Anonymous responses August 5, 2015 2:12 PM   Subscribe

A couple of times on the blue recently, I have wanted to respond anonymously to an FPP, but the trouble involved in asking a mod to do so in my stead seemed off-putting to me.

The reason I'm bringing this up here on the gray is because, quite serendipitously, I conversed with another Mefite who had the exact same desire, and reason for foregoing comment. I thought "Well, that's two of us, maybe there are others?"

So here we are.

I submit that the mechanism for this already exists in AskMe, and might be extended to other parts of the site or (shockingly!) to responses in Ask as well. Only registered, logged-in users would see this functionality anyway, and anon responses could be queued for a mod to handle as per other requests. It turns it from a copy and paste job for the mods with a capsule explanation to a simple approve:yes/no decision.

Thoughts?
posted by pjern to Feature Requests at 2:12 PM (25 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I feel you on the idea, but I'm not inclined to pursue a self-serve anonymous commenting function; certainly not for parts of the site other than Ask, if we were ever to do it there even which we don't have any specific plans for. Right now the little bit of friction involved in tossing us a note at the contact form feels just about right, and preserves it as something to use now and then when it's worth that little bit of effort rather than something we'd want to see normalized as a frequent self-serve user tool.

We don't mind putting through anonymous comments when folks bring them to us, and do so probably 99% of the time, but it's I think a good thing that those are unusual rather than seen as a common thing or a site norm.

And the anonymous queue for questions is itself a little bit of a challenge to deal with even as a relatively low-volume, highish-need thing; we maintain it because it's important to us to do so, but it is extra work and complicated by the involvement of anonymity in the submission process, and if the goal with building out a self-serve tool with comments is to facilitate a higher volume of anonymous comments to queue and process, that would be it's own extra thing pulling mod resources. That comments come into a thread that is developing in real-time is, in that respect, also more complicated and potentially time-sensitive than anonymous posts.

A couple of times on the blue recently, I have wanted to respond anonymously to an FPP, but the trouble involved in asking a mod to do so in my stead seemed off-putting to me.

I feel like our best bet here is to just sort of reiterate that (a) contacting the mods is the way to do it and (b) it's totally, completely, 100% okay to do so and not a bother to us. It's just another thing we do here and we're happy to help out on that front, and it happening a little more often wouldn't be problematic. But I don't really want to build a machine to help it happen a ton more.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:24 PM on August 5, 2015 [17 favorites]


You could create a sockpuppet for these situations.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:33 PM on August 5, 2015 [18 favorites]


I considered doing an anonymous reply earlier today on something and then decided that it would be possible to answer the question by just trying to write more carefully (then blogged about the stuff that doesn't belong on metafilter -- because IT'S MY BLOG and no one reads it anyway).

I have gotten into the habit of saying "a relative" instead of "my mom/sister/brother/whatever" and "a friend of mine" and generally speaking in more generic terms. I don't know what would drive your need for anonymizing, but I think a lot of things don't have to be anonymized if you just think more carefully about what information you want to put out there. Sometimes, those very personal details aren't actually needed or can be written about a little differently. It is more work than just blurting out all the personal details.

I am not really interested in seeing a lot more anonymous replies. I mean, you could also get a sock puppet. My understanding is that is a valid use of sock puppets -- to post the replies you don't want associated with your main account/actual IRL identity.

*jinx
posted by Michele in California at 2:35 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sorry, this sounds like a bad idea to me.

As long as you are being sincere in a desire to contribute honestly, then why not use a sock puppet? I think a second account is perfectly reasonable if you want to interact in a honest, polite way, but remain anonymous in those conversations.

However, I also see a lot of emails to mods with "OMG!, I used the wrong account when I posted that comment!"

Edit: jinx!
posted by terrapin at 2:36 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Buy a sockpuppet account.
posted by Shohobohaum Za at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would just like to note a problem with sock puppets is that you can identify people by them based on the details you may need to give out over several posts. That is why I use the anonymous post feature (rarely) on Ask and would rather contact the mods than use a sock poppet - I can control one post easily but it gets more complicated if I use an account all connected to one person. Also, typically I'm most concerned about keeping my professional/school life and personal life separate, not generally afraid of a family member of a friend finding something out.
posted by Aranquis at 2:51 PM on August 5, 2015


Noooooooo. I can visualize legions of bad, bad results of this proposal if enacted. Including gigantic awful MeTas about how mods OK'd some anonymous comments and not others.

I think the problem might be addressed if we can get talk about the dynamics that are prompting this desire. Because I think maybe we need to discuss tone or how we handle the topic that is at issue instead.
posted by bearwife at 3:01 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've answered a couple questions anonymously, and there's probably been a few times when I considered answering anonymously but ultimately decided against it because the process is awkward. I wouldn't mind an easier way to submit anonymous answers, but I think having that little bit of built-in complexity helps prevent it from being overused or abused. Keeping anonymous comments to a minimum helps maintain a sense of community and holds us accountable for what we write.

If there were a dedicated anonymous answer form that required just a little bit of work to do - e.g. on a page separate from the question, and not prominently linked, with required fields for the question's URL and "why are you answering anonymously?" among other things - something like that might be easier to use while slowing things down enough to minimize people using the feature in bad faith. Maybe. I think I'm okay with the current awkwardness, though.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:05 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd love a mod take here on whether anonymous commenting on MeFi and AskMe is actually a legit use of a sockpuppet account. I've definitely had some times when I wanted to use a sock to respond to some posts both on the blue and the green, but I felt like that was essentially creating two separate, parallel identities, which is proscribed on this site. Am I wrong?
posted by capricorn at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


As long as you're not doing hinky shit like using a sock puppet to attempt to win an argument by agreeing with yourself, or trying to evade the time limits, it's totally fine to make the occasional comment which contains personal or embarrassing information under an alternate identity. You just wouldn't want to get into a situation where you are splitting your overall use of the site between multiple accounts, i.e. it's not cool to use a sock puppet for general-purpose commenting. There's an exception for joke accounts, but they're to be used sparingly.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:54 PM on August 5, 2015


There's an exception for joke accounts, but they're to be used sparingly.

Exactly.
posted by Rob Ford Sex Tape at 3:57 PM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hear, hear!
posted by Eggs Benedict Cumberbatch Kids at 4:58 PM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


What Rhomboid said, more or less. A sock that you use specifically for occasional, privacy-minded needs is totally fine to drop a sensitive comment into a thread with instead of your main account. Using two accounts interchangably, or doing stuff like casually hanging out and posting on the blue with your started-this-for-sex-askmes sock, not so okay, but basic common sense "because it's necessary" use is fine.

If you'd like a great deal more detail on sock-related stuff, see this Metatalk post.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:12 PM on August 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think this would be a good use for a sockpuppet account. Just be careful not to get your sockpuppets mixed up. Making serious comments with your jokey sockpuppet is considered poor form.
posted by Treaty of Westphalia at 6:34 PM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, crap.
posted by Treaty of Westphalia at 6:34 PM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Totally disagree with the idea of using a sock-puppet account for this purpose. As we all know, the start-up costs for a secondary listing on MetaFilter are prohibitively high, and the ongoing compliance costs can be substantial. Users can expect to pay the best part of $5.00, i.e the "$5" part, not the ".00" part.

In that context, quidnunc kid brokers Inc. suggests you simply rent space in one of the quidnunc kid's commentary offerings at the low, low price of $4.00 (per word). By inserting the words of your comment within one of the quidnunc kid's announcements to the MeFi marketplace of ideas, you will avoid wasted start-up costs and you will be protected from regulatory interference by the MeFi Core Technical Examination team ("cortex"), until I get banned. Thousands of happy clients are already renting space within the quidnunc kid's comments, which explains why I don't make a fucking lick of sense. Get out of my mind! Unless you've paid your quarterly rental fees - in which case, thanks for renting space in my mind. It was pretty empty in there til you guys showed up.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:45 PM on August 5, 2015 [27 favorites]


Totally bad idea, because I would abuse the shit out of this feature by telling everyone what I really think of their hairstyle.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:38 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


We need better support for supernonymous comments. Could another five bucks get me a blink tag on my username?
posted by michaelh at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Being tied to one's identity is pretty important here on mefi. Allowing anonymous comments on a basis other than with an "verified sock puppet" account would make it a completely different site. Having the mods do the anonymous commenting helps to keep personal accountability, since the mods aren't going to post-as-anon if the comment is insulting or against the rules.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:38 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks cortex. That makes a lot of sense.
posted by capricorn at 9:34 AM on August 6, 2015


We used to call them burner identities. It was a more glamorous age, when there were real rules that were understood by everybody playing the game.
posted by Malory Archer at 10:03 AM on August 6, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would just like to note a problem with sock puppets is that you can identify people by them based on the details you may need to give out over several posts.

This is a legitimate concern, but I do not think it is a good argument for making any changes to the current anonymous posting system. (Which is what is being discussed -- though I realize it may not have been your intent to suggest or imply that.)

I will add that even a single anonymous post can potentially identify you if you do not write it carefully. I am reminded of an anonymous work survey that became very problematic because employees used it to kvetch about their boss in a way that gave enough details that sharing the feedback with the boss would not have protected the identity of the employee. I also recall some call-in radio episode where people told personal stories anonymously where one person talked about conceiving their child by a lake and then giving the child a name that meant "By the lake" which led to her finally saying she had named him Blake. Yeah, totes anonymous.

So if you are using the anonymous function in order to not have to think too hard about what you say, you may not be protecting yourself as much as you think you are.
posted by Michele in California at 10:14 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


There have definitely been times where I wish I could anonymously comment on the blue. There are things in my personal experience I want to talk about but I really would not like to discuss in such a public venue in an identifying way.

But yeah, it doesn't seem like there is any reasonable, practical way for that to be a thing that regularly occurs here.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:56 PM on August 6, 2015


I also recall some call-in radio episode where people told personal stories anonymously where one person talked about conceiving their child by a lake and then giving the child a name that meant "By the lake" which led to her finally saying she had named him Blake. Yeah, totes anonymous.
-
Good morning, class. A certain agitator, for privacy sake, lets call her "Lisa S.".... No that's too obvious... uuh. Let's say "L. Simpson", has raised concerns about certain school policies.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:59 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's simply no question in my mind, I'll be voting #1 quidunc kid at the earliest opportunity!
posted by Meatbomb at 7:13 PM on August 11, 2015


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