Post Anonymously July 11, 2002 6:05 PM   Subscribe

A 'post anonymously' option. Matt could still see who posted it, and perhaps remove the option for those who abuse it.

There's a need when you want to respond about your company, or your family, or your health; without the consequences of detail.
posted by holloway to Feature Requests at 6:05 PM (63 comments total)

no. no. no. no. no.
posted by crunchland at 6:12 PM on July 11, 2002


what crunchland said. twice.
posted by eyeballkid at 6:14 PM on July 11, 2002


I'd much rather discuss things that require that much anonymity with the people that I love, than hide behind an account rife with the potential for abuse. Anything with that much emotion behind it should be somewhere else, and free of the legal, social and cultural quicksand associated with airing it here.
posted by machaus at 6:15 PM on July 11, 2002


Why not create another membership without any personal details?
posted by timeistight at 6:19 PM on July 11, 2002


How about not taking the Internet that seriously? I mean, come on. It's a website. Loody do.
posted by raaka at 6:22 PM on July 11, 2002


No, no, no, no, no, no, nonononononono.

Unless Matt creates some way for users to moderate topics.

On the other hand, the intent all along was not to create another Slashdot. If we offer anonymous coward posts, we need to add /.'s huge moderation and metamoderation overhead.
posted by SpecialK at 6:31 PM on July 11, 2002


And people say things have gotten uncivil around here already.

Dear lordy, no.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:41 PM on July 11, 2002

Why not create another membership without any personal details?
Well, aside from the obvious, another account has always seemed a technical workaround for the same result. If everyone had another anonymous account you would have same problems.

Raaka: Ok, say I post about my experiences of AIDs. There's no way I would reveal that because of my job. Now I don't know if my post is interesting, but on other sites I've liked other people's posts.

SpecialK: I'm not saying allow unregistered posting. Only registered users could post as A/C. Like Slashdot, the admins can see the registered user posting as A/C but the public just see an AC.
posted by holloway at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2002


No, no, no, no!
( Gee, I hope this no, no, no, nononono thing doesn't catch on) .

There's enough anonymity as it is. I say let's have less anon and more hey nonny nonny.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:45 PM on July 11, 2002


No no, no no no no, no no no no, no no there's no limits.



I'll get me coat.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:04 PM on July 11, 2002


It could be interesting, if used very sparingly, and only in good faith. The potential for harm is very great though, and since anonymous posting isn't provided by other means, I don't see much of a benefit of adding it.

I would love to provide this somehow, to get those enlightening (if incriminating) first hand experiences or insider dirt on a subject, but it comes without any lasting reputation behind it.

If the subject is another post on arthur andersen cooking the books, and user x wants to confide in us that yes indeed, while he/she worked there, they were encouraged to do anything necessary to boost profits. How is a reader supposed to take those words if they are signed "anonymous?" If it was posted normally, you could look at a posting history and know whether to trust the information is correct or not, but not with anon users. Might people use them for slander or just getting back at others ("user y posts too much and should just shut his cakehole" or "user z blows goats. I have proof")? There's also the possibility of someone asking me to "name names" or identify a source if the post is particularly controversial.

It's a mine field I don't want to cross.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:10 PM on July 11, 2002


Not to mention the fact that if, as suggested, you as sysop have a record of who the person is behind the anonymous moniker, I'd bet that you could probably be subpoenaed to divulge the source of the message.
posted by crunchland at 7:23 PM on July 11, 2002


..or, um...name names.
posted by crunchland at 7:24 PM on July 11, 2002


Metafilter isn't changing the world. Its hard for some of you to see but this is just one big sewing circle. It just a website, if you have some amazing message to give I would hope you would be smart enough to realize the futility of posting it here, especially as an anonymous coward.

Not to mention the problem of abuse. I can picture the next highly charged I/P thread with a fake anon along the lines of "I cannot give my name for the authorities would have me shot, but I can tell you this...." Hahaha, keep it in your diary.
posted by skallas at 7:33 PM on July 11, 2002


Guys, all you have to do is post it "for your friend." And, to be even more safe, you can "mask your voice" with Babelfish!

ex.:

"Hi all. A friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, has something rather interesting to say about this situation:

'I work for the company that you are discussing. It is truth which they have destroyed five million of haiku in an attempt to cover up on his service of underground delivery of crepe of Yesterday right SUV. I supervised an equipment of twelve monkeys of destruction, each fifteen thousands haiku of destruction per hour.'

Really scary stuff. My friend says he is scared to talk, but the truth must be heard! I, for one, thank him for his bravery."
posted by whatnotever at 7:40 PM on July 11, 2002


Metafilter isn't changing the world. Its hard for some of you to see but this is just one big sewing circle.

And the Drudge Report was just a vanity site run by a ne'er-do-well CBS gift shop employee who wanted to pretend he was a big-name journalist. Three years after its launch it broke the story that led to the president's impeachment.

I don't think you can dismiss the chance that something taking place here could change the world. One MetaFilter link got ModestNeeds on the Today Show. We've probably made an impact on a dozen national or international news stories over the years.

Personally, I think this idea is a good one. The kind of people who are prone to abusing anonymity can easily do that now under a pseudonym anyway. It would be interesting to see what the rest of us did with the ability to turn off our screen name for a post.
posted by rcade at 8:32 PM on July 11, 2002


It would be interesting to see what the rest of us did with the ability to turn off our screen name for a post.

perhaps with approval only, all abuse could be curtailed, but then the weight is on my shoulders to try and figure out if something is anon-post worthy, if it's truthful or if it's absolute bunk.

When I approve one, it wil have my stamp of approval on it in a sense, but it should still have disclaimers on it, that I guessed that it seemed accurate.

How do we handle responses to anon posts, and the followups from the anonymous person? How do I find the time to approve all these posts? How do we prevent the naming of names?

I'm only entertaining the thought of this idea because I've seen it work pretty well on a moderated, one-way announcement list (the politech list).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:49 PM on July 11, 2002


Ew, no.

Scenario: Doesn't "Matt could still see who posted it" also mean that in the same situation this is supposed to provide protection for ("respond about your company" etc), Matt could get dragged into the matter? Especially if it turns into something that's allowed on approval.

posted by Su at 8:55 PM on July 11, 2002


perhaps with approval only, all abuse could be curtailed, but then the weight is on my shoulders to try and figure out if something is anon-post worthy, if it's truthful or if it's absolute bunk.

My fear in that situation would be that you could be held more responsible, legally, because you exercised prior editorial control over the anonymous posts.
posted by rcade at 9:04 PM on July 11, 2002


You mean we're not anonymous now?

Oh, dear God! WolfDaddy's been touching my hot ass and people will know!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:06 PM on July 11, 2002


First, giving this right to Matt, however level-headed he may be (and I have no reason to think that he is not, apart from the occasional drunken dwarf posting....but then again, who hasn't done that..I know I have), would eventually overwhelm him. Too much micormanagment.

Secondly, when we sign up, we make this decision. I have chosen to be anonymous whereas some have not. This is choice. This is Free Will. One could argue that if you wish to ask a question and not have anyone know who you are, this might not be the place.

Remember, Free Will. I did not say Free Willy which is a fine, fine movie, I should add.

So, to sum up is the words of a far wiser man; no. no. no. no. no.
posted by Dagobert at 9:09 PM on July 11, 2002


Seriously, though, the regular posters have clear enough writing styles that I think it would be easy enough to figure out who was who. (whom?)

I was actually fired from a job for writing an "anonymous" email to some of my then-employer's customers through a Hotmail account, concerning some less-than-above-board business practices that were put into place. I suppose I should have dumbed it down considering some of the people with which I worked, but c'est la vie. Since I was the only one who could string together three coherent sentences it was easy to "match the snitch", so to speak.

That would never happen here though, right? No one would run any kind of a structure-analysis program against previous posts in order to expose the "anonymous" author. (Tamim, I'm looking at you, you sleuth.)
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:12 PM on July 11, 2002


As a new arrival here, one of the things that MetaFilter has over other forums is that users cannot hide behind anonymous postings. This keeps the debate at a much more civilized level, because you cannot take back what you say, so you tend to think before posting (usually anyway).

In other words, no no no no ;-)
posted by dg at 9:24 PM on July 11, 2002


rcade, Drudge got lucky with a story. He's a newsportal, its not like he did the investigation himself. Funny seeing praise for Drudge from a guy that helps run the Drudge Retort. As for ModestNeeds, who knows how far it would have gotten without Metafilter. A good idea is a good idea right?

Yes, the web is powerful, but using these strawman-like arguments to support anon posting is ridiculous. Mefi isn't changing the world and from I can tell here almost never changes any minds. I would say it publicizes web pages or news stories that already exist. Minus the linklust its a sewing circle webboard and its own content is mainly worthless to the mainstream. Yes, there are occasional exceptions none of which (off the top of my head) would have been helped with anon posting, but to believe that Metafilter changes the world is to be in a very web-centric mindset. A mindset that mainly consists of the importance of A-List bloggers, cuckoo over web design, killer flash games, what are you tests, etc. A mindset that few share.

The fact that Mefi has only had a few mainstream successes, especially considering the incredible traffic it gets, more or less proves that the web-geek mindset is a minority one. Just because its the bee's knees to you doesn't mean it matters on a large scale or to Joe Sixpack. It doesn't have to matter to the mainstream and that's the beauty of it.

15 year old girls think N'SYNC is the shit. One of them is going to go to space. That's big news. Following your drudge argument N'SYNC is relevant and changing the world.
posted by skallas at 9:52 PM on July 11, 2002

Secondly, when we sign up, we make this decision. I have chosen to be anonymous whereas some have not.
I guess that's the point. We can reveal as much as we want. But what is effectively anonymous posting through another account is allowed. Abuse already happens that way. The only deterent is the process of making a new account. That's my point. I'd like the process changed. If not, well, that's ok too.

I can't say that what I was going to post was terribly interesting but I certainly couldn't be arsed signing up another account for it. It might have been a loss of something interesting to read.

So I've got my answer ("no666"). Thanks everyone.
posted by holloway at 10:01 PM on July 11, 2002


I've got an idea, what about being able to choose having our name appear as "anonymous" and no link to our profile if the person viewing the site isn't logged in?
posted by anildash at 10:34 PM on July 11, 2002


Skallas: Even if MetaFilter has an exaggerated sense of its own importance, it doesn't necessarily follow that this is just a "sewing circle" that has absolutely no chance to make an impact on the world.

Drudge is a barely literate poorly educated geek with no journalism training whose site, even today, is amateurish. There's no way any of us would have predicted, five years ago, that the White House would be loading his site with dread each morning for an entire year. Yet it happened. I still have nightmares thinking about it.

You have an exaggerated sense of this site's unimportance. I don't think we ought to offer anonymity because a Karen Silkwood type might show up here tomorrow and post a comment, but it's one reason among several I think it's a good idea.

The biggest reason is that I'd like to see what people here did with the ability, especially in discussions where drug use, petty theft, date rape, and other subjects come up that might generate more frank conversation if anonymity was available.
posted by rcade at 10:35 PM on July 11, 2002


I honestly don't get this one -- Slashdot already exists if you really have some hankering to post something anonymously. Of course, there's a lot to be said for the notion that Slashdot is so damn unreadable and annoying to so many people precisely because it offers an anonymous posting option.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't see what anonymity adds here; this isn't a one-way board, and even with what identification is already attached to every post, people don't seem too disinclined to resorting to personal attacks and general nuttiness. (Could you imagine what the obesity thread would have become with unfettered anonymity? Yeeeccch.) I'd hate to see what would happen with anonymity; I'd also hate to see Matt have to go through the amount of culling and screening that it'd take to implement a legitimate admin-sanctioned-anon-post system.

And holloway, I haven't read any responses that seemed like people trying to declare that they are The Arbiters Of All That Is Good And Right With MetaFilter; even the repetitious "no"s are still expressions of personal opinion. I don't know what place that link had to this discussion.
posted by delfuego at 10:43 PM on July 11, 2002


Oh, and what rcade said, about the questionable legal exposure that would be faced once a decision was made to exercise editorial control over posts...
posted by delfuego at 10:47 PM on July 11, 2002


The biggest reason is that I'd like to see what people here did with the ability, especially in discussions where drug use, petty theft, date rape

And there's a great example of something that could be problematic.

A subject like date rape (or other heinous illegal activity comes up) and joeuser232 wants to confess that yeah, he did do this in college, at UMass and was in a certain frat. On the one hand, I'm going to have everyone I know personally asking me what user actually said that, then I'd have loads of users asking that the person is revealed or removed from the site, and on the third hand, a law enforcement officer reading the site would have a good reason to ask me who exactly it was that admitted to the crime.

With something like this, yes, metafilter could stand to become some new changing the world type thing (kinda like a fuckedcompany you could trust a bit), but I'm not sure if it would change for the better.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:54 PM on July 11, 2002


rcade: The biggest reason is that I'd like to see what people here did with the ability, especially in discussions where drug use, petty theft, date rape, and other subjects come up that might generate more frank conversation if anonymity was available.

Holloway: There's a need when you want to respond about your company, or your family, or your health; without the consequences of detail.


Why would anyone here trust Matt with such information? He is not someone you know personally, he can be intimidated, his servers keep logs, and he's not immune from stupid mistakes, summons, and warrants. I seriously doubt he's going to go to jail for either you or me. The trick is to take the human element and logging out of the equation.

For instance, anonymous posting is available today. A smart anonymous poster would use serveral anonymous remailers and archive the email message on some webspace or usenet in a fashion where it cannot be tracked to himself. Yes, this take about 5 minutes of reading to figure out, but if your job or reputation is on the line its probably worth it, eh?

If Holloway posted some anon email or webpage to the front page he would not be breaking any rules. The community will take it or leave it depending on its own merits.

What you guys are asking for is not only an easily abused feature and a waste of Matt's time but a HUGE security risk and liability for Matt himself.

As someone has already posted above, this option in the comments section would be unfeasable and largely unusable without slashdot style moderation, organization, and theshold settings. I wouldn't hold my breath.

posted by skallas at 11:06 PM on July 11, 2002


Hehe, for the record I started writing my last comment before Matt's appeared.
posted by skallas at 11:08 PM on July 11, 2002


I don't want to be part of a FuckedCompany that can be trusted. I already lost one job that way. I'm quite enjoying owning my own home and paying for groceries without food stamps, thank you very much.

And yeah, what skallas said.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:10 PM on July 11, 2002


I'd be very concerned about the legal liability as well. Not that that doesn't already exist, and frankly I expect it to become an issue sooner rather than later in the current political climate.
posted by rushmc at 11:11 PM on July 11, 2002

Why would anyone here trust Matt with such information? He is not someone you know personally, he can be intimidated, his servers keep logs, and he's not immune from stupid mistakes, summons, and warrants.
Like security, it's not a yes/no/binary answer. I'd assume that an AC post wouldn't stand up to 2 angry Czechs muscling their way into Matt's server room looking for Pilsler beer, but it would stand up to future employers searching by name. I think that this is sufficient anonymity to talk about AIDs, or that you were abuse when young, but not enough to confess a crime like rape.

That said, people probably wouldn't understand what's anonymous and what's not. Maybe they'd think that the checkbox would make them untraceable. Bah.
posted by holloway at 11:27 PM on July 11, 2002


holloway, perhaps then the better option would be to simply munge your post for non-logged in users (like search engines). It would be the option to openly share something with other members and have them know it, but to wall that nugget from google and the rest of the outside world.

In a sense, to make the space a bit more private.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:55 PM on July 11, 2002


WolfDaddy's been touching my hot ass and people will know!

crash, if you wanted to avoid that, you shouldn't have batted your eyes at me like that. Take some personal responsibility, willya? Sheesh.

As to the anonymity factor, MeFi's more anonymous that what I'm used to. I actually find myself spending more time here lately than everything2, even though e2 is really a better venue for the type of writing I prefer to do...over there people can always tell if I'm on or not. Over there, people can send me private messages online through the site's built in messaging system that I feel I must respond to in a timely fashion. Over there, I feel obligated to participate in conversations by mere dint of my publicly available online status.

Over here, I can slip in, put up some hopefully appreciated and definitely irreverent links, engage in written conversation that's not a real time chat nor e-mail, learn and laugh, pinch crash's hot ass, flirt with RJ Reynolds, smoke with evanizer, and taunt adampsyche about how cool we look when we're smoking, and slip out again without anyone being the wiser (probably less wise, even). I like that.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:18 AM on July 12, 2002


This site sucks and everyone who uses it.
posted by Frasermoo at 12:52 AM on July 12, 2002


hmmm... it hasn't been set up has it?
posted by Frasermoo at 12:53 AM on July 12, 2002


perhaps then the better option would be to simply munge your post for non-logged in users... to wall that nugget from google and the rest of the outside world.

...until another member quotes the whole thing in reply, without flagging their reply comment as 'private'. Sure, they'd be shouted down in MeTa, but the damage would be done.
posted by rory at 2:13 AM on July 12, 2002

holloway, perhaps then the better option would be to simply munge your post for non-logged in users (like search engines).
That's near perfect, so long as it wouldn't turn up in searches and comment record. So you'd have to be in the thread to see who you were talking to, to stop people going through your history.
posted by holloway at 2:37 AM on July 12, 2002


to stop people going through your history.

How about approaching it sideways, and allowing users to hide their posting history from non-logged-in users? Not as a default position, but as an option you could set on your user page?
posted by rory at 3:05 AM on July 12, 2002


What a wretched idea.
posted by bingo at 3:07 AM on July 12, 2002


The anonymity, not rory's suggestion. Although I don't see how that would help either.
posted by bingo at 3:08 AM on July 12, 2002


We need a way to post as someone else. You would get a budget of just one or two forged posts a year, so you have to use them carefully, but you could use them to post as anyone else here. Matt would get an automatic notice that you had forged a post and he would get to decide -- as he gets to decide everything, because it's his football and that's tough if you want to whine about it -- whether what you did with a forged post was acceptable or grounds for your decapitation.
posted by Frasermoo at 3:08 AM PST on July 12


> We need a way to post as someone else.

No way. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

posted by pracowity at 3:08 AM on July 12, 2002


That sir, just worked my acid from '94.


posted by Frasermoo at 3:39 AM on July 12, 2002

How about approaching it sideways, and allowing users to hide their posting history from non-logged-in users? Not as a default position, but as an option you could set on your user page?
At this point though, it's not a search engine spider it's a person, and getting an account is easy enough for them.

I think blocking AC posts from the user-history is a nice compromise. Also, it's only a matter of time before spiders login to sites.
posted by holloway at 3:46 AM on July 12, 2002


You're a genius Frasermoo (and very charismatic), you'll figure it out

posted by pracowity at 3:49 AM PST on July 12


I'll give it a go.
posted by Frasermoo at 3:51 AM on July 12, 2002


> You're a genius Frasermoo

I'll second that. But anonymously.
posted by Anonymous Poster at 3:53 AM PST on July 12


> That sir, just worked my acid from '94.

Ha! Must have been good stuff. But I hope we can we still go bowling. Because the answer, my friend, is bowling in the wind.
posted by pracowity at 4:04 AM on July 12, 2002


With great power comes great responsibility, pracowity. The responsibility not to fool suckers like me, if only for a moment.

posted by Insane Wibbling Marshmallow at 4:05 AM PST on July 12


I admit my suggestion was just spur-of-the-moment, bingo, in response to holloway's. I wouldn't use such a feature. It's hard enough establishing an identity amongst thousands of MeFi members without getting all coy about what you may or may not have said last Thursday.
posted by rory at 5:05 AM on July 12, 2002


(Doh! Curse that auto-line-break.)
posted by rory at 5:06 AM on July 12, 2002


If it aint broke don't fix it.

posted by Frasermoo's Brother at 5:18 AM PST on July 12



You said a mouthfull brother.

posted by Frasermoo at 5:21 AM on July 12, 2002


What you guys are asking for is not only an easily abused feature and a waste of Matt's time but a HUGE security risk and liability for Matt himself.

If Matt didn't exercise prior restraint on the anonymous posts, it's no more of a liability than the present situation. The people posting anonymous comments will know that Matt can find out their username at any time, so it's different than Anonymous Cowards on Slashdot.

Could it be easily abused? Sure, but we've seen on MetaFilter that thousands of people can be trusted with direct posting to the front page. Abuse is rare. Maybe the same would be true of anonymous comments.
posted by rcade at 5:42 AM on July 12, 2002


Frasermoo's Brother: If it aint broke don't fix it.

What if you're in New Hampshire or Maine, where we say:
"If it ain't broke, I'll fix it 'til it is."?
posted by anathema at 7:06 AM on July 12, 2002


This is the worst idea since a studio executive decided to greenlight an Adam Sandler remake of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. One of the more endearing aspects of Metafilter is that, like it or not, your comments, for better for worse, in sickness or in health, will remain on MeFi as long as you both shall ive. A "post anonymously" option would discourage people from thinking before they posted -- that is, if they are thinking at all.

It's bad enough that many MeFi users, myself included, don't always realize that their words are being preserved for the long haul. The "post for all posterity" notion is probably one of the few reasons that MeFi hasn't become as moronic as Fark (although it has slipped close from time to time). If users are accountable for their comments, and if this accountability becomes a more visible sword of Damocles, then I think some of the hateful antitheses to thoughtful discourse masquerading as "MeFi threads" would probably wane.

posted by ed at 7:14 AM on July 12, 2002


Anonymity is death.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:29 AM on July 12, 2002


I disagree. Anonymity, just like identity, is a extremely important decision not to be made lightly.

Kinda like parenthood.
posted by Dagobert at 8:00 AM on July 12, 2002


Another possible route to go would be to create a community account (#2, perhaps) which anyone can log into and post from. Call it the MeFi Oracle or some such. You'd probably have to have it automatically log people out after 10 min to keep it free for others' use. This would provide an anonymous and more-difficult-to-track way for people to post, without creating tons of new accounts and (hopefully) encouraging promiscuous misuse of the feature. It could be made an opt-in feature, where people had to email Matt to be empowered to use the Oracle (a one-time permission flag, not a per-case thing) so that he retained some control over who had the ability to use it.

If one wanted anonymous posting, that is.
posted by rushmc at 8:01 AM on July 12, 2002


who says a sewing circle can't change the world?
posted by witchstone at 8:07 AM on July 12, 2002


Hear, hear!
posted by rushmc at 9:31 AM on July 12, 2002




How about something like two truths and a lie?
posted by vacapinta at 11:46 AM on July 12, 2002


Sorry if this has already been mentioned. I've read as many of the posts as I can bear, and haven't seen this come up. *g*

The anonymous posting as proposed by the original poster makes no sense. Why? MetaFilter is a site with links to interesting content on other sites. This very very rarely takes the form of stories about one's family or one's own illness. Should we be linking to personal information even if we post anonymously? My vote is 'not'.
posted by wackybrit at 6:42 PM on July 12, 2002


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