AnonAskMe often poses embarrassing personal questions October 24, 2005 10:59 PM   Subscribe

AnonAskMe often poses embarrassing personal questions. Sometimes I withhold my opinion because, if you're too mousy to attach your name to your question, I don't think you deserve people's signed replies. Does anyone else agree?
posted by cribcage to Etiquette/Policy at 10:59 PM (49 comments total)

This isn't a callout. No single thread precipitated my question; I've seen lots. And I have no objection to AnonAskMe. But sometimes it's used solely because a question might make someone blush; and when the same is true of any answers, I think it's lame to hide behind anonymity when you know respondents can't do the same.

I'm just wondering whether anyone agrees, and to what degree this might affect the disposition of relevant threads.
posted by cribcage at 10:59 PM on October 24, 2005


Sock puppets, get yer $5 sock puppets here.
posted by nicwolff at 11:05 PM on October 24, 2005


I, for one, think it is fine to have anon questions with "I know you!" answers. You are free not to answer, so no one should be embarrassed. You are also free to ask and without hiding who you are. Seems like a nice compromise.

I do think that there should be a way for anonymous posters to add follow-up information, but I can also live without it.

And, there are lots of reasons to remain anonymous - blushing not always the most important.
posted by qwip at 11:05 PM on October 24, 2005


A lot of them are relationship-based, and I'm hesitant to implicate any past or present girlfriends in my answer.

What's the harm in anonymity? Matt knows who we are, and the threads are being quite well moderated.
posted by Eideteker at 11:06 PM on October 24, 2005


I hereby volunteer to post anonymous answers on your behalf. My email is in my profile. I'm trustworthy.
posted by nthdegx at 11:51 PM on October 24, 2005


I appreciate the offer, but I'd never get the email right. My eyes can't parse all those consonants. I keep reading your handle as "mxyzptlk." ;-)
posted by cribcage at 12:03 AM on October 25, 2005


Sometimes there's a lot more to it than "might make someone blush". People with anxiety issues or similar problems might have a far more difficult time publicly posing a question that other people might merely find mildly embarrassing. I think it's perfectly fine for someone to post Anon if they feel the need.

If you're uncomfortable posting a reply for similar reason, then by all means, don't. But not posting a reply that could be useful as some means of punishing a user for what you feel is an inappropriate use of it just seems kind of like being a dick to me.

However, everyone is totally free to not respond for whatever reason, as it should be. No one forces anyone to respond, so perhaps other people who aren't so easily made rosy in the cheeks will be able to come forward and help with the more touchy subjects.
posted by Stunt at 12:07 AM on October 25, 2005


Hmm. Re-reading my response it seems to me that I could have been much clearer. Or had that be easier to read, flow better, that sort of thing. Meh. Brain no worky when tired.

Overall idea comes through at least. I think.
posted by Stunt at 12:12 AM on October 25, 2005


Sometimes I withhold my opinion because, if you're too mousy to attach your name to your question, I don't think you deserve people's signed replies. Does anyone else agree?

Not only do I disagree, I find you lacking in empathy.
posted by kenko at 12:20 AM on October 25, 2005


If I cannot bear to associate my name with what I have to say on the subject, then no, I don't post. But if I can offer something useful without embarassing myself, then yes, I will. It depends on the question. Those who want to participate do. Those who don't, don't. What is there, really, to discuss, here?

Though I have to say, the whole concept of whether anonymous questioners "deserve" answers never enters my head, and I find it an incredibly petty approach. How does revealing who you are earn you better treatment?

Be helpful. That is all.
posted by scarabic at 12:31 AM on October 25, 2005


While i don't agree with cribcage's reason for wanting anonymous answers, the question does make me wonder if not having anonymous answers has caused others not to reply for more noble or compassionate reasons. You know, maybe others would be too embarrassed to give what otherwise would have been excellent advice.

Is there any possibility of having anonymous answers.

I ask because I am a man who can fuck his own tits, but i was too embarrassed to reveal this in the tittyfucking thread.
posted by shmegegge at 12:54 AM on October 25, 2005


Hasn't Jessamyn offered more than once to post answers on behalf of others? You can send an e-mail to her from an anonymous account if you really want, which would make you even more anonymous than the poster.

Anyway, I don't think it shows any lack of character or chutzpah to post a sensitive question anonymously.
posted by cali at 1:05 AM on October 25, 2005


i guess i should have given it more thought before posting in that hemorrhoid thread....
posted by troybob at 2:37 AM on October 25, 2005


It's not clear to me how much worth can be found in anonymous answers. The Gandhian in me thinks people need to stand behind their values/statements and it's because they're putting their name/handle on it that it becomes worthwhile. AskMe can do something wonderful that usenet and other non-authenticated systems can't.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:56 AM on October 25, 2005


Matt's todo list for next week is looking long, and it seems like a lot of them have to do with making AnonAskMe more robust.
posted by Plutor at 4:36 AM on October 25, 2005


No.
posted by tr33hggr at 4:40 AM on October 25, 2005


No, I don't agree that anonymous questions are undeserving of answers.

People have different thresholds concerning the amount of personal information they want to make available to the world. What I find mundane another person might regard as terribly embarassing. Both the posters and people answering are free to find this line for themselves.

Anyway, AskMeFi isn't just about answering a specific question for a specific user, it is also about building an archive of knowledge. I can't begin to count the times I've found answers to questions I didn't even know I had just browsing the site. While you may not regard an anonymous poster as worthy of an answer what about the thousands of other potential readers who might benefit from an answer?
posted by cedar at 5:12 AM on October 25, 2005


I find the idea that anonymous questions are somehow less deserving rather cold and cruel. I occasionally don't answer them because I don't have an equally anonymous answering option and I don't want to embarass myself publicly anymore than the asker does, but that's about it.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:33 AM on October 25, 2005


no, cribcage, I don't agree. Like others are saying: if I've got an answer, I don't care whether the questioner is anonymous. If I've got an answer that I'm too embarrassed to provide (so far a hypothetical being), I still don't care whether the questioner is anonymous.
posted by cortex at 6:16 AM on October 25, 2005


No. I do not agree. I don't think it's necessarily my business to know who's asking what (next up would be to find out why, and by that point I'm treading dangerously close to being a busybody).
posted by Tuwa at 6:22 AM on October 25, 2005


the whole concept of whether anonymous questioners "deserve" answers never enters my head, and I find it an incredibly petty approach.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:22 AM on October 25, 2005


Ah, by the light of day, it occurs to me that my comment was ambiguous. I was endorsing anonymous replies being enabled for anonymous comments. Perhaps a checkbox next to the comment box that says "Reply to this question anonymously." Each response would get its own number, anon-1, anon-2, with the original asker being designated anon-0.
posted by Eideteker at 6:36 AM on October 25, 2005


I don't agree either, but if your choice is to not provide an answer because you have a problem with someone posting anonymously, that's perfectly fine by me. Just as nobody should feel coerced to give their names, nobody should feel coerced to give an answer. For all I know, there are 1,000 users who feel the same, and there have been no problems due to them, as we don't know of their existence because they don't post in the thread.

Now, people who do post in the thread to complain about it being anonymous, that's a different thing, and something that I don't feel neutrally about.
posted by Bugbread at 6:40 AM on October 25, 2005


I still think we should refrain from anonymous answers. I believe strongly that those who need information have a right to anonymity and I am glad that it's an option. Yet I feel that removing your name from your advice makes it fairly worthless. I mean, there's a reason we don't get posts along the lines of "format your c drive lol suxors."
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:51 AM on October 25, 2005


"AnonAskMe often poses embarrassing personal questions. Sometimes I withhold my opinion because, if you're too mousy to attach your name to your question, I don't think you deserve people's signed replies. Does anyone else agree?"

I feel the need to quote your entire question because, frankly, I'm so baffled and even put-off by it that I just have to read it again and again. It just doesn't make sense.

It doesn't make sense to equate the positions of the asker of an embarassing question and the answerer of an embarassing question. But you're also just being mean-spirited, or something.

Hell, I doubt there's many other mefites that are as demonstrably, and here, open and unashamed about anything and everything as I am. Sometimes to my regret. I am as much a fan of accountability and openness as anyone. But, hey, have a heart. There's all sorts of questions that people less socially adventurous than people like me and (assuming you're not a hypocrite) you find excruciating to ask without being anonymous. Jeez.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:01 AM on October 25, 2005


Hell, I doubt there's many other mefites that are as demonstrably, and here, open and unashamed about anything and everything as I am. Sometimes to my regret.

Yours and everyone else's!

I kid because I love. I totally agree, you wordy unabashed goon, you.
posted by cortex at 8:05 AM on October 25, 2005


So your problem is that people ask questions anonymously and people known publicly have to answer them? You mean, like every advice column in the world?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:11 AM on October 25, 2005


If I agreed with cribcage, I would now be too embarrassed to say so.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:34 AM on October 25, 2005


I'll post your agreement for you so that it would be anonymous.
posted by OmieWise at 10:08 AM on October 25, 2005


But, to answer the question, no, I don't have that reaction to anon questions. Sometimes they are frustrating for other reasons, occasionally I have not answered for anon reasons of my own, but I treat them as I treat every other askme question.

This reminds me of something that sometimes comes up at the STD clinic where I work. Nurses see patients who are obviously lying about their sexual practices, usually men who claim not to be engaging in sex with other men. Despite the fact that knowing what specific sex act lead to a given disease does not change the treatment or the safer-sex counseling offered at all, these nurses insist that it's their right to know how these men got sick. I understand that people don't like to be lied to, but these particular nurses don't have the empathy to understand why being cagey might be a necessary survival skill.
posted by OmieWise at 10:13 AM on October 25, 2005


Hasn't Jessamyn offered more than once to post answers on behalf of others?

Yes! And here I am doing it again. I don't know who posts the AnonyMe questions, again for what it's worth, and I'll happily re-post anyone's answer if you email or IM it to me.
posted by jessamyn at 10:36 AM on October 25, 2005


I don't share cribbage's issue with anon questions and public answers but I have on several occassions thought that perhaps the questioner's unwillingness to step up and ask as themselves was the core of the problem they were asking about.

That said, I firmly believe that if you have an issue with the question, just don't answer. The plethora of jerks who pipe up about a question being unethical, sleazy, lazy, blah blah blah are tiresome and should STFU. You have the right to decide if they deserve an answer FROM YOU and nothing more, unless your messages are signed matthowie.
posted by phearlez at 10:39 AM on October 25, 2005


I agree with cribcage. I find anon questions rather rude. You don't attach your name to a question but you think everyone else is fine with answering. Honestly, if you don't have the balls to put your name on it you don't deserve an answer.
posted by puke & cry at 11:53 AM on October 25, 2005


...

i know it's not a constructive thing to say, but, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by cortex at 12:03 PM on October 25, 2005


if you don't have the balls to put your name on it you don't deserve an answer.

Okay great bro don't answer then
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:04 PM on October 25, 2005


puke & cry : "You don't attach your name to a question but you think everyone else is fine with answering."

Er...no, you don't attach your name to a question, and you think that everyone who isn't fine with answering isn't fine with answering, and everyone that is fine with answering is fine with answering.
posted by Bugbread at 12:07 PM on October 25, 2005


I have no idea where this proprietory idea about "deserving" any answer you give comes from. AskMe is as helpful as you make it; if you don't want to be helpful that's fine, but it has nothing to do with anything the questioner owes to you in order to get an answer.
posted by purtek at 12:08 PM on October 25, 2005


I agree with cribcage. I find anon questions rather rude. You don't attach your name to a question but you think everyone else is fine with answering. Honestly, if you don't have the balls to put your name on it you don't deserve an answer.

Why don't you have your real name on your userpage?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:18 PM on October 25, 2005


Oh, fuck everyone who's got their panties in some sort of "don't deserve an answer" wad. I've asked a few questions anonymously for a couple of reasons -- first, because I know a couple of people in the real world who post here (aside from folks I've become friends with at meetups, etc.), and I don't particularly feel like having them know when I've got issues with a friend/family member/whomever/whatever (not to mention potentially sharing my question or concerns with the friends/family members they also happen to know).

Second, there are times where I'm seeking answers/feedback that I believe will be more honest if fellow MeFites don't realize it's me doing the asking -- that is, they can give answers without regard to my gender or the various bits of my biography, personality, etc. they've gleaned from my posts. I posted an AnonAskMe question relatively recently that served this purpose very well -- I got very frank responses that I'm honestly not sure I would have gotten otherwise.

So -- for me, at least -- it's got much less to do with embarrassment than with what I see as the real-world benefits of discretion. I mean, I've posted about my preferences for oral sex techniques, for god's sake -- I'm not exactly inclined to shrink away from sharing personal details here. I am inclined to a very slight streak of pettiness, however, so I will make note of those of you here who think that we anonymous questioners don't "deserve" an answer, so that I can be sure to ignore your questions in the future.
posted by scody at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2005


If you don't find a question, anonymous or otherwise, worthy of answeration, don't answerize it. If enough people feel this way, anonymous questions will become useless and people will stop asking them. In other words, the market will take care of it.

On the other hand, people are answering anonymous questions, so that means people feel there is some benefit in doing so.
posted by kindall at 1:12 PM on October 25, 2005


Please, PLEASE, will more people post AskMe's anonymously.

Your problems are entertaining. But I don't want to remember your STD scares and gastrointestinal problems when I read your comments about the arms race or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the blue. Think of it as a community service.
posted by Marnie at 1:50 PM on October 25, 2005


Do I agree? No. I can think of a number of reasons why a person might wish to remain anonymous for certain types of questions. This is why I will occasionally answer those questions. I wouldn't do it myself, mind. I don't care who knows about my double incontinence and chronic impotence. No wait... I mean this guy I know, friend of mine...
posted by Decani at 3:35 PM on October 25, 2005


allen.spaulding writes "I still think we should refrain from anonymous answers. I believe strongly that those who need information have a right to anonymity and I am glad that it's an option. Yet I feel that removing your name from your advice makes it fairly worthless. I mean, there's a reason we don't get posts along the lines of 'format your c drive lol suxors.'"

That is why we have moderation. Please read all my comments! Sorry for the confusion.
posted by Eideteker at 6:11 PM on October 25, 2005


if you're too mousy to attach your name to your question

um... define "name." or does it say "cribcage" on your birth certificate?
posted by poweredbybeard at 6:48 PM on October 25, 2005


There have been a few questions that I didn't answer because I couldn't do so anonymously. But it never even occurred to me that this was anything more than my own inhibitions/embarrassment at work. The idea that the petitioner didn't deserve an answer, for whatever reason, never even crossed my mind.

To be honest, on those occasions I was glad that at least a few MeFites were willing to stand up and be counted as they answered the question. I see the anon-question, named-answer dynamic to be a benefit of AskMe. It is a subtle display that no matter how embarrassing/troubling a problem seems to be, there are people who have experienced it and aren't ashamed of it. This is, I think, a big deal. Seeing that others can admit to a having a problem and talk about it openly, that the asker is a member of a community, is often the first step to fixing the problem. Allowing anon-answers would destroy the sense of finding a community of like-troubled souls and reinforce the feeling that the asker has a problem that they should cover-up (and feel guilty about) instead of helping them solve the problem.
posted by oddman at 6:53 PM on October 25, 2005


I don't think anonymous answers are wise. And to repeat, I do think AnonAskMe is good.

Only one person above agreed with me. Many, many people disagreed. That's cool. I also expected the rampant self-righteousness and the "So don't answer!" posts, both of which predictably miss the point. But quite a few replies above seem incapable of distinguishing between two things:

1.) Using AnonAskMe to pose moral/ethical quandaries. Examples might include infidelity, whistle-blowing, family disputes, academic problems, etc.

2.) Using AnonAskMe to pose questions solely because they might be embarrassing. Examples might include sexual practices, personal hygiene, bad habits, etc.

There's a world of difference between those two. The latter is saying, "I'm too embarrassed to talk about my personal hygiene, but I want replies from people who are willing to talk about theirs." I wouldn't ask people to share their stories if I weren't willing to share my own. I think it's a simple question of respect, and I wanted to know whether anyone agreed. Beyond my own curiosity, I thought that if others did agree, it might be worth discussing how that dynamic affects those threads -- in other words, whether embarrassing questions were more likely to elicit worthwhile replies if attached to a name.

The consensus is clearly, "No." Thanks for answering.
posted by cribcage at 7:23 PM on October 25, 2005


No! I've never felt that mousy people were undeserving of help.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:24 PM on October 25, 2005


Er, apparently agreeing with everyone, as you summarized just above. Right then. Carry on.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:25 PM on October 25, 2005


cribcage : "The latter is saying, 'I'm too embarrassed to talk about my personal hygiene, but I want replies from people who are willing to talk about theirs.'"

I guess the reason we disagree, then, is that I don't see anything wrong in this (if by "want" you mean "would like" as opposed to "expect"). Different people have different thresholds of embarassment. I see that all the time in AskMe, even in non-anon posts. People post personal stuff that I would never post. If a questioner has a low embarassment threshold, but is aware that some people have a high embarassment threshold, the anon posting style seems a win-win situation: the poster gets to ask their question without embarassment, and the answerer (not being easily embarassed) gets to choose whether or not they want to answer.

The only suck situation now, and jessamyn's offered to help, is that the "Public - Public" choice is covered, the "Anon - Public" choice is covered, but the "Public - Anon" choice (for someone with a high embarassment threshold asking a question that a person with a low embarassment threshold would like to ask but can't without embarassment) and the "Anon - Anon" choice (for questions that are both embarassing to ask and embarassing to answer) are not covered.

(Note: I used "embarassment" as shorthand above. You can substitute "situations where one party would get in trouble for their post" (for issues like company whistleblowing, being-gay-in-the-military, etc. etc.))

Now, when people start expecting or demanding answers, I totally agree.
posted by Bugbread at 8:29 PM on October 25, 2005


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