A gmail account for anonymous askme followups August 22, 2005 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I created a gmail account for anonymous askme followups. The username is anon.metafilter and the password is metafilter. Anymore can post there. Just log in at gmail.google.com and send email from that account TO that account (anon.metafilter@gmail.com).

Since gmail allows tags, you can tag your messages. You can also reply to them (or other users can reply to them) and gmail will automatically keep all the replies together.

Why hasn't someone already done this? Is it a bad idea? (No one will be forced to use it). If it's a bad idea, why is it a bad idea? Of course, it could (perhaps will) get utterly chaotic with people deleting each others posts, etc.

Lets see what happens.
posted by grumblebee to MetaFilter-Related at 12:36 PM (40 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I just logged in and changed the password.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2005

If there is a way to abuse this idea, it will be abused.
posted by dios at 12:46 PM on August 22, 2005

Well, that's that then.
posted by grumblebee at 12:46 PM on August 22, 2005

Okay, but is there some OTHER way to do this?

A wiki? A group blog? We'd need some forum where you any particular person CAN'T just log in and change the password.

I don't think Matt is ever going allow anon responses to anon questions. But the tantalizing anon feature of AskMe won't be really functional without this ability.

Isn't there SOME way to create this off site (without all sorts of legal trouble for the host) since it's never going to be on site?
posted by grumblebee at 12:49 PM on August 22, 2005

My thinking would be to just respond to the question. Your username is anon, enough. I am not named "dios." That is an anonymous username.
posted by dios at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2005

Dios, people always say this. But many of us DON'T have anon usernames. Most of my friends (and some of my co-workers) know who I am on MeFi (several people in my office are members here).
posted by grumblebee at 12:52 PM on August 22, 2005

What I really dislike is this new trend of anon posters leaving email addresses. I totally understand why they do this (and I might do it myself if I ever ask an anon question), but it defeats the purpose of the site. Answers should be available to everyone -- not just the original poster.
posted by grumblebee at 12:54 PM on August 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

A better way is to set up a forum, elsewhere.

The way it would work is that the poster sets up an anonymous account there and posts the question there before it appears on AskMe. That way we know that the poster at the two sites are the same*. Then anon can just post follow ups there, and someone can act as a conduit to AskMe.

*there's an occasional chance that a question won't be approved.
posted by Gyan at 12:54 PM on August 22, 2005

Gyan, I am willing to do this except for fear of legal issues. For instance, if someone posts about an illegal activity, would I be responsible? I wouldn't have time to administrate the forum. I would just like to set up a free-for-all service which would support anon posts here.

Maybe the legal issues are what keeps Matt from implementing it.

Would invisiblog work for this?
posted by grumblebee at 1:00 PM on August 22, 2005

grumblebee : "Gyan, I am willing to do this except for fear of legal issues."

Some administration will be necessary. I don't think you'll have legal liabilities, as long as the 1st amendment covers it. You could just check twice a day for undesirable posts. Also, don't advertise the forum. Just ask Matt to point to it, after the poster has submitted the question. And let 10-12 trusted users know about it, so they can fetch the followups.
posted by Gyan at 1:14 PM on August 22, 2005

The problem is associating a post from another user to the origional question. How do you know if the 'answer' is from the origional poster?

The only way it would work is if the poster encluded a PGP signature, or something, which seems to be a bit over the top.

Otherwise, the poster could link to some website where they will answer follow up questions.

the Gmail account is a bad idea, though. (btw, the password has not been changed)
posted by delmoi at 1:29 PM on August 22, 2005

The problem is associating a post from another user to the origional question. How do you know if the 'answer' is from the origional poster?

I covered this above, but I'll elaborate. So, grumblebee sets up a forum at xyz.com. I post an anonymous question here for approval. After hitting submit, the acknowledgement page has the url and basic instructions for xyz.com. So, I go to xyz.com, register as anon123 and post a thread with the same question before it is approved and appears on the Green. That way, we know the two posters are the same. Then followups by anon123@xyz are copy-pasted by some altruistic Mefites.
posted by Gyan at 1:41 PM on August 22, 2005

I can't do anything now that requires administration. But if enough members are interested, I would definitely consider it in the future -- when things in my life die down a bit. I do think we need some way of dealing with the anon issue.
posted by grumblebee at 1:42 PM on August 22, 2005

Why? Yeah, it'd be awesome to get follow ups and stuff, but really? not a big deal. Go outside.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:45 PM on August 22, 2005

Has Matt ever expressed adding this feature? I would think it would require somewhat complicated coding, or at least something completely different on a coding leve than what's being done now. I think the only way is to wait and see if he has plans to add this.
posted by geoff. at 1:47 PM on August 22, 2005

Geoff, somewhere (I can't find where) he specifically said he WOULDN'T ever add it. I'm talking about anon responses, not followups by the original asker (which Matt IS planning to add).

I assume he's not going to add them because Matt feels he needs to read over every anon post before it goes on the site. And he doesn't have the time (who does?) to read anon responses.
posted by grumblebee at 1:54 PM on August 22, 2005

I set up (this) sock puppet account. I figured that, for five bucks, it was small payment for all the enjoyment I've had out of Mefi over the years. I know that not everyone has much money to spare (I certainly don't), but it was well worth it.
posted by ask me please at 2:02 PM on August 22, 2005

ask me please, that works great for you, but it's silly for everyone to set up a sock puppet. Maybe I have a really helpful answer to your sock-puppet question. But I have no way of posting it.
posted by grumblebee at 2:14 PM on August 22, 2005

I agree, it would get really confusing and obviously would add extra hassle for Matt. For my purposes, though, it was perfect.
posted by ask me please at 2:19 PM on August 22, 2005

Flamingbore wrote: Go outside.

Some people here are interested in discussing this. If you don't want to, why don't you go outside?
posted by grouse at 2:19 PM on August 22, 2005

When you submit an anonymous question, you should be issued a temporary anonymous login that is good only for writing follow-ups to that question. When the question is closed, the login is no longer worth anything because it only works for that question.
posted by pracowity at 2:31 PM on August 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

The email address idea is fine, as long as the person uses one they've made just for this instance. Even if not, it's their own anonymity they're compromising. So I fail to see the big deal.
posted by angry modem at 3:32 PM on August 22, 2005

Let me reiterate: If it's not broken, don't fix it.
posted by angry modem at 3:33 PM on August 22, 2005

well, people could email matt their followups and he could post them, just like anonymous posts are created. right?
posted by boo_radley at 4:30 PM on August 22, 2005

I'm probably misunderstanding something, but wouldn't/couldn't it lead to someone (e.g. me) reading messages addressed to someone else (e.g. you)?
posted by Tuwa at 4:43 PM on August 22, 2005

Why not just use MetaChat as an alternative location for posting anonymous questions? It's still free, right? Do you need an e-mail address to create a user? Seems like an obvious place to host it, anyway. People over there hang out to chat. You'd think that chatty people are the most eager and willing to give out free advice anyway...
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:53 PM on August 22, 2005

Is it possible to create an account for which the password is unchangeable? It doesn't have to be "anonymous", but it could be something close. So anyone could log on as anon, but if they tried to change the password, it wouldn't work (or would be reset at midnight, like not unlike a pumpkin carriage).

Hey, that's a great idea! User = pumpkin, password = carriage. Power to the masses!
posted by Eideteker at 6:57 PM on August 22, 2005

Now, there's an idea - an account under which anyone could post anonymously. My memory isn't what it used to be, but wasn't there once an account like that? Can't quite place the name, but it started with d. If I remember correctly, that worked out quite well. As I said, my memory is not what it once was, so I could be wrong.
posted by dg at 8:16 PM on August 22, 2005

Eideteker, we can change our passwords?
posted by odinsdream at 8:42 PM on August 22, 2005

Has Matt ever expressed adding this feature?

Yes, though it will take someone more industrious than me to find a link to the comment.

...or did I dream it?
posted by scarabic at 11:43 PM on August 22, 2005

I think the problem with anon replies is how do you know it's the same anon person replying?
posted by sdrawkcab at 7:27 AM on August 23, 2005

You don't, but is this really such a problem? Information is information.

Say I post an anon question as follows: what are some good porn sites?

Someone else, claiming to be me, adds "I meant GAY porn sites."

I come back on and say, "That wasn't me. I'm straight. I'm looking for straight porn sites."

The worst thing that happens here is that we get answers about both straight and gay porn sites.

Normally, I wouldn't want someone to pretend to be me -- grumblebee -- because they might misrepresent me. But it's not really the end of the world if someone misrepresents "anonymous," since no one knows who that is anyway.
posted by grumblebee at 8:36 AM on August 23, 2005

No, the worst thing that happens is the thread gets seriously polluted, there's no way for Matt or Jessamyn to figure out what's signal and what's noise, and the whole thread gets deleted. Granted, it seems to me that the vast majority of MeFites (even the vitriolic or trollish ones) at least have Good Intentions, and so this kind of shitting-on-the-green would be probably fairly minimized.

But the danger is there, and this is a messy solution to a minor problem.
posted by Plutor at 8:44 AM on August 23, 2005

Others have covered this before, I think I've said it, too.. Here's the easiest solution to implement:

When someone submits an anonymous question, in the process of approving it, automatically create a username of the form "anonymous-QuestionID"

So, if someone just now asked an anonymous question, they would receive an e-mail like this:

Hey, I just approved your anonymous question. The username anonymous-23000 has been automatically created with the password xlaya8. If you want to follow up and add responses to your question, please use this name and password.

That's it. That's the simplest way. Don't bother disabling the usernames or building special rules that restrict the name from commenting elsewhere on the site. It won't ultimately matter. Worst case is "Hey look, that guy who asked an anonymous question about his genital warts also commented in the thread about Karl Rove."

Extra features would include disabling the accounts automatically after the question dies, or allowing only comments on that single question, but these are not absolutely necessary.
posted by odinsdream at 9:38 AM on August 23, 2005

odinsdream, that only solves one of the two problems. And I don't think it's the bigger of the two -- which is that I can't post an anon response to your anon question.

So if you ask what to do about genital warts, you're not going to get my useful answer, because I don't want to publicly admit that I once had them.

Sure, I can email you, but then only YOU get the benefit. Which sort of defeats the purpose of the site.

Matt has stated that his is NOT going to allow anon replies. So I think there are two ways of dealing with this. One would be to say, "Oh well, I guess we'll just have to live without that" and the other would be to try to implement the feature without Matt (i.e. in an external site that can be mentioned in the AskMe thread).

I think the second option is worth considering, because it would make the anon-question threads SO much more useful.

I will state right now that there are certain aspects of my life that I want/need to be kept private. A few times I could have been really helpful to someone here if I had been willing to discuss these things, but I didn't because I would have outed myself by doing so. That's too bad.
posted by grumblebee at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2005

posted by blue_beetle at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2005

blue_beetle, that's just an email service, right? How can ALL of us read stuff posted to it?
posted by grumblebee at 12:14 PM on August 23, 2005

Once you're considering incorporating other sites as an extension of AskMe, why not just use another site period? Set up an anonymous AskMe clone, or just use a free forum hosting site (I know of several), and announce it on MetaTalk/MetaChat etc.

If Matt doesn't want anonymous replies on AskMe, then end of story. What's the point of working around him?
posted by Edible Energy at 2:29 PM on August 23, 2005

That won't work, because another site wouldn't come with the AskMe community.

Personally, I wouldn't check some other site every day. So I'd miss most questions posted there. My guess is most other people here wouldn't check the other site much either.

But if there were specific links to another site posted WITHIN an askme thread, I would go there if I was interested in the question.
posted by grumblebee at 2:59 PM on August 23, 2005

So if you ask what to do about genital warts, you're not going to get my useful answer, because I don't want to publicly admit that I once had them.

Sure, I can email you, but then only YOU get the benefit. Which sort of defeats the purpose of the site.

Which is another situation in which it would help to let the poster of an anonymous question to also be able to post anonymous comments within that thread. The poster could pass emailed information on anonymously to the rest of the users through comments.
posted by pracowity at 1:11 AM on August 24, 2005

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