MetaMail to anonymous users? October 30, 2007 1:38 PM   Subscribe

MetaMail question: Would it be possible to allow users to MetaMail posters of anonymous AskMe questions without revealing the identity of the poster (and possibly the sender)?

This would allow people to provide askers with good responses if they feel like the information is too sensitive, personal, or identifying to post directly in the thread. I've seen plenty of courageous people on AskMe who were willing to divulge details of their lives/experiences that the anonymous asker declined to associate with their user name- how many more people out there that have relevant, helpful information but are not willing to post it on a public site?

I know that we can e-mail an admin and ask them to forward a response to the asker, but this would be a way to facilitate that function without the 3rd party.

If this has been discussed, suggested, or declined, feel free to close the thread (I don't keep up on MeTa as much as I do other areas of the site). If not, happy discussion!
posted by baphomet to Feature Requests at 1:38 PM (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Would it be possible to allow users to MetaMail posters of anonymous AskMe questions without revealing the identity of the poster (and possibly the sender)?

No, not at the moment. Right now I have no connection whatsoever in the database structure of who asked what, they are truly completely anonymous in the db itself. I'd have to redesign it to track users and I was hesitant to do that at first in case there was ever any sort of db exploit or accidental code problem that would reveal who asked what. Maybe it was too paranoid, maybe not.

I think the problem is that senders and receivers would have to be revealed -- you might be able to say something to anonymous someday but they'd have to reveal themselves to say anything back.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:44 PM on October 30, 2007

Also, one advantage of the current admin-as-proxy process is the transparency in that disclosure; it's a pretty huge disincentive towards griefers. While the spectre of prankster anonymous answerers/mefimailers isn't so frightning that it'd rule out the idea, it is something we'd have to consider how to deal with, on top of the technical side that Matt addressed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:46 PM on October 30, 2007

This is another place where having a sock puppet account is helpful (another being to post the occasional question you don't want tied to your main account)- use your sock to send stuff like this.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:48 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

Pretty much anyone who wants to be contacted knows to use a throwaway address, anyways.

In your answer, you can always ask them to email or metamail YOU.
posted by hermitosis at 1:49 PM on October 30, 2007

That's a good point cortex. I did consider that e-mailing an admin with that info and trusting them with it means that you're pretty serious about it being valid information, and this suggestion would remove that check.

Maybe it was too paranoid, maybe not.

Yeah, I didn't realize that the db was coded that way, but given that information I personally gravitate more towards "maybe not".
posted by baphomet at 1:50 PM on October 30, 2007

I've asked them to e-mail me, which has worked pretty well.
posted by desjardins at 1:52 PM on October 30, 2007

Hang on, it must be possible to have the best of both worlds.

Suggestions, in no particular order:
1) Approved anonymous questions generate a throwaway, expires-with-the-question mefimail-only account, anonymous_thread# and a shared secret. Anyone with the secret can use the anonymous mail, etc.

2) Give a "message this asker" button for logged in users, it actually goes to an admin-only mailbox, simplifies the current system.

3) Same as #2, except it goes to a read-only mailbox that can be opened by giving people a password/shared secret.

Either way, there's a cutout (shared secret or mods) between the anons. I favor the non-mod involved ones, simply because it's one slip of the Ctrl+V away from ruining someone's day.
posted by Skorgu at 1:53 PM on October 30, 2007

Question that is somewhat related;

Matt, can you or any of the other mods read any of the mail we send via MetaMail, or any of the mail in any given users inbox?

Not that I'm saying you would, but can you?
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:57 PM on October 30, 2007

Insofar as it's stored in the db, we could in theory retrieve it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:11 PM on October 30, 2007

Let's all talk about Matt via MeFiMail and see if he notices.
posted by desjardins at 5:11 PM on October 30, 2007

Oh, and did you hear that thing about cortex?
posted by desjardins at 5:12 PM on October 30, 2007

Hear it? I saw the whole sorry mess unfold before my own eyes. The therapy will keep me poor for years.
posted by dg at 6:03 PM on October 30, 2007

And I can retire on the movie rights and residuals! But I'd trade it all to have my liver, left index finger, and dignity back.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:06 PM on October 30, 2007

Not gonna happen c, ever try to reason with a camel? They aren't especially reasonable. But if you want to try to get your dignity back, I'm sure they'd love to hear about it.
posted by baphomet at 9:10 PM on October 30, 2007

I had an unscrupulous moderator on another forum search the database for keywords to pull up all my private messages on their site.

If you don't own the box the information is on, someone else can look at it. Now, whether or not anyone cares enough to look at it is another question.

I think we're safe here. I'm banking on it, or otherwise all that Ron Paul fanfic in my MeFiMail folder is not a secret!
posted by winna at 10:19 AM on October 31, 2007

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