Wanting Clarification March 3, 2014 10:28 PM   Subscribe

Not an answer: I suggest you contact the mods ASAP and remove the references to what appear to be real names of organizations and individuals. posted by Tomorrowful at 4:11 on March 4 [36 favorites +] [!] Why? Is this policy? Or etiquette, or...

It also seems like it passed the mods approval for an anon question. But the comment above had a lot of people "bookmarking" it. So how do the mods feel about using real names? How about everyone else?

Ok?
Not ok?
Ok if...?
Not ok if...?
posted by hal_c_on to Etiquette/Policy at 10:28 PM (40 comments total)

I've always seen these kinds of suggestions as a courtesy to the asker, as the assumption is that if you're posting anonymously, it's because you don't want the question to be easy to trace to your "real" (offline) identity. Posting real (?) names in a question that already goes into quite a lot of potentially unique detail makes that kind of hard.
posted by kagredon at 10:40 PM on March 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


That is, it's nothing to do with "policy" or covering Metafilter's ass or covering the therapist/organizations ass, but with covering the asker's ass.

Metatalk: ass...ass...ass
posted by kagredon at 10:42 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


In the case of that question, they later emailed us to clarify they were fake names.

In general, a few thoughts about why it's usually better to avoid real names in AskMe:
1.) No spam/Googlebombing. We don't want AskMe to be used for ulterior motives - so, we look pretty hard at anything that smacks of an attempt to bring publicity to something (spamming, signal boosting for a cause, but also negative attention, Google bombing, etc). Something that looks like a pretext to post the name may get deleted.
2.) No doxxing: we don't allow it here. This isn't what's going on in the question you link to, it's just a related kind of case.
3.) Legal issues. Naming individuals or businesses could in some circumstances cause legal problems for the site, which obviously are better avoided. This doesn't come up all that often but still.
4.) Avoiding poster's regret. People sometimes don't think about how available AskMe questions will be on the wider web, so they get freaked out and ask to have their question removed. We don't want to delete questions, in general; we would much rather people were cautious about obscuring details ahead of time.

About the etiquette of people recommending in-thread that the person should contact the mods:
I think that's fine, since some posters may not realize they can do that. Once it's suggested, people don't need to repeat it; that ends up just being noise. Also note, if the poster is not anonymous, you can MefiMail them to suggest it. But of course, sometimes people don't want to obfuscate more than they already have, for whatever reason, and that's their call, so people shouldn't get into a hectoring frame of mind on this.

People are always welcome to touch base with us at the contact form if they have concerns about a given question.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:55 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps the OP who made the Ask should have made it a little more clear that the names were fake?
posted by marienbad at 2:02 AM on March 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


I met a chap with a real name once. Lovely fellow he was too; wonderfully gentle manner about him, which contrasted somewhat with the rest of those "real name" ne'er-do-wells one reads about in the newspapers.

I said to him, "You know young man, I really do think that if you work hard at your studies, you could make something of yourself, despite the natural limitations of your 'real-named' kind". Then I patted him upon the head in an encouraging manner.

And do you know, that chap - whose real name was "Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson" - grew up to be Mayor of London.

It just goes to show that anyone can "make it" in today's Britain.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:57 AM on March 4, 2014 [27 favorites]


Perhaps the OP who made the Ask should have made it a little more clear that the names were fake?

I think so, yeah. It doesn't come up nearly enough to automatically trigger alarm bells on the mod side I don't think, but either way this one doesn't really seem to clash with any of the concerns LobsterMitten mentions. Nevertheless it can't hurt to emphasize the fact that the names are fictitious, no.

And quidnunc I trust that you had the presence of mind to wash your hands.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:32 AM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh I thoroughly disinfected myself, naturally. Actually my Footman gave me a very harsh scrubbing in tepid, soapy water, and then liberally coated me with Lincoln carbolic powder. Damn fine fellow now I think of it - I often wonder if he has a "real name" himself.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:42 AM on March 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


Perhaps the OP who made the Ask should have made it a little more clear that the names were fake?

I agree. That was pretty alarming to read. Are the mods awake and aware this is an issue?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:18 AM on March 4, 2014


cortex left a note in-thread clarifying that the names are fictitious. I agree that it's less than ideal, but considering there's no potential for harm to actual persons here and that a close read of the thread will reveal the fakeness, as a mod I'm inclined to leave it at that.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 4:56 AM on March 4, 2014


If someone wants to hide then means that person has his own reasons to do so... right?
posted by chimikos at 5:19 AM on March 4, 2014


The mod note seems like it was exactly the appropriate way to handle it.

I mostly just stopped by, however, to thank treehorn+bunny for being awesome in that thread as per usual.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:35 AM on March 4, 2014


In addition to legal problems for the site, there could also be legal problems for the asker in sharing negative information attached to real names or even fake names with identifiable real detail. Not everyone knows this, which makes fake-naming a very good policy when you have something critical to say about someone in private life in a pubic place like AskMe.
posted by Miko at 5:54 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Actually my Footman gave me a very harsh scrubbing in tepid, soapy water, and then liberally coated me with Lincoln carbolic powder.

Lord quidnunc, please do not air your bedroom antics in this electronic parlour. What goes on between a man and his footman is between that man and the Commandments of God. This tittle-tattling is not the sort of behavior I expect from a gentleman such as yourself.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:05 AM on March 4, 2014 [16 favorites]


It's usually more of a problem for the asker than for us or the site, but we see a LOT of poster's regret from people who put too much identifying information in questions that are supposed to be more vague. People don't realize how easy it is to track down specifics from people's loose outlines. People don't recognize that their writing style gives a lot of "tells" who knows. So there's no policy on not using real names, some users are more strident about this than others. We usually draw the line at actionable "Someone would seriously sue is if they googled their own name and saw some internet rando talking shit about them" types of statements but that's still in the "Hey maybe you should swap out this person's real name" not usually "delete first ask questions later" People Google themselves a lot, especially professional people, so it's worth keeping that in mind. It's always helpful if people are clear if they're using fake/real names in their questions. cortex left a note once we sorted things out and the system worked more or less like it should.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:14 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


In this case, if the OP hadn't contacted the mods and clarified that the names contained therein were not real, I think the post should have been deleted. The reason being that the OP was anonymous and the accusation being levied was serious enough that it could cause a person real harm and there'd be no one to seek relief from.

I just don't think it's cool for an anon especially to throw a bomb like that accusation against a person they call out. People have a right to face their accusers.
posted by inturnaround at 6:21 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


What goes on between a man and his footman is between that man and the Commandments of God

Oh sorry - I thought this was a footman-fetish site. Terribly sorry.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:24 AM on March 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


Quidnunc kid is a treasure, I tell you.
posted by empath at 6:42 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


the quidnunc kid, if that is indeed his real name, seems to be a bit of a cad, actually. One keeps one's adventures with one's footmen to oneself, if one would ever claim to be a gentleman.
posted by h00py at 6:46 AM on March 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Dude, "real-named" is not the preferred nomenclature. Appelation-American, please.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:48 AM on March 4, 2014 [17 favorites]


Well, it's election day here in Texas, so I'm off to vote #1 quidnunc kid.
posted by blurker at 7:48 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


In this case, if the OP hadn't contacted the mods and clarified that the names contained therein were not real, I think the post should have been deleted...


Only if there were more identifying remarks. Lynn Therapist and similar returns 5,500,000 results on google, and Dr. Alexander Psychologist and similar returns about 9,000,000 hits.

Sure, if it were her real name, "Lynn" could be further boiled down by the relative age range given, but without location or additional info, someone could spend several hours reducing this list, and only end up with a very loose and large set of guesses.

On the other end of the spectrum, there also has been the occasional question where it's possible that removal of any identifying features and obfuscation (though not to say it isn't just poor phrasing), the question becomes harder to answer and the thread is full of "Well, I am assuming you mean X, so in that case my answer is Y, but please contact the mods and clarify Z" answers
posted by Debaser626 at 7:51 AM on March 4, 2014


Only if there were more identifying remarks. Lynn Therapist and similar returns 5,500,000 results on google, and Dr. Alexander Psychologist and similar returns about 9,000,000 hits.

Well the OP said this, "I was one of the first clients she started seeing after she left Metro Counseling Inc. and started her own small private office. " which, if you think about it, is kind of unusual to fictionalize the name of the former employer (if I were writing it, I'd just say she left a large counseling provider) and it's much easier to triangulate a person given their given name and a former employer and a time frame.
posted by inturnaround at 8:28 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've often been told that "Double" is an unusual name.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:34 AM on March 4, 2014


In this case, if the OP hadn't contacted the mods and clarified that the names contained therein were not real, I think the post should have been deleted. The reason being that the OP was anonymous and the accusation being levied was serious enough that it could cause a person real harm and there'd be no one to seek relief from.

I just don't think it's cool for an anon especially to throw a bomb like that accusation against a person they call out. People have a right to face their accusers.


This is an interesting point. So you're saying, "if someone uses others' real names...they should use their own as well". I kinda like that.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:08 AM on March 4, 2014


So you're saying, "if someone uses others' real names...they should use their own as well". I kinda like that.

That's not what a statement like that is usually saying. Even if you use your own name, if you're saying potentially defamatory things about others, you're still open to charges of defamation. The reason we have defamation law at all is that people are considered to have the right to face accusers and contest the accusations, and seek redress if people are harming their reputation.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why not remove all possible doubt by changing the names anyway?
posted by jamjam at 10:56 AM on March 4, 2014


Are you asking why mods would not change them? We don't unilaterally edit people's post except for a very very narrow set of circumstances (eg adding NSFW tag to a post).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:57 AM on March 4, 2014


Well, since you will ask that, I had in mind that the OP might see my comment and request a change, and failing that the mods might suggest it to the OP, and failing that, the question would be deleted.
posted by jamjam at 11:21 AM on March 4, 2014


The OP already clarified with us (and we clarified in the thread) that the names are pseudonyms. We have, in the past, had people get a bit crabby about people who use a lot of "My boyfriend, X and his brother Z were heading out to dinner with our friends G, H I and J. Now J doesn't have a car so he was borrowing Zs car and...." and had asked people to use realistic names which seemed to be easier for many people to read. Most people doing that clearly indicate when they are doing that with some sort of "Not their real name" aside. This person didn't.

I'm sorry the question was startling to some people because of the use of real names but the question was like that with no clarification for less than two hours. Unless we think someone is using AskMe to Googlebomb someone's name in some negative or revenge way, we're not going to delete it just on the basis that there are real names in the question. We'll make edits if requested by the OP. In anon questions we'll leave a comment that says "You should consider anonymizing these names" or whatever, but we're not going to unilaterally edit or, usually, suggest edits. The community can handle that on its own.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gawd, those answers are a mess. There are a few reasonable answers (treehorn+bunny was rightly cited by Blasdelb), but there are so many people with over-dramatic reactions to anything mental health related, and so unable to look at the questions without amplifying the neuroses of the asker, that I worry that questions like that do more harm than good. There's definitely a prioritization of being supportive over being useful in there.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Good point, klang. Most times I think people post not for useful answers...but for the support. It's metafilter, not a private forum re: professional ethics for mental health professionals. If they really wanted to know what to do when you catch your psych in a lie, they would go there...not askme.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:10 PM on March 4, 2014


But if someone is a member here they might feel like "these people are generally smart and nice and I trust their judgement", rather than turning to people on a forum they don't know.
posted by billiebee at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2014


Maybe all names that appear in any sensitive question should be run through John Travolta first.
posted by perhapses at 12:44 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


There's definitely a prioritization of being supportive over being useful in there.

It's a very particular (and unfortunate) kind of support on offer, even if you don't hold that being useful is the best kind of support.
posted by JohnLewis at 1:27 PM on March 4, 2014


the quidnunc kid, if that is indeed his real name, seems to be a bit of a cad, actually. One keeps one's adventures with one's footmen to oneself, if one would ever claim to be a gentleman.

Ahem. At least you can't say you weren't warned.

(it may be /ˈkwid ˌnəNGk/ but I read it quinnipiac)
posted by shothotbot at 2:23 PM on March 4, 2014


(apologies to Miko)

Ask MetaFilter: when you have something critical to say about someone in private life in a pubic place
posted by scrump at 2:24 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


At least you can't say you weren't warned.

Rumor has it that Lord quidnunc is the fetish and fancy of every footman in town. And that is no tittle-tattle but the plain honest truth. They all say he is #1 or some such.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:39 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


wait....footmen have rights, too.
posted by mule98J at 6:26 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Now you're just being arch.
posted by spitbull at 7:12 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


For the record, my initial reaction to that question was exactly the same as Tomorrowful's. The use of what appeared to be real names looked axegrindy or otherwise whiffy.
posted by desuetude at 10:38 PM on March 4, 2014


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