I know it's you February 8, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

How does posting anonymously, with the reasoning that their SO/parent/friend/child READS AskMe, help the situation?

So many Anonymous AskMe questions come with the caveat: Anonymous because my SO reads AskMe. To me, this is so silly, and I can't figure it out, mostly because the OP goes on to give ridiculously identifying details (My name is Perry, I'm an attorney from Manhattan, and my wife got mad at me last night for coming home without flowers.) Even in Manhattan, how many Perry Anonymous, Esquire's did this happen to?

I can see it if the OP merely wants the question not to be linked to their profile, but if your partner/dog/parent/teacher READS AskMe, what are the chances they aren't going to recognize the situation?
posted by roomthreeseventeen to MetaFilter-Related at 10:01 AM (64 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

One in 18. OK?
posted by Wolfdog at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have never seen an anonymous question that goes on to give the name and identifying details like that. Do you have an example you can link to?
posted by theichibun at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have never seen an example of that either. I'm guessing most people change enough details so that it isn't immediately obvious or also use 'reads AskMe' as shorthand to mean 'knows my username and I don't want this in my post activity.'
posted by proj at 10:08 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, which anonymous AskMe post is about you?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can see it if the OP merely wants the question not to be linked to their profile

Usually it's this. The OP knows their family member or whoever knows they are on AskMe and maybe knows enough to find their profile but doesn't regularly read the site and wouldn't read a below-the-fold explanation of some sort of situation if it belonged to a random person. So it's not totally obscuring the facts [though I've never seen one with the level of detail you describe] it's just not linking back to the profile which is usually all that's necessary. There's also the plausible denial factor which is useful in these sorts of situations.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:09 AM on February 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have never seen an anonymous question that goes on to give the name and identifying details like that. Do you have an example you can link to?

No name, but lots of identifying details here. And again. Here. Especially here.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:11 AM on February 8, 2011


There are a lot of askmes.
posted by cashman at 10:13 AM on February 8, 2011


I've wondered the same thing. However:

1. Plausible deniability.

2. Keeping it out of one's profile history.

3. You see details and assume they're The Truth. "But his friends will know he's a 29-year-old lawyer in Manhattan named Perry!" How do you know? Maybe he's actually a 31-year-old doctor in New Jersey named Ralph. In other words, the OP might have changed the details so if their family/friends see it, they'll assume the post isn't about the OP.

4. Even if the friends/family might find out, still ... "the perfect is the enemy of the good." Anonymizing doesn't guarantee no one will find out, but it reduces the likelihood.
posted by John Cohen at 10:18 AM on February 8, 2011 [13 favorites]


Who cares?
posted by radioamy at 10:18 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're also assuming that the facts provided are accurate.

For details that aren't particularly relevant, that's a pretty easy way to throw someone off the trail.

Maybe the person in your example is actually named Brian and is a doctor in Seattle who got in trouble two months ago for not buying an anniversary present.

You don't know (and that's the whole point).
posted by toomuchpete at 10:19 AM on February 8, 2011


An even better question is... how many people post anonymous AskMe questions knowing full well their SO/whatever reads the website in the hopes of sending a subtle, perhaps passive-aggressive message to that other person that they're really fucking up?
posted by hippybear at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2011 [18 favorites]


The answer you are looking to is: RSS

You can subscribe to a user's feed and if that's all your SO subscribes to then they won't see your anonymized question no matter how much detail you give.
posted by DU at 10:23 AM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


You're also assuming that the facts provided are accurate.

Well good point. But why bother to include any details if they are irrelevant and fake details? Entertainment?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:24 AM on February 8, 2011


No name, but lots of identifying details here

There were 71 askme posts that day alone.
posted by cashman at 10:25 AM on February 8, 2011


Well good point. But why bother to include any details if they are irrelevant and fake details? Entertainment?

To keep it anonymous. "Fake" is not "irrelevant." Saying "I'm 31" (knowing that you're really 29 and this will keep your family from realizing you're the OP, without significantly changing the question) is different from saying "I'm 101" (which could radically change the context of the question).
posted by John Cohen at 10:35 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


if your partner/dog/parent/teacher READS AskMe...

My dogs can't read, but I'm pretty sure I've heard my cats laughing over my shoulder during some of the "Why does my cat do X?" questions.
posted by amyms at 10:37 AM on February 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


An even better question is... how many people post anonymous AskMe questions knowing full well their SO/whatever reads the website in the hopes of sending a subtle, perhaps passive-aggressive message to that other person that they're really fucking up?

I like to imagine zero. But I also like to imagine that every relationship question I help answer means that people find true love.

So let this be my not as passive aggressive as usual way of asking anyone who happens to read this who considers this a good idea: please don't do this.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well good point. But why bother to include any details if they are irrelevant and fake details? Entertainment?

They aren't irrelevant, they just aren't correct. If someone says they've been dating their partner for 3 or 5 years, it doesn't matter to the answerer, but that small detail may be enough to hide it from their partner's eyes. The point of the detail is to say "we've been dating for a long time" so as to avoid the questions about if the relationship is new.
posted by dflemingecon at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2011


Here's at least one real case where the identifying details were mostly wrong and included only to disguise who was actually asking.
posted by Copronymus at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


mu.
posted by boo_radley at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2011


My sister knows that I am charmcityblues, and she apparently reads my activity fairly frequently (hi, sister!) But I don't think she reads the rest of the site regularly, and it's especially easy to miss an ask.me given the volume.

So that might explain a lot of it.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:58 AM on February 8, 2011


No name, but lots of identifying details here. And again. Here. Especially here.

All of the examples you linked to have the poster saying that others know that they post there, not necessarily that they read AskMe often or even at all. I think this is much more often the case, as opposed to the poster's SO being someone who reads the green as often as you or I might.
posted by dnesan at 11:04 AM on February 8, 2011


An even better question is... how many people post anonymous AskMe questions knowing full well their SO/whatever reads the website in the hopes of sending a subtle, perhaps passive-aggressive message to that other person that they're really fucking up?

There was one, I think, but I can't find it now. It was someone that was posting about his or her spouse being in law school or grad school or super busy and therefore absent and not helping out with their baby, and the spouse posted in the thread all, "I'm right here, you could just talk to me about this instead of posting about it."
posted by amarynth at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've seen that a few times, if we see someone being a serial passive-aggressive question asker, we'll talk to them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:15 AM on February 8, 2011


roomthreeseventeen: "How does posting anonymously, with the reasoning that their SO/parent/friend/child READS AskMe, help the situation?"

Why do you care? This is an honest question. Would you prefer that there be a harder line drawn by the mods on this issue?
posted by mkultra at 11:18 AM on February 8, 2011


Why do you care? This is an honest question.

I was honestly just curious, because those particular anon AskMe's, IMHO, might as well have had names attached to them, for the amount of identifying details I think they had.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:21 AM on February 8, 2011


If I were ever to post a question anonymously I would do so because I don't want YOU to know something personal about me. The people that actually know me have already forgiven me.
posted by victors at 11:26 AM on February 8, 2011


My wife only reads the "human relations" questions on AskMe, so I will never be able to get away with this.
posted by Zozo at 11:28 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just assume my MeFite SO asks ALL the Anonymous questions. That's why so many of my answers start off with, 'Hey Babe!'
posted by carsonb at 11:41 AM on February 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


If I were ever to post a question anonymously I would do so because I don't want YOU to know something personal about me.

OK, but this thread is specifically about anonymous posters who say they're posting anonymously because they don't want their friends/family to know.
posted by John Cohen at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2011


If I had a question that was clearly about me personally, with details that could link my username with my real name, I might post anonymously so that when my friends/parents/third cousins once removed read the question and said "Hey! Jeather is actually [real name]! Let's go read every question and answer she ever posted!" they couldn't do that. It's not that I want my question about my baking and construction and birthday gifts to be anon, necessarily, it's that I want the OTHER questions to be.
posted by jeather at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never really understood why people write, "I'm posting anonymously because X. This isn't the New York Times, where reporters are required to explain why a source is speaking off the record. If anything, stating the reason you're posting anonymously will only give your parent/child/spouse more of a reason to suspect the asker is you. It's one more unnecessarily identifying detail.
posted by Tin Man at 12:00 PM on February 8, 2011


I've never really understood why people write, "I'm posting anonymously because X

It may in part be an attempt to preempt pushback about whether a question "needs" to be anonymous by offering a justification up-front.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:03 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've never really understood why people write, "I'm posting anonymously because X. This isn't the New York Times, where reporters are required to explain why a source is speaking off the record.

Have you seen what happens in an anonymous AskMe without it? Half the comments before being pruned are 'why is this anonymous?'.
posted by winna at 12:04 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always assume that anonymous questions containing tons of identifying info are posted by folks who secretly want to get caught by the person(s) they are posting about!
posted by jbenben at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


winna: "Have you seen what happens in an anonymous AskMe without it? Half the comments before being pruned are 'why is this anonymous?'."

The behavior that needs changing, then, is that of the commenters, not the asker. Because asking that is really questioning the Mods' judgment in an oblique way, which is kind of shitty.
posted by mkultra at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, I'm 27. Suppose I wanted to ask a really embarrassing question without anyone I know being able to identify me. And my age is fairly relevant to the question.

If I say, "I'm 27," then it's very easy for me to be identified.
If I say, "I'm in my late 20s," then anyone who knows me and suspects I wrote the question would still think of me as its suspected author.
If I say, "I'm 28," then it's far more likely that anyone who knows me would go, "Oh! It can't be meese, then" instead of going, "Oh! This is probably meese, only she lied about her age!" And the lie is so close to the truth that it won't have an effect on the answers.

My best friend is a Mefite. Sometimes, we have fun by pretending that anonymous questions about some awful friend are actually one of us writing about the other. (We get bored.) This only works for anonymous ones where the OP says vague things like, say, "My friend and I live far away and are both in our late 20s," because that description applies to us. It doesn't work if the OP says something like, "My friend lives in Virgnia and I'm in Oregon, and we're both 29," because it's not true about us. So, if my friend ever really did want to complain about me in an anonymous question, she'd be best off pretending to live in Oregon and being 29, rather telling the truth (San Francisco and 27) or being vague (West Coast and late-20s).
posted by meese at 12:31 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never really understood why people write, "I'm posting anonymously because X."

It's also a good way to communicate to the mods, in cases where it might not be obvious, that the anonymous nature of the question fits the guidelines. This might not be necessary, but it also isn't harmful.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:49 PM on February 8, 2011


I've occasionally posted innocuous questions anonymously because no one I know knows I'm on MeFi, and I'd like to keep it that way. If I posted, "I have two cats named Muffy and Buffy, and now I'm getting a third cat. What should I name it?" I'd post anonymously because I can be easily identified by the question, which is fine -- but I don't want my identity linked to my username, if you get my drift. So someone recognizing me from the question will only learn that I have a MeFi account, not what my username is.
posted by ROTFL at 12:58 PM on February 8, 2011


Occam's Razor: they're just dumb. They don't realize how hard it is to completely obscure facts, and how many clues writing style alone provides for identity -- not to mention the fact that "my boyfriend reads this site" is just another clue.
posted by yarly at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


That used to strike me as odd too. But, then I realized that the same people who say it is anonymous because my SO (or whomever) reads this are the people who trust the internets to get answers to highly personal relationship questions. After than realization, the rest makes sense.
posted by AugustWest at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2011


Yes, by all means assume all of these people are dumb because you don't understand their behavior. Considering the many plausible reasons people have already given as examples, it's the only logical conclusion.
posted by soelo at 1:49 PM on February 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sorry. What I meant to say above was, "I'm just dumb."
posted by ROTFL at 1:53 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're talking about Perry Mason here, right, attorney from Manhattan? The Butthole Surfers were able to identify him via this callout and give him advice, thank you very much and remember to LOUD IT VERY PLAY.
posted by not_on_display at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2011


ROTFL: "I've occasionally posted innocuous questions anonymously because no one I know knows I'm on MeFi, and I'd like to keep it that way. If I posted, "I have two cats named Muffy and Buffy, and now I'm getting a third cat. What should I name it?" I'd post anonymously because I can be easily identified by the question, which is fine -- but I don't want my identity linked to my username, if you get my drift. So someone recognizing me from the question will only learn that I have a MeFi account, not what my username is."

George.
posted by deborah at 2:07 PM on February 8, 2011


I've never posted anonymously, but if I did I would lie about details that were irrelevant to the question. In fact, I might do that even if I was posting non-anonymously for a number of reasons.

What I'd like most is to anonymise my entire Ask history so as to avoid the horrible cringe of reading the stupid fucking things I said and asked.
posted by doublehappy at 3:07 PM on February 8, 2011


I believe that all cats should be named George. Especially baby calico ladycats.
posted by that girl at 5:56 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


you are kidding me, that girl. I used to have a calico girl cat called George. For reals.
posted by gaspode at 6:50 PM on February 8, 2011


An obvious reason is to protect the dignity and reputation of the other person. That way, they won't get so angry that your collective dirty laundry was aired in public.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:20 PM on February 8, 2011


There have been at least three detailed anonymous AskMes that made me ask "did I write this and forget or something?" There are a large number of people who post, so some bizarrely-similar situations are bound to arise. And if reading AskMe has taught me anything, it's that certain situations and feelings are actually very common.
posted by salvia at 11:30 PM on February 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think its so much that mefites don't want to be identified in real life...its that they gotta keep up a front for the metafilter community.

I mean *'s comments wouldn't be that badass if you realized that this is the same person who doesn't know basic interpersonal skills.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:51 AM on February 9, 2011


I guess there's a little anonymous in all of us.
posted by doublehappy at 3:42 AM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are my new favorite cat owner, gaspode!
posted by that girl at 4:23 AM on February 9, 2011


I have a cat named George right now! But he's a boy. And, sadly, not the smartest cat who ever lived. So probably not a stellar representative of cats named George.
posted by mothershock at 8:08 AM on February 9, 2011


Yes, by all means assume all of these people are dumb because you don't understand their behavior. Considering the many plausible reasons people have already given as examples, it's the only logical conclusion.
posted by soelo at 1:49 PM on February 8 [6 favorites +] [!]


I didn't see any reason given that's inconsistent with being dumb. They're directly and significantly undermining their main purpose of being anonymous. It's just kinda dumb, I'm sorry to say.
posted by yarly at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2011


If I had a calico boycat I'm call him Yes!SuperSpecialAwesomeSteve because, fun fact, calicoes are mostly girls.

Also, the acronym is sassy! backwards and then I'd have something to explain all those random shit-looks cats give people.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2011


I've done this before, not just to hide it from friends/family that read Metafilter but also to keep questions out of my username history for the legions of people that I imagine would want to go back and look at all the questions I've asked before.

I think that a lot of problems a) have a similar core and b) can be easily obfuscated with little, irrelevant details. Whether or not the details are actually irrelevant is, I suppose, up for debate.

My detective brain would only start getting interested if there were details that could refer to people I actually knew. If some 25-year-old guy posts a human relations question about a girl he used to date in Pittsburgh, PA I will immediately scour the rest of the post asking "Is it me? Is it a friend? Do I know this person?!". If it's a 27-year-old from Chattanooga I read it a lot more passively.
posted by amicamentis at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2011


yarly, wanting to keep a question out of your user name history is not dumb and in some situations would actually be smart (like zoomorphic's example). Someone using a tool differently than you do does not make them dumb. How do you know "their main purpose of being anonymous"?
posted by soelo at 12:25 PM on February 9, 2011


This question is not about anonymity -- it's about adding the caveat "anonymous because my SO reads AskMe." That's dumb because it clues in your SO that the question might be about him. I don't usually call things dumb, but this is just DUMB! Almost equally dumb are the people who comment "why are you asking this anonymously?" or "why are you asking the internet, we can't tell you!" Those comments should be deleted.
posted by yarly at 1:57 PM on February 9, 2011


Almost equally dumb are the people who comment "why are you asking this anonymously?" or "why are you asking the internet, we can't tell you!" Those comments should be deleted.

Often we will delete those comments as not answering the question since if we've approved an anonymous questions it's usually because we know or at least can guess at why it's anonymous. If we don't delete them it's usually because in some other way they're answering the question so we leave them.

That said, stop calling people dumb. We get it, you don't agree with the way some people use the site. Other people have been clear that there are reasons people would do things that may fall outside of your subjective understanding of the way the world works. There is more than one way to view the world.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:09 PM on February 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, duly chastened about the dumb thing, sorry. But just to clarify: what's inexplicable to me is not the anonymous relationship questions - I understand why they post anonymously, though I think it's much easier to get your cover blown than people expect. It's adding the phrase "My SO reads AskMe" that I think is completely senseless.
posted by yarly at 2:23 PM on February 9, 2011


I always change the nonessential details in my anonymouse AskMes.* Doctor to lawyer, drums to guitar, SF to NY. That might not work with an exact conversation or fight with the SO, but there are probably situations in which it would.

*I've never actually posted an anon Q. But if I did, I do think I would do this.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:13 PM on February 9, 2011


"*I've never actually posted an anon Q. But if I did, I do think I would do this."

That's just what you'd say, though, if you were the sort of person who changed nonessential details in your anonymous questions, right?

Whoa, it's turtles all the way down.
posted by gingerest at 8:12 PM on February 9, 2011


Even if the person's SO (or whomever) doesn't know that they're on AskMe, there's always Google. If they use a common username among multiple sites, a google search of that username, with some other keywords, could bring up that AskMe.
posted by antifuse at 9:26 AM on February 10, 2011


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