can also respond to as well. We are rationed a question a week on AskMeFi; I guess not nearly so many would be needed for this...maybe just 3 or 4 a year, if that?
posted by zardoz to Feature Requests at 3:37 PM (57 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I don't think it's hard enough for the mods to post an occasional update to a thread to make this worthwhile.
posted by kylej at 3:45 PM on January 26, 2010


That wouldn't be as anonymous as what we have now, since the account would be tied to your userid behind the scenes.
posted by smackfu at 3:56 PM on January 26, 2010


sometime's it seems like everyone just wants to make pb's job harder.

Also, think how much this would screw up the infodump. Won't someone think of the infodump?!
posted by Think_Long at 3:56 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because no one knows who the anon is each time, you could actually reply on your own comment, claiming that the you are posting on behalf of the poster. Mix it up by sending a request to someone else to post a reply, and you can remain anonymous, but still reply.

Or, just make up an anon. sock puppet, and keep it for all your anon needs.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:57 PM on January 26, 2010


I'm thinking about the Infodump.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:59 PM on January 26, 2010


Letting random people post "on behalf of the anon asker" is a problem because:
1. Anybody could make stuff up & post that.
2. You'd have to worry about other people outing your identity, rather than just the mods, who I trust.
posted by Pronoiac at 4:03 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest problem we've seen with this idea is the de-anonymizing aspect of it. Right now there's no hard and fast link between your info in the database and your anonyme question. As we've said before, we can do some timestamp correlations to figure it out of we needed but there is no link. Doing something like this would create a link and then have a bunch of almost-never-used accounts floating around. I post follow-ups for people maybe a few times a week, more lately as there have been more anonymes, and it's really no trouble from my perspective.

I think it might be a better use of everyone's time to make the anonyme posting page somehow a LOT more pushy about "don't be a doofus, tell us what we need to know to answer your question!" so that people might add the relevant details. Mostly this is not a site problem except that there may be a few people who don't want to follow-up with the mods for various reasons. They can always have a trusted MeFite friend post a follow-up for them. Having a ready-in-the wings sock puppet is also a decent idea. Most people ask no AnonyMe questions at all, but of the people that do, my back of envelope figure is that a lot of them use it often [i.e. a few times a year minimum] and this sort of setup [waiting sock puppet] would serve them better.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:05 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


/quietly hides suggestion for special flame accounts.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't this slow down the site significantly? It should only be done if we first delete the unused accounts.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 4:16 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pronoiac - valid points.

Perhaps the mods could ask the anonymous question-askers to clarify things before the questions are posted? I know that means more work for the mods, but it's a non-technical fix and people might catch on if they are actively asked to elaborate/clarify up front.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:28 PM on January 26, 2010


why not give everyone a few throwaway accounts?
that would totally destroy the mefi economy!
posted by the aloha at 4:38 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a throwaway world.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:43 PM on January 26, 2010


Perhaps the mods could ask the anonymous question-askers to clarify things before the questions are posted?

We really don't know who people are, is the thing. Occasionally I'll get email from someone asking "hey did you not approve my question?" and I don't know which one it is. As the site has gotten larger, the AnonyMe queue has gotten a little onerous. Part of this is, I think, not wanting to approve questions in the middle of the night [my own deal, I should get over it] but part of it is that there are a lot of questions. And as it is, the deal is basically thumbs up or thumbs down with the very very rare "Can I please take out the weird reference that you may not know is a slur but is definitely going to piss people off?" sorts of questions from me.

If you don't include enough information and your question isn't approved, I guess you should be less vague next time. We'll always let people know why their questions haven't been approved [approval rate is still about 75%] and we can work with them to rewrite them, but we're really not going to do much more work than that. The AnonyMe option is a bonus feature intended for users of the site who have the rare question that they feel they need anonymity for. I don't mean to be a pain here, but we're really not looking for a way to make it more popular.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:46 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


approval rate is still about 75%

Wow... what are the 25% doing wrong? Serious question.
posted by desjardins at 4:50 PM on January 26, 2010


It'd be a lot easier to require a throwaway email in the question form. It takes all of a minute or two to create a new gmail account.
posted by stavrogin at 5:03 PM on January 26, 2010


jessamyn - thanks for the insight to how AnonMe works. I withdraw my suggestion.

In it's place, technology: perhaps a reminder to fill in all helpful bits could pop up when you fill out an anon form, dependent on the category chosen. For example, health and human relations would prompt: "Have you included enough information about yourself and/or the other person/people (gender, age, location)?" [Yes] [No, let me add that]
posted by filthy light thief at 5:08 PM on January 26, 2010


They're not doing anything wrong per se....

- they ask a time-sensitive question without enough time for it to be approved
- they ask a question which doesn't seem like it should be anonymous and don't include why it's anonymous
- they ask a question that is so clearly "see a doctor/lawyer" that it's not worth approving
- they ask a "sure to be a trainwreck" question that is fairly indistinguishable from trolling
- they ask a "what are the chances I'm pregnant/have herpes" question where the only possible answer is "it depends/get tested"
- they ask a question about suicide
- they ask about something that's pretty clearly illegal
- they ask a question that is several thousands of words long and is, at the end, not really a question
- they ask a totally hypothetical-sounding and vague question [if it's anonymous, please include details]
- they ask a question and ask it non-anon before we approve it
- they ask a question that sounds like it was pretty much either a dare or a late night PWD sort of question
- they ask a question that insults a huge subset of the MeFi population
- they ask a question where the only response from most of MeFi is going to be "you are a terrible person" [sometimes we'll ask them if they want to rewrite it] and the question itself seems like some sort of creepy exercise in mod creepitude
- they are "that guy" [see above]

I'm sure there are more, that's what my memory and a quick scan gets me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:11 PM on January 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


they ask a question that is several thousands of words long and is, at the end, not really a question

So you got my Superman treatment. What did you think?
posted by Think_Long at 5:33 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


So you want to promote the use of "anonymous"? Great. Now we'll have even more gems like THIS ONE which definitely needed anonymyzing.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:39 PM on January 26, 2010


So you got my Superman treatment. What did you think?

You should have stayed doing the X-Men.
posted by Artw at 5:42 PM on January 26, 2010


It needs a giant spider.
posted by Dumsnill at 5:45 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nicholas Cage should look less like a creep.
posted by Artw at 5:46 PM on January 26, 2010


hal_c_on - can you not see why someone wouldn't want to ask a question that pertains to health and the lack of insurance under their own name?
posted by nadawi at 5:48 PM on January 26, 2010


So you got my Superman treatment. What did you think?

I liked it so much, I put it on BoingBoing!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:49 PM on January 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wow, I must have gotten my twitter account before they stopped letting you use Superman for a password. This, of course, is for my @MisterMxyzptlk account, which no one got, so I stopped updating and only recently returned to the 5th dimension!
posted by cjorgensen at 6:32 PM on January 26, 2010


Doh!
posted by cjorgensen at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2010


That sounds like a lot of work to get what I think you really want, which is just a way to respond. Certainly something could be hacked up so that when you post the question, you're given a generated key, and then later you could use this key to post the response, proving you're the OP?
posted by floam at 6:58 PM on January 26, 2010


yeah floam's idea would be terrific if it's easy to implement. sort of a "one response free" or some other sekrit handshake sort of thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:01 PM on January 26, 2010


I don't get why if this is really a concern someone can't pony up an extra $5. Am I missing something?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:58 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


metatalk is out of control today. someone should start a metatalk thread about it.
posted by pwally at 8:04 PM on January 26, 2010


kidding, dont do that.
posted by pwally at 8:07 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't get why if this is really a concern someone can't pony up an extra $5. Am I missing something?

Me ponying up $5 doesn't make it so anonymous questions I'm reading are less ambiguous and doesn't make it so I can ask questions expecting answers. I think the idea is that the site can be less annoying if the people that actually post anonymous questions can respond to queries.
posted by floam at 8:10 PM on January 26, 2010

yeah floam's idea would be terrific if it's easy to implement. sort of a "one response free" or some other sekrit handshake sort of thing.
I think I might be misunderstanding and/or reading too much into this, but if not:

Why one? Why not let the key continue to work (in that thread) until the thread is closed, regardless of how often it is used? I don't really see why "anonymous" versus "non-anonymous" should imply "at most one response" versus "unlimited responses".
posted by Flunkie at 9:01 PM on January 26, 2010


I don't get why if this is really a concern someone can't pony up an extra $5. Am I missing something?

You really don't understand why someone would prefer not to pay $5 to post one comment on the internet?
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:40 PM on January 26, 2010


You really don't understand why someone would prefer not to pay $5 to post one comment on the internet?

It's totally worth it.
posted by Glenn Beck at 10:08 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think anonymous should have to pay per letter - let's say one cent. This would make relationship-filter a lot more readable. "BF plays WoW 24/7. WTF?"
posted by Dumsnill at 10:11 PM on January 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


"DTMFA."
posted by biochemist at 10:54 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I already have a sockpuppet that I haven't used for a few years, and I don't want to mae pb;s job harder, but here's why I'm kind of in favor of an idea like this (or at least in favor of the old chestnut of anonymous commenting on one's own anonymous questions)

Anonymous questions are generally a result of a problem being either too personal or too embarrassing to post under one's own name. Anonymity solve part of this problem, but the other part of the problem is that including all elements of the personal/embarrassing issue could cause prejudice that would prevent helpful answers. Thus, simply having anonymity might not make people willing to delve into full disclosure. However, when reading the thread and understanding that some detail might be necessary, one may then decide to give it up.

The memail-the-mods method works for this to an extent, but not in the way that one might normally participate in a thread, which threatens the separation-from-identification benefit of anonymous AskMe's.

This has been an issue for some time now, and I think it makes sense for us to determine a workable solution.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:12 PM on January 26, 2010


For me, if the question is something I'm sufficiently concerned about to want to post anonymously, I don't want to discuss it with the mods in a non-anonymous way. Not because I don't trust the mods, but because somehow doing so would deanonymize it in my head, or something. Anyway, I probably wouldn't email more information.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:41 PM on January 26, 2010


Oh, it's cool to have sock puppets? I did not know this.
posted by kathrineg at 12:55 AM on January 27, 2010


kathrineg, sock puppets are fine for sensitive questions, but not for bypassing the one-question-per-week limitation.

THUS SPAKETH THE FAQ.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:39 AM on January 27, 2010


What if the submission form for anonymous questions had the following fields:

1. The part of the text that appears on the AskMe page

2. Your question

3. The information that people need in order to fully understand and answer your question

This would force a stop and think moment, at least.
posted by prefpara at 3:00 AM on January 27, 2010


I have to agree that generating some sort of random password/PIN to allow follow-ups for anonymous questions seems eminently sensible. There's little added complexity from the poster's perspective, and it could help eliminate much of the speculation about missing detail that tends to go on in anonymous AskMes. The current situation - contacting a mod or asking another user to post on your behalf - seems inelegant, and partly defeats the anonymity that a poster would otherwise have.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:05 AM on January 27, 2010


You could make anonymousXX real, login-able accounts which expire after one week? I guess the PITA factor would have to be lower than that of just posting mod-memailed followups.
posted by ctmf at 7:00 AM on January 27, 2010


For me, if the question is something I'm sufficiently concerned about to want to post anonymously, I don't want to discuss it with the mods in a non-anonymous way.

This is why God created throwaway email accounts.
posted by desjardins at 7:09 AM on January 27, 2010


Oh, it's cool to have sock puppets? I did not know this.

Generally speaking having one for rare anonymity purposes is okay. Having one for the occasonal joke is okay. Having two identities on the site is pretty well not okay and using a sock puppet to get around the question asking limit [or other posting limits] isn't okay.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:20 AM on January 27, 2010


Having two identities on the site is pretty well not okay

Won't someone think of the Sybil's?
posted by nomisxid at 8:32 AM on January 27, 2010


It seems to me that the system we have in place works pretty well. That said, a way of changing it that would mostly allow people to stay anonymous and still follow up would be if, at the time of posting the anon question, the system generated a unique 12 character hash-username and a randomized password which it displayed on the Preview Post screen. This could be be used to access a form where they could write a response which would get sent as an update comment to the thread.

Since it would only be available/ visible on the Preview Post screen, only the anon user would actually be able to use it, and since it would be randomly generated, the mods only way of tracking it would still be to use IPs (I think, I don't know what other witchy powers they posses).

However, while I think this would probably work, I also think it would be a pain in the ass to create and probably not worth the effort, particularly since the mods don't seem to be currently overwhelmed by helping with anon updates under the present way of doing things.
posted by quin at 8:40 AM on January 27, 2010


For $1, you can have an anonymous account. It is only good for one week. The username is auto-generated. Done and done.

also, I get the $1
posted by davejay at 1:40 PM on January 27, 2010


I kind of like that all the anonymous questions are aggregated under one account. Increasing the availability of sock puppets would... un-neaten that?
posted by prefpara at 2:25 PM on January 27, 2010


I don't mean to be a pain here, but we're really not looking for a way to make it more popular.

I'd like to suggest that we take this a step further and penalize people who ask anonymous questions. Like, say, every time you ask one, you are cookied so that you can't read anything else on the site for a month, and if you don't return to the anonymous thread regularly (reading the answers and showing that you still have the cookie set), then your question gets deleted. Then your credit card gets charged $100, and the money gets distributed to the people who bothered to answer your question.
posted by bingo at 4:32 PM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


bingo: I really like this idea of giving money to commenters. How about a whole Meconomy? Pay a few cents per read article, and get a few cents back for every comment you post.

Err… I think maybe no. This will add financial incentive to this weird vanity/social incentive to leave fucking annoying "." comments whenever there's an obit. We can't have that. Maybe comments on the blue should cost money, and you get money for posting posts on the blue, opposite of pay to post/get paid to answer on the green.
posted by floam at 5:47 PM on January 27, 2010


Dear floam,

Please stop clicking on the obit threads.

Hugs!

-Pronoiac.
posted by Pronoiac at 6:16 PM on January 27, 2010


To whom it may concern:

Having considered your proposal, I regret to inform you that I am unable to proceed with ceasing of obit thread reading operations at this time. I would like you to know that your input is important, and it is hoped that you do not hesitate to contact me regarding this issue or other issues again in the future.

Respectfully and sincerely,
floam
posted by floam at 6:40 PM on January 27, 2010


Hm, I bet I could make a greasemonkey script that hides all "." comments, leaving me with just the comments with content. And I bet I could even passive aggressively name it spam blocker or something. That'll show you all.
posted by floam at 6:54 PM on January 27, 2010


> I kind of like that all the anonymous questions are aggregated under one account. Increasing the availability of sock puppets would... un-neaten that?

For random "anonymous_n" accounts: maybe auto-include an "anonymous" tag with any anonymous question (is this possible?), or include a strong suggestion on the anon askme submit page to add "anonymous" to the tag list.
posted by sentient at 9:31 PM on January 27, 2010


I have to agree that generating some sort of random password/PIN to allow follow-ups for anonymous questions seems eminently sensible.

Simple. Elegant. I like it.
posted by MesoFilter at 8:06 AM on January 28, 2010


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