I have this rash... January 6, 2010 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Anonymous pony? One time I asked a question about squicky things, and I asked it in a way that wasn't very useful to the community. Not having it show up, I contacted Jess and she gave me some advice on how to improve it. What if failed anonymous questions were posted and immediately deleted and looked like regular deleted ones with reasons for deletion. This will only work for those with the Firefox script, but at least the asker gets an opportunity to remain anonymous, and other users acquire a sense of what's not going to work.
posted by b33j to Feature Requests at 2:06 PM (31 comments total)

Um... aren't a lot of failed ask.metafilter questions failed because they're not as anonymous as the asker intends them to be?

Also, the utility of this is something I guess only the admins can speak to. I have a feeling that, though things are far from perfect, the benefits of the pedagogical tool of showing deleted ask.metafilter questions would be negligible at best. But only the admins know, of course: maybe we're getting reams and reams of anonymous questions from people that could use some help on how to do the whole anonymous-question thing.
posted by koeselitz at 2:12 PM on January 6, 2010


I think you're asking for a more automatic and responsive queue with detailed responses built in and some way to view those.

I would argue the current system works as-is, that we're not robots and we can't often explain how to make things better in a tiny one-line deletion reasons. We post the vast majority of questions sent to the anon queue (maybe in the 80-90% range?) and when we don't we often hear back over email, where it is easy, private, and comfortable to explain to people what went wrong and how to make it right.

I'd rather not make a big public spectacle out of every anon question either.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:12 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fair enough. Question answered. Close it up if you like.
posted by b33j at 2:13 PM on January 6, 2010


Not having it show up, I contacted Jess and she gave me some advice on how to improve it.

I like this system better.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:16 PM on January 6, 2010


To put it another way, I think the current approach of positive explanation probably works better than the negative approach; in your case, it worked better to have jessamyn say, "here's what works well here," than it would have if she'd shown you a bunch of failed questions. I think we try to do that now with the wiki, and jessamyn and the other admins are pretty helpful about it, too. My sense - though of course I'm not the expert or anything - is that that's more in keeping with the fact that we work more around standards to be met than around rules which you must not break. The admins here don't like to say, "you must never do THIS," and even the deleted posts on the front page aren't intended as examples of badness but are just there as markers for technical reasons. I think that's a good tendency, the tendency to avoid making examples of posts, even if the poster gets to remain anonymous. And it keeps us from jumping to conclusions like "oh, people aren't allowed to ask questions about X or Y."
posted by koeselitz at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2010


What was your question?

I kid! I kid!
posted by cjorgensen at 2:24 PM on January 6, 2010


Wait, are you the same poster who asked this deleted question? If so, this question is completely different without your racist and hateful asides and it's disrespectful to the community for you to misrepresent yourself in this way.

Also, I'm curious as to why you left out the links to pics of your naked husband this time around.

posted by ODiV at 2:25 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the nature of the anonymous function is such that, all else aside, having failure happen privately is generally the better way to go.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:28 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


OMG ODiV, you just scared the stuffing out of me with that fake link. I definitely think my idea was a bad one now.
posted by b33j at 2:29 PM on January 6, 2010


We'd very much rather answer email about why a question wasn't approved than share all the anonyme questions that we delete. We may approve more like 70%, but it's still pretty high. If we don't approve them it's for one of a few short reasons usually

- you need to contact a lawyer/doctor directly and not ask this here
- suicide/revenge questions
- "why is this anonymous?"
- you use AnonyAskMe too much [rare, but it does happen]
- you did not ask a question, seem to be upset, and should maybe revisit this when you've calmed down
- you're using AnonyMe to get around the seven-day limit and we'd prefer you don't do that
- you are that guy

Around holidaytime there were a LOT of questions in the queue and I triy to approve them during the day when people are around so things were slow going for a bit, but we're really okay with people asking us why something wasn't approved as long as they're not jerks about it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:31 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good points all. Thanks everyone.
posted by b33j at 2:41 PM on January 6, 2010


Metafilter: you are that guy
posted by infinitewindow at 2:43 PM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not having it show up, I contacted Jess and she gave me some advice on how to improve it.

Do the mods send a note when something is not approved? Seems like that would be decent, especially since anon questions don't get posted very quickly.
posted by smackfu at 3:18 PM on January 6, 2010


We don't by default know whose question it is that we're not approving.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:21 PM on January 6, 2010


Do the mods send a note when something is not approved? Seems like that would be decent,

I think a lot of people would prefer mods not look up the identity of anonymous questions by default.
posted by floam at 3:21 PM on January 6, 2010


jinx
posted by floam at 3:22 PM on January 6, 2010


the current system is pretty awesome. i'm always impressed by just how quickly requests are answered.
posted by nadawi at 3:47 PM on January 6, 2010


Do the mods send a note when something is not approved?

As cortex said, we don't. We will, very rarely, contact someone and this involved some guesswork or fishing in the database and we don't like to do it and we doubt people like it being done. Again with the lists, we might do it because

- your question really does seem like an emergency but there's something keeping it from being approved [last time I saw this, it was a mailinator reply-to address] and I'd like permission to edit it
- suicide questions, as I've said. I hate this part of my job.
- it seems like you asked the same question non-anon and I want to check that it's you [in this case we just email the user of the non-anon question and ask "did you also ask this anonymously?"]

Not sure what else. We might want to have an admin-only note for why something wasn't approved so that if I was away cortex or matt could tell someone what was up. I probably manage most of the anonyme stuff [just like mathowie manages nearly the entire Projects and Jobs queues] so usually if something needs answering, I'm the one to ask. Maybe I should update the faq with some of this....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:01 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eponysterical?
posted by thirteenkiller at 5:03 PM on January 6, 2010


I aked jessamyn why an anon question of mine hadn't been approved and she was very helpful. I see asking could be embarrassing sometimes but I'm not sure I'd be happy with "failed" anon questions being visible. Could see them generating a lot of MetaTalk discussion.
posted by paduasoy at 1:53 AM on January 7, 2010


We will, very rarely, contact someone and this involved some guesswork or fishing in the database and we don't like to do it and we doubt people like it being done.

Well, to be honest, I wasn't thinking "you" send a note, more that the system sends a note automatically when you click reject. So I guess more of a pb question than a mod question.
posted by smackfu at 6:18 AM on January 7, 2010


Well, again, the system does not in any direct sense know who submitted an anonymous question either. We have to manually put two and two together in order to contact someone.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:48 AM on January 7, 2010


"more that the system sends a note automatically when you click reject."

If the system were even capable of this -- regardless of if the feature were implemented or used -- I would object strongly, loudly, and profanely.
posted by majick at 8:05 AM on January 7, 2010


Could you explain why you object so loudly and profanely?
posted by smackfu at 8:21 AM on January 7, 2010


BTW, if you submit an anonymous question, does the system block you from asking a non-anonymous question in the same week?
posted by smackfu at 8:23 AM on January 7, 2010


Well, again, the system does not in any direct sense know who submitted an anonymous question either. We have to manually put two and two together in order to contact someone.

Sorry to triple post, but I just saw this. I guess I'm unclear on what "manually" means here. Do you mean you could only contact someone after they contacted you, and they would have to say which question they asked? If so, that would be great and I can understand why it would be impossible to give even a negative response when you reject a question.

OTH, this bit in the FAQ makes it seem a bit unclear: "the admins may know who posted the question." Maybe it's just overly vague wording there?
posted by smackfu at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2010


Submitting an anonymous question generates a cookie locally as a half-measure attempt to keep folks honest. It's an imperfect system but it doesn't require creating a db-side association between question and questioner, and we haven't seen evidence of people abusing that with any frequency.

As far as majick's objection, I won't speak for him but I can say that generally folks who like the indirect nature of the anonymous system as it exists have supported this approach specifically because it prevents even a db compromise from revealing who asked what. So things asked with the expectation of anonymity would not suddenly and easily become non-anonymous even in the case of someone getting complete unauthorized access to mefi's database.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:33 AM on January 7, 2010


The FAQ entry is a little vague, but that's a working compromise; I'm not sure it's possible to both be concise enough for non-wonks and to accurately convey the mechanics and limitations of the anony system, and in any case I'm not sure it'd be a great idea to stick a full explanation in the FAQ anyway.

The short answer is, indeed, that we may in some cases establish the identity of an anonymous poster, so that while the presumption that a question will be anonymous to the reading public is a good one, a presumption that it will remain anonymous to the mods is not. That's pretty much what we need the FAQ to convey, I think.

Manually means we can do some quick checking of IP records (to, at best, make a guess) or if we need to be sure review some email records (generated at submission time but not stored on the server). There's no push-button solution for instantly correlating a submission with a userid; it requires active review by one of us looking at something other than just the mefi db.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:39 AM on January 7, 2010


Thanks. As a wonk, I appreciate knowing the details.

One minor unrelated suggestion I have is to add a link to the anonymous question form to this FAQ entry. I recall there being questions posted to MetaTalk about not being able to find it, and the appropriate FAQ doesn't really help.
posted by smackfu at 8:46 AM on January 7, 2010


I think the reason we did that originally -- not having the anonyme form linked form the FAQ -- is because if you'd already asked a question that week, you couldn't get to the Ask a Question page and thus also not to the AnonyMe page. I'm not sure if that was still true and we should probably hash out what is and is not possible. I'm surprised how many people write out a question intending for it to be anonymous but don't use the anonymous question-asking page [resulting in some panicked emails] so I think there's probably some UI improvement that we could make to the whole question-asking sytem in the first place.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:07 AM on January 7, 2010


- you are that guy

Bullshit, he's just ripping off my material.
posted by yerfatma at 12:01 PM on January 7, 2010


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