Personally named pony January 28, 2020 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to make the name portion of the profile available to logged in members only?

I don't mind putting up my first name on my profile so MeFites who want to get in touch with me have a real name to use besides a screen nickname. Until recently, however, I didn't realize that name was visible to non-logged in users and non-members. So now it's deleted. Ideally, I'd like to put it back, but I want to control who can see it.
posted by sardonyx to Feature Requests at 3:52 PM (27 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

There's currently no way to do that in the way you describe, no; we do have a "minimal profile" option in user preferences (details in the FAQ) for keeping a lot of details limited to only logged-in viewers, but the name field isn't among them and right now the solution is what you did: opting to not have that field filled out.

We have tried to avoid overly expanding the already pretty detailed preferences options, so I don't know that we'd be likely to add additional per-field toggles to any of that, but we might revisit what fields in general the minimal profile option disables.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:55 PM on January 28


I heartily endorse this pony and/or product.
posted by General Malaise at 4:20 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Maybe separate public and private fields for name and a few other things?
posted by Songdog at 4:47 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I don't mind putting up my first name on my profile so MeFites who want to get in touch with me have a real name to use besides a screen nickname. Until recently, however, I didn't realize that name was visible to non-logged in users and non-members. So now it's deleted. Ideally, I'd like to put it back, but I want to control who can see it.

Change the name field so that it says "See Tags for my name", check the "minimal profile" option, then go back into like at least 4 of your oldest Mefi posts and add the tag "myfirstnameis[whateveryourfirstnameis]". Technically, someone who read your four oldest posts could see your first name, but it would greatly reduce the likelihood that a non-member could easily find your name.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:44 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


I almost think you could just evolve the "minimal profile" option into a "hide profile" option that only shows a message like "this user's profile is not available" to non-logged-in visitors. I would guess that most users who want to hide specific fields wouldn't mind too much just hiding all fields. I'd be curious to hear from others who use the current feature though.
posted by Lirp at 9:18 PM on January 28 [17 favorites]



I almost think you could just evolve the "minimal profile" option into a "hide profile" option that only shows a message like "this user's profile is not available" to non-logged-in visitors.


That’s a totally reasonable way forward, if it’s what people Who use the feature want.
posted by frimble (staff) at 10:12 PM on January 28 [19 favorites]


I almost think you could just evolve the "minimal profile" option into a "hide profile" option that only shows a message like "this user's profile is not available" to non-logged-in visitors.

This seems like a good idea to me. Is there a reason this wasn't done from the beginning?
posted by Literaryhero at 12:55 AM on January 29


I’m ok with whatever; I removed my name a long time ago, and I’m happy with that, but others have other needs.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:22 AM on January 29


As a workaround, you could add your name to one of the free-form fields in the Optional section.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:38 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Obviously hiding my name field isn't a key priority for me, but I do think not showing personal profile info to non-member readers (and search engines?) Is unnecessary. The basic info about a user's participation here on Metafilter - the links to their various posts and comments - might be relevant, but none of the other information seems like it should be (or should HAVE to be, anyway) public facing.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:38 AM on January 29 [1 favorite]


"this user's profile is not available" to non-logged-in visitors. I like it
posted by one4themoment at 4:57 AM on January 29


Or "Log in to see this person's profile."

Also, it would be nice if the "logout" link was changed to "log out" (if you can spare the extra space in the layout).
posted by pracowity at 5:29 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


This seems like a good idea to me. Is there a reason this wasn't done from the beginning?

Is there any value in second-guessing the design decisions, or asking for explanations? TBH that sounds lightly hostile to me for a site that's run with sparse resources and a very responsive and well-intentioned staff.

I do like the idea to offer "hide profile" rather than a minimal one. No design is going to make everyone happy, but (I may be wildly wrong here) it seems to me hiding the profile altogether would be easier to maintain going forward than choosing which bits to expose.
posted by jzb at 7:48 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Would like option to hide profile, yes.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:20 AM on January 29


Literaryhero: This seems like a good idea to me. Is there a reason this wasn't done from the beginning?

Until mathowie or pb comments, I'd hazard to guess this is because MetaFilter is old, and this level of privacy wasn't considered (by men designing the site*) to be critical.

* This is not a dig at Matt or Paul, but to note that people start designing based on what they know and understand, and I don't imagine that stalkers, doxing, and other similar concerns were on their radar when originally designing the profile controls.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:52 AM on January 29 [8 favorites]


Yeah. Remember it took well over a decade to have encrypted passwords!
posted by terrapin at 9:30 AM on January 29


The historical rationale has been, becoming a Mefi member is a low bar. Anybody can become a member and then find out your name or whatever members-only info is on your profile page. So we don't want to encourage a false sense of "members only" security that would make people share things, if it's not safe for them to share.

But I know all this is a kind of weird mishmash of what's members-only, what's public but nonindexed, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:32 AM on January 29 [11 favorites]


MetaFilter's profile system has also been around for a long, long time. I can't find the MeTa announcing them (quite possibly because they predate MetaTalk), but I can find references to existing member profiles from as far back as 2001. In internet terms, that's prehistory; doxxing and swatting weren't verbs yet, Google was a plucky young upstart, MetaFilter was still the Wild West, and (IIRC) Matt was running the whole operation solo, hosting everything on a dead badger running Solaris with a shareware Coldfusion license. I can't imagine it was designed with things like per-field visibility in mind, which makes it more difficult to go back and rewrite it than it would be to write the whole thing new from scratch.

That said, I'm in favor of the option to hide profiles, and I'm happy to volunteer my services as a web dev to help, if that's something that would help move it forward.
posted by Mayor West at 10:55 AM on January 29 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: a dead badger running Solaris with a shareware Coldfusion license.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:29 AM on January 29 [13 favorites]


I appreciate that offer, Mayor West. In reality the primary issue with making a change from the current fairly stripped down "minimal profile" approach to just a more totalized "hide profile" option is policy, not technical difficulty; when we took the significant step from the profile just being the profile period to offering the minimal profile option, we did probably most of the plumbing required for either version already.

So mostly just a matter of deciding whether to make that move, which is something on which my thinking has shifted some over time. I talked a while back about some strong historical/philosophical feelings about the role of the profile page as part of MetaFilter as it was conceived and nurtured in the early years and the aspirational model of the web that represented, and I still feel that stuff but time has kept moving along and the gulf between that aspiration and some of the problematic-to-say-the-least realities of contemporary internet culture has only gotten larger. So I have less trouble contemplating just letting go and letting folks who want it go a little more explicitly incognito with more of a "hide profile" option, and I'd like to chew on that a bit more.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:42 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Is there any value in second-guessing the design decisions, or asking for explanations? TBH that sounds lightly hostile to me for a site that's run with sparse resources and a very responsive and well-intentioned staff.


Not at all my intent. I was actually assuming that I had missed an obvious reason that the profiles were set up this way and didn't want to advocate change without knowing all the facts. My bad if it comes off as hostile, I really didn't mean for it to be read that way.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:41 PM on January 29 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, I took your meaning as intended Literaryhero though I also can appreciate jzb's instinct given there certainly have been times in the past where folks have been less "hey, I'm curious about the history on this" and more "what the fuck were you thiiiinking". MetaTalk is usually more the former than the latter these days, which I appreciate.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:47 PM on January 29 [2 favorites]


Literaryhero, in case it helps, the way you phrased the question is exactly the way it's phrased on a daily basis to the team I manage at work, and it's never come off as hostile to any of us.
posted by FishBike at 6:28 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


Just as a data point, but several years ago, while there was a thread (that I posted in a bit)going on that got a lot of attention, I received an email from someone who wasn't a member of this site, asking me about what I had written. I've never had my email visible (as far as I can recall) to anyone but the mods, but that email address is from the early days of the internet, and is simply My_Name@site.com. It's not like it took a great deal of sleuthing to be found, but literally all they had to go on was my name on my profile here, and they found me. It was a little alarming at the time, and definitely had an effect on how much I posted here, as well as what I said.

That said, I get the idea that the member/non-member barrier is more for being able to weed out trolls and establish a community rather than for any sort of security. I'm honestly not sure what the ideal solution is, but I'm glad it's being discussed rather than brushed off. In my case, the person who contacted me had no malicious intent, but I can easily see others not being so lucky.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:53 PM on January 29 [1 favorite]


I had the same thing happen, Ghidorah. I took my last name off my profile after that, but I know if anyone poked around in my posting history for thirty seconds they'd easily track me down. (I don't really mind, but the e-mail I got was super duper creepy.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:32 PM on January 29


I could probably be tracked down through my posts here, but I don't have anything in my profile I'm not comfortable sharing. I think it'd be good to have a non-visible profile option for those who want it. I don't see why not, honestly. Things on the internet in 2020 are not what things on the internet were in 2000, and I don't think all the changes are for the better.
posted by hippybear at 11:57 PM on January 29


...becoming a Mefi member is a low bar.

It certainly is. Some years ago, there was a MetaTalk thread in which people argued in favor of using real names, or at least including them in our profiles. So I put mine on my profile. Within a day, I was accused by a registered member of being a then-notorious troll of the site, who used a name similar to my real one.

Metafilter contains multitudes. Not all of us are as nice, or rational, as we'd like to think.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:29 AM on January 30


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