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Why is a question about wanting to meet people anonymous?
December 8, 2012 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I'm sure there's a good reason for this, but I'd like to learn about it: why is this question about meeting people, with no embarrassing details that I can discern, anonymous?
posted by amtho to Etiquette/Policy at 6:30 AM (55 comments total)

Because the person who posted it chose to make it so.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:34 AM on December 8, 2012 [23 favorites]


I'm assuming they didn't want their specific location tied to their user name.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:37 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Really, that's the answer. But for some more indepthness based on absolutely nothing:

- There was a question recently where someone used the anon ability to get around the 1 week rule
- Location not tied to MF ID
- The ages could be enough identifying info for people who know them
- Don't want the internet to know that they have trouble meeting people

A ton of stuff like that really.
posted by theichibun at 6:40 AM on December 8, 2012


Thanks!
posted by amtho at 6:43 AM on December 8, 2012


Although it is easier to meet people when you aren't anonymous.
posted by COD at 7:08 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I recall correctly, The OP said they were embarrassed about asking that question since it sounded like something they should have been able to figure out on their own and they were having a hard time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:22 AM on December 8, 2012


This is the billionth Meta post about this topic. It is so, so easy to imagine a scenario for any question where someone would want to be anonymous. Why is this so difficult or infuriating for some people (not necessarily the OP, I don't know his or her exact rationale for posting this).
posted by Falconetti at 7:33 AM on December 8, 2012 [24 favorites]


Apply the Clintons/Stevie Wonder rule.
posted by Xalf at 7:48 AM on December 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Metatalk: it sounded like something they should have been able to figure out on their own
posted by Namlit at 8:07 AM on December 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


This is the billionth Meta post about this topic. It is so, so easy to imagine a scenario for any question where someone would want to be anonymous. Why is this so difficult or infuriating for some people (not necessarily the OP, I don't know his or her exact rationale for posting this).

Because this isn't a post-once-and-go place, this is a community, with relationships, and people, and personalities, and connections to each other. That's why the default is to have a username associated with a question, rather than the alternative of "anonymous unless." And in communities like this, there will always be questions about the necessity of remaining unknown, and that's okay.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:19 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who feels that questions like this (questioning the reason for anonymity, not about meeting people), while perfectly understandable, actually increase the amount of anonymous questions?
posted by griphus at 8:39 AM on December 8, 2012 [19 favorites]


I think I've come to feel that this MeTa topic should be prohibited. And it's exactly because MetaFilter is a community, and not a drive-by place. When somebody posts a question anonymously, I suspect the last thing they need psychologically, emotionally, etc. is to see their (embarrassing? deeply personal?) question subjected to this particular microsope. The poster already had to justify anonymity to the moderators, who have said elsewhere (correct me if I'm wrong) that roughly one-third of anonymous submissions aren't approved.

It comes off a bit like... "I don't really feel brave enough to ask this openly; is it okay if I do it anonymously?" "Sure!" "HEY! Why the heck would somebody be too scaredy-cat to ask that without hiding?!"

We already have an approval requirement for anonymous questions; moderators have said they take that seriously. And if somebody is really, incurably, killed-the-cat curious about site workings, there is the contact form. We don't need to do these MeTas as a spectacle, and I think they are—as a phenomenon, and totally irrespective of an individual MeTa poster's intentions—unfriendly.
posted by cribcage at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2012 [55 favorites]


Am I the only one who feels that questions like this (questioning the reason for anonymity, not about meeting people), while perfectly understandable, actually increase the amount of anonymous questions?

I suspect that's true, too. I hadn't thought about it until you brought it up, but yes.
posted by gauche at 9:13 AM on December 8, 2012


I do think it's understandable to be curious about something like this, and you can always ask privately via the contact form (bottom right corner of every page).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2012


Long response: Look. it's difficult enough to put questions on AskMeFi as it is. I have no problem with posting, commenting, being verbose anywhere else on MetaFilter (or the wider webbie for the last 20 years, tbh). And I would like to post a specific long-term unresolved problem to AskMeFi, as the hive mind here is astute, intelligent, usually fair and balanced, and respectful. And would have a better chance of coming up with sensible and workable answers than "can't see the wood for the trees" flawed me.

But it's personally difficult for me. Not you, as you don't have to grapple with this specific issue. See the key word there: personally. If I did it, and I've got as far as drafting it and typing it in but not submitting, twice, it would definitely be anonymous. I'm repelled further from doing this knowing that at least one MeFite is checking out AskMeFi posters and posting queries on why they are anonymous or not. Am a bit creeped out and disappointed by this.

Short response: None of your business.
posted by Wordshore at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


We already have an approval requirement for anonymous questions; moderators have said they take that seriously. And if somebody is really, incurably, killed-the-cat curious about site workings, there is the contact form. We don't need to do these MeTas as a spectacle, and I think they are—as a phenomenon, and totally irrespective of an individual MeTa poster's intentions—unfriendly.

Couldn't agree more. Just use the contact form if you're so curious. This MeTa asks a question only mods and the anonymous poster can answer, so no reason to poll the whole community.
posted by sweetkid at 9:20 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would assume it's a manifestation of shyness. Which is nice, but can stop you from doing all the things in life you'd like to.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:34 AM on December 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


There is no mystery. Why is any question anonymous?

a) Because the OP requested it, and
b) the mods were OK with that request.

Does anonymizing cause trouble? Occasionally, especially when the poster leaves something out that's necessary for people who want to answer to know, but most of the time it's irrelevant. It's perfectly OK to not answer anonymous questions, but harping on the fact that they are anonymous on MeTa? What is the point.

Yes, I realize that I am welcome to not comment to MeTa threads that get my goat.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2012


> I think I've come to feel that this MeTa topic should be prohibited.

I agree. It does nobody any good. You could have an automatic scan for "anonymous" in a MeTa post, and if it shows up have a screen that says "If you are asking about why a given AskMe question is anonymous, please use the contact form instead."
posted by languagehat at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I assume that all anonymous posters are Morrissey. Dump the motherfucking buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg already!
posted by drlith at 11:34 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because this isn't a post-once-and-go place, this is a community, with relationships, and people, and personalities, and connections to each other.

Rubbish. The poster didn't want to have a relationship with you on this topic; what makes you feel entitled to it? That the mods are deciding what's a "good" reason for anonymity at all is slightly insulting. AskMe already has guidelines: if it fits them, it no one's concern why a question is anonymous.
posted by spaltavian at 11:40 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"If you are asking about why a given AskMe question is anonymous, please use the contact form instead."

I don't think any such topic should be explicitly forbidden, but I think this is an excellent idea. It doesn't even have to scan the question, it could just appear as a reminder in the bullets or down by the post button.
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on December 8, 2012


It's not like if we get too many anon AskMes we're going to suddenly become a textbook proof of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

In fact, because anon AskMes have to get mod approval before going up, any anon AskMe fuckwadery is always going to pale in comparison to the fuckwadery of those for whom paying their $5 and then either filling out bogus profile info or not filling out the profile at all, is not too steep a barrier against their trolling (mrs holdkris99, plannedchaos).
posted by radwolf76 at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Falconetti: “This is the billionth Meta post about this topic. It is so, so easy to imagine a scenario for any question where someone would want to be anonymous. Why is this so difficult or infuriating for some people (not necessarily the OP, I don't know his or her exact rationale for posting this).”

NotMyselfRightNow: “Because this isn't a post-once-and-go place, this is a community, with relationships, and people, and personalities, and connections to each other. That's why the default is to have a username associated with a question, rather than the alternative of ‘anonymous unless.’ And in communities like this, there will always be questions about the necessity of remaining unknown, and that's okay.”

I think asking questions should be something people feel free to do; and moreover it might even be worth encouraging general questions about what should be private and what shouldn't.

But it just seems like, in specific cases like these, it's really not very communitarian to spend a lot of time wondering loudly why certain people are trying to remain anonymous. Think about the person who asked this question: they're now seeing their question, and their reasons for asking it anonymously, subjected to public scrutiny. That public scrutiny is not against the letter of the rules, but it's kind of against the spirit of offering anonymous asking options. I mean, it's kind of weird to say "you can stay anonymous if you want," and then publicly pick apart the reasons why someone chose to be anonymous.

I don't know if there needs to be a rule against publicly asking why someone is choosing anonymity, but we should recognize that doing so is really not a very friendly thing to do. And if it happened all the time, the system would rapidly break down. What would be the point of asking anything anonymously if you're just going to get called out for it and picked apart and second-guessed and maybe eventually outed?
posted by koeselitz at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why does anyone give a flying fuck about whether a question is anonymous? Yes, this place is a community. But the ways in which that is relevant for askers are not nearly as common or important as the ways in which it is relevant for answerers. If a question about "hey, how should I braise this chicken?" is inexplicably anonymous... SO WHAT? Do you have a burning need to know who needs to know how to braise a chicken? Is there any possible way in which knowing who is asking is going to measurably improve your answer?

Are they depriving you in some way by not letting themselves be known? It just seems so strangely invasive to ask. Let them be!
posted by Jpfed at 11:57 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know. They're not hurting anyone by being anonymous, of course, but it does seem like the AskMes that need the most follow up questions are always anonymous. I understand how this happens, since people who are embarrassed enough to want to be anonymous are also likely to be vague about the details, but it does make those questions a lot harder to answer. I do wish we could agree as a community that it's ok to be vague, and it's ok to be anonymous, but it's best not to be both.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2012


I thought there was a bit of a crackdown on unnecessary anonymity in AskMe? Or was MISSION ACCOMPLISHED declared?

If I were dear leader for life you'd more or less have to be asking something as embarrassing as "What is this thing on my weiner?" or potentially incriminating like "I embezzled from my employer, can anyone recommend a good lawyer!" to be anonymous. "Help me meet people in Denver!" would not qualify.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on December 8, 2012


since people who are embarrassed enough to want to be anonymous are also likely to be vague about the details, but it does make those questions a lot harder to answer.

So, anonymous questions get weaker and/or fewer answers. This might drive posters to consider how badly they need to be anonymous. It seems like "market forces" could actually work in this case, there being so little at stake. I mean, why would you (or anyone, not you specifically, care whether a person self-limits the usefulness of the answers they get? Anyone not that OP is going to need to translate the question to their own situation, so specific details aren't necessary for anyone besides the OP.

Plus, the answer is always "DTMFA," "see a doctor/lawyer/therapist/councilor," "cats/dogs/parrots are weird," "yes, you can eat that," and/or "man, does that situation suck."
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:23 PM on December 8, 2012


I thought there was a bit of a crackdown on unnecessary anonymity in AskMe? Or was MISSION ACCOMPLISHED declared?

Yep, we're still doing that. On the back end we have included a form field that asks "Why is this anonymous?" which both helps us understand why the OP is asking anonymously and also helps the OP think about whether they have a reason for using this feature. So we-as-mods have more information at our disposal than we used to, but the users still don't so this may be a somewhat invisible improvement.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:30 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can think of several good reasons that the poster of that question might want to be anonymous:

- their actual MeFi account is one that's tied to their RL name, and there are people in their life (estranged family, stalker, bill collectors) whom they don't want to be aware of their current place of residence;

- their actual MeFi account is one that's tied to their RL name, and there are people in their life whom they don't want to know about the problems they're having connecting with people (for example, a boss in a networking-dependent industry like real estate); and

- they want to come to the MeFi meetups without having given the impression in advance that they are Johnny No-Mates, thinking that some people might judge them for it and be less likely to connect.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


That the mods are deciding what's a "good" reason for anonymity at all is slightly insulting.

Well, it's decide before or after; part of what the anony queue does is put all of the "is this a good use of Ask Metafilter" processing up front on the posting process, which means we're dealing not only with "this seems like a frivolous use of anonymity" stuff but also the more general "this seems like a bad use of the site" stuff.

In a different universe, anony stuff would be self-service and we'd do more public deleting after the fact, which doesn't remove the need for the process but makes it more of a public-failure-to-use-the-site thing for anonymous askers, which I don't think would improve anyone's mood by comparison.

In an even more different universe, we wouldn't moderate the site and the question would be moot but also there would be the roving gangs and the open firepits and the cannibalism. Also not a big mood-improver.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:26 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


no embarrassing details that I can discern

Think harder.
posted by John Cohen at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Think smarter, not harder.
posted by aubilenon at 3:59 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


In an even more different universe, we wouldn't moderate the site and the question would be moot but also there would be the roving gangs and the open firepits and the cannibalism. Also not a big mood-improver.

Depends on whether you're the cannibaler or the cannibalee.
posted by Justinian at 4:06 PM on December 8, 2012


Apply the Clintons/Stevie Wonder rule.

That Stevie Wonder rule could apply to most areas of life.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:17 PM on December 8, 2012


Hey, it's me, the OP here: I didn't ask because I was upset about the anonymity of the question, or because I think there are too many anonymous questions, or because I thought the question shouldn't be allowed. I also read a lot of "why was this question anonymous" Meta threads.

Because I don't want to assume I know someone's rationale for doing something.

I genuinely want to understand people better, and I couldn't infer the reason for anonymity in the question I indicated. One of the main reasons I've spent as much time reading AskMe as I have is to learn more about what drives people, what people want, what makes them feel strongly about things.

I'm also interested in learning about why people assume motives (correctly or otherwise) for other people's actions, so thanks for that :)
posted by amtho at 4:46 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cortex, you're blurring two different issues. Deciding if a question is a good use of AskMe is not the same as deciding if it's a good use of anoyniminity. No one is talking abou letting chat filter, bad questions, self-linking, etc. through. But there is no need to regulate the use of the anonymous feature.
posted by spaltavian at 5:32 PM on December 8, 2012


"If you are asking about why a given AskMe question is anonymous, please use the contact form instead."

The answer to which, I would trust to be something like "the reasons for allowing an anonymous question are also held in confidence." unless accompanied by a warrant.
posted by bonehead at 5:43 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


But there is no need to regulate the use of the anonymous feature.

What? Yes there is. I am not understanding why you are making this assertion. We have had people abuse it in the past. It's a bit of a drain on mod resources. There's a lack of community cohesion that it causes. We're fine with offering it as a "use this if you need it" option, but we expect it to be used rarely and we try to establish guidelines for when the use of this feature is okay. We only approve about 60-70% of the questions asked as it is. If people feel that's not okay, we can talk about that, but I feel like this is well-trod territory unless there is something else you'd like to discuss about this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2012


>(mrs holdkris99, plannedchaos).

One of these things is not like the other.
posted by fancyoats at 6:49 PM on December 8, 2012


OMG nevermind I had no idea about this.
posted by fancyoats at 6:57 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


In some ways things were better before anonymous questions were possible, but I concede their value in certain situations, and given the track record of our glorious moderators I'm willing to trust that they are deciding to approve anonymity appropriately.

Similarly, there is no good reason why someone shouldn't ask about it here.

Steady as she goes!
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 7:09 PM on December 8, 2012


Is there a step (or steps) along the road to an anon question getting posted that suggests the OP establish a throw-away account? If not, should there be? I imagine the process is already stressful for the OPs and they just might not think about establishing one in the moment, even though it could help greatly.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:40 PM on December 8, 2012


But there is no need to regulate the use of the anonymous feature.

What jessamyn said; this seems to me like saying "there is no need to regulate comments", which isn't practically speaking true if we want the site to be something other than unmoderated wild west territory. People do not always display good judgement or mindfulness of the site guidelines on any number of fronts, appropriate use of the anonymous feature included, which was my point. It does not make sense to me to isolate that from everything else that can be tricky about questions as if it is somehow self-evidently always non-problematic or something.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 PM on December 8, 2012


Maybe the solution is to up the sign up fee to $10 and give every user a sockpuppet account for asking anon questions. The mods could then focus on the other issues mentioned in a previous meta about multiple personalities etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:03 AM on December 9, 2012


amtho: “Because I don't want to assume I know someone's rationale for doing something. I genuinely want to understand people better, and I couldn't infer the reason for anonymity in the question I indicated. One of the main reasons I've spent as much time reading AskMe as I have is to learn more about what drives people, what people want, what makes them feel strongly about things.”

Threads like this almost always go the wrong way. And they could be much worse. They infringe on the spirit of anonymity that the anonymous function is supposed to offer.

More to the point, I think, there is no way that we can explain the specific rationale for anonymity in this case for you. We didn't post the question. And it's highly unlikely that whomever posted the question is going to abrogate their anonymity just to satisfy our curiosity. So there's no real point in posting in Metatalk asking about the rationale behind anonymous Ask questions.

I guess maybe you mean you just want to talk a little about the potential psychology of the situation and maybe have someone shed some light on possible reasons why it might be anonymous. But, as I said above, sitting around public deconstructing this stuff is really unfriendly toward anonymous askers. As others have suggested, maybe next time the contact form would be better.
posted by koeselitz at 1:23 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why people get so worked up about people being allowed to post anon is a huge mystery. Does it hurt you, besides some warped sense of "fairness"? No. Then quit trying to turn pet peeves into policies, busybody-brigade.
posted by absalom at 6:39 AM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Does it hurt you, besides some warped sense of "fairness"?

Other people's access to anonymity does not affect my access to anonymity. I think the way it's handled on the site currently is fine.
posted by arcticseal at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2012


"there is no need to regulate comments", which isn't practically speaking true if we want the site to be something other than unmoderated wild west territory

One has nothing to do with the other; you could allow any question to be anonymous while still regulating for anything else. The only reasons for the current policy given are a hand-wavy "community" argument and your insistence that you would somehow be unable to moderate at all if you didn't require justification for anonymity. I get you're not going to change your stance on this but this line of thinking makes no sense to me.
posted by spaltavian at 7:44 AM on December 9, 2012


We have had people abuse it in the past.

That's a pretty circular argument; you can't abuse something unless you're already saying it's something that needs to be limited.

but we expect it to be used rarely

I get that; you don't seem to get that to me it makes no sense why.
posted by spaltavian at 7:51 AM on December 9, 2012


you don't seem to get that to me it makes no sense why.

I'm not sure if you missed the reasons I outlined above or the fact that many people do seem to think that this makes sense, but I'll outline them a little but more clearly.

1. Resources - Anon questions use mod resources more than non-anon question [posting follow-ups, dealing with drama, dealing with questions like this one] and we aren't staffed to handle a huge uptick in anon questions which we believe is what we would have if we didn't regulate the use of this feature somewhat.
2. Community - I know you feel this is handwavey, but one of the reasons that AskMe works as it does is because people know each other and each other's histories and can use this information to both help each other and themselves. So the big thing about anon questions isn't so much that we don't know who asked them, but that we don't know what other questions that user has asked or answered so each one sort of floats by itself in AskMe. We have a lot of users who are psudonymously anonymous [that is, they have usernames that do not identify them in the real world] but very few users who hop around between usernames so that they don't have a consistent identity on the site. Having a consistent identity on the site is important, so we try to do things that will keep people doing this. The point of Ask MetaFilter originally was that so the users who already knew each other could ask each other questions. There are many places on the internet to ask questions semi-anonymously, people who don't care about the community apsect are more than welcome to go there and ask them.
3. Abuse - We have people who use the anon feature to ask more than a question a week, who will respond to their own anon questions, who use anon questions to harass and stalk other users of the site, who make up anon questions for reasons unknown, and other misuses of this feature. While the feature remains at the general level of maybe 4-8 questions per day, this is manageable. At higher levels, it is not.

For whatever reason, the sorts of questions that people are likely to ask anonymously are often either ones that are themselves somewhat full of drama [and then touch of arguments and flagging and comment deletions and MetaTalk threads]or have no drama in them whatsoever and then seem to get scrutiny like this one does. We may just have to disagree on why and how we run this part of the site the way that we do, but it's definitely something we've thought a considerable amount about.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:12 AM on December 9, 2012


> I genuinely want to understand people better, and I couldn't infer the reason for anonymity in the question I indicated.

And neither can the rest of us. The only person who knows is the asker (and maybe a mod, who's not going to tell you). What did you expect to learn from this? And have any of the arguments advanced for not asking this question over and over and over made any impact on you, or do you still think it was a good idea?
posted by languagehat at 8:42 AM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


And in communities like this, there will always be questions about the necessity of remaining unknown, and that's okay.

No, it's not, really. Basic respect for the other members of the community includes the idea that on occasion there will be an anonymous question in which the specific reason for the question (which is sent to the mods quite clearly) is not obvious to all of us.

So what? Respect that other member instead of calling extra attention to their need to remain anonymous in MeTa. The 2nd option seems more than a little bit rude.
posted by mediareport at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I genuinely want to understand people better, and I couldn't infer the reason for anonymity in the question I indicated.

I think that most of the time when people are all "I totally don't understand why [A PARTICULAR QUESTION] is anonymous", the answer can usually be stated as "Because the person was embarrassed that they had to ask [A PARTICULAR QUESTION]. Asking how to make friends is potentially embarrassing for some people. Is that for sure the reason why they asked? I don't know, but I do know it's a reasonable guess as to their motivation. Next time you're all "WHY IS THIS ANONYMOUS", ask yourself whether the subject matter of the question COULD be embarrassing for someone else.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:53 AM on December 10, 2012


Presumably it was anonymous to avoid censure from d-----b--rankin below for asking what he would consider a stupid question about an obvious and easily solvable problem, instead of using AskMe for its rightful purpose of solving trivial issues with one's MacBook.
posted by jacalata at 3:17 PM on December 10, 2012


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