Pony Request: Email Notifications for Anon Questions? July 10, 2015 5:28 PM   Subscribe

When I submit an anonymous AskMe question, it would be great to have some way to track it. I've had situations where I've thought a question was removed from the queue because I missed it on the front page of the Green, or where I have gone back and tried to find a past anon question of mine and not had an easy way to locate it. An email notification when it gets posted would help me solve these problems. Is there any reason I haven't thought of why this wouldn't work, or would be a bad idea?
posted by capricorn to Feature Requests at 5:28 PM (20 comments total)

The way the anonymous question function works now, this isn't possible. We dissociate questions from user info the moment they enter the queue, so there's no way (within the Mefi database*) to attach your contact info to your question.

Right now, it works like this:
You submit your question, it goes in the queue, it gets reviewed and either approved/deleted within 48 hours.

You can then write to the mods at the contact form (bottom right corner of every page) and check on the status of your question. You'll need to give us a description of what it's about ("that question about a job offer in Saskatoon") since we can't tell whose question is whose.

If the question has been deleted, we'll be able to tell you why and whether there's any way to re-write it to make it okay. It's often possible to re-work an anon, and we're happy to help people do that if they want to try. These conversations, either explaining why a question won't work at all, or working with the poster to revise it, are some of the more time-intensive ones we have. It's something we're happy to do for people who want that, but it's also one of those things where we don't necessarily want to make it automatic to open a conversation about every deleted anon.

If you don't want to contact us about your question, you can also check the Anonymous user account's activity to see what's been posted recently. Or, another way to track it would be to give your question a tag that you can then check -- like tagging it "joboffer" or "saskatoon" and then in a couple of days, checking the tag page ask.metafilter.com/tags/joboffer or the tag page ask.metafilter.com/tags/saskatoon.

*Caveat: There is a workaround way that we can associate user accounts to anon questions, but it involves manually correlating info in the database with info held outside the database. It's something we never do except in emergencies, and wouldn't want to do just for notifications. A bit more info in the FAQ entry on anonymous questions.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:31 PM on July 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


this is why people make sockpuppets and only use them in askme.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:32 PM on July 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, having a privacy sock that you use for AskMes is also a good approach. That lets you make followup comments in your thread, too.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:34 PM on July 10, 2015


you can also check the Anonymous user account's activity to see what's been posted recently

Huh. I did not know this was a thing. That's handy.

(To streamline the search it's a pity there aren't a few anonymous accounts to choose from when posting. I'm thinking AnonymousSexytimes and AnonymousPoop to start with)
posted by billiebee at 5:40 PM on July 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I get the desire for this, but it would definitely be a dilution of anonymity. And I think the site's long-standing prioritization of anonymity is the right call.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:16 PM on July 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I once asked an anonymous question and I wanted to keep tabs on it, so I favorited an answer as a bookmark.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:18 PM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I once asked an anonymous question and I wanted to keep tabs on it, so I favorited an answer as a bookmark.

Now there's a fancy little clicky place next to the [add as a favorite] one that says [add to Recent Activity] so it shows up like any old normal thread.

(p.s. This is one of my favorite new features; thank you, pb!)
posted by phunniemee at 7:40 PM on July 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Fundamentally, the more that a system can associate your data with your question, the less anonymous it is. Having the information to track you in order to serve you the question is having the information to track you. AskMe isn't maximally anonymous to the extent that someone who was, say, an activist under a repressive government could feel safe using it (even including the U.S. government), but connecting your account would be a step away from the anonymity you do have.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 AM on July 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will buy you a sock puppet if you'd like. Ditto others with personally painful questions to ask, hit me up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:40 AM on July 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, having a privacy sock that you use for AskMes is also a good approach. That lets you make followup comments in your thread, too.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:34 AM on July 11
[+] [!]


A mitten isn't a sock, you are fooling no one!
posted by Literaryhero at 6:24 AM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


All questions allow you to add tags when you create them. Why not use a unique or obscure tag for your post to make it easier to find? Your tag doesn't have to identify you in any way. It just has to be obscure enough that a search for it will only retrieve a few results that include your question. Tags exist to help people find posts and questions, including the author. I wouldn't use the same tag for all of your anon questions, though. That would be dead giveaway to readers that they are all by the same person.

It's not a perfect solution, but it would help you find your posts while preserving your anonymity.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:46 AM on July 11, 2015


repeated for emphasis:

Now there's a fancy little clicky place next to the [add as a favorite] one that says [add to Recent Activity] so it shows up like any old normal thread.
posted by philip-random at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2015


Wow, I didn't know that even staff was shielded from the anon submission uid. In other forums I've seen it was a given that staff would know who made the request. This place impresses me more the more I learn about it. Kudos.
posted by Karaage at 1:40 PM on July 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't use the same tag for all of your anon questions, though. That would be dead giveaway to readers that they are all by the same person.

A unique tag just for you
posted by flabdablet at 5:53 AM on July 12, 2015


I really like the unique tag idea, since adding a thread to recent activity makes it potentially viewable by others who use your web browser, and in any case it helps *find* the thread when it might be posted anytime over a 72 hour period.

Is that cool with the mods? That is: anon threads with hexadecimal tags?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:03 AM on July 12, 2015


A stray oddball tag that isn't otherwise causing any problems is kinda shruggo as far as I'm concerned. If someone wants to experiment with that for their anonymous submission, they're welcome to do so. I'm not certain it's any more use than just searching for a couple keywords in the post text itself—either way, the thing will show up if it's posted, won't if its not—but I don't see any obvious harm.

That said, if the question moves to be one of explicitly generating/assigning those on the server side, I'm less hot on that because it's another potential vector for compromising the chain of anonymity.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:52 AM on July 12, 2015


I tag all my anon posts with my username, it's so helpful!
posted by pibeandres at 9:32 AM on July 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


That said, if the question moves to be one of explicitly generating/assigning those on the server side, I'm less hot on that because it's another potential vector for compromising the chain of anonymity.

No, I don't think that's necessary.

I just realized that I'll have to forgo this particular tagging process myself, though, unless it really catches on; since I've spoke up for it, there'll be almost natural tendency to attribute anonymous questions using hexadecimal tags to me and the few other readers of this thread. Let's hope the first few are innocuous....
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:46 AM on July 12, 2015


I tag all my anon questions with the unique string "pibeandres", so I find it very easy to find my questions about my bizarre sexual fetish for unique string. God I love string! So deliciously stringy. Not like yarn or wool, which are a real turn-off for me. No, give me a sexy piece of unique string any day, and I'm happy. But don't tell anyone, they might think I'm "weird" or something.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:52 PM on July 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I tag all my anon questions with the unique string "quidnunc-kid-string-pervert". No reason why, really.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:50 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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